I'm a big fan of the TV show The Shield and was very happy to see Forest Whitaker join the cast last season. As I watched him go up against the rogue cop Vic Mackey I remembered how much I love to watch Forest Whitaker act. He's every bit the match for Mackey and Whitaker crafted a dangerous, complex, electric character to watch. This is something that Whitaker has done a lot in his career (uhm, not counting Battlefield Earth).
Whitaker has also directed three motion pictures but surprisingly all of them are much lighter—and not very good—than what he usually chooses as an actor. For example, in 2004 he helmed the underwhelming Katie Holmes vehicle First Daughter and it's a predictable, sappy, not very good film pumped full of way too much saccherine. It's kind of baffling he'd choose to direct a film like Hope Floats after being in something as cool as Ghost Dog.
Here are some of my favorite films Forest Whitaker has been in that should be seen:
Fast Times At Ridgemont High (1982): Whitaker plays Rigdemont High's star football player who goes on a mauling rampage against Lincoln High after his little brother and Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn) wreck his car and make it look like Lincoln High did the damage. It's a small role but his snorting, vicious football player is one of many memorable performances in one of the best high school comedies ever.
Platoon (1986): Oliver Stone's Vietnam epic is an enthralling look at the everyday soldier as they become lost in the psychological mayhem of war. Whitaker gets to show what kind of intense actor he will develop into in the future with his role as «Big Harold».
Good Morning, Vietnam (1987): I haven't seen this since it came out so I'm not sure it's dated well but this is a vastly different Vietnam War picture for Whitaker than what he did in Platoon. For one thing, had Robin Williams been in the gritty Platoon he would not have made it a week if he acted like he normaly does.
Bird (1988): Whitaker delivers maybe the performance of his career in this Clint Eastwood directed bio-pic of bebop jazz legend Charlie «Bird» Parker. Whitaker owns the screen in virtually every scene in the picture and even makes it look like he knows what he's doing with a saxaphone.
The Crying Game (1992): Wonderful, twisted movie from director Neal Jordan that sees Whitaker embrace another brave role as an actor. This film was kind of a cultural event picture because of a turn in the film and was the last really good film Whitaker would do for seven years.
Ghost Dog—The Way of the Samurai (1999): Whitaker broke out of the sub-par cycle in this very cool film from writer/director Jim Jarmusch. Whitaker plays a kind of urban samurai who gets mixed up in some nasty business he has to use his code to make it through. Maybe the coolest character and movie that Whitaker has ever done.
I'm hoping Whitaker's performance in The Shield will get him some interesting roles again—he deserves them! Those above are some of his better films and performances that must be seen if you like Whitaker.