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The best of : Denzel Washington

There really shouldn't be a need to describe Denzel Washington. 

Easily one of Hollywood's most talented and successful actors, he rises above most of the modern era stars simply because of the intensity which he brings to the role. A  controversy-free celebrity and religious man ( who wanted to be a preacher ) , he has been a deserving winner of both the Golden Globe and the Academy Award twice. More importantly, he doesn't stick to a specific genre - he is as much at ease playing real-life characters as he is in thrillers, romance or even playing the occasional bad guy. Good cop, bad cop, crook, teacher, preacher, paraplegic, slave, saviour - he has done it all.

Before starting off with our list, here are a few trivia questions on Denzel Washington. The answers are provided at the end.
1. Which Mira Nair directed film is essentially an interracial love story between Denzel Washington and an Indian girl ?
2. For which movie did Denzel Washington get his first Academy Award ?
3. What was the name of the first film directed by Denzel Washington ?

So what are the movies of Denzel Washington that you need to get your hands on ?

Worth a watch

  • Courage under fire
  • John Q
  • The Preacher's Wife
  • Antwone Fisher
  • American Gangster
  • Taking of Pelham 123
  • Book of Eli
  • Much ado about nothing

Keeps you hooked

  • The Bone Collector -     This thriller based on the Jeffrey Deaver novel stars Denzel as a paraplegic forensic expert who , alongside a young police woman ( Angelina Jolie ) try to match wits with a serial killer who uses ingenious ways to kill his victims. Denzel's portrayal as a paraplegic fed up of his disability and looking for help to end his own life was truly realistic in this movie which surprisingly wasn't a big hit.
  • The Pelican Brief -     Based on the John Grisham novel, Julia Roberts plays a law student whose theory on the recent deaths of two Supreme Court justices has her targeted for elimination by none other than the White House. Unnerved and always just a step away from being killed, she finally finds help in a resourceful newspaper reporter ( Denzel Washington ).
  • Inside man -     The perfect bank robbery... gone wrong. This movie takes in all the cliches of a bank robbery movie and still manages to add in a few surprises.
  • Fallen -     A supernatural thriller, Denzel stars as a detective who watches a serial killer get executed only to find a copycat killer emerge whose patterns make the detective wonder whether the original serial killer really died. The movie is creepy for what it suggests is possible.
  • Glory -     One of the best movies depicting war and racism, this story is a tribute to the African Americans who fought the Civil War. For those wondering, it still makes for good viewing even two decades later and won Denzel his first Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
  • Deja vu -     This is going to be tough to explain. In this sci-fi thriller, Denzel Washington stars as an anti-terrorist agent who , thanks to 'futuristic technology' can see the victims last moments and thus try to unravel the crime. During the course of a terrorist attack investigation, he finds himself falling in love with one of the victims and more importantly - realising that he maybe able to go back and save her.
  • Unstoppable -     Denzel and Chris Pine star as train engineers who need to stop a runaway train carrying dangerous chemicals before it reaches and crashes into a nearby town. Somehow, here I do believe the train did end up the main attraction of the movie.
  • The Siege -     Predating the events of 9/11, this tale of Islamic terrorism in New York and the events that follow once martial law is declared in USA had a power-packed star cast with Anti-terrorist task force members Denzel Washington and Tony Shaloub racing to identify the terrorists, even as they come up against a fascist Army General ( Bruce Willis ) who demands revenge for the attacks on US soil.

Essential  Viewing

  • Man on Fire -     This is Denzel Washington : Version Bad-Ass. When he fails in his mission to look after a small girl, bodyguard Denzel goes ballistic in his search for the abductors. It is a bit over-the-top at times, but it is still a class performance. 
  • Philadelphia -     One of the first films to deal with the sensitive issue of AIDS, Philadelphia starred Tom Hanks ( in an Oscar winning performance ) as a homosexual who is fired from his job when he finds out he has AIDS. Seeking legal recourse, he eventually hires prejudiced lawyer Denzel Washington who , during the course of the trial, realises a lot about his own misconceptions towards his client.
  • The Hurricane -     Sadly, this is a true story of a boxer who was wrongly convicted because of his race and spent two decades for a crime he did not commit. This is where you get to see the talent of Denzel Washington as an actor par excellence.
  • Malcolm X -     Spike Lee's biopic of civil rights leader Malcolm X did not hesitate to show the shady beginnings of the man, but the role requiring the transformation of an arrested burglar to a man finding religion and eventually becoming an inspiring leader required a truly gifted actor to pull it off. Enter Denzel.
  • Remember the Titans -     Based on a real-life event, this feel-good film deals with the attitude of society towards African Americans back in the 1970s. Washington stars as a football coach, forced to face insults and distrust as he tries to shed racial bias and unite players of both races into a winning team. 
  • Training Day -     After playing the good guy in so many films, it's ironic that it was his turn as a corrupt cop that won him his first Oscar for Best Actor. This is one instance where the actor overshadows the script, if you ask me. 
  • Crimson Tide -      Two leaders with different ideologies inside a submarine. A call for Red Alert. The risk of Russians stealing missile silos. A garbled last message from the high command. To attack or not to attack. The risk of mutiny. Gene Hackman vs Denzel Washington. This is an absolutely brilliant intelligent thriller with tension peeling off the walls of the claustrophic submarine.    

Those were my choices for the ESSENTIAL DENZEL. What do you think ?

Oh yes, the answers to the trivia questions are :
1. Mississippi Masala
2. Glory
3. Antwone Fisher


  1. I like all his movies and Pelican Brief is a personal favorite... not every body can hold his fort in front of the Pretty Women. I only wish he smiles a bit more in some of his role e.g in The Book of Eli though gripping I would have preferred him to smile in some of the scenes.

    1. I'm pretty sure The Pelican Brief was the first film of his that I saw on the big screen... and yes, it was a really good thriller.
      The Book of Eli, Bone Collector, Glory, Fallen - all examples of movies where you have to struggle to see him crack a smile :D

  2. I forgot to mention I liked his "The Preacher's wife" one of his earlier movies...where an Angel falls ...

    1. Thanks.. I had totally forgotten about it.. Whitney Houston as the wife, right :) Have added it now.

  3. Philadelphia and Crimson Tide are my favorites. Haven't seen the Hurricane... will do so now. Fantastic list, Roshan!

    1. depending on your mood , hes got the movie for u - serious biopics ( Malcolm X, Antwone Fisher, The Hurricane ), thrillers ( Fallen, Deja Vu, Unstoppable ).. a very versatile actor..

  4. My favorite is the Book Of Eli and the bone collector :)
    But I love your entire list ! Picked up everything worth mentioning

    1. I honestly didnt sit till the end of Book of Eli.. it was one of those really dark apocalyptic types for me.. but since u liked it, try Fallen.. a taut storyline, good acting, some nice kahani mein twists...

  5. Denzel Washington is indeed a class act. American Gangster, Philadelphia, The Hurricane, Glory (one of his first & upcoming), The Manchurian Candidate( A must watch for anyone who appreciates Crimson Tide), Training Day and of course The Bone Collector & Antwone Fisher (DWs first directorial venture)

    1. Just look at that list - its simply brilliant from the point of view of acting talent.


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