Michael B. Jordan has gone from child star to teenage heartthrob to Hollywood heavyweight before our eyes. An immensely talented actor who had his breakthrough in 2013’s “Fruitvale Station,” Jordan is one of the most in-demand actors working today. A favorite among cinephiles, Jordan has been recognized by critics groups around the world; he also received a Screen Actors Guild Award for his turn as the unrelenting yet sympathetic villain Killmonger in “Black Panther,” which he shared with the rest of the film’s cast.
But Jordan does more than just act. He produced 2019’s “Just Mercy,” and he’s set to make his directorial debut with 2023’s “Creed III.” In fact, his turn as Apollo Creed’s son, Donnie, helped solidify him as a bonafide star — we can’t wait to see what he does behind the camera. Before “Creed III” hits theaters, here are the 12 best Michael B. Jordan movies, ranked from worst to best.
Oh boy, we’re starting with quite the doozy.
Josh Trank’s “Fantastic Four” was supposed to reboot the franchise after Tim Story’s “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” failed to gain any momentum at the box office. In it, Miles Teller took up the role of team leader Reed Richards, with Kate Mara playing his love interest, Sue Storm, and Jamie Bell as the stony Ben Grimm. Jordan rounds out the group as the cocky troublemaker Johnny Storm, Sue’s younger brother. “Fantastic Four” serves as an updated origin story for the superhero team, with Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell) once again serving as the movie’s central villain.
Jordan held out hope that the work Trank and the cast put in would be apparent on screen. “We’re taking it seriously, taking a lot of risks. I think it’s going to pay off,” Jordan told 225 Magazine. “Josh’s vision is very clear and he knows exactly what he wants, and he gives us room to adapt and to play. That’s what I kind of think sets us apart, is that this is going to be grounded and unconventional.”
Unfortunately, this was not Jordan’s star-making project. The chemistry between the cast was stale and nonexistent, and the plot was wildly unimaginative. The result was a listless film that was, above all else, incredibly boring. “Fantastic Four” was panned by critics and failed to break even at the box office, grossing just $167 million worldwide against a budget reportedly between $120 and $155 million.
That Awkward Moment
I’m going to put it out there that maybe Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan just aren’t meant to make movies together. In “That Awkward Moment,” they’re joined by Zac Efron for a bromantic comedy about a trio of friends who, following Mikey’s (Jordan) divorce, make a pact to avoid relationships and have fun as single young men. However, when the three guys find themselves in committed relationships, they try to keep their couplings away from one another in an effort to make it look like they’re honoring the agreement.
“That Awkward Moment” is as predictable as you expect, and as unfunny as you may have guessed. To be fair, my earlier quip about Teller and Jordan isn’t fully accurate — the chemistry between the three guys is all right! They bounce off one another well, but unfortunately, there just isn’t enough here to make the film worth remembering. It’s neither a clever comedy about male friendships, nor is it a debaucherous trip where dudes go wild. Instead, it’s formulaic as it is lackluster.
An ensemble film led by Jeffrey Wright and Zoe Saldana, “Blackout” is set during the Northeast blackout of 2003, when a power outage hit parts of Northeastern United States and the majority of Ontario, Canada. Set in New York City, “Blackout” moves through an inner-city neighborhood while exploring the fallout of the blackout in an attempt to comment on the disparity between the rich and the poor.
Conceptually, the movie is interesting. The idea of being a fly on the wall in a vibrant community when an unexpected event brings everyone down to the same level is compelling. Unfortunately, the results are less than stellar thanks to a terrible script. The movie never made it to theaters (a tell-tale sign at the time of the movie’s quality); instead, it was released on BET in February 2008, and went to DVD a few days later. It’s safe to say that “Blackout” didn’t make nearly the same impact as the event it depicts.
A Journal For Jordan
In “A Journal for Jordan,” which is based on a memoir by Dana Canedy, Jordan plays Charles Monroe King, a soldier serving in Iraq who keeps a journal for his new son that’s full of advice and wisdom. Charles’ fiancee, Canedy (Chanté Adams), uses this journal to help her recount her courtship with Charles, while imparting to their child the love and devotion that Charles has for him.
Surprisingly, “A Journal for Jordan” fails due to overly saccharine direction by none other than Denzel Washington. Obviously a legendary actor, Washington’s work as the film’s director is a far cry from his efforts in “Fences,” released five years prior. The story itself is heartwarming and compelling. When you factor in that it’s a true story, the movie should’ve been a home run. Instead, Washington overwhelms the plot by playing to the audience’s emotions in a way that feels manipulative. Couple that with the fact that Jordan and Adams have awkward chemistry, and “A Journal for Jordan” isn’t anything to write home about.
A relatively forgotten faith-based film, “Pastor Brown” follows Jesse (Salli Richardson-Whitfield), an exotic dancer who returns home after learning that her father, Pastor Brown (Keith David), is dying. His final wish is for Jesse to leave her dancing career behind and take over as head of Mount Olive Baptist Church. The pastor’s decision is met with derision by both the church’s leadership group as well as Jesse’s own sister, while her return home revives some familial resentment in her teenage son, Tariq (Jordan).
A fairly predictable and schmaltzy film that makes some choice statements about sex work, the performances edge “Pastor Brown” ever so slightly over “A Journal for Jordan.” Richardson-Whitfield and Nicole Ari Parker (who plays Jesse’s sister, Tonya) are particularly great, with veteran Keith David lending his regular sense of gravitas to the proceedings. It’s not an award-winner by any stretch of the imagination, but “Pastor Brown” certainly has its audience.
In my opinion, “Without Remorse” is the dividing line between the good and bad in Jordan’s career (so far, anyways). The Tom Clancy adaptation isn’t necessarily bad so much as it’s disappointing, but it’s definitely not good, either.
By the time that “Without Remorse” was released in 2021, Jordan had already established himself as a movie star with formidable acting chops and agile physicality. So, when it was announced that he would be taking on the lesser-known character of John Kelly in Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan universe, it was exciting to consider what Jordan could do with such a role. However, while there are some pretty cool action sequences, including an awesome scene that takes place underwater, “Without Remorse” ends up being a half-baked action movie that gets lost in the weeds of its story.
As most of these types of movies do, “Without Remorse” ended with the possibility of Jordan’s adventures as John Kelly continuing in a sequel — the initial announcement regarding his casting even promised as much. Given the film’s reception, however, it’s a good bet that we won’t be seeing John again anytime soon.
Jordan’s first proper film appearance (save for his turn as Teen #2 in 1999’s “Black and White”) came when he played Jamal in 2001’s “Hardball.” Jordan didn’t have a huge role in the Keanu Reeves-led film about the terrible youth baseball team that could, but his character is important to the movie, and it’s a fairly nuanced role. As the Kekambas start to find their groove as a team, it’s revealed that Jamal’s birth certificate was altered so that he could play in the league. Since he’s too old to play, Jamal is removed from the team. The next time we see him, the funny kid who loved baseball has turned into a grown-up-too-quickly preteen who has joined a neighborhood gang.
Only 14 years old when “Hardball” was released, Jordan still has fond memories of filming. “While we were in production, Keanu took the whole cast out to dinner and we had a chance to meet Laurence Fishburne,” he recalled in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “To this day, I still remember thinking to myself in astonishment, ‘I guess this is what movie stars do — take their casts out to dinner with other big actors.’ So much respect for Keanu and Laurence. It really was such a cool moment with two of my heroes.”
“Hardball” remains a fun sports drama with some memorable moments (Reeves rapping The Notorious B.I.G’s “Big Poppa” is particularly noteworthy), and it marked the beginning of Jordan’s success on the silver screen
After the huge success of “Creed,” there was little doubt that Jordan would return as Donnie Creed for round two. Unfortunately, Ryan Coogler, who helmed “Creed,” was unable to return for the sequel because of his commitment to “Black Panther.” Instead, Steven Caple Jr. took up the director’s mantle, which was initially going to be occupied by Sylvester Stallone in Coogler’s absence.
The movie re-introduced Ivan Drago, and pitted his son Viktor against Donnie, recalling the central match-up in “Rocky IV,” in which Ivan killed Donnie’s father, Apollo Creed. Jordan and Stallone turned in reliably stellar performances, and Dolph Lundgren didn’t miss a beat in his return to the franchise.
A bit predictable as far as sequels go, “Creed II” may not have surpassed the bar set by its predecessor, but it’s still an engaging film with doses of nostalgia and plenty of full-circle moments. Ultimately, “Creed II” solidified Jordan’s star power and proved that the success of “Creed” was no accident.
Based on the memoirs of Bryan Stevenson, an American defense attorney who devoted his career to representing marginalized members of society, “Just Mercy” focuses on Walter McMillian’s wrongful murder conviction, which was overturned in 1993. Jordan stars as Stevenson, with Jamie Foxx playing McMillian in a moving and inspiring film that sheds light not only on Stevenson’s life’s work, but also on the failings of the American criminal justice system, particularly in relation to the death penalty.
What stands out about “Just Mercy” isn’t just the compelling story, the solid performances from both Jordan and Foxx, or the deft direction by Destin Daniel Cretton. It’s also notable that Jordan, a Hollywood A-lister by the time of the film’s 2019 release, decided to use his stardom to bring attention to Stevenson and the social injustices he fought against. “He’s a real-life superhero,” Jordan told Esquire. “After I got a chance to really get to know him, and his story, and his work, I felt like I had a great deal of pressure to get it right … And I felt honored to be able to carry that weight.”
Up until the release of 2018’s “Black Panther,” Marvel wasn’t particularly well-known for racially diverse casting or interesting baddies. That changed thanks to Jordan and the world of Wakanda.
“Black Panther” reunited Jordan with director Ryan Coogler; along with the late, great Chadwick Boseman, they created an extraordinary superhero film and started a significant cultural movement. Boseman’s T’Challa gave young Black kids a superhero of their own, while the film showed off African culture with a reverence rarely seen in Hollywood.
For Jordan’s part, Erik “Killmonger” Stevens is arguably the most nuanced villain Marvel Studios has put on screen. A man whose body is littered with thousands of scars, each representing a person he’s killed, Jordan’s Killmonger somehow pulls deep threads of empathy from audiences. His disdain for the Wakandans’ hoarding of technology, education, and knowledge while members of the African diaspora struggle in poverty and violence provided a texture and cultural awareness that the Marvel Cinematic Universe had been lacking. In addition, the film gives Killmonger (and Jordan) the strongest line in the entire MCU: “Just bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped from ships, ’cause they knew death was better than bondage.”
I’ll admit that, when I heard that a spin-off of “Rocky” was in the works, I was skeptical. When I heard that the movie would focus on the son of Apollo Creed, I rolled my eyes again. It seemed like MGM was just lazily dipping into their established well of intellectual properties in order to stay relevant and bank off nostalgia.
As it turns out, I was wildly off base.
Jordan and Ryan Coogler created a phenomenal movie that is thrilling and kinetic in its boxing storyline, while also being complex and uplifting in its very human narrative about a young man who faces adversity while rising above his circumstances. Perhaps the most impressive thing about “Creed” is that Coogler didn’t break the mold in terms of the formula, and yet the film somehow feels new and modern, giving Jordan and co-star Tessa Thompson a platform from which to shine.
Notably, “Creed” was released the same year as Jordan’s potential career-killer “Fantastic Four.” So, not only did “Creed” serve as a great showcase for Jordan’s talents, but it was a bit of a lifesaver for him as well. Anyone who questioned whether Jordan could make it in Hollywood after his turn as Johnny Storm found their answer in Donnie Creed’s knockout punch.
Jordan’s first starring role and the beginning of his partnership with Ryan Coogler, “Fruitvale Station” tells the true story of the death of Oscar Grant. The film follows the final day of Grant’s life, leading up to the moment that he’s fatally shot by a member of the Bay Area Rapid Transit police force at the Fruitvale station in Oakland, California.
In real life, officer Johannes Mehserle was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in 2010 for Grant’s death, and only served 11 months in protective custody. Grant’s death and Mehserle’s light punishment sparked national outrage and increased the conversation around police brutality and racial profiling that eventually led to the Black Lives Matters movement.
Jordan turns in an incredible performance as Grant — at a minimum, it should have landed him an Academy Award nomination. The importance that Coogler and Jordan place on who Grant was and what his death represented is felt throughout the entire film. “I took it very, very seriously. I really wanted to make Oscar’s family proud and represent him the right way,” Jordan said in an interview with Huffington Post. “It’s a different kind of responsibility you have when you have real people involved who are going to watch it.”
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/Film – ‘Slash Film: The 12 Best Michael B. Jordan Movies, Ranked’
Author: Rachel Ho
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November 19, 2022