Top Sterling K. Brown Performances, Ranked


Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Sterling K. Brown is one of the entertainment industry’s most prolific and esteemed talents. The three-time Primetime Emmy and one-time Golden Globe-winning actor is arguably best known to fans for his performance in the critically acclaimed family drama, This Is Us, and was even included in TIME magazine’s 2018 list of the 100 most influential people in the world. Having earned his BA from Stanford University and his MFA from NYU, Brown’s range has led to his casting in numerous successful live-action and animated dramas, comedies, and thrillers, and has solidified his position as one of Hollywood’s most sought-after actors today.

Brown began his professional on-screen acting career in 2002 with supporting roles in film and television, having appeared in Rick Famuyiwa’s rom-com, Brown Sugar, and NBC’s Third Watch. Since his debut, Brown has remained booked and busy, often appearing in at least two film projects a year while also simultaneously filming multiple episodes for multiple shows. With the release of this year’s Biosphere and three films scheduled with potential 2024 releases, Brown is keeping busy and showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon. In this article, we’ll look back on some of Brown’s best performances and rank them according to their impact and popularity.

10 Solar Opposites

Sterling K. Brown as Halk in Hulu's Solar Opposites

Hulu’s Solar Opposites was created by controversial Rick and Morty co-creator James Roiland and has enjoyed praise from audiences and critics worldwide. Boasting an ensemble voice-over cast and lush animation that helped make Rick and Morty the pop-culture darling we know it as today, Solar Opposites follows a family of aliens who crash land on Earth and adjust to their new home. The show’s storylines often tackle themes of police brutality, xenophobia, and family with the signature comedic flare that helped make Roiland and Dan Harmon household names.

Brown voices Halk, a beloved hero who constantly puts the desires of others before himself, and who is debating whether he still wants to be a hero by the time of his introduction. Brown’s rich, booming, and authoritative voice perfectly capture the essence of a hero, but he also succeeds in expressing Halk’s vulnerability and insecurities with each appearance. No stranger to voice-over roles, Brown’s work in Solar Opposites is so well done, that his character’s apparent death has left audiences hoping the writers find a way to bring him back in future seasons.

9 Hotel Artemis

Sterling K. Brown as Sherman Waikiki in Lionsgate's Hotel Artemis

Lionsgate’s Hotel Artemis centers around a hospital that caters to violent criminals working in a futuristic version of Los Angeles and features the talents of Jodie Foster, Jeff Goldblum, Brian Tyree Henry, Sophia Boutella, and Brown. Despite the movie’s interesting premise and ensemble cast, Hotel Artemis received mixed reviews from critics and only grossed $13 million dollars on a $15 million budget, thus effectively killing any chances for a sequel.

Nevertheless, Brown delivers a solid performance as Sherman/Waikiki, a career criminal who specializes in bank robberies and is the brother to Henry’s Lev/Honolulu. Brown’s performance in Hotel Artemis is noteworthy because, despite his character’s dubious nature and amoral career path, he infuses a great deal of humanity and relatability into a character who could have otherwise easily been “generic movie assassin guy #100.”

8 The Predator

Sterling K. Brown as Agent Will Traeger in 20th Century Fox's The Predator
20th Century Fox

Shane Black’s 2018 sci-fi action flick, The Predator was the writer-director’s attempt at a soft reboot for Hollywood’s favorite “ugly motherf*cker” and with Black handling the film’s screenplay and directing and the charismatic cast gracing the silver screen, The Predator should have been a massive success.

Unfortunately, Black’s 2018 outing received mostly negative reviews with many of the criticisms aimed at the movie’s script and clumsy handling of its depicted violence. Despite the movie’s lackluster performance critically and commercially, Brown delivered one of his best performances as one of The Predator’s antagonists, Agent Will Traeger, a government employee tasked with capturing the Predator.

Brown excels in his ability to be completely unlikable, but he also stands out as a deeply committed man who’ll stop at nothing to accomplish his mission. The icing on the cake however lies in Traeger’s demise when after fighting tooth and nail to acquire one of the Predator’s weapons, he blasts his head off when attempting to fight the Predator. The scene is both gruesome and hilarious as it comes at an unexpected point in the movie and shows fans that despite his professional achievements, Brown doesn’t take himself too seriously.

7 Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul.

Sterling K. Brown as Lee-Curtis Childs in Focus Features' Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul.
Focus Features

Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul. is a mockumentary comedy writer and directed by Adamma Ebo and sees Brown and Regina Hall as the pastor and first lady of a Southern Baptist megachurch attempting to reopen after a scandal. While the comedy might not have been 2022’s most popular movie to hit theaters, it features some of Brown and Hall’s best comedic work as Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul. analyzes and pokes fun at the megachurch culture while also offering its audience a compelling story about honesty and loyalty.

Hall is perhaps best known for her work as Brenda Meeks in the Scary Movie franchise, thus her return to comedy after starring in well-received dramas was highly anticipated among her fans. Brown on the other hand is primarily known for his roles in critically acclaimed dramas, but his turn as a closeted homosexual over-the-top Baptist pastor was a much appreciated role in the actor’s filmography.

6 Frozen II

Sterling K. Brown as Lietenant Destin Mattias in Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Frozen II
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Disney’s Frozen was released in 2013 to critical and commercial success, and its cast, songs, and lush animations helped it achieve global success. 2019’s Frozen II would surpass its predecessor for many of the same reasons, and rumors of Disney producing a third movie leads us to believe this trend will continue.

Brown plays Lieutenant Destin Mattias, a soldier of Arendelle whose bravery helps him rise through the ranks until he eventually becomes a General. In addition to his bravery, Lieutenant Mattias is also kind to his friends and highly skilled with a sword and shield on the battlefield. The character is significant in Brown’s filmography because Lieutenant Mattias’ admirable traits help set a positive example for the children watching the movies — especially the Black girls and boys who otherwise don’t see characters in animation that look like them properly represented.

5 Waves

Sterling K. Brown as Ronald Williams in A24's Waves

Waves is a 2019 drama film written and directed by Trey Edward Shults and focuses on the tumultuous circumstances of two families. Par for the course with most of A24’s projects, Waves wasn’t necessarily made with mainstream appeal in mind, as such, the film only grossed $2.6 million on a budget of six million dollars. Nevertheless, critics praised the film for its cinematography, score, and strong performances by its principal cast — namely Brown.

The actor plays Ronald Williams, a father, and husband who, despite his overbearing nature, wants the absolute best for his family. Brown’s performance in this film stands out because he strikes the perfect balance between a doting family man while also hitting the cruel and abusive traits one would expect from a helicopter parent. In a film that analyzes toxic masculinity and the effects it can have on young men, especially young Black men, Brown’s performance shines bright.

4 Supernatural

Sterling K. Brown as Gordon Walker in The CW's Supernatural
The WB
The CW

Supernatural was a dark fantasy drama television series that debuted in 2005 to critical acclaim. Supernatural followed Dean and Sam Winchester (Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki, respectively) as they hunt down various demons, monsters, and other creatures based on American mythology. The show’s writing, performances by Ackles and Padalecki, and modern updates of classic monster lore were some of the aspects that made the fifteen season drama a success.

Brown briefly joined the cast in the show’s second season as vampire hunter Gordon Walker, an unwavering and highly skilled hunter obsessed with killing all vampires after one bit his sister in their youth. Gordon and the Winchesters initially get along, but he signs his death certificate once he makes it clear to the brothers that he’ll stop at nothing to kill Sam when he is temporarily turned into a vampire. Despite only appearing in four episodes, Brown’s performance stood out as audiences saw that Brown could convincingly portray a threat to one of television’s most formidable demon-hunting duos.

3 Black Panther

Sterling K. Brown as N'Jobu in Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures' Black Panther
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Black Panther is one of the MCU’s most successful movies to date. Having grossed over a billion dollars and coming only second to Disney’s Avengers: Infinity War, Black Panther not only became the second highest-grossing movie of that year, but it also helped solidify the character’s status as one of Marvel’s greatest heroes. The beautiful costumes, interesting characters, and a career-defining performance by the late great Chadwick Boseman contributed to Black Panther’s success.

Brown plays N’Jobu, the sibling of King T’Chaka, and we see him working undercover in 1992 Oakland, California in the movie’s cold open. Although Brown’s appearance was brief, he delivers an emotional monologue about the plight of Black Americans and Wakanda that hits a little too close to home for the movie’s Black and African viewers.

2 The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story

Sterling K. Brown as Christopher Darden in FX's The People v. O. J. Simpson American Crime Story

FX’s The People v. O.J.: American Crime Story was the first installment in the American Crime Story anthology series and was met with critical acclaim with particular praise directed at the series’ ensemble cast. The People v. O.J.: American Crime Story is a ten-episode series recounting the infamous 1994 O. J. Simpson murder case, the controversy surrounding it, and the aftermath following the verdict. Brown plays prosecutor Christopher Darden, a colleague of attorney Marcia Clark, and he delivers a performance that’s understated yet incredibly powerful.

In addition to his heavy preparation for the role, Brown impressed audiences and critics worldwide with just how uncanny his resemblance to Darden was. As far as Brown is concerned, it helped him establish himself as one of the industry’s hardest-working talents as he won his first Primetime Emmy for his performance. As controversial as the case was, The People v. O.J.: American Crime Story was impactful because it gave a new generation of people a chance to form their own opinions on the case and its racial implications.

1 This Is Us

Sterling K. Brown as Randall Pearson in NBC's This Is Us

NBC’s American family drama This Is Us is one of the most beloved dramas to release in recent memory, and with the talents of Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, and Brown among many others, the show was off to a great start from the casting alone. The four-time Primetime Emmy-winning show debuted in 2016 and concluded in 2022, having run for six seasons and boasting 106 episodes. Dan Fogelman’s show about family, regret, acceptance, and perseverance touched many hearts. The show centers around the Pearson family, a diverse group of people who all have something in common with the number thirty-six, and it follows them as they navigate through life’s many trials and tribulations.

Brown plays Randall Pearson, an upper-middle-class politician and former businessman, who wants to make amends with his estranged father by the time we meet him. Poised and driven, Randall and his adopted siblings Kevin and Kate support each other with their goals and prove blood is thicker than water despite not being biologically related. This role is perhaps Brown’s best as it is currently his longest-running character, and it depicts the father-son relationship between Black men with tact and respect.

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