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Samuel L. Jackson
Samuel L. Jackson on 'The Tonight Show,' 1995. NBC/Getty24/30

24. Samuel L. Jackson

Jackson has been such a prolific actor and racked up so many memorable roles over the past 20 years that nobody usually mentions his performance as Jimmy, the smalltime hood who exerts a rather negative influence on John C. Reilly, in Anderson's 1996 debut feature Hard Eight. But the air of casual menace he conveys in the part is compelling, and his back-and-forth with Philip Baker Hall's character towards the end of the film, when he reveals the elderly gambler's dark secret, is deeply suspenseful.