While Duncan made his name as a burly character actor, it was his standout performance alongside Tom Hanks that made him a household name; even though “The Green Mile” wasn’t universally praised by critics, Duncan’s presence proved lasting. Here’s what Washington Post film critics thought of some of Duncan’s most memorable on-screen appearances.
“Armageddon” (1998): “Like ‘The Dirty Dozen,’ these so-called ‘retards’ and ‘criminals’ cover all bases of the reluctant cinematic hero: there's decent right-hand man Chick (Will Patton), hot-dogger A.J. (Ben Affleck), space cowboy Oscar (Owen Wilson), horny genius Rockhound (Steve Buscemi), Max the fat one (Ken Campbell), Bear the African American one (Michael Clarke Duncan) and Freddy the expendable one (Clark Brolly). If all goes well, the asteroid will crack into two pieces that will brush harmlessly past us. Needless to say, all does not go well.” — Michael O’Sullivan
“The Green Mile”(1999): “This is an infantile white fantasy: John, played by Michael Clarke Duncan, is docile, subservient, gigantic and of course touched by God. He's the magic black man, sent to serve, then die, for the moral uplift his sacrifice provides white mankind, without reference to his own inner life. He doesn't have one.” — Stephen Hunter
“The Whole Nine Yards” (2000): “[Matthew] Perry's great at being beside himself with fear, but trying to maintain composure through the worst of experiences, including a beating from Jimmy's bruiser-friend Frankie Figs (Michael Clarke Duncan). And [Bruce] Willis makes a charming, sweet-natured rogue who just hates to plug his victims, but business is business.” — Desson Howe
“ Planet of the Apes” (2001): “Michael Clarke Duncan (‘The Green Mile’) brings a proud demeanor and a noble spirit to gorilla Attar, Thade's second in command. Attar may question Thade's demands, but he never disobeys them — unlike some astronauts we know. But as the movie makes clear, utmost loyalty is sometimes as wrongheaded as disobedience.” — Rita Kempley