Winston Duke is well on his way toward becoming one of Hollywood’s jewels. Here are some of his best movies, ranked.
Tobagonian actor and heartthrob Winston Duke took the world by storm with his career-defining role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe's Black Panther. Born in Saint Paul, Tobago, the actor moved to the States with his mother and sister at the age of nine, beginning his acting career in theater productions before guest-starring in an episode of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. He was later cast in a recurring role in Person of Interest, along with a few other TV series, before his first significant film role as M'Baku.
Though his acting credits are on the shorter side, Duke is also a producer and a philanthropist. He is already well on his way toward becoming one of Hollywood's jewels as an actor. He has three films lined up that we've yet to see, and with the blockbuster success of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever thus far, viewers are still in the beginning stages of seeing Duke at his best. Plus, with Marvel's expansive catalog lined up until 2025, who knows where else the actor will pop up? Perhaps a cameo in Ironheart starring Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne)? The possibilities remain endless. To quote his cover story in Esquire, "The Winston Duke Era Begins Now." Duke's range in the films he's a part of is proof that there's no genre he isn't capable of taking on. Here are some of his best movies, ranked .
In 2020, Duke starred as Hawk in Peter Berg's Spenser Confidential. The film also featured Mark Wahlberg, Alan Arkin, Post Malone, Michael Gaston, and more. The plot primarily follows roommates Spenser (Walhberg), Hawk (Duke), and Henry (Arkin) in an attempt to take down the criminals responsible for killing two Boston police officers. The film aired on Netflix and unfortunately flopped with both critics and audience. Duke's performance, however, stands out, considering he's a compelling no-nonsense character who's successful in helping his roommate get to the bottom of the murder conspiracies they're faced with.
Edson Oda's Nine Days was also released in 2020, but unlike the previous movie in Duke's filmography, this directorial debut was a hit among both viewers and critics. It's a fantasy drama which explores the complexities of humanity, in which Oda's uncle inspired Duke's character Will. Nine Days is about a magistrate, or cog in the wheel, as Will refers to him, who judges souls to determine which of theirs can be reborn in a better environment where they'll thrive in their accomplishments. As the leading actor in the movie, Nine Days gives Duke raw, harrowing material to work with to showcase a range of emotions. It also stars Benedict Wong, Bill Skarsgård, Zazie Beetz, Tony Hale, Lisa Starrett, David Rysdah, and Arianna Ortiz. Oda received the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at the Sundance Film Festival, where the movie premiered.
Although Duke's roles in both Infinity War and Endgame are brief, the final movie was the highest-grossing of all time for two years before Avatar's re-release. Endgame follows the Avengers' ultimate fight against the titan Thanos (Josh Brolin), five years after he wiped out half of all life in Infinity War. As a film 11 years in the making, no actor's role was too big or too small. Because of how powerful Thanos' army was, without the inclusion of the Dora Milaje and the Jabari tribe, of which Duke's character M'Baku is the leader, the fight against Thanos wouldn't have been a success at the beginning or the end. Further, though a brief moment in Infinity War, T'Challa and M'Baku joining forces cemented that the changes in Black Panther in uniting the two tribes were always for the better.
Returning once more to the fur vests and under the leadership of director Ryan Coogler, Duke reprises his role in the latest Marvel film, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. The sequel to the first Black Panther focuses on the tragic and untimely death of Chadwick Boseman, while honoring T'Challa's legacy and helping the characters move forward in their fight to protect Wakanda. M'Baku is still the leader of the Jabari tribe, and Duke's quiet performance does a brilliant job of revealing how greatly impacted he is after the loss of their king. There's also a brief moment in the film where he showcases clear as day how much respect he has for Shuri, a character he once mocked for being a child who scoffed at tradition.
Written and directed by Jordan Peele, Us is a horror film that also stars Duke's Black Panther co-star, Lupita Nyong'o. Duke plays Gabe Wilson and doppelganger Abraham. Peele's film is about a family of four who discovers murderous doppelgangers of themselves trying to kill them. As it turns out, the counterparts are tethered to their human self. It is then revealed that they are clones, and attempt to take over and become humans themselves. Plot twists after another prove that things aren't what they seem. Further, as Peele's films often offer, the thematic angles look into the history and racial prejudices in America. The final moments of Us are meant to recount the Hands Across America event.
Marvel's Black Panther, directed by Coogler, became an enamoring hit from its first viewing. And as Duke's first blockbuster role, M'Baku became a character who changed the MCU for the better. While the film is titled after Wakanda's superhero, T'Challa, it's more a love letter to the entirety of the nation and the idea of coming together despite lifelong tribal differences. The Jabari tribe hid in the mountains for years, allowing their range to simmer and marinate until the time came when they couldn't take it anymore. In the end, however, it's a film about doing what's right and character growth, which Duke's M'Baku goes through exceptionally on the outskirts. He not only becomes a more decisive leader but a more empathetic character, placing his family on the front lines of battle.
Gissane (pronounced Geese-enny) or, as people often call her, "Goose," is a Christ fan above all and a romance enthusiast who's taken her Master's degree in English and love for essays into writing lengthy analyses about pop culture. She is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Marvelous Geeks Media and the co-host of Lady Geeks' Society Podcast. She drinks too much coffee, wants to live in a forest, and cries a lot because of her favorite characters.