Denzel Washington is a highly acclaimed actor who has been in the entertainment industry for over four decades.
He has appeared in numerous films and has won many accolades for his performances, including two Academy Awards, three Golden Globe Awards, and a Tony Award.
Washington is known for his dynamic acting range and captivating screen presence. He has played a wide range of characters throughout his career, from historical figures to law enforcement officers to superheroes.
Best Denzel Washington Movies
We’ll discuss some of the best Denzel Washington movies that showcase his talent as an actor. These movies have earned critical acclaim and have become classics in the world of cinema.
“American Gangster” is a crime film directed by Ridley Scott and released in 2007. The film is based on the true story of Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington), a Harlem-based drug lord who rose to prominence in the 1970s, and Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe), the detective who brought him to justice.
The story follows Lucas as he takes over the Harlem drug trade by importing pure heroin from Vietnam in the coffins of dead American soldiers.
He becomes one of the most powerful and notorious drug lords in New York City, and attracts the attention of Roberts, a straight-laced detective who is determined to take him down.
As the two men play a game of cat-and-mouse, their personal lives also become intertwined, with Lucas struggling to maintain his empire and Roberts dealing with the fallout of a messy divorce and custody battle.
“American Gangster” is known for its strong performances from its lead actors, particularly Washington as the charismatic and ruthless Frank Lucas.
The film also features an impressive supporting cast, including Josh Brolin, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Ruby Dee. It was a commercial and critical success upon release and has since become a well-regarded entry in the crime genre.
“Remember the Titans” is a sports drama film released in 2000, directed by Boaz Yakin. The film is based on the true story of the integration of a high school football team in Alexandria, Virginia, during the early 1970s.
The film stars Denzel Washington as Coach Herman Boone, a black coach who is hired to lead the newly integrated football team, and Will Patton as Coach Bill Yoast, a white coach who becomes his assistant.
In “Remember the Titans,” Coach Boone faces numerous challenges as he strives to unite a racially divided team and build a winning football program.
The film explores themes of race, prejudice, teamwork, and leadership. It depicts the struggles and triumphs of the players and coaches as they navigate the racial tensions of the era and work towards a common goal on and off the football field.
“Remember the Titans” is known for its powerful performances, particularly by Denzel Washington as Coach Boone, and its uplifting message of overcoming adversity and fostering unity through sports.
The film also features strong performances by the young cast, including actors such as Ryan Gosling, Hayden Panettiere, and Wood Harris.
The film was a commercial success and received positive reviews for its inspiring story, well-executed performances, and engaging sports sequences.
It has become a popular sports movie and is often used in educational settings to spark discussions on race, leadership, and teamwork.
“Remember the Titans” continues to be celebrated for its heartwarming story and important social messages, and remains a beloved film among audiences.
Flight is a 2012 American drama film directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle, and John Goodman.
The movie tells the story of a commercial airline pilot named Whip Whitaker (played by Washington) who miraculously lands a malfunctioning plane and saves most of the passengers on board.
However, an investigation into the crash reveals that Whip was under the influence of alcohol and drugs during the flight.
As Whip struggles with his addiction and legal issues, he is forced to confront his past mistakes and attempt to rebuild his life. The movie also explores themes of personal responsibility, redemption, and the power of addiction.
Flight received critical acclaim, with particular praise for Washington’s performance as well as the film’s direction and screenplay.
The movie was also a box office success, grossing over $161 million worldwide. It was nominated for two Academy Awards, including Best Actor for Washington.
“Malcolm X” is a biographical drama movie released in 1992, directed by Spike Lee and starring Denzel Washington in the lead role. The movie is based on the life of Malcolm X, an influential African American civil rights leader who rose to prominence during the 1950s and 1960s.
The movie follows Malcolm X from his childhood in the Midwest, through his time as a street hustler and his subsequent conversion to Islam while in prison.
After his release from prison, Malcolm X becomes a prominent member of the Nation of Islam and rises to become one of its most charismatic and influential leaders.
As the Civil Rights Movement gains momentum in the 1960s, Malcolm X becomes increasingly critical of the nonviolent approach advocated by Martin Luther King Jr. and others, and he begins to advocate for black self-defense and separatism.
The movie depicts the conflicts within the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X’s eventual break with the organization, and his assassination in 1965.
“Malcolm X” is known for its powerful performances, especially by Denzel Washington in the lead role, and its unflinching portrayal of the racism and oppression faced by African Americans during the Civil Rights era.
The movie was a critical and commercial success and is considered one of Spike Lee’s most important works.
Overall, “Malcolm X” is a powerful and inspiring movie that explores the life and legacy of one of the most important figures in American history.
Training Day is a crime thriller film released in 2001, directed by Antoine Fuqua and starring Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke. The movie tells the story of a young, idealistic LAPD officer who is paired with a corrupt and brutal veteran detective for a day of training.
Denzel Washington plays the character of Detective Alonzo Harris, a veteran LAPD narcotics officer who takes a young rookie, Officer Jake Hoyt (played by Ethan Hawke), under his wing for a day of training.
However, as the day progresses, Hoyt begins to realize that Harris’s methods are unethical, and he becomes embroiled in a dangerous and corrupt underworld of drugs and violence.
The film depicts the gritty and violent reality of urban crime and police corruption, as well as the struggle between idealism and survival in a world where the lines between right and wrong are blurred.
Training Day was a critical and commercial success and won Denzel Washington an Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Detective Harris.
The film has been praised for its tense and compelling storytelling, as well as its portrayal of complex and flawed characters. It is considered one of the best crime films of the 2000s.
6. John Q (2002)
John Q is a drama film released in 2002, directed by Nick Cassavetes and starring Denzel Washington, Robert Duvall, and James Woods.
The film tells the story of John Quincy Archibald, played by Denzel Washington, a desperate father who takes drastic measures to save his son’s life when he is denied medical treatment due to a lack of insurance coverage.
John Q. Archibald is a working-class man who loves his wife Denise, played by Kimberly Elise, and his young son Michael, played by Daniel E. Smith.
However, when Michael collapses during a baseball game and is diagnosed with a life-threatening heart condition, John and his wife are devastated to learn that their insurance does not cover the expensive transplant surgery Michael needs.
With no other options, John takes the emergency room hostage at gunpoint, demanding that his son be put on the transplant list and receive the medical care he needs.
As the situation unfolds, John becomes a media sensation and the focus of a high-stakes negotiation with law enforcement, led by Detective Frank Grimes, played by Robert Duvall, and a hospital administrator, played by James Woods.
John’s actions draw attention to the flaws in the American healthcare system and raise questions about the value of human life in the face of financial constraints.
John Q is known for Denzel Washington’s powerful performance as a desperate father willing to do whatever it takes to save his son’s life.
The film addresses important social and ethical issues surrounding healthcare access and affordability, and it portrays the struggles faced by ordinary people when navigating a complex and sometimes heartless system.
The film’s tense and emotional storyline resonates with audiences, and it serves as a thought-provoking exploration of the lengths a parent would go to protect their child.
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“Man on Fire” is a 2004 action thriller film directed by Tony Scott and starring Denzel Washington, Dakota Fanning, and Christopher Walken. Washington plays the role of John W. Creasy, a former CIA operative who becomes a bodyguard for a young girl named Pita Ramos (Fanning) in Mexico City.
When Pita is kidnapped, Creasy goes on a mission to rescue her and bring the kidnappers to justice.
Washington’s performance in “Man on Fire” is intense and captivating, capturing the character’s inner demons and his journey towards redemption.
His chemistry with Fanning is heartwarming, and the two actors deliver a moving and powerful performance that elevates the film beyond a typical action thriller. The film’s story is a powerful exploration of justice, revenge, and the bonds between a guardian and their charge.
“Man on Fire” is widely considered one of Denzel Washington’s best movies, and it showcases his ability to bring a character to life with depth and nuance.
The film’s action sequences are also expertly choreographed, making it an intense and thrilling watch from start to finish. If you’re a fan of action movies or Denzel Washington’s performances, “Man on Fire” is a must-watch.
“Philadelphia” is a drama film directed by Jonathan Demme and released in 1993. The film stars Tom Hanks as Andrew Beckett, a gay lawyer who is fired from his law firm after contracting HIV.
Andrew hires Joe Miller (Denzel Washington), a homophobic lawyer, to represent him in a wrongful termination lawsuit.
As the case progresses, Joe begins to overcome his prejudices and develop a deeper understanding of the discrimination faced by people with HIV/AIDS.
Meanwhile, Andrew’s health continues to decline, and he faces discrimination and stigmatization from those around him.
“Philadelphia” is known for its powerful performances, particularly from Hanks, who won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Andrew.
The film was also notable for its frank and sensitive portrayal of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which was still heavily stigmatized at the time of its release.
It was a critical and commercial success and is considered a landmark film in the representation of LGBTQ+ issues in mainstream cinema.
“The Hurricane” is a biographical sports drama film released in 1999, directed by Norman Jewison. The film is based on the true story of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, a former middleweight boxer who was wrongfully convicted of murder and spent nearly 20 years in prison before being exonerated.
The film stars Denzel Washington as Rubin Carter, and also features supporting performances by Liev Schreiber, John Hannah, and Deborah Kara Unger.
In “The Hurricane,” Denzel Washington delivers a powerful performance as Rubin Carter, who is convicted of a triple murder in New Jersey in the 1960s despite maintaining his innocence.
The film follows his wrongful conviction, imprisonment, and his struggle to prove his innocence and gain his freedom.
With the help of a young Canadian activist, played by Liev Schreiber, and a group of supporters, Carter fights against the injustice of the legal system and racial prejudice.
“The Hurricane” explores themes of racial discrimination, social justice, and the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity.
The film sheds light on the systemic racism and injustices faced by Carter and others like him, and the power of perseverance and determination in the pursuit of truth and justice.
The film received critical acclaim for Denzel Washington’s powerful performance and the compelling story of Rubin Carter. Washington was nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of Carter in the film.
“The Hurricane” also received positive reviews for its direction, screenplay, and cinematography. While some historical inaccuracies have been noted, the film is widely recognized for shedding light on the wrongful conviction of Rubin Carter and his fight for justice.
The Pelican Brief is a 1993 American legal thriller film directed by Alan J. Pakula and starring Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington. The movie is based on the novel of the same name by John Grisham.
The film tells the story of a law student named Darby Shaw (played by Roberts) who writes a brief outlining a conspiracy theory behind the assassination of two Supreme Court justices.
She shares the brief with her law professor and lover, Thomas Callahan (played by Sam Shepard), who is later murdered.
Darby then goes on the run and seeks the help of investigative journalist Gray Grantham (played by Washington) to expose the truth behind the murders and the conspiracy.
The Pelican Brief received mixed reviews from critics but was a box office success, grossing over $195 million worldwide.
The film was praised for its tense and thrilling plot, as well as the performances of Roberts and Washington. The movie also features a star-studded supporting cast, including John Heard, James B. Sikking, and Hume Cronyn.
“Antwone Fisher” is a biographical drama movie released in 2002, directed by and starring Denzel Washington in the leading role.
The film is based on the true story of Antwone Fisher, an African American man who, as a young sailor in the US Navy, struggled with a troubled past and unresolved issues of anger and abandonment.
The movie follows Fisher’s journey as he seeks counseling from a Navy psychiatrist, Dr. Jerome Davenport (played by Washington), to confront his painful past and come to terms with his emotions.
Through a series of therapy sessions, Fisher begins to open up about the abuse and neglect he suffered as a child and the impact it has had on his adult life.
As Fisher works through his issues, he also forms a romantic relationship with a fellow sailor, Cheryl (Joy Bryant), and begins to build a sense of family with her and her young son.
“Antwone Fisher” is known for its powerful performances, especially by newcomer Derek Luke, who portrays the title character, and Washington, who delivers a nuanced and empathetic portrayal of a compassionate therapist. The movie was a critical success and received several award nominations.
Overall, “Antwone Fisher” is a moving and inspiring movie that explores themes of healing, forgiveness, and the power of human connection.
The Manchurian Candidate is a political thriller film released in 2004, directed by Jonathan Demme and starring Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep, and Liev Schreiber. The movie is a remake of the 1962 film of the same name and is based on the novel by Richard Condon.
The story follows Major Bennett Marco (Denzel Washington), a Gulf War veteran who begins to have disturbing nightmares and flashbacks about his time in combat.
As he investigates these memories, he discovers a sinister plot involving his fellow soldier and Medal of Honor recipient, Raymond Shaw (Liev Schreiber), who has been brainwashed to be a sleeper agent for a powerful political family led by Senator Eleanor Prentiss Shaw (Meryl Streep).
The film explores themes of political manipulation, propaganda, and the influence of corporate interests in American politics. It also depicts the psychological toll of war on soldiers and the ways in which trauma can be exploited for political gain.
The Manchurian Candidate received mixed reviews from critics but was a moderate commercial success. The film was noted for its strong performances, particularly from Washington, Streep, and Schreiber, and for its themes of political intrigue and conspiracy.
However, it was criticized for its departures from the original film and novel and for its heavy-handed political commentary.
Glory is a war drama film released in 1989, directed by Edward Zwick and starring Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, and Morgan Freeman. The film tells the true story of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, one of the first all-black regiments during the American Civil War.
The film follows Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, played by Matthew Broderick, as he is assigned to lead the 54th Massachusetts, a regiment made up of African American soldiers, including the former slave Trip, played by Denzel Washington, and the wise older soldier Rawlins, played by Morgan Freeman.
Despite facing discrimination and prejudice from their fellow white soldiers and commanders, the men of the 54th Massachusetts prove their bravery and dedication on the battlefield.
Under Shaw’s leadership, the 54th Massachusetts is given the chance to participate in a crucial and dangerous military operation, the Battle of Fort Wagner.
The film depicts their journey to the battlefront and their courageous assault on the heavily fortified fort, facing overwhelming odds and risking their lives for the cause of freedom and equality.
Glory is known for its powerful performances, particularly by Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman, who were both nominated for Academy Awards for their roles.
The film also tackles important themes of race, patriotism, and sacrifice, shedding light on the contributions of African American soldiers during a pivotal moment in American history.
With its poignant storytelling and powerful depiction of valor and camaraderie, Glory is widely regarded as a classic war film that has left a lasting impact on audiences.
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“Inside Man” is a 2006 heist thriller film directed by Spike Lee and starring Denzel Washington, Clive Owen, and Jodie Foster.
Washington plays the role of Detective Keith Frazier, who is called in to negotiate with a bank robber named Dalton Russell (Owen) after he and his crew take hostages in a Manhattan bank.
Washington’s performance in “Inside Man” is dynamic and engaging, portraying the character’s wit, intelligence, and determination as he tries to outsmart the cunning bank robbers.
The film’s story is a complex and intriguing puzzle, with multiple plot twists and turns that keep the audience guessing until the very end. Washington’s chemistry with Owen is also remarkable, as the two actors engage in a battle of wits that is both entertaining and suspenseful.
“Inside Man” is widely considered one of Denzel Washington’s best movies, showcasing his versatility as an actor in a genre that he is not often associated with.
The film’s expert direction, sharp writing, and strong ensemble cast make it a must-watch for fans of heist thrillers and Denzel Washington’s performances.
“Deja Vu” is a science fiction thriller film directed by Tony Scott and released in 2006. The film stars Denzel Washington as Doug Carlin, an ATF agent who is investigating a terrorist attack on a ferry in New Orleans. Using advanced technology, he is able to view the past and attempts to prevent the attack from happening.
As Doug delves deeper into the case, he becomes obsessed with saving a woman named Claire (Paula Patton), who was killed in the explosion.
He discovers that he can use the technology to travel back in time and prevent her death, but he must navigate the complex and unpredictable nature of time travel to do so.
“Deja Vu” is known for its intricate and fast-paced plot, as well as its innovative use of time travel as a narrative device.
The film features strong performances from its lead actors, particularly Washington, and is noted for its stunning visual effects. While the film received mixed reviews upon release, it has since gained a cult following and is considered a noteworthy entry in the science fiction genre.
“Out of Time” is a crime thriller film released in 2003, directed by Carl Franklin. The film stars Denzel Washington as Matt Lee Whitlock, a small-town Florida police chief who becomes embroiled in a web of deceit and deception when he tries to solve a murder case.
The film also features supporting performances by Eva Mendes, Sanaa Lathan, and John Billingsley.
In “Out of Time,” Denzel Washington plays a respected police chief who is investigating the murder of a wealthy woman.
As he digs deeper into the case, he uncovers a series of unexpected twists and turns, including his own involvement in the crime. Faced with mounting evidence against him and a ticking clock, Whitlock must race against time to clear his name and solve the murder mystery.
“Out of Time” is known for its suspenseful plot, with a series of unexpected plot twists that keep viewers on the edge of their seats.
Denzel Washington delivers a charismatic performance as the flawed but determined protagonist, and the film features a strong supporting cast. The film also showcases the lush scenery of South Florida, where it was filmed, adding to its visual appeal.
While “Out of Time” received mixed reviews from critics, it was a commercial success at the box office.
The film’s twists and turns, along with Washington’s performance, were praised, although some critics found the plot to be convoluted at times.
Despite mixed critical reception, “Out of Time” remains an engaging crime thriller that has attracted a following of fans who appreciate its suspenseful story and Washington’s performance.
The Taking of Pelham 123 is a 2009 American action thriller film directed by Tony Scott and starring Denzel Washington and John Travolta. The movie is a remake of the 1974 film of the same name, which was based on the novel by Morton Freedgood.
The film follows the hijacking of a New York City subway train by a group of heavily armed men led by a criminal mastermind named Ryder (played by Travolta). Ryder demands a ransom of $10 million in exchange for the release of the hostages.
The subway dispatcher, Walter Garber (played by Washington), becomes involved in the situation and attempts to negotiate with Ryder while also working to keep the passengers safe.
The Taking of Pelham 123 received mixed reviews from critics but was a box office success, grossing over $150 million worldwide.
The film was praised for its suspenseful plot, fast-paced action, and the performances of Washington and Travolta. It also features a supporting cast that includes John Turturro, Luis Guzmán, and James Gandolfini.
“Cry Freedom” is a historical drama movie released in 1987, directed by Richard Attenborough and starring Denzel Washington and Kevin Kline in the leading roles.
The movie is based on the true story of South African anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko and his friendship with a white journalist named Donald Woods.
The movie follows the friendship between Biko (played by Washington) and Woods (played by Kline) as they work together to expose the injustices of the apartheid system in South Africa.
As Biko becomes increasingly influential in the anti-apartheid movement, he is arrested and dies in police custody, sparking an international outcry and putting Woods in danger.
The movie explores the themes of racism, oppression, and the struggle for human rights, as well as the power of friendship and the courage required to stand up against injustice.
The performances by Washington and Kline are particularly notable, with Washington delivering a powerful and charismatic portrayal of Biko and Kline bringing depth and nuance to his portrayal of Woods.
“Cry Freedom” was a critical success and was nominated for several Academy Awards, including Best Actor for Washington and Best Supporting Actor for Kline.
Overall, “Cry Freedom” is a powerful and moving movie that highlights the struggles of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa and the individuals who risked everything to fight for justice and equality.
He Got Game is a sports drama film released in 1998, directed by Spike Lee and starring Denzel Washington and Ray Allen.
The movie tells the story of Jake Shuttlesworth (Denzel Washington), a prison inmate who is temporarily released to convince his estranged son, Jesus Shuttlesworth (Ray Allen), to play basketball for the governor’s alma mater in exchange for a reduced sentence.
The film explores themes of family, redemption, and the corrupting influence of sports on young athletes.
It also depicts the pressures faced by young athletes as they are courted by colleges and professional teams, and the ways in which their personal lives are affected by their athletic success.
He Got Game was praised for its performances, particularly from Denzel Washington and Ray Allen in his acting debut, as well as its depiction of basketball culture and its social and economic impact on urban communities.
The film also features appearances by several prominent basketball players, including Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal.
Despite its critical success, He Got Game was a moderate commercial disappointment. However, it has since gained a cult following and is considered one of Spike Lee’s best films.
20. The Book of Eli (2010)
The Book of Eli is a post-apocalyptic action film released in 2010, directed by Albert Hughes and Allen Hughes, and starring Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, and Mila Kunis.
The film is set in a dystopian future where a lone traveler, Eli, played by Denzel Washington, journeys across a dangerous wasteland to protect a sacred book that could hold the key to saving humanity.
Eli is a mysterious and skilled warrior who possesses a book, which he believes is the last remaining copy of the Bible.
He believes that the book contains a message that can guide humanity towards hope and redemption. As he travels through the desolate and violent landscape, he encounters various obstacles, including ruthless warlords and scavengers who want the book for their own purposes.
One such warlord is Carnegie, played by Gary Oldman, who seeks the book for his own nefarious plans.
Eli crosses paths with Carnegie and his gang, leading to intense conflicts and battles. Along the way, Eli is joined by Solara, played by Mila Kunis, a young woman who becomes his ally and helps him on his mission to protect the book.
The Book of Eli is known for its visually stunning and gritty depiction of a post-apocalyptic world, with Denzel Washington delivering a powerful performance as the stoic and determined Eli.
The film explores themes of faith, belief, and the power of knowledge, as Eli fights against all odds to preserve the book and its message.
With its action-packed sequences, compelling storytelling, and thought-provoking themes, The Book of Eli has become a notable entry in the post-apocalyptic genre.
3 Reasons To Watch Denzel Washington Movies
Versatile Performances: Denzel Washington is known for his dynamic range and ability to portray a wide variety of characters.
From historical figures to law enforcement officers to ordinary people facing extraordinary circumstances, Washington has shown that he can bring depth and nuance to any role. Watching his movies is an opportunity to witness the versatility of one of the greatest actors of our time.
Iconic Roles: Washington has played many iconic roles throughout his career, including Malcolm X, Detective Alonzo Harris in “Training Day,” and Frank Lucas in “American Gangster.”
These performances have become synonymous with his name and have had a significant impact on the film industry. Watching these movies allows you to witness the mastery of one of the greatest actors in cinema history.
Powerful Storytelling: Many of Denzel Washington’s movies explore important themes such as justice, equality, and the human experience.
From historical dramas to contemporary thrillers, his films tell compelling stories that resonate with audiences.
Watching his movies is not only an opportunity to appreciate his acting prowess but also to engage with powerful and thought-provoking storytelling.
Best Denzel Washington Movies – Wrap Up
Denzel Washington is widely regarded as one of the most talented actors of his generation, with a career spanning several decades and numerous iconic performances.
These films showcase Washington’s range and versatility as an actor, from his intense and Oscar-winning performance in “Training Day” to his transformative portrayal of Malcolm X in the biopic of the same name.
He has also demonstrated his talent in playing complex and inspiring characters in films like “Glory” and “Remember the Titans.”
His performance in “Philadelphia” was particularly notable for its frank and sensitive portrayal of LGBTQ+ issues and HIV/AIDS.
Overall, Denzel Washington’s contributions to cinema are significant, and his performances in these films have solidified his place in film history.
He is known for his commanding presence on screen and his ability to bring depth and nuance to his characters, and continues to be one of the most respected and admired actors in Hollywood.