Taraji P. Henson: Hidden Figures And 4 Other Movie Performances That Deserved An Oscar

 Katherine Johnson in Hidden Figures, Shug in Hustle & Flow, Shug Avery in The Color Purple.
Katherine Johnson in Hidden Figures, Shug in Hustle & Flow, Shug Avery in The Color Purple.

Taraji P. Henson has given outstanding performances across film and TV over the past two plus decades. Henson has enthralled viewers by showing her vast acting range in projects ranging from prestige films like The Best of Enemies to the Think Like a Man franchise and classic movies like Baby Boy.

Having amassed a long filmography and acclaim, Henson should at least have one or two Academy Awards. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case for the Cookie Lyon actress with one Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Her recent claims about poor treatment and pay inequity on The Color Purple set amplified Hollywood's underappreciation of her talent. That doesn’t mean the Oscar nominee hasn’t delivered more Oscar-worthy performances, so, here are just some of Taraji P. Henson’s movies worthy of an Academy Award.

Taraji P. Henson as Shug in Hustle & Flow
Taraji P. Henson as Shug in Hustle & Flow

Hustle & Flow (2005)

After years of working in Hollywood, Taraji P. Henson finally caught the attention of Hollywood and critics as the lovable and shy pregnant sex worker, Shug, in the 2005 drama Hustle & Flow.

Whereas other actresses might’ve gone the stereotypical route, Henson made Shug a nuanced character full of complexity, illustrated in the iconic studio scene. She allowed the character to evolve from hooker to hook singer while developing into a romantic interest. The evolution gave the actress room to keep her performance grounded while capturing the emotions of a young woman living in a gritty Memphis.

Henson gave her best in the scenes with her co-star, Terrance Howard. Watching Djay and Shug’s relationship evolve was the best part of the movie. However, the acclaim didn’t pan out to a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination, but Howard did score a Best Actor nom.

You can watch the acclaimed music drama by streaming it on Max.

Taraji P. Henson as Vernell Watson in Talk to Me
Taraji P. Henson as Vernell Watson in Talk to Me

Talk To Me (2007)

Henson took on the biopic genre by popping up in the 2007 film Talk to Me. She played Petey Greene's (Don Cheadle) lively girlfriend, Vernell Watson, in the legendary radio disc jockey’s life story.

While Vernell was a supporting role, Henson made the character a formidable counterpart to Petey’s outlandish persona (with better reasoning and morals). While serving as the voice of reason, the Empire alum stole several scenes with her infectious jokes. On the other side, she evolved as Petey’s rising fame caused relationship conflict.

However, Henson’s best scenes came from working with Cheadle’s over-the-top Greene or Chiwetel Ejiofor’s straight man, Dewey Hughes. In some cases, she outperformed her two male co-stars. Despite nods from the NAACP and Satellite Awards, the AMPAS completely ignored the Hollywood A-lister with no Supporting Actress Oscar nom.

Stream the Petey Green biopic through platforms like Amazon Prime Video and Hulu.

Taraji P. Henson as Coach Catana  Starks in From The Rough
Taraji P. Henson as Coach Catana Starks in From The Rough

From The Rough (2013)

The actress found her niche playing real-life personalities. She led the 2013 sports biopic, From the Rough, playing Tennessee State University golf coach Catana Starks.

Henson took inspiration from her real-life counterpart, and expertly portrayed Starks’ struggle to form a golf team. The Oscar nominee took audiences on an emotional rollercoaster as she channeled the TSU coach’s time and dedication against insurmountable obstacles.

Portraying Starks’ story allowed Henson to play off her mostly male co-stars. She recreated the coach’s personal and professional conflicts, especially with Henry Simmons. The biopic’s tepid release caused the Academy to miss nominating the movie star for a Best Actress Oscar.

Watch the sports biopic by getting an Amazon Prime Video subscription.

Taraji P. Henson as Katherine Johnson in Hidden Figures
Taraji P. Henson as Katherine Johnson in Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures (2016)

After From the Rough, Taraji P. Henson dipped her toe back in the biopic waters with the Oscar-nominated film, Hidden Figures. She became influential NASA mathematician Katherine Goble Johnson.

Like her earlier biopic role, Henson mimicked her late real-life counterpart through her speech, personality, and mannerisms. The Hollywood A-lister highlighted Johnson’s journey from a gifted young woman to an accomplished NASA analyst, wife, and mother. The movie captured the influential figure’s personal and professional struggles, as seen in the much-cited bathroom scene.

Of course, Henson’s best moment came from the display of friendship between her, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe. Even Mahershala Ali and Kevin Costner shared some incredible moments with the TV and film star. Despite being the film’s emotional center, Henson did not garner a well-deserved Best Actress Oscar nom. Even so, the film and Spencer did rake up a few nominations.

Check out the acclaimed Oscar nominee by streaming it through a Disney+ subscription.

Taraji P. Henson as Shug Avery in The Color Purple
Taraji P. Henson as Shug Avery in The Color Purple

The Color Purple (2023)

Henson tapped into her musical roots by joining the all-star cast of the stage-to-screen adaptation of The Color Purple. She took over the role of troubled jazz singer Shug Avery, originated by Oscar nominee Margaret Avery in the original 1985 film.

The Hollywood star managed to marry the original drama of 1985 original and the Tony-winning Broadway musical. She showed off her acting and singing talents to become the iconic character. Despite the foundation laid out in the first film, the Emmy-nominated actress took Shug in a new direction by exploring her love connection with both Celie and Mister.

Shug’s romantic dynamics with Celie (Fantasia Barrino) and Mister (Colman Domingo) provided Henson with some of the musical film’s best scenes. These scenes helped the story to progress. Garnering acclaim and early Oscar buzz as Shug didn’t lead to Henson nabbing a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination despite her co-star Danielle Brooks receiving a nomination in the category. You can now watch the acclaimed musical film through a Max subscription.

The above performances prove that Taraji P. Henson has offered enough Oscar-worthy roles for the Academy to recognize. Never stepping on the Academy Award stage is unjust; however, being overlooked never kept the Hollywood staple from working consistently. The Acrimony star has multiple shows and movies arriving in 2024 and beyond, including Time Alone and the miniseries, Fight Night: The Million Dollar Heist. Maybe the former project will finally see her accept her well-deserved Oscar. Check with CinemaBlend for more Taraji P. Henson news as the year progresses.