30 Best Movies of Denzel Washington That You Should Watch
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Denzel Washington has had the blessing to provide some of the most loved movies in recent history. From roles as a teacher to special operative, the man has done it all. Denzel has always been appreciated as one of the most versatile actors, and most of his movies tend to explore a variety of issues and have top-notch action along with great storylines. Right from his role in Wings of the Morning to the release of A Journal for Jordan: A Story of Love and Honor, Washington has broken many records during his career, bagging several awards, including various Oscars too.
The veteran actor has seen it all. Over a career spanning more than four decades, Denzel Washington has experienced both the highs and the lows. Winning numerous awards and receiving the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016, Denzel Washington has also been named “the greatest actor of the 21st century”.
Best Movies of Denzel Washington
Here are some of his best movies that show his incredible versatility.
Malcolm X was released in 1992 and was directed by Spike Lee. Alongside Denzel Washington in the titular role, Malcolm X starred Angela Bassett, Albert Hall, Al Freeman Jr., and Delroy Lindo in prominent roles. The supporting cast members include Spike Lee, Theresa Randle, Kate Vernon, Ernest Lee Thomas, Christopher Plummer, Lonette Mckee, Tommy Hollis, and Giancarlo Esposito, among several others. Bobby Seale, Al Sharpton, and Nelson Mandela made cameo appearances in the movie.
The movie was based on the 1965 book written by Alex Haley- ‘The Autobiography of Malcolm X’. Malcolm X is the collection of various significant things that happened in X’s life, including his assassination. Denzel Washington won the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Malcolm X.
Directed by Antoine Fuqua, Training Day was released in 2001 and starred Denzel Washington as Alonzo Harris in the leading role. Ethan Hawke also shared the spotlight with Denzel as Jake Hoyt. The story revolves around two police officers who must get ready and prepped for the hardships faced by police officers in the real world.
The supporting roles in the movie were donned by Scott Glenn, Eva Mendes, Cliff Curtis, Raymond Cruz, Noel Gugliemi, Dr Dre, Peter Greene, Nick Chinlund, Jaime P. Gomez, Snoop Dogg, Macy Gray, Charlotte Ayanna, Harris Yulin, Tom Berenger, Raymond J. Barry, and Seidy Lopez along with several others.
Upon its release, Training Day received widespread praise and was a hit at the box office. The movie also received numerous accolades and nominations, even the nominations for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor at the Academy Awards.
Mo’ Better Blues
Mo’ Better Blues was released in 1990 and was directed by Spike Lee. The movie saw Denzel Washington star as Bleek Gilliam, a jazz trumpeter who suffers multiple failures in both his personal and professional life following some wrong decisions.
The film also starred Wesley Snipes and Spike Lee as other major characters, and the supporting roles were carried out by Joie Lee, Cynda Williams, Giancarlo Esposito, Bill Nunn, Jeff Watts, Dick Anthony Williams, Abbey Lincoln, John Turturro, Robin Harris, Samuel L. Jackson, Leonard L. Thomas, Charlie Murphy and various others.
Directed by Denzel Washington himself, Fences was released in 2016 and starred Mr. Washington himself as Troy Maxson. Viola Davis and Jovan Adepo portrayed other prominent characters in the film, whereas Stephen McKinley Henderson, Russell Hornsby, Mykelti Williamson, and Saniyya Sidney starred as supporting characters in the movie.
Fences follow an African American named Troy, a man who once wanted to be a professional baseball player. However, due to racism being omnipotent in the world during his time, Troy misses the chance to become a pro. The man takes out his frustration on others who love him, which leads to the man destroying his son’s future.
The film depicts flaws in relationships beautifully and is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video.
Flight saw Denzel Washington star as an alcoholic aeroplane pilot named William “Whip” Whitaker. The pilot becomes a hero in everybody’s eyes, as he saves everyone on a flight when he is forced to crashland. But his world turns upside down when an investigation asks some questions, as his reputation gets ruined.
The film takes inspiration from a plane crash of Alaska Airlines Flight 261, a plane that crashed in the Pacific Ocean in January 2000. Alongside Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle, Kelly Reilly, John Goodman, Bruce Greenwood, and Melissa Leo starred as important characters.
Flight was well-praised for its screenplay and was lauded for the performances of the various actors in the movie. The movie was directed by Robert Zemeckis and enjoyed a great stint at the box office as well, grossing over $161 million while being produced on a budget of only $31 million. Denzel Washington was even nominated for his portrayal of Whip Whitaker for the Best Actor Award at the Academy Awards.
Inside Man was another movie that saw the amazing duo of Washington-Lee return. Directed by Spike Lee, the movie starred Clive Owen, Jodie Foster and Christopher Plummer as major characters, alongside Denzel Washington in the leading role. The supporting members of the cast include Willem Dafoe, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kim Director, James Ransone, Carlos Andres Gomez, Bernie Rachelle, Ken Leung, and various others.
The plot of the film revolves around a member of the NYPD hostage negotiating department who must negotiate with the mastermind of a heist to protect the hostages. The movie keeps on getting interesting as the situation tenses up.
Inside Man received very good feedback from the critics and performed really well at the box office, too, grossing a massive $184.4 million. The movie also enjoys an honorable “Certified Fresh” 86% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. A good option for anyone looking to watch thrillers.
Directed by Tony Scott, Crimson Tide was released in 1995 and was produced by Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer. The movie is set in Russia, where ultranationalists threaten to destroy foreign relationships and create tensions across the globe as they plan to launch nuclear missiles targeting the destruction of the United States and Japan.
Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington are the lead actors in the movie, alongside George Dzundza, Viggo Mortensen, James Gandolfini, and Matt Craven, all of whom play other major roles in the film. The supporting roles were performed by Rocky Carroll, Jaime P. Gomez, Michael Milhoan, Scott Burkholder, Danny Nucci, Lillo Brancato Jr., Rick Schroder, Steve Zahn, and Mark Christopher Lawrence, among several others.
A DVD release in 2006 saw the movie receiving an extended version, where additional footage of seven minutes was introduced. This new footage contained some deleted scenes from the original movie. The movie is a must-watch for anyone wishing for some old-school action with a punch of thrill.
Glory was released in 1989 and revolved around the American Civil War. The movie is based on the novel: Lay This Laurel, which was written by Lincoln Kirstein, and another novel named One Gallant Rush, which was written by Peter Burchard.
The film portrays the soldiers from the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment and the hardships and challenges faced by them at the second battle of Fort Wagner. Denzel Washington and Matthew Broderick starred as the leading characters in the movie, whereas Cary Elwes, Morgan Freeman, Andre Braugher, Jihmi Kennedy, Cliff DeYoung, Alan North, John Finn, Mark Margolis and Donovan Leitch starred as other characters from the movie.
Glory was nominated for five Academy Awards and won three out of them, a milestone that cannot be overturned. The movie is a good one and is recommended to watch.
The Taking of Pelham 123
Tony Scott directed The Taking of Pelham 123, a film that was released in 2009. Upon its arrival, the film received good feedback, as the performances from the members of the cast were appreciated. The movie starred Denzel Washington in the leading role and John Travolta, John Turturro, Luis Guzman, Michael Rispoli, and James Gandolfini in other important roles.
The Taking of Pelham 123 follows a train dispatcher who gets caught in the hijacking of a subway car. The man must negotiate and save the day for everyone aboard, as the culprits demand a huge amount of money from the mayor. The movie is purely suspenseful and is based on a novel: The Taking of Pelham One Two Three by John Godey. It is available to be streamed on Netflix.
The Mighty Quinn
Hitting the world in 1989, The Mighty Quin saw Denzel Washington take on the titular role and star as Xavier Quinn, a police chief who must do his best to save one of his oldest friends from a crime that he supposedly committed. The movie shows Quinn trying all his luck to save his childhood friend Maubee, which shows his quality of supporting his friends and staying loyal.
Apart from Denzel Washington in the lead role, Robert Townsend, James Fox, Mimi Rogers, M. Emmet Walsh, and Sheryl Lee Ralph star as prominent characters in the movie, with Robert Townsend playing the role of Maubee, Quinn’s childhood friend who gets wrongly accused.
The movie holds a whooping 88% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and is surely a great option for anyone looking for a comic thriller.
Unstoppable was released in 2010 and was nominated for an Oscar award for Best Sound Editing at the Academy Awards. The movie lost the award, but only due to the presence of Inception.
Needless to say, Unstoppable was an absolute legend of a movie, as it followed the story of a runaway train, which was inspired by a real-world situation (CSX 8888), an event that took the entire world by storm. Two men attempted to stop the train and save the day, who was played by Denzel Washington and Chris Pine.
Apart from Washington and Pine, Unstoppable also starred Rosario Dawson, Ethan Suplee, Kevin Dunn, Kevin Corrigan, Kevin Chapman, Lew Temple, and T. J. Miller, along with numerous others as members of the supporting cast. Directed by Tony Scott, the movie clearly shows how the pros handle real-life situations and are available to watch on Apple TV.
He Got Game
Directed by Spike Lee, He Got Game was released in 1998 and was produced by Jon Kilik alongside Spike Lee. The movie starred Denzel Washington and Ray Allen in the lead roles, and Jade Yorker, Milla Jovovich, Rosario Dawson, Jim Brown, Joseph Lyle, Hill Harper, Shortee Reed, Zelda Harris, Quin Harris, Ned Beatty, and several others in the supporting roles.
He Got Game focuses on Jake Shuttlesworth, the father of a top basketball player, who is serving his sentence in prison for killing his wife. When Jake gets released on parole by a high-ranking official, he must coax his son to play for him to get a reduction in his punishment sentence.
The film is a great watch for anyone looking for a sports drama and is recommended 10/10.
Out of Time
Out of Time was released in 2003 and was directed by Carl Franklin. The movie follows a police officer who comes under everybody’s radar when his mistress dies and is found having cash that was seized from a drug raid. The man must prove his innocence if he wishes to do any good and save himself.
The film starred Denzel Washington in the leading role and Eva Mendes, Sanaa Lathan, Dean Cain, JohnBillingsley, Robert Baker, Alex Carter, Antoni Corone, Terry Loughlin, Nora Dunn, and various others in supporting roles.
The movie is a funny and stylish one, having some thrill as well, and is a very good choice for a family movie night.
Devil in a Blue Dress
A movie made by another team-up of Denzel Washington and Carl Franklin, Devil in a Blue Dress, was released in 1995 and was based on a book of the same name written by Walter Mosley. The major roles in the film are played by Denzel Washington, Tom Sizemore, Don Cheadle, and Jennifer Beals.
Devil in a Blue Dress follows a World War 2 veteran who is in desperate need of a job. The man forgets his needs and starts searching for a mysterious woman, which turns out to be a murder case involving some of the highest officials.
The movie has a 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a very good rating, and is just too good of a mystery movie for anyone to miss.
Philadelphia was released in 1993 and was directed by Jonathan Demme. The movie starred Denzel Washington and Tom Hanks in the leading roles. Philadelphia’s plot follows a gay man who seeks help from an attorney as he wishes to sue his employers, who wrongfully terminated him because they found out he had AIDS.
The movie was a nuclear bomb at the box office, as it grossed over $206 million while being produced on a budget of only $26 million. The movie went on to become the highest-ever grossing film of 1993 and was widely praised by critics and viewers alike for its screenplay and actors’ performances.
Philadelphia also saw Tom Hanks winning the Academy Award for Best Actor at the Academy Awards, and the movie has always been appreciated for addressing the problems faced by members suffering from HIV/AIDS due to being disrespected by society and the thought of gay people being discriminated in the real world. The movie is purely a must-watch and should be on everyone’s bucket list of legal drama movies.
American Gangster was directed by Ridley Scott and was released in 2007. The film starred Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe in the major roles and Ted Levine, John Ortiz, Josh Brolin, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Norman Reedus, Ruby Dee, Lymari Nadal, and Cuba Gooding Jr in other significant roles.
Josh Brolin, Roger Guenveur Smith, John Hawkes, RZA, Yul Vazquez, Malcolm Goodwin, Ruby Dee, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Carla Gugino, Amand Assante, Joe Morton, Ritchie Coster, Idris Elba, and several others performed the roles of the supporting characters.
American Gangster was based on the life of the criminal Frank Lucas, a juvenile delinquent who used to smuggle narcotics into the United States of America. The criminal used to smuggle heroin via service planes returning to the USA from the Vietnam War. Frank Lucas was caught by a task force led by a detective named Richie Roberts, who was played by Russell Crowe, whereas Frank Lucas was played by Denzel Washington.
The film was nominated for numerous awards, including nominations even for the Oscars. The movie is a must-watch and shows what measures narcos imply to carry out their business. American Gangster is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video.
The Hurricane was directed by Norman Jewison and was released in 1999. The film is focused on a boxer in the middleweight category who was found guilty of multiple murders in a bar. The movie is a biological sports drama film and is based on the life of Rubin Carter, aka “The Hurricane”.
Denzel Washington played the titular role in the movie, whereas Deborah Kara Unger, Rod Steiger, Harris Yulin, Dan Hedaya, David Paymer, Vicellous Reon Shannon, Live Schreiber, and Jonah Hannah all played other significant roles in the film.
The Hurricane received numerous accolades, including a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor for Denzel Washington’s portrayal of Rubin Carter and was even nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor. A classic sports drama film, The Hurricane is a must-watch for sports lovers as it shows problems faced by sportspersons in real life.
Man on Fire
Yet another Washington-Scott movie, Man on Fire, was released in 2004 and was based on a novel by A. J. Quinnell sharing the same name which was released in 1980.
The movie follows an ex-serviceman who has evolved into a bodyguard. The man goes rogue as his charge gets kidnapped in Mexico City. The movie keeps on getting interesting and thrilling with each frame as the man rushes to the aid of the abducted nine-year-old.
Starring Denzel Washington as John Creasy, the former CIA SAD/SOG officer, the movie starred Dakota Fanning as Lupita Ramos, Creasy’s charge. The supporting members of the cast include Radha Mitchell, Giancarlo Giannini, Marc Anthony, Rachel Ticotin, Mickey Rourke, and Christopher Walken. Man on Fire is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video.
Directed by Tony Scott, Déjà Vu was released in 2006 and was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. Denzel Wahington, Paula Patton, Jim Caviezel, Val Kilmer, Adam Goldberg and Bruce Greenwood all starred as prominent characters in the movie.
The film’s plot follows an agent who travels back in time to prevent a terrorist attack and safeguard a woman he loves. The movie was so good that it was nominated for various awards and even won the International Gold Reel Award.
The movie is available to be streamed on Apple TV.
2 Guns was released in 2013 and was directed by Baltasar Kormákur. The movie starred Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg in the leading roles, and Paula Patton, Bill Paxton, James Marsden, Fred Ward, and Edward James Olmos in other significant roles.
The film is based on a comic book series that was created by Mateus Santolouco and Steven Grant, sharing the same name. 2 Guns follows two undercover agents who are on a quest to bust a drug lord. The movie is filled with action and gets interesting when the two agents finally meet, as both of them are unaware of their identities.
The movie was well-praised for its action sequences and screenplay and is accessible on Netflix.
Directed by Denzel Washington himself, Antwone Fisher was released in 2002 and starred Derek Luke as the titular character. The movie follows Antwone Fisher, a Navy officer who is sent to a psychiatrist to help him as he is facing real troubles. The film is inspired by Finding Fish, an autobiography by Antwone Fisher.
The supporting members of the cast include Malcolm David Kelley, Joy Bryant, Denzel Washington, Salli Richardson, Leonard Earl Howze, Kente Scott, Kevin Connolly, Rainoldo Gooding and Novella Nelson.
The movie is very emotional, as it addresses some of the most common traumas a child can face, yet still, no one talks about it. The movie is a must-watch and is surely recommended.
Ricochet was directed by Russell Mulcahy and was released in 1991. The film starred Denzel Washington, John Lithgow, Ice-T, Kevin Pollak, and Lindsay Wagner in the major roles. The supporting cast members include Lydell, Cheshier, Matt Landers, Sherman Howard, Josh Evans, Mary Ellen Trainor, Victoria Dillard, Kimberly Natasha, Aileaha Jones, John Armos, Starletta DuPois and several others.
The film follows the struggle between a district attorney and a criminal. The criminal hatches a full-proof plan to take revenge on the attorney, who arrested him when he was a cop and sent the criminal to prison.
The movie is a great choice for a movie night involving the wish to see some action thrillers.
The Little Things
The Little Things was released in 2021 and was directed by John Lee Hancock. The film starred Denzel Washington, Rami Malek, Jared Leto and Natalie Morales in the major roles.
The Little Things focuses on two detectives who are working to investigate a chain of murders, hoping to find the culprit. The movie was well-praised for its thrilling screenplay and is available to watch on Netflix.
Directed by Antoine Fuqua, The Equalizer saw Denzel Washington take on the role of the infamous Robert McCall. The film follows an intelligence officer who must protect a group of teenagers from the Russian mafia. The movie was very dearly loved upon its arrival, as it grossed over $193 million.
The Equalizer starred Marton Csokas, Chloë Grace Moretz, David Harbour, Bill Pullman and Melissa Leo alongside Denzel Washington in leading roles. The supporting cast includes Haley Bennett, David Meunier, Johnny Skourtis, Alex Veadov, Vladimir Kulich, and E. Roger Mitchell. A sequel was also released in 2018, titled The Equalizer 2 and a third film is said to be in production. The Equalizer is available on Netflix, where viewers can enjoy some action.
John Q was directed by Nick Cassavetes and was released in 2002. The movie follows John Quincy Archibald, a father who holds hostages in a hospital to make sure his son is cured because of some dispute with the insurance company.
The movie starred Denzel Washington in the leading role of John Quincy, Robert Duvall, James Woods, Anne Heche, Eddie Griffin, Kimberly Elise, Ray Liotta, and Shawn Hatosy in other major roles.
John Q performed really well at the box office, earning more than $100 million, and was praised for their emotional connection with the audience.
Roman J. Israel, Esq
Roman J. Israel, Esq was directed by Dan Gilroy and was released in 2017. The movie starred Denzel Washington and Colin Farrell in the lead roles, and Carmen Ejogo, Shelley Hennig, Lynda Gravatt, Amanda Warren, Hugo Armstrong, Sam Gilroy, Tony Plana, and several others in the supporting cast list.
The movie follows a defence lawyer who faces numerous roadblocks at his workplace. The movie showcases what workplace tensions could do to a man and is heartily appreciated. The movie was so good that Denzel Washington was nominated for various awards, including the Academy Award, Golden Globe Award, and the Screen Actors Guild Award.
The movie is available to watch on Apple TV.
The Manchurian Candidate
The movie was directed by Jonathan Demme and was released in 2004. The movie is based on a 1959 novel sharing the same name as the movie, which was written by Richard Condon.
The Manchurian Candidate follows a soldier who gets manipulated to run for elections and become a candidate for the vice-president role. The movie has a certified fresh 80% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a thing which speaks great volumes about the quality of the movie.
Power was directed by Sidney Lumet and was released in 1986. The movie’s plot revolves around corruption in the political areas and both the positive and negative effects of political power on all those who enjoy it and those who are playing.
The movie starred Denzel Washington as a public relations expert and was very well praised and appreciated. He even won several awards for his portrayal of the same.
The movie cast includes Richard Gere, Julie Christie, Gene Hackman, Kate Capshaw, Denzel Washington, Beatrice Straight, and various others. A movie is a good option for anyone looking for a political drama.
The Magnificent Seven
Directed by Antoine Fuqua, The Magnificent Seven was released in 2016. The movie starred Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Lee Byung-hun, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Martin Sensmeier, Peter Sarsgaard, and Haley Bennett in the major roles.
The movie follows an officer who must protect locals from a corrupt industrialist who is trying to create a monopoly and using his criminal gang to terrify them.
The movie was well-praised for its action sequences and the performance of the members of the cast. The movie also performed well at the box office, grossing over $162 million.
The Great Debaters
The Great Debaters was directed by Denzel Washington himself and was released in 2007. The movie follows a professor who motivates his students to form a debate team and participate in a championship.
Forest Whitaker, Denzel Whitaker, Kimberly Elise, Nate Parker, Gina Ravera, Jermaine Williams and Jurnee Smollett starred as the leading members of the cast. The movie also has an 80% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and is purely a good option for a family movie night.
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