As with many stars who win Oscars, Regina King had humble acting beginnings on TV to create a public familiarity. As TV turned more cinematic in recent years, she’s continued periodic and stellar work there in-between her varied cinematic ventures.
Her movie career goes back 28 years with some projects exploring African-American issues and others presenting her current push for gender-equal plots. You’ll also find some forgotten gems within a list of her best movies.
‘Boyz n the Hood’ (1991)
If you have to make a list of King’s greatest films, you might as well start at the beginning. Prior to acting in John Singleton’s Boyz n the Hood, King was acting on TV with the 1985-1990 NBC sitcom 227. You may remember her playing the role of teen Brenda Jenkins alongside Marla Gibbs, Hal Williams, and Jackée Harry.
After five years in the series, it was no doubt a jarring transition diving into an important teen drama about L.A. gangs. While King only played a minor role (as Shalika), kicking off her movie career in an Oscar-caliber film was like tea leaves for where she’d be almost three decades later.
YouTube gives you a chance to see how instantly memorable King was in one pivotal scene.
‘How Stella Got Her Groove Back’ (1998)
The late ’90s saw King finally moving up to co-starring roles in various mainstream films. Just before co-starring in How Stella Got Her Groove Back, you saw King acting in Jerry Maguire as Marcee Tidwell. By 1998, though, she was able to hold her own next to stars like Angela Bassett and Whoopi Goldberg for the romantic comedy Stella.
These actresses were clearly her role models, and they all had their Oscar glory two decades before King would.
Once again, King was memorable in her scenes, including her interactions with Bassett.
Move ahead another six years and King was starring in a few terrific Oscar-caliber movies again after trying other genres from action to thrillers. In 2004, she co-starred with Jamie Foxx in ‘Ray’, the biopic about Ray Charles.
King played Margie Hendricks, the founding member of the singing group the Raelettes who accompanied Charles with romantic complications. The dramatic scenes with King and Foxx as Hendricks and Charles are very convincing. Oscar should have taken notice alongside Jamie Foxx, yet at least King won a BET Award for Best Actress.
‘Our Family Wedding’ (2014)
After Ray, King did most of her best work on TV where she starred in the TNT drama Southland. She finally started to win some major awards, albeit only within the last four years for her excellent work on ABC’s American Crime.
During this period, she was taking lighter roles in movies while ensuring her acting was better than the outlying film. Our Family Wedding is a good example of her playing a mother who plays peacekeeper to a multicultural wedding with two feuding fathers.
Critics weren’t kind to this film. Still, King improved it just by her presence and ability to say her lines with clarity and personality.
‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ (2018)
It took a while for King to find her footing in an Oscar-caliber film again. We’re so glad she found If Beale Street Could Talk rather than continue on her path of lighter cinematic fare and only working on TV.
Her Oscar win for playing Sharon Rivers was richly deserved after saving more films over the years than we can count. She’s ultimately the anchor for this James Baldwin adaptation while creating a character everyone will remember for decades.
Now we hope she’ll jump back on the cinematic bandwagon and take on some meatier roles. No doubt she’ll be reading through a pile of scripts while acting on the upcoming HBO series Watchmen.