No actor commands the attention of the viewers like Denzel Washington. He is a rare talent who transcends whatever role he plays. His acting is so complex and realistic that you can see the character coming to life right in front of you, whether he terrifies you with a threat or helps you adjust your moral compass. With a wide variety of roles he has played, Washington has proven himself to be a versatile actor. Here are the 15 best Denzel Washington movies of all time:
15. He Got Game (1998)
This movie revolves around a man who is convicted of murdering his wife but is released for a week to convince his son to play for the governor’s Alma mater and in exchange, his sentence will be shortened. Denzel Washington managed to turn this unrealistic story into a strong story about a father-son bond. The performance was heart-touching and you would feel the powerful emotions of a father trying to improve his son’s life.
This movie opened at the first spot on its opening weekend and earned a total of $21.5 million. Washington earned several nominations for his role, including an Image Award nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Motion Picture.
14. Courage Under Fire (1996)
Washington plays the role of an army officer who is investigating the worthiness of a deceased female commander for the Medal of Honor. Dejected after his own fatal mistake which was hushed by his seniors, he plunges deeper into the case and realizes all is not what it seems to be. This movie opened at rank three at the box office and earned a total of $100,860,818.
With truly an outstanding performance loaded with anguish and grief, Washington gave one of his best performances in this movie. He earned several nominations, including the BSFC Award for Best Actor, and the CFCA Award for Best Actor. He also won several awards including the Image Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Motion Picture and the Lone Star Film & Television Award for Best Actor.
13. Devil in A Blue Dress (1995)
In this neo-noir classic, Washington dives into the land of dope, dames, and scandal. Trying to save himself from financial troubles, he agrees to find a missing girl but he soon realizes that there is something massive brewing up and he has stepped into a murderous scandal.
With electrifying performances, especially by Washington, this movie earned a lot of positive critical acclaim. Washington earned a few award nominations for his performance, including the CFCA Award for Best Actor.
12. Philadelphia (1993)
This movie showcases one of the best performances by the two legendary actors Hollywood has to offer – Denzel Washington and Tom Hanks. Washington plays a lawyer, the only lawyer who is willing to help Hanks file a case of discrimination against the company that fired him upon finding out about his homosexuality and HIV status. Impressive performances by both the leads but unfortunately Washington’s terrific performance didn’t earn him many award nominations. However, the critics highly praised his acting skills.
This movie was a massive success at the box office and grossed $206,678,440 worldwide and was the 12th highest-grossing movie of 1993.
11. Flight (2012)
This movie revolves around an alcoholic pilot who manages to save the lives of almost all his passengers with a bold landing. With this accident, he vows to change his habits but it also leads to an investigation that exposes his drug and alcohol addiction.
Another amazing performance by Washington earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama, along with winning several awards, including the AAFCA Award for Best Actor. This movie was a success at the box office, earning more than $161 million worldwide.
10. Remember the Titans (2000)
This movie narrates the true story of a newly appointed African-American coach of a high school team about to start its first season as a racially integrated team. This is a truly inspirational story with an outstanding performance of Washington, as the coach, making it even more heartwarming.
This movie was a box office success, grossing $136,706,683 worldwide. Washington won the BET Award for Best Actor and received several award nominations including the Blockbuster Entertainment Award for Favorite Actor – Drama.
9. The Great Debaters (2007)
This movie is based on true events. Washington plays the role of a professor at predominately black Wiley College in 1935 Texas. He forms the first debate team in the school. The team goes on to challenge Harvard in the championship.
Washington has given another truly amazing performance in this role of a professor. He won the Image Award for Outstanding Actor in Motion Picture. This movie opened at 11th rank at the box office and grossed $30,236,407 in the US alone.
8. Unstoppable (2010)
This movie is an action thriller that will keep you hooked right from the start till the end. The story revolves around an out-of-control train that is carrying tons of fuel and is headed straight to the city. A veteran and a newbie team up to stop a catastrophe from happening.
Washington and Pine have great chemistry together. Washington’s portrayal of a pro, who has to teach his young counterpart his job but whom he doesn’t trust much is spot on. He shows the right amount of pride in his job as well as bitterness at the fact that he can easily be replaced by his boss. This movie grossed $167,805,466 worldwide.
7. American Gangster (2007)
This is a biographical drama that highlights the career of a drug lord who smuggled drugs into the US through American service planes that returned from Vietnam. Washington as the drug lord is quite fresh and thrilling to watch. He has proved time and time again that he can perfectly play both the good and the bad guy.
Washington’s electrifying performance earned him several nominations including a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama. This movie was appraised by critics and grossed $266.5 million worldwide.
6. The Hurricane (1999)
This movie revolves around a boxer who is wrongfully convicted of murder. This is the biographical drama that narrates the story of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter.
Washington gave another Oscar-worthy performance and earned a much-deserved Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role and won the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama. This movie opened for limited release and grossed $384,640 in the first week.
5. Crimson Tide (1995)
Washington plays the first officer, on a nuclear missile submarine, who stages a mutiny to stop his captain from launching intercontinental ballistic missiles to attack the Russians. Washington earned a few award nominations for his outstanding performance, including the MTV Movie Award for Best Male Performance.
This movie grossed $18.6 million just on its opening weekend and was ranked in the first spot for the week of its release. Eventually, this movie went on to earn a total of $157.3 million. It’s undoubtedly one of the finest submarine war movies to date.
4. Inside Man (2006)
This movie is about a detective in New York City who has to negotiate with a bank robber when a heist unexpectedly becomes a hostage situation.
However, a broker with an invested interest in the chairman of the bank makes the situation even more complicated. Washington is charismatic as always in this movie. This movie grossed more than $184 million worldwide and was positively received by critics.
3. Fences (2016)
Washington directed and acted in this amazing adaption of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by August Wilson. The story is set in the 1950s and is about a couple struggling to raise their son. This is by far one of the greatest performances by Washington and along with the dynamic Viola, the characters truly came to life in a moving and heart-touching manner.
This movie grossed $64 million and was among the top 10 movies of 2016. Washington was not only nominated for an Oscar for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role but also for his directorial skills for Best Film. He was also nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama, while also winning several awards, including the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role.
2. Malcolm X (1992)
You will see Washington in the role of a lifetime in this amazing biographic drama about the influential and controversial Black Nationalist leader. He portrayed the role of Malcolm X with such remarkable ease that you could hardly tell that he was acting. Washington proved long ago that he is indeed one of the greatest actors Hollywood has to offer and this movie is a fine example of his talent.
This movie earned $9,871,125 on the opening weekend and was ranked third at the box office. Eventually, it went on to gross a total of $48,169,610. Washington’s epic performance earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role and won him several awards, including the Felix Award for Best Actor and the ACCA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role.
1. Glory (1989)
This epic Civil War movie narrates the true events of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw who was the leader of the Union’s first all-black volunteer company amidst facing prejudices from the South and North.
Washington’s mesmerizing performance earned him his first Oscar Award for Best Supporting Actor as well as winning several other awards, including a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture. Filled with outstanding performances by the entire cast, beautiful cinematography, and a story, this movie was a massive hit at the box office and with critics.
Aside from these amazing performances of Washington, the following three films also deserve an honorable mention:
- Training Day (2001)
- The Manchurian Candidate (2004)
- The Mighty Quinn (1989)
Did we miss any of the best Denzel Washington movies of all time? Do you feel this list must include any other of his movies? Comment below and let us know.