2023 NAACP Image Awards: 5 ‘Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture’ Winners Whose Performances Left Us in Awe

From a man on a quest for redemption to an unruly leader, these films left us speechless.

In 2022, veteran actor Will Smith blew fans away with his performance as Richard Williams, the father and coach of famed tennis players Venus and Serena Williams, in the Reinaldo Marcus Green-directed biographical sports film King Rich. The performance earned Smith several accolades, including an Oscars Golden Globe award for “Best Actor” and the 2022 NAACP Image Award for “Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture.”

In honor of this year’s event, set to take place live at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium on Saturday, February 25, we’re looking back at some of our favorite show moments, past performances, and big wins, including 5 “Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture” winners whose performances left us in awe. Check it out below.

  • Will Smith / Seven Pounds

    Despite its less-than-positive review, Will Smith’ delivered a gripping performance in the 2008 Gabriele Muccino-directed drama Seven Pound as Tim Thomas—under his brother’s name Ben—who sets out on a journey of redemption by changing the lives of seven strangers after he causes an accident that ended the lives of several people.

    The film is a heavy watch, but when asked in an interview with Newsweek why he took on the role, the Academy Award winner shared, “Usually with the films that I make, there are ideas that I connect to, but lately, I've been dealing with the bittersweet in life because it feels more natural. You don't ever get it really the way you want in life. That really fascinates me.”

    He added, “As an actor, there are certain parts of a character that you create, and you train yourself to have those reactions, and then it becomes hard to stop them when the role is over. You have to retrain yourself. My character in this film is like hot grits. You know you can't shake them off, and when you do, it hurts.”

  • Forest Whitaker / The Last King of Scotland

    In what is regarded as one of the best performances of his career, award-winning actor Forest Whitaker as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. He stars across James McAvoy, who plays Scottish doctor Nicholas Garrigan, who becomes the personal physician and close confidante to Amin. While flattered at first by his newfound role, Garrigan soon realizes Amin is far more dangerous than he appears. The performance earned Witaker several accolades, including an Academy Award and Golden Globe for “Best Actor,” among many others.

  • Chadwick Boseman / Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

    Chadwick Boseman gave his final performance as trumpet player Levee Green in the George C. Wolfe-directed drama Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, based on the 1982 play of the same name by August Wilson. What perhaps shocked fans the most about Boseman in this appearance is that the actor was privately battling cancer during the filming. Nevertheless, Boseman posthumously earned several accolades, including a nomination for “Best Actor” at the Academy Awards and Golden Globes, the latter of which he won.

    Watch the NAACP Image Awards live on Saturday, February 25, 2023, at 8:00 pm ET/PT on BET.

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