June 7, 2023

Denzel Washington Movies: His Best Roles Yet


Denzel Washington started his acting career in the 1980s. Since stepping into Hollywood, he has been involved in noteworthy films. Washington has won several awards and is often recognized for his roles in pushing the culture forward. His résumé is stacked with movies that have been blockbusters or gone on to win awards. There are too many to choose from when constructing a list of his best. However, we’ve managed to reel in nine standouts.

9. The Great Debaters (2007)

Some of Denzel Washington’s best work is when he depicts a real person. In The Great Debaters, he takes on the persona of debate coach Melvin B. Tolson of Wiley Coach. Not only does Washington star in it, but he also directed the 2007 film. This is one of his more important roles as the movie circulates around an all-Black college that defeats Harvard University in an academic debate. The plot is based on a true story, in which Denzel delivers a performance that shines a light on an essential fact in Black History and American History.

8. Inside Man (2006)

Some may want to see the bad guys get away, and some don’t. In Inside Man, Washington was up against a criminal mastermind he was no match for. It’s safe to say that Washington is comfortable portraying a police officer. However, this time, he isn’t dirty. Also, he once again works with director Spike Lee. This is their fourth movie together as they have collaborated on Mo’ Better Blues, Malcolm X, and He Got Game. This might be their best one yet.

7. Philadelphia (1993)

Denzel Washington and Tom Hanks joined forces early in their career. Long before they became the men they are today, the two starred in Philadelphia. Hanks plays a gay man suing his employer for firing him because he has AIDS. Washington portrays his lawyer, who was initially unwilling to take the case. This is one of the first big-screen Hollywood films to shed light on many certain shunned issues. Philadelphia touched on LGBTQ issues, HIV/AIDS epidemic, and discrimination.

6. Training Day (2001)

Training Day might be Denzel’s most popular role. Everyone remembers Alonzo screaming, “King Kong ain’t got s*** on me!” Time and time again, Washington proves that there isn’t a role he can’t conquer. Playing a dirty cop, you hated him and were relieved when he was murdered. Washington made you feel a way with this role, as many people will always discuss Training Day when discussing the actor’s career. The two main actors in the film, Washington and Ethan Hawke, won Oscars for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor, respectively.

5. American Gangster (2007)

There is not a role that Denzel Washington can’t play. Whether he’s a fighter, pilot, coach, or cop, Washington makes it look effortless. He does it again in American Gangster as he plays notorious Harlem crime boss Frank Lucas. In another biopic for Washington, he embodies Lucas. It’s almost as if the characters and the setting aren’t new to him. After all, he is from New York, so he may be familiar with tales of Lucas’s street life moves. 

4. Glory (1989)

In 1989, Denzel received his first Oscar for his role in Glory. He won Best Supporting Actor for his role as Private Silas Trip. In Glory, the film focuses on Black men’s contributions to the Civil War. It was one of the first big-screen Hollywood movies to shed light on Black soldiers then. This was just the beginning for Washington.

3. Malcolm X (1992)

The way Denzel portrays real people is unmatched. In Malcolm X, he acts and narrates the story of the late-great activist. From the slick back hair to the speech, Washington makes for the splitting image of Malcolm. With Denzel portraying one of the most influential figures in history, he may have had similar views to Malcolm. The film earned Washington an Oscar nomination.

2. Fences (2016)

Decades later and he still knows how to give life to a character. In 2016, Denzel shone as Troy in Fences, with Viola Davis playing Rose, his wife. The film received several nominations and took home a few awards. In fact, Washington himself won a Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Play.  Fences was originally a play that first opened in 1985. It was revived in 2010 on Broadway. Washington and Davis starred in the play as well. Washington also won Outstanding Actor in a Leading Role in a Motion Picture for the film.

1. Remember the Titans (2000)

Denzel Washington simply excelled as Coach Herman Boone in Remember the Titans. Based on a true story, Washington embodies Coach Boone’s hard-nosed leadership attributes. It’s easy to get sucked into this film as you might even believe Washington really coaches high school football or has before. Remember the Titans is easily one of the best sports films ever.  A movie about a team coming together during the time of segregation is powerful to see. Washington leads the way with an all-time performance.


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