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Denzel Washington’s Movies Ranked, From Worst to Best

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Denzel Washington’s Movies Ranked, From Worst to Best

From ‘ Magnificent Seven ‘ to ‘ Malcolm X, ‘ we break lao dốc every one of the star’s greatest ( và not-so-great ) performances
Bilge Ebiri, David Fear By
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From Civil War veterans to corrupt cops, ‘ Magnificent Seven ‘ to ‘ Malcolm X ‘ – we rank all of Denzel Washington’s performances, from worst to best .
TriStar Pictures/Everett, Internatio/Shutterstock/REX, Outlaw/Warn/Shutterstock/REX

Ever since Denzel Washington’s theatrical debut in the early 1980s, the actor has given some of the most incredible performances of our time across more than three decades: Who can deny his compelling work in films like Cry Freedom, The Mighty Quinn or Mo’ Better Blues? Or such Nineties classics as Malcolm X, Mississippi Masala or Crimson Tide? Or his brilliant later turns in movies like Inside Man, Fences and Flight?

Washington is the rare talent who can transcend — và usually improve — his material. He’s become perhaps one of the more reliably bankable movie star in Hollywood’s firmament, despite the fact that he generally avoids sequels & superhero movies. Watching và re-watching Denzel’s films — 48 of them, since 1981, & all of them big parts — you’re seized with a newfound respect for the man’s craft, talent, và passion in his performances. That doesn’t mean we’re not gonna rank them, however !
Here are all of Denzel Washington’s performances, from worst to best, the WTF to the downright brilliant. What an impressive body toàn thân of work. ( All blurbs written by Bilge Ebiri unless otherwise noted. )

  • ‘Virtuosity’ (1995)

    VIRTUOSITY, William Forsythe, Denzel Washington, 1995
    Image Credit: ©Paramount/Everett Collection

    Washington is completely out of his element in this colorfully stupid sci-fi thriller in which he plays a future cop who has to track xuống dốc cyber-baddie Russell Crowe, who’s playing … let’s see if we’ve got this straight : a computer simulation hybrid of various serial killers, who’s suddenly managed to become manifest in the real world. Neither can strike the right tongue-in-cheek tone to make it all work ; they’re lượt thích two pieces of filet mignon cast adrift in a day-old taco bowl. Crowe smirks. Washington glowers. You can’t help but laugh .

  • ‘Heart Condition’ (1990)

    HEART CONDITION, Bob Hoskins, Denzel Washington, 1990, (c)New Line Cinema/courtesy Everett Collection
    Image Credit: ©New Line Cinema/Everett Collection

    Oof. This dreadfully shrill buddy comedy has Bob Hoskins as a racist sleazebag cop who gets a heart transplant from a black lawyer whom he tried to arrest. Trouble is, the lawyer’s ghost also comes with the heart! [Whomp whomp] Welcome to two great actors wasted in a hare-brained attempt to mix topical humor with All of Me-style physical comedy. Washington mostly phones in an ill-conceived performance: He’s cool and easygoing throughout, almost as if the film thinks making him anything else would be too troubling.

  • ‘Safe House’ (2012)

    SAFE HOUSE, l-r: Ryan Reynolds, Denzel Washington, 2012, ©Universal Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection
    Image Credit: ©Universal/Everett Collection

    One of the worst films of the star’s career (even though it was a hit) was made at the height of his stardom and yet manages to thoroughly – and inexplicably – waste him. His Tobin Frost is a former CIA operative who went rogue, which you’d think that this set-up would give this most nuanced of actors a chance to explore some inner conflict a la Training Day (see further up this list). Unfortunately, the actor’s performance gets lost amid a mess of shaky cam and Cuisinart-inspired editing. “Safe” is not a word we’d use here.

  • ‘Fallen’ (1998)

    FALLEN, Donald Sutherland, Denzel Washington, 1998, (c)Warner Bros./courtesy Everett Collection
    Image Credit: ©Warner Bros/Everett Collection

    An atmospheric possession thriller that gets increasingly dopey by the minute. Washington’s cop discovers some strange goings on in the wake of the execution of a deranged murderer that he put away. Is there a demon making its way through the city and the police force? Has it been here all along?!? The actor can always make curiosity compelling, but here, he seems hamstrung by the film’s weird tone (and that WTF last-act surprise) and despite the fact that some truly tragic things happen to him, he barely registers any emotions. We would say that Fallen is a movie that can’t get up. But thankfully for you, we won’t.

  • ‘The Book of Eli’ (2010)

    THE BOOK OF ELI, Denzel Washington, 2010. ph: David Lee/©Warner Bros./Courtesy Everett Collection
    Image Credit: David Lee/Warner Bros/Everett Collection

    As a blind warrior-wanderer making his way through a post-apocalyptic landscape, Washington manages to vì the impossible : He somehow becomes as humorless as the rest of this turgid action epic. For all his enormous talent, the actor’s one real weakness is his occasional tendency towards empty stoicism … & here’s a prime example. All the film’s derivative & reverential action posturing might have worked had it been done with even brief lapses into levity or sensitivity. The blame for that can’t be laid entirely at the feet of its star – but he sure as hell doesn’t help .

  • ‘The Magnificent Seven’ (2016)

    THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, from left: Vincent D'Onofrio, Martin Sensmeier, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Ethan Hawke, Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Byung-hun LEE, 2016. ph: Scott Garfield / © Sony Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection
    Image Credit: Scott Garfield/Sony Pictures/Everett Collection

    Earlier this year, Washington reunited with his Training Day and Equalizer director Antoine Fuqua for this remake of the classic Sixties Western. The actor puts his natural sense of leadership to good use as a renegade calling the shots for ragged band of gunslingers: His quiet, calculating intensity is ideal for a Western hero. The movie itself is a chaotic mess, however, and Fuqua is a better director of character scenes than he is of action spectacle. Denzel should remind him of this the next time they work together.

  • ‘The Siege’ (1998)

    SIEGE, THE, Annette Bening, Denzel Washington, Tony Shalhoub, 1998. TM and Copyright (c) 20th Century Fox. All rights reserved. Courtesy Everett Collection.
    Image Credit: ©20thCentFox/Everett Collection

    This controversial thriller came under fire when it was released for its depiction of Islamic extremists conducting terrorist attacks in Thành Phố New York. In a post-9 / 11 era, it’s gained an eerie, unwelcome resonance – và its depiction of innocent American Muslims herded into cages by a power-mad general is likely to màu how it’s seen in the Trump era. As the FBI agent trying both to track lao dốc the terrorists và to undermine he creeping fascism of a surveillance state, Washington makes for a solid anh hùng – a compassionate professional, heroic yet conscientious. It’s a reliable, though largely unremarkable, star turn in a not very good film … though we can’t entirely gọi it far-fetched as we did in 1998 .

  • ‘The Great Debaters’ (2007)

    THE GREAT DEBATERS, Denzel Washington, Jurnee Smollett, Nate Parker, Denzel Whitaker, 2007. ©MGM/courtesy Everett Collection
    Image Credit: ©MGM/Everett Collection

    Washington also directed this inspirational period drama about a debate đội at all-black Wiley College in Texas during the Depression, và his sincerity shines through in both his direction & his performance. The film is kind of all end the place – tackling segregation, debate tactics, romance, labor relations, và family conflict all at once, và often in fairly facile fashion. ( His character is not only an inspirational teacher và debate coach, he’s also, secretly, a labor organizer ! ) He has some unusually moving moments here ; a fully rounded character, however, rarely emerges .

  • ‘Carbon Copy’ (1981)

    CARBON COPY, from left, Denzel Washington, George Segal, 1981, ©Avco Embassy/courtesy Everett Collection
    Image Credit: ©Embassy Pictures/Everett Collection

    Washington’s feature debut remains one of the straight-up strangest films he’s ever done. He plays Roger Porter, a young man who reconnects with the father he chưa bao giờ knew ; the problem is, Dad is Walter Whitney ( George Segal ), a well-heeled trắng corporate exec who’s married into a wealthy, status-obsessed family. When Walter’s secret comes out, he loses everything, father và son have to live together in “ comical ” poverty & misery. There’s only so sánh much an actor can bởi vì with a part lượt thích this, but Washington does get one fantastic scene : His “ You walked away from a great lady ” speech near the over is, oddly enough, one of his finest moments onscreen, & an early indicator of his future glory .

  • ‘Power’ (1986)

    POWER, Denzel Washington, 1986, TM and Copyright ©20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved./courtesy Everett Collection
    Image Credit: ©20thCentFox/Everett Collection

    Sidney Lumet’s satire-laced drama is all about veteran political operative Richard Gere, a man with a remarkable ability to shape people’s images using the most devious of tactics. ( Remember the days when a politician’s image actually mattered ? ) Washington plays the corrupt public relations honcho in cahoots with Middle Eastern oil sheiks who are trying to get Gere to help elect their chosen candidate. He’s just there to be calm, slick, & menacing, but it’s still fun to see Denzel play a smooth corporate villain. Watching him, you can sense how this guy got as far as he did : He exudes stability even as he plots to undermine the democratic process .

  • ‘The Manchurian Candidate’ (2004)

    THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, Liev Schreiber, Denzel Washington, 2004, (c) Paramount/courtesy Everett Collection
    Image Credit: ©Paramount/Everett Collection

    Jonathan Demme’s Dubya-era remake of the classic about a brainwashed soldier who becomes a political contender is less about treasonous conspiracies & more about the modern truyền thông landscape. Washington plays the Sinatra role : a heroic veteran who served alongside soon-to-be Vice Presidential candidate Raymond Shaw ( Liev Schreiber ). It’s an engaging turn, though the shadow of the superior original overwhelms the proceedings .

  • ‘The Pelican Brief’ (1993)

    THE PELICAN BRIEF, Denzel Washington (center left), Julia Roberts (center right), 1993. ©Warner Bros./Courtesy Everett Collection.
    Image Credit: ©Warner Bros/Everett Collection

    Remember when you couldn’t go to the multiplex without tripping kết thúc a dozen or so sánh John Grisham politico-legal thriller adaptations ? Our man plays a tough-minded Washington DC reporter ; he hooks up with a law student ( Julia Roberts ) who has inadvertently uncovered a murderous conspiracy at the highest levels of government. Their chemistry is palpable, though it’s not a role that calls on Washington to bởi all that much. Still, it’s nice watching these two movie stars slowly come to care for one another .

  • ‘The Preacher’s Wife’ (1996)

    THE PREACHER'S WIFE, Whitney Houston, Denzel Washington, 1996. (c)Buena Vista Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection
    Image Credit: ©Buena Vista Pictures/Everett Collection

    Washington is Dudley, a divine messenger who comes to Earth to help overwhelmed reverend Courtney B. Vance, but winds up spending much of his time with the man’s beautiful, much-neglected wife, played by a lovely Whitney Houston. (It’s a remake of the 1947 Cary Grant-Loretta Young fantasy The Bishop’s Wife.) Dudley may be an angel, but he’s no angel; just because he tries to save Vance’s pulpit and flock doesn’t mean he’s free of amorous tendencies. Washington is likable, though he’s playing second fiddle to Houston’s radiance – and one doesn’t need to do a lot of acting to be in awe of that.

  • ‘Roman J. Israel, Esq.’ (2017)

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    Image Credit: Glen Wilson/Sony Pictures

    Most actors would get handed a part lượt thích Roman Israel — a small-time, middle-aged lawyer whose worst enemies are a mercenary judicial system, an uncaring society và himself ( not in that order ) — và try to sand off the rough edges. Washington, to his credit, leans into the jagged bits of this flawed man with gusto ; if anything, the star works double-time to make it twice as challenging to root for this sad-sack nhân vật. A crusader who’s seen his righteous progressiveness fall out of fashion as much as his funky, ill-fitting maroon suits, Roman is a man out of phút giây. Caught between Collin Farrell’s corporate-firm devil & Carmen Ejogo’s young, activist angel, he finally tires of “ doing the impossible for the ungrateful ” và makes a decision that offers a short-term sense of meaning. It will also eventually lead to his undoing. Writer-director Tony Gilroy’s story, much less his conception of this legal savant with a talent for alienating allies, is muddled, to say the least. Still, Washington fills in a lot of the blanks, showing you why attention must be paid to this eccentric whose “ lack of success is self-imposed. ” Roman came, he saw his ideology curdle, he lost. And as Denzel reminds you, there are thousands out there just lượt thích him. DF

  • ‘The Equalizer 2’ (2018)

    the equalizer 2 reviewc
    Image Credit: Glen Wilson/Columbia Pictures

    Because you can’t keep a good action anh hùng lao dốc, Washington returns as Robert McCall, the world’s deadliest Good Samaritan, in Antoine Fuqua’s sequel to his năm trước cập nhật on the old Edward Woodard TV series. While he’s driving a Lyft in Boston, an old colleague from his Defense Intelligence Agency gets into killed in Belgium — cue McCall punching lots of faces, slitting lots of throats và unleashing a lot of hell on those who’ve wronged him. As with so sánh many franchise second chapters, the law of diminishing returns kicks in quicker than you’d lượt thích, và Washington could vì this cool, calm badass act in his sleep. ( Even his attempt to teach young Ashton Sanders a lesson via screaming in his face & a loaded gun feels way too familiar. ) Still, the man knows how to sell this AARP-age action stuff beautifully : Put up with the abundance of chết air, và you get to hear Washington turn a line lượt thích “ I’m going to kill each và every one of you, và the only disappointment in it for me is : I only get to bởi vì it once ” into tough-guy poetry. DF

  • ‘For Queen & Country’ (1988)

    denzel washington, fences denzel washington, oscars 2017, best denzel washington movies, denzel washington malcolm x
    Image Credit: Everett Collection

    In an early starring role, Washington plays a British soldier posted in Northern Ireland who’s discharged và returns trang chính to a neighborhood that’s falling apart. He tries to keep it together amid warring gangs và a society that has no appreciation for his service. You can see the early glimpses of Washington’s later heroic characters here – the upright man in a world of chaos. This is more mạng xã hội drama than crime thriller, & his tender performance is its chief asset .

  • ‘John Q’ (2002)

    JOHN Q, James Woods, Denzel Washington, 2002(c) New Line, courtesy Everett Collection
    Image Credit: New Line Cinema/Everett Collection

    A father at the end of his rope (guess who?) takes part of a hospital hostage after getting screwed over by the health insurance system. These kinds of hot-button, ordinary-man-pushed-too-far Hollywood movies always traffic in histrionics that undermine their social messages, and this one’s no exception — except for the fact that Washington can sell this kind of role in his sleep. He’s truly excellent here: Watch the subtle shock his face registers as he starts committing his actions; even he can’t believe what he’s doing.

  • ‘The Equalizer’ (2014)

    THE EQUALIZER, from left: Denzel Washington, Chloe Grace Moretz, 2014. ph: Scott Garfield/©Columbia Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection
    Image Credit: ©Columbia Pictures/Everett Collection

    Reteaming with his Training Day director Antoine Fuqua, the actor makes his brooding ex-Special Forces an expert in slow-burn outrage; you have to admire the way he patiently bides his time until it’s time to start stabbing, slicing, and gouging out eyeballs. But to his credit, he makes the performance not just gripping, but genuinely poignant. This was a remake of the TV show starring Edward Woodward, and it’s a little too gleefully nihilistic in its violence. But watching Washington keep his cool, we sense a man who is trying to cling to his hard-earned peace for as long as he possibly can.

  • ‘The Bone Collector’ (1999)

    THE BONE COLLECTOR, Denzel Washington, Angelina Jolie, 1999. ©Universal/courtesy Everett Collection
    Image Credit: ©Universal/Everett Collection

    This serial-killer thriller is indeed silly – và it certainly has its moments. As a paraplegic NYPD forensics expert, Denzel spends most of the movie immobile và in bed. But he makes the absolute most of it, relishing the chance to give Angelina Jolie’s rookie investigator a hard giây phút. It’s a complex character : an angry man who has given up on life, but who remains committed to the work that gives him meaning. Washington’s performance is why we over up not just understanding him, but liking him as well .

  • ‘The Little Things’ (2021)

    Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

    Of course we love those Denzel Prestige movies — your Glorys, your Fences, your Philadelphias — but we’ll cop to a serious weakness for Denzel Pulp, i. e. those grittier, grimier, more genre-centric films where he’s chasing lao dốc a suspect và seems precariously on the edge of losing it at all times. And Washington’s latest thriller could not be pulpier : He’s Joe “ Deke ” Deacon, a deputy sheriff working a small-town beat north of Los Angeles. Once upon a giây phút, however, he was a crack homicide detective in the big đô thị until a case involving a serial killer derailed him. When he’s asked to fetch evidence in his old stomping ground for a case, Deacon stumbles across a murder that may be tied to the One Who Got Away. Naturally, he decides to help a younger investigator ( Rami Malek ) track lao dốc whoever’s stalking & stabbing young women. Washington wears his characters ’ weariness well here, giving you the sense that this is a seriously broken man with his chia sẻ of personal demons và unfinished business ; even when writer-director John Lee Hancock’s potboiler gets stuck in simmer mode, you can feel the star adding his own little éminece grise touches, especially once Jared Leto’s scenery-chewing suspect enters the picture. DF

  • ‘A Soldier’s Story’ (1984)

    A SOLDIER'S STORY, from left: Howard E. Rollins Jr., Denzel Washington, 1984. ©Columbia/courtesy Everett Collection
    Image Credit: ©Columbia Pictures/Everett Collection

    Washington is just one member of the ensemble cast for Norman Jewison’s Oscar-nominated mystery about the murder of an officer at an African-American military camp during World War II. But he immediately stands out – as a bespectacled hard-ass whose contempt for his superiors runs deep. (Washington had also played the same part in the original theatrical iteration of this story, titled A Soldier’s Play.) In a lot of his early roles, the actor got noticed for the humanity, playfulness or compelling melancholy he brought to the parts; here, it’s his intensity that strikes you. And, without giving too much away, there turns out to be a reason for that. Essential early Denzel viewing.

  • ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ (1993)

    MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, Conrad Nelson, Andy Hochley, Gerard Horan, Richard Clifford, Michael Keaton, Denzel Washington, Robert Sean Leonard, 1993
    Image Credit: ©Samuel Goldwyn Films/Everett Collection

    Kenneth Branagh’s boisterous ( & overbaked ) adaptation of William Shakespeare’s comedy has one genuinely brilliant idea – casting Denzel Washington và Keanu Reeves as half-brothers. As Aragonian prince Don Pedro, the former conveys the natural ease & wisdom of a leader, while the almost-comically stoic latter actor makes for a compellingly embittered & conniving foil. On stage, Washington has done more prominent Bard roles – including Othello & Richard III – but here he’s a welcome, grounded counterpoint to the other actors ’ impassioned histrionics .

  • ‘Ricochet’ (1991)

    RICOCHET, Denzel Washington, 1991
    Image Credit: ©Warner Bros/Everett Collection

    Holy crap, when was the last thời gian you watched this fever dream ? Marketed as just another anonymous cop drama, this Joel Silver production is in truth a bug-nuts, over-the-top extravaganza about crazed killer John Lithgow taking revenge on the nhân vật cop-turned-Assistant-D. A. who put him away. We’re talking Trắng supremacist conspiracies, staged murders, doctored sex-tapes, forced-drug-addiction … the works. Oh, there’s also a scene early on where Denzel strips naked to apprehend a perp. Seriously, this is one of the lost cult movies of the 1990 s. ( Would it have a better our-cup-runneth-over reputation if someone gonzo lượt thích Nicolas Cage or Samuel L. Jackson had done it ? ) Washington strikes the right tone of cocksure bravery as it turns into bewilderment, psychosis, và rage as the movie goes through its many wild twists và turns .

  • ‘Antwone Fisher’ (2002)

    ANTWONE FISHER, Derek Luke, Denzel Washington, 2002, TM & Copyright (c) 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved.
    Image Credit: ©20thCentFox/Everett Collection

    In his first directorial effort, Washington gave himself the unshowy role of the Navy psychiatrist whose empathy & patience help troubled sailor Antwone Fisher ( Derek Luke ) overcome his many resentment và rage issues. ( The screenplay was written by the real Fisher. ) Washington has to bởi a lot of listening here, & his calmness makes for an effective counterpoint to Luke’s bravura turn. The centered unique he brings to the role of a good man enhances everybody else around him .

  • ‘2 Guns’ (2013)

    2 GUNS, (aka TWO GUNS), from left: Denzel Washington, Mark Wahlberg, 2013. ph: Patti Perret/©Universal Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection
    Image Credit: Patti Perret/Universal/Everett Collection

    For this colorful, underrated action flick ( based on the underground Boom ! Studios comic ), Washington teamed up with Mark Wahlberg to play a pair of ngân hàng robbers who are both, unbeknownst to each other, undercover : he for the DEA, Wahlberg for Naval intelligence. But the double-crosses don’t stop there. Washington, as might be expected, plays the solemn, weathered anti-hero who’s been steeped in the world of drug runners & sleazebags for a bit too long ; he makes a great foil for Wahlberg’s entertainingly unhinged antics. It’s a surprisingly solid buddy movie .

  • ‘Deja Vu’ (2006)

    DEJA VU, Denzel Washington, Val Kilmer, 2006. ©Touchstone Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection
    Image Credit: ©Touchstone Pictures/Everett Collection

    A terrorist blows up a ferry filled with sailors in New Orleans. Washington plays the ATF agent investigating the attack; thanks to a secret new government technology that allows him to peer a few days into the past (!), he discovers that a woman who’s body found in the attack had reportedly died prior to the explosion. Yes, he becomes romantically obsessed with her. And then the movie gets truly ludicrous. Never mind Tony Scott’s ADD-style direction; this is one of the most vulnerable performances the actor has ever given, which helps sell the truly bizarre plot. A lot.

  • ‘Man on Fire’ (2004)

    MAN ON FIRE, Dakota Fanning, Denzel Washington, 2004, TM & Copyright (c) 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved.
    Image Credit: ©20thCentFox/Everett Collection

    A high-point of the Denzel-Kills-Everybody genre, courtesy of Tony Scott. The star is a broke, alcoholic bodyguard hired to protect the young daughter ( Dakota Fanning ) of a rich Mexico City businessman. When she’s taken hostage, he tortures, maims, và slaughters his way through the country in order to find & punish those responsible. Washington invests this anh hùng with real nobility, a broken man who knows he’s broken – & who finds meaning và grace in the most unexpected place, i. e. his raw thirst for revenge .

  • ‘Remember the Titans’ (2000)

    REMEMBER THE TITANS, Will Patton, Denzel Washington, 2000
    Image Credit: ©Walt Disney Co./Everett Collection

    Denzel has a lot of fun playing proud, hard-ass football coach Herman Boone, who in 1971 was hired to lead Virginia’s newly-integrated T.C. Woodson high school. With White và Black players distrusting each other, và a community divided, he has to find a way to chiến hạ games, earn trust và get these kids to develop into young men. ( You get one guess as to how it turns out. ) Credit the actor for bringing just enough determination và fire to up the intensity of what might have otherwise been a soft-focus inspirational-sports family flick .

  • ‘The Hurricane’ (1999)

    THE HURRICANE, Denzel Washington, 1999, © Universal/courtesy Everett Collection
    Image Credit: ©Universal/Everett Collection

    Never let it be said that the man is not dedicated to his craft : Washington shed 60 lbs. and underwent extensive training for the part of Rubin “ Hurricane ” Carter, a middleweight boxer who famously spent two decades in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Even though his character spends much of the film locked in prison, the actor’s face và body toàn thân seethe with emotion – anger, hopelessness, desperation, bewilderment, và sometimes even love. Washington does what he can to transcend the script’s awkward dialogue và liberal pieties ; in return, he got a couple of genuinely amazing scenes & his fourth Oscar nomination .

  • ‘American Gangster’ (2007)

    AMERICAN GANGSTER, front row: Common (far left), Denzel Washington (second from left), Chiwetel Ejiofor (third from left), 2007. ©Universal Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection
    Image Credit: ©Universal/Everett Collection

    This sprawling crime drama has Washington as the notorious Harlem drug kingpin Frank Lucas, who cornered the drug market in the Sixties and Seventies. (His secret: smuggling heroin from Southeast Asia in the coffins of dead American soldiers returning from Vietnam.) The film itself can’t overcome the pall of wan stylization that director Ridley Scott brings to it, but that’s not Washington’s fault: He does fine with Lucas’s stoic, nose-to-the-grindstone work ethic, and gradually allows the rage to slip in when things start to fall apart for him. Co-lead Russell Crowe is also quite good as the rumpled cop-turned-lawyer who brought Lucas down. It’s definitely a better pairing of these two leads than Virtuosity.

  • ‘Philadelphia’ (1993)

    PHILADELPHIA, from left, Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, 1993, ©TriStar Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection
    Image Credit: ©TriStar Pictures/Everett Collection

    Although many now regard it as a prime example of misguided 1990 s liberal piety & condescension, Jonathan Demme’s AIDS legal drama is also, let’s not forget, an extraordinarily well-made film. As the homophobic, ambulance chasing lawyer who takes on Tom Hanks ’ case of a hotshot attorney, Washington lends real personality và gentleness to a character who could have easily come off as a sleazy ignoramus. The actor không bao giờ hits us end the head with his character’s transformation ; this man somehow remains true to himself, even as he becomes more tolerant & righteous .

  • ‘Courage Under Fire’ (1996)

    COURAGE UNDER FIRE,  Denzel Washington, 1996, TM and Copyright ©20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved./Courtesy Everett Collection
    Image Credit: ©20thCentFox/Everett Collection

    An Army sergeant (Washington) investigate the death of a Huey pilot (Meg Ryan) during the first Gulf War, in order to make sure she deserves a Medal of Honor. He is effectively haunted in Edward Zwick’s Rashomon-like war melodrama. but wisely, the actor never overdoes the inner turmoil; he’s still a military man, after all. This is man who’s all low-boil fury and despair, driven to drink and obsess over his case. And then he makes that obsession our own. The power of this movie lies completely in his performance.

  • ‘Devil in a Blue Dress’ (1995)

    DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS, Denzel Washington, 1995, © TriStar/courtesy Everett Collection
    Image Credit: ©TriStar Pictures/Everett Collection

    Who else could bring such genuine charm & casual professionalism to the part of author Walter Mosley’s famous detective Easy Rawlins ? Entrusted to track lao dốc a missing woman, Easy finds himself drawn into an unexpected website of intrigue, murder, và political corruption. Washington laces his performance throughout with a sense of bewilderment – our người hùng is in end his head, & he knows it. But he persists. A standout : Easy’s hilarious interactions with his trigger-happy pal Mouse ( Don Cheadle, a revelation ), whose shoot-first-ask-questions-later ethos is as much a nuisance as a godsend .

  • ‘He Got Game’ (1998)

    HE GOT GAME, Ray Allen, Denzel Washington, 1998, (c)Buena Vista Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection
    Image Credit: ©Buena Vista Pictures/Everett Collection

    Spike Lee smartly cast Washington to play this film’s former baller who’s briefly let out of jail so sánh he can convince his estranged son / national high school hoops phenom ( Ray Allen ) to attend the prison warden’s alma mater. It’s a purposefully-ridiculous set-up, but the sensitivity Washington brings to the part of this wounded, torn man – with his combination of pride, resentment & shame – as he tries to reconnect with his son is overwhelming. Without his performance, the story might have been mired in absurdism ; he turns this wild, overstuffed movie into something lượt thích a great humanist work .

  • ‘Out of Time’ (2003)

    OUT OF TIME, Eva Mendes, Denzel Washington, 2003, (c) MGM/courtesy Everett Collection
    Image Credit: ©MGM/Everett Collection

    Reuniting with Devil in a Blue Dress director Carl Franklin, Washington shines as a small-town Florida sheriff whose affair with a local married woman (Sanaa Lathan) leads him to do some pretty unsavory things – all of which blows up in his face when dead bodies enter the picture. Our hero becomes a different man before our eyes – from a cool, confident operator who can bend the law at will, to a desperate man who realizes he’s being framed. This is a great, underrated modern noir, and our man’s performance is one of the main reasons why.

  • ‘Unstoppable’ (2010)

    UNSTOPPABLE, l-r: Chris Pine,  Denzel Washington, 2010, ph: Robert Zuckerman/TM and Copyright ©20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved./courtesy Everett Collection
    Image Credit: Robert Zuckerman/TM and Copyright ©20th Century Fox Film Corp/Everett Collection

    In the last film Washington made with his longtime director Tony Scott, he’s a veteran train engineer saddled with tenderfoot newbie Chris Pine as they struggle to stop an out-of-control freight train loaded with hazardous chemicals. This is a riff on the usual late-period Denzel formula: the solid pro who’s been at this job for too long, and who has to teach a younger counterpart whom he initially distrusts. And he’s very moving here, conveying both pride in his job and bitterness at the fact that he’s clearly considered replaceable by his bosses. Also the movie is ridiculously exciting.

  • ‘The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3’ (2009)

    THE TAKING OF PELHAM 1 2 3, Denzel Washington, 2009. Ph: Rico Torres/©Columbia Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection
    Image Credit: ©Columbia Pictures/Everett Collection

    What is it with Denzel, Tony Scott and trains ? In this flashy remake of the gritty 1974 Thành Phố New York subway-hostage classic, Washington plays a transit executive who’s been demoted due to a bribery scandal. He gets a chance to redeem himself when John Travolta’s flamboyantly calculating ex-cop và a nhóm of criminals take end a subway train. Forget the often fragmented filmmaking và cacophony ; Washington’s understated performance as a wounded man just trying to vì his job works very well playing off against Travolta’s preening, baroque villain .

  • ‘Glory’ (1989)

    GLORY, from left: Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington, 1989. ph: © TriStar Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection
    Image Credit: ©TriStar Pictures/Everett Collection

    Most people credit that tear, silently sliding xuống dốc his face while he defiantly endures a flogging, for winning Washington his first Oscar in Ed Zwick’s acclaimed epic about African-American soldiers in the Civil War. But as Private Trip, a rebellious & cynical runaway slave, the actor is electrifying from start to finish. He makes Trip’s contempt & his pain palpable – which in turn feeds his growing need to belong. Even though the man sows chaos, he also often seems to be the only person who sees things for what they are. It’s a star turn whether he’s a supporting player or not .

  • ‘Cry Freedom’ (1987)

    CRY FREEDOM, Denzel Washington, 1987. ©Universal/courtesy Everett Collection
    Image Credit: ©Universal/Everett Collection

    Director Richard Attenborough couldn’t quite bởi vì for martyred South African activist Steven Biko what he did for Gandhi with this apartheid-era drama, but don’t blame Washington. His Biko is wildly charismatic, playful, intelligent, even bemused – watching him as the legendary leader, it’s easy to understand why so sánh many would be drawn to this man, và why the government would so sánh fear him. So why, you ask, is so sánh much of the film’s focus actually on the Trắng journalist ( Kevin Kline ) who wrote the source material ? ( How much thời gian bởi you have ? ) Kline, of course isn’t bad – but the movie basically dies whenever Washington isn’t onscreen. When he is, however … watch out .

  • ‘The Mighty Quinn’ (1989)

    THE MIGHTY QUINN, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Denzel Washington, 1989, © MGM/courtesy Everett Collection
    Image Credit: ©MGM/Everett Collection

    Forget the Dylan reference in the tiêu đề ; Washington’s Caribbean police chief Xavier Quinn is a man whose trying to figure out if his best friend ( Robert Townsend ), suspected of murder, is guilty. The plot ambles along, & Denzel is the essence of laid-back professionalism as he đơn hàng with corrupt officials, grisly crimes, lustful housewives, & his own divided loyalties. It’s an odd, captivating little movie, with “ one of those roles that creates a movie star overnight. ” That was how Roger Ebert described Washington’s turn in this breezy, sexy policier. He wasn’t wrong .

  • ‘Crimson Tide’ (1995)

    CRIMSON TIDE, from left: Denzel Washington, Gene Hackman, 1995. © Buena Vista Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection
    Image Credit: ©Buena Vista Pictures/Everett Collection

    The actor’s first collaboration with director Tony Scott is the best film they made together – a breathtakingly exciting nuclear thriller pitting sadistic submarine captain Gene Hackman against his rational, responsible second-in-command ( two guesses ). This is a great “ guy ” movie, pitting the by-the-book superior against the self-sacrificing, morally upstanding upstart. The two actors have a grand old thời gian facing off against one another, & director Scott’s high phong cách, playing up the claustrophobia of the sub, matches for all the macho bluster on display to a tee .

  • ‘Inside Man’ (2006)

    INSIDE MAN, from left: Jodie Foster, Denzel Washington, 2006. ph: David Lee © Universal Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection
    Image Credit: David Lee/Universal/Courtesy Everett Col

    Spike Lee’s cơn sốt crime flick is more than a suspenseful crime drama – it’s a love letter to Thành Phố New York. It’s also a surprisingly powerful demonstration of Denzel Washington’s incredible range. When a nhóm of criminals take a bank-full of hostages, a troubled NYPD detective Keith Frazier tries to negotiate the release. In fact, the whole movie is a series of negotiations – Frazier talks not just to the crooks, but also to the small army of onlookers, political officials, a mysterious fixer ( Jodie Foster ), và, via a series of flash-forwards, hostages after they’ve been freed. Sometimes he’s a bad cop, sometimes he’s chummy, sometimes he’s deferential. But all the while he keeps his cool, even as the situation around him becomes more desperate. It’s prime Denzel .

  • ‘Mississippi Masala’ (1992)

    MISSISSIPPI MASALA, Denzel Washington, 1991, (c)Samuel Goldwyn Company/courtesy Everett Collection
    Image Credit: ©Samuel Goldwyn Films/Everett Collection

    In one of his sexiest performances, Washington is an enterprising Mississippi carpet cleaner who falls for Sarita Choudhury’s independent-minded Indian immigrant. Mira Nair’s lush, heartfelt romance glows with humanity và desire ; it puts the “ passion ” back in “ compassion. ” Denzel navigates his character’s journey – from a handsome, cool, & even slightly smug business owner to hopeless lãng mạn – with loads of magnetism, & he và Choudhury have incredible chemistry together. Even their phone conversations smolder .

  • ‘Fences’ (2016)

    fen 01977r 2c
    Image Credit: David Lee/Paramount Pictures

    Washington had already won a Tony for playing Troy Maxson, the towering patriarch at the center of August Wilson’s play about đen life in the 1950 s, on Broadway in 2010 ; when it came thời gian to bring this Pulitzer-prizewinning play to the màn hình hiển thị, Denzel would kết thúc up doing double duty as an actor và a director as well. And from the moment Washington regales us with a tall tale of fighting Death to a draw, you can see how he’s building up Wilson’s working-class everyman into someone bigger than life. Maxson is a man with “ more stories than the devil has sinners ” — a 1950 s sanitation worker who loves a good yarn, a nip of booze & his beautiful, rock-of-Gibraltar wife Rose ( Oscar-winner Viola Davis ). He’s also spiritually broken, suffering from a bad past, personal insecurities & the slings và arrows of being a Black man in Eisenhower’s America. It’s a lot, in other words. But to watch Washington recalibrate his Troy camera instead of a crowd is to see him plumb the depths of a great theatrical role. He gives you the character’s every triumph và tragedy, the disappointments và regrets và the moments of joy, the sense of someone hiding pain và rage beneath a lot of bluster. And his exchanges with his costars ( notably Davis, Stephen McKinley Henderson và Jovan Adepo ) is lượt thích a masterclass in give-and-take acting. Even when the film begins to bump up against its roots as a play, Washington’s performance chưa bao giờ feels stagy. It’s a great actor interpreting a great writer’s work và inhabiting it at the same thời gian. DF

  • ‘Flight’ (2012)

    FLIGHT, Denzel Washington, 2012. ©Paramount Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection
    Image Credit: Paramount/Everett Collection

    The actor gives one of his greatest performances as Whip Whitaker, a pilot whose heroic exploits during a plane crash wind up inadvertently revealing the extent of his drug và alcohol addiction. Outraged that anyone would dare question his actions after he’s saved hundreds of people, Whip slips further và further into anger & resentment. It’s a role that requires an impressive range, as our anh hùng goes from confidence to denial to fear to devastation. For all the film’s amazing effects & tension – director Robert Zemeckis stages the plane crash with heart attack-inducing suspense – the real drama of this story plays out on Denzel’s face. He is simply amazing .

  • ‘Mo’ Better Blues’ (1990)

    MO' BETTER BLUES, Denzel Washington, 1990, (c)Universal Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection
    Image Credit: ©Universal/Everett Collection

    Not everybody knew what to make of Spike Lee’s jazz drama, about a talented but self-absorbed trumpeter split between two women and unwilling to compromise. (It was the director’s follow-up to Do the Right Thing, and a lot of people were still expecting Angry Spike.) Today, however, the film looks like a near-masterpiece: an epic meditation on love, lust, art, and friendship, all anchored by Washington’s marvelously sensual performance. The musician is a great talent, but he’s also a dog – and the actor lets us see and feel the charisma as well as the hypocrisy. Plus he also absolutely commands the stage during those rambling, improvisatory jazz numbers, in which he assumes different postures, voices, and rhythms with almost shamanic grace. This is the loosest Washington has ever been: It’s a startlingly alive and in-the-moment performance, a perfect match for a man living (and losing himself) in the now.

  • ‘Training Day’ (2001)

    TRAINING DAY, Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke, 2001
    Image Credit: ©Warner Bros/Everett Collection

    The film that won Washington his second Oscar is still perhaps his best-known part. As the remorselessly corrupt LAPD detective Alonzo Harris, putting rookie Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) through what at first seems like the world’s worst hazing ritual, Washington keeps us constantly uncertain as to his true intentions: Is he simply teaching Jake how to survive on the streets? Does he have something more nefarious in mind? That sense of never knowing where we stand with this character makes this a riveting, high-wire act of a performance. And when Harris finally does go totally over-the-top, it’s a turn worthy of Jimmy Cagney. In the modern era, one can’t imagine anybody but Denzel pulling it off. “King Kong ain’t got shit on me!”

  • ‘Malcolm X’ (1992)

    MALCOLM X, Denzel Washington, 1992, (c) Warner Brothers/courtesy Everett Collection
    Image Credit: ©Warner Bros/Everett Collection

    This monumental performance as the slain civil rights leader in Spike Lee’s masterful biopic remains the greatest thing he’s done to date – a journey that takes in the man from small-time hustler to prisoner, preacher, leader and finally, martyr. But this Malcolm is a cumulative effort: At every stage, you see glimmers of the man he once was, so that he’s always in a dialogue with his past selves. (This isn’t just solid character work, but an actual theme in the film.) Lee and Washington are arguing that what made Malcolm so magnetic and powerful was his distillation of these many experiences – that he truly understood what it meant to be poor, dispossessed, and angry in the first half of the 20th century. The actor so thoroughly inhabits the part at every stage of these changes that, at the time, it was hard to think of him ever doing another movie after this. Amazingly, he was just getting started.

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