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Happy Birthday James Earl Jones: Relive the Hollywood Star’s Best Moments

by Emily Morgan
(Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images)

Legendary actor of the Broadway stage and screen, James Earl Jones, is celebrating his 90th birthday today. 

With his iconic, commanding voice, fans most notably remember Jones’ speaking role as the ruthless villain, Darth Vader in the Star Wars franchise. 

Born January 17, 1931, Jones has spent his career delivering his highly recognizable voice to countless projects as both a narrator and a character. 

To celebrate the iconic Academy Award-nominated actor, here is a look back on his best moments on-screen. 

James Earl Jones as Mufasa in The Lion King

Considering Jones has the perfect voice to command any audience, it made sense for Disney to cast James Earl Jones as the voice of Mufasa, the mighty ruler of the African sahara and father of Simba, in the 1994 family favorite.

Since the film was animated, Jones used his defining voice to add life to the character. Jones’ voice was so iconic that he became the only actor from The Lion King’s original cast to reprise his role in the 2019 reboot.

James Earl Jones In Coming To America 

Jones will reprise another royal role when he appears as the ruler of the fictional country, Zamunda, in the upcoming sequel, Coming 2 America. Jones’ return comes more than 30 years after his first performance as the earnest father to Prince Akeem in Coming to America, a 1988 rom-com from director John Landis starring Eddie Murphy. 

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

Before Stanley Kubrick made Clockwork OrangeThe Shining, or 2001: A Space Odyssey, in 1964, Kubrick directed the hilarious satire Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. During the Cold War, an impending nuclear threat arose after a rogue U.S. Air Force General (Sterling Hayden) launches an attack on the Soviet Union without approval. One of the pilots he sends on this mission is Lieutenant Lothar Zogg, played by Jones. 

The Hunt for Red October

Based on the novel featuring Jack Ryan is director John McTiernan’s 1990 classic, The Hunt for Red October. The film’s plot centers on Tom Clancy’s CIA analyst (Alec Baldwin) trying to prove that the Soviet Union’s top submarine captain (Sean Connery) has gone rogue amid the height of the Cold War. 

Jones plays James Greer, the Deputy Director of the CIA who recruits Ryan. His iron-fist portrayal led to his reprisal of the role in both Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger.

James Earl Jones In Star Wars 

Fans of the franchise remember the moment when Darth Vader made his first appearance at the beginning of Star Wars: A New Hope. His impending size, paired with his cape and helmet, would fall to the wayside without the unmistakable voice from Jones. 

Without the right voice, he wouldn’t be the same iconic villain he’s known as today. Lucas’ search to pair Darth Vader’s tyranny with the right voice would lead him to the vocal talents of Jones.