12 Best Movies of Denzel Washington You Must See

January 8, 2018
11 min read

There have been few actors who have had the capability of donning on a variety of roles, encapsulating a range of themes with striking versatility. The 63-year old actor has continuously reinvented himself, clutching the essence of the art like no other. With a career spanning over 30 years, Washington has continually gifted us with masterful performances.  Be it a righteous lieutenant or a shady cop, Denzel Washington has done it all. Debuting in Michael Schultz’s ‘Carbon Copy’ (1981), the actor glacially seeped through the eyes of the critical minds in the American medical drama series ‘St. Elsewhere’ (1982-1988). Breaking into critical stardom with ‘Cry Freedom’ (1987), the actor only rose to become one of the greatest actors ever to step foot. At the age of 63, Washington does not seem to slow down. He is the actor who brought a new life into biographical dramas – he is actor who has redefined the unrequited love of films.

For this list, I have taken into account Washington’s performances as the primary element. These films have proven the actor’s calibre of moulding into the role with chameleonic genius. So, here’s the list of top 12 movies of Denzel Washington.


12. Cry Freedom (1987)

Earning Denzel Washington his first Oscar nomination is this Richard Attenborough directed epic drama. Set in late-1970s apartheid era of South Africa, the film stars Kevin Kline as South African journalist Donald Woods, who is forced to flee the country after attempting to investigate the death of his friend, Denzel Washington’s Steve Biko. It’s quite inspiring to see that ‘Cry Freedom’, being one of Washington’s initial arrays of works, is such a stimulating watch. Setting the actor’s famous niche of taking up biopics, Steve Biko is portrayed with a masterful understanding. The actor completely immersed himself in a cataclysmic society, which drenched in racism, discrimination and melancholic torture.


11. Remember the Titans (2000)

Effectively representing a racially divided and sensitive society, and a “never-lose-spirit”, Denzel Washington brought an essence of innovation to a rather generic story. Based on the life of Coach Herman Boone, the film is about his efforts to bring the T. C. Williams High School football team as a unit and leap the racial and ethnic barriers to win the annual football tournament. Intensifying the actor’s performance are his booming pep talks and fiery speeches – spearheading the spirit of winning. Directed by Boaz Yakin, the sports film received polarising reviews, with many commenting on the lack of “sports” in a sports drama. However, what received unanimous praise was Washington’s portrayal of the coach, which is brimming with some sensational acting.


10. Man on Fire (2004)

Denzel Washington has a commanding grasp on intense and dominant characters, and ‘Man on Fire’ is an exclusive archetype for this. Adapted from Philip Nicholson’s novel of the same name, this crime thriller follows the endeavour of former CIA operative and Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance officer-turned mercenary and bodyguard John Creasy, who engages in a violent battle to save his in-charge, Lupita “Pita” Ramos, after she is abducted by some precarious henchmen. Washington sketched his character with ferocity, with a certain emotional and psychological turmoil, making ‘Man on Fire’ his blockbuster performance. The film is a commendable adaption, as screenwriter Brian Helgeland instilled the narrative consistency of a book into a dramatized visual violent work of aesthetic.


9. Crimson Tide (1995)

Sharing the screen with Gene Hackman, Denzel Washington stars as Lieutenant Commander Ron Hunter in this Tony Scott directed flick. A submarine thriller, ‘Crimson Tide’ in set in the period of political turmoil in the Russian Federation where ultranationalists threaten to downrightly vanquish the United States and Japan by launching nuclear missiles at them. While threat looms, the new executive officer, Lieutenant Commander Ron Hunter essayed by Denzel Washington of a U.S. nuclear missile submarine and its veteran commanding officer, Captain Frank Ramsey essayed by Gene Hackman have a difference in ideologies while discussing a way to retaliate. The film is ingrained deep into pop culture, with snappy dialogues and quick repartee, which makes it such a great watch. Washington is brilliant, representing a just and upright man who despite of hardships upholds the innate virtue. Washington and Hackman brilliantly draw a parallel between the two opposing characters, shaping the film as an experience of thrills, heart and drama.


8. The Hurricane (1999)

Yet another biographical drama, Denzel Washington stars as Rubin “The Hurricane” Carter, who was wrongly convicted for twenty years on the grounds of triple homicide. Directed by Norman Jewison, the film follows the titular character’s life in prison where he faced torture, brutality and most atrociously, helpless heartbreak. The film is another example of how a director can place complete faith in Washington; who would certainly shine with flying colours. Of course, the flick received some flak for his dramatization, but one can only say that it helped the actor attain a spiritually inclined technical genius. Denzel Washington’s efforts were met with teeming critical applause and won him the “Best Actor” award at the Berlin International Film Festival, the Black Reel Awards, the Golden Globes and the Image Awards, and gaining a nomination at the Oscars.


7. Inside Man (2006)

Denzel Washington is known for his clear and articulate speech which leaves quite the impact, and the actor used this to the perfect potential in ‘Inside Man’. Directed by Spike Lee, the crime thriller film is set around a bank heist on Wall Street over a 24-hour period. Among a team of a dazzling star-cast, Washington essays the role of Detective Keith Frazier, a no-nonsense New York City police detective, who specialises in hostage negotiation. As his title suggests, the primary requirement for Frazier’s job is snappy and articulate speeches and wordplay. Making his fourth screen collaboration with Spike Lee, Washington along with Clive Owen, Jodie Foster, Christopher Plummer, Willem Dafoe and Chiwetel Ejiofor arched the film to critical and commercial success, making it as Spike Lee’s most commercially hit film.

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