For the many who will choose a career as an actor, Denzel Washington is the icon to look up to. For those already in the industry, achieving Denzel status is definitely a dream come true, and for reasons that weren’t far-fetched. But you can only be a fan of the actor if you have seen all the works listed below. Without a doubt, they are the best Denzel Washington movies and TV series. However, for the sake of clarity, we must first assume that this actor is one of the best in the business.
The actor has no less than 96 nominations to his name and has won about 39 of the most prestigious awards throughout his career. A good number of his works have earned him Film Critic Awards, which he has won about 18 times. So is the NAACP Image Award, which he has won 17 times for works such as Fences, The Book of Eli, Courage Under Fire, Might , and Cry for Freedom In 1993 he received an MTV award for his role in Malcolm X. Almost a decade later (2002) he again won the award in the Best Villain category for his performance in Training Day Denzel first won the Black Reel Awards in 2000 and would take home the award five more times.
The list would not be complete if we did not mention that he has won the Screen Actors Guild Awards and the Tony Awards for Fences. The man also has three Golden Globe Awards and two Academy Awards. Other awards he has won include the Jupiter Award, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, the AARP Annual Movies for Grownups Awards, and the Silver Bear. There is also the American Film Institute Award, AACTA International Award and others. Yes, he is probably the most accomplished actor. Let’s get to his films.
Best Denzel Washington Movies and Series
15. Remember the Titans (2000)
While this film positions itself as an investigation into racial politics, it’s really just mass-produced drama about the most mundane subject – high school football – but who cares when it’s run by a powerhouse like Washington? He played the newly hired coach of a racially integrated team. His ability to turn any speech into a poignant portrayal of the human being and his no-nonsense approach really drives the team and the film forward. He demands your attention and holds it to the end.
14. The Mighty Quinn (1988)
Just by watching Washington play the titular character in this film, one could tell he was destined for greatness. It’s one of Denzel Washington’s best films, not because he gave his best performance, but because he executed the role in a transformative way. His character is that of a Caribbean police officer who does his best to save his best friend. Who is accused of murdering a resort owner? having served time for a crime, he did not commit it. It was a difficult and dangerous time in his life, but Washington still manages to be the most charming man alive.
13th Flight (2012)
Sometime in the last two decades, Washington put down aside from playing challenging characters and just stuck with the kick and punch thrillers, Flight came out and everyone was reminded of old Washington. He plays a pilot struggling with addiction. He’s not a hero or an avenger, he’s just a regular guy who can’t seem to get his life together, and you can’t help but be saddened by how dependable he is.
12. American Gangster (2007)
Whichever way you look at it, American Gangster would still be one of the best Denzel Washington movies of all time. He plays in cold blood in his fictional portrayal of Frank Lucas, America’s most famous drug kingpin. Washington’s character is strongly marked by his strict principles and his displeasure with whites. Through rise and fall, he distributes charisma and unbridled anger equally. As crime fiction goes, American Gangster is about as entertaining as it gets.
11. Mississippi Masala (1991)
Before Mira Nair started making big-budget films like Disney’s Queen of Later, she made this gripping story about an interracial romance between a carpet cleaner (Washington) and an Indian-American woman (Sarita Choudhury). They try to make their relationship work despite their family’s disapproval. It’s a sad story that tackles a complex set of issues and makes us wonder if love is really enough to overcome the pressures of the world. The chemistry between the main characters is enough to keep you watching this over and over again.
10. He’s Got the Game (1998)
Spike Lee gave Washington the biggest boost, in a heartbreaking role, portraying him as a man convicted of murdering his wife. He gets a chance to get his sentence reduced if he can convince his son, a talented basketball player, to sign for the governor’s alma mater. He’s got a week to do it, but can he buy himself back in such a short amount of time? Washington’s performance sets waves of strained father-son relationships, broken pride and regret that viewers swallow.
9. Inside Man (2006)
Washington teamed up with longtime collaborator, director Spike Lee to make this intriguing crime thriller. The legendary actor stars as a brilliant and diplomatic kidnapper in a heated deal with a ruthless bank thief, played by Clive Owen. His performance flows like a rhythmic jazz number, exciting and captivating at the same time.
8th St Elsewhere (1982-86)
This is the only television series in whichWashington starred. He played as Dr. Phillip Chandler gave a brilliant and confident role in the Boston-based medical drama. He eventually left the medical series to pursue other pursuits, but not before leaving a mark as one of the show’s best characters.
7. The Preacher’s Wife (1996)
This movie will always have a special place in our hearts because it is so cute and funny. Washington plays an angel sent from heaven to help a preacher and his wife. Somehow a love triangle begins to form between them, but it’s never fully realized. Thanks to Washington’s urging, the preacher’s wife – played by Whitney Houston – finds her voice again and sings her way into our hearts.
6. Fame (1989)
Washington’s character is vulnerable, high-spirited, alive and defiant in this heartbreaking racial drama. With this film he earned his first Oscar nod and cemented his place as an actor with unmatched screen presence and set the stage for successes to come. It’s one of the best Denzel Washington movies and I highly recommend it.
5. Roman J. Israel, Esq. (2017)
The legendary actor earned his sixth Best Actor Oscar nomination for his portrayal of the eponymous character of Roman J, a brilliant defense attorney with a strong moral code. His obdurate nature soon proves to be his downfall, setting him down a path riddled with vulnerability and despair. Washington’s performance is full of emotion and excitement.
4. Fences (2016)
Washington broke our hearts with his performance as Troy Maxson, a former baseball player turned garbage collector. It’s set in the 1950s. Washington is his charming and funny self trying to balance the pressures of providing for his family with the boss, but nothing prepares you for the spectacular ways he ultimately fails. Washington is transformed into an angry, dissatisfied, malevolent man, haunted by demons of his own making. His performance is only surpassed by Viola Davis, who plays his wife.
3. The Hurricane (1999)
Stories of police corruption, brutality and injustice are not uncommon in black history, and the story of Robin “Hurricane” Carter is another heartbreaking example. Washington plays the real-life boxer who has been charged with murder by the police and, as a result, wasted most of his life in prison. He convincingly portrays young Carter, a beloved athlete early in his career; and old Carter, a disappointed prisoner still grappling with the injustice of his incarceration. This role earned Washington an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.
2nd training day (2001)
This is surely one of the most popular and best Denzel Washington movies ever made. Washington plays a seasoned cop trying to teach his new partner, a young recruit played by Ethan Hawke, a few tricks. However, Washington turned out to be a dirty, corrupt, and dangerous cop. He showed how frightening things can become when the lines blur. Though Washington is something of a monster, we can’t help but feel the human side of him seeping through. It’s not surprising that he took home an Oscar for his amazing performance.
1. Malcolm X (1992)
Washington seems to shine when he plays a real-life character. In this ambitious biography of assassinated black civil rights leader Malcolm X, directed by Spike Lee. He steals all day long, immersing himself in the life of the leader of the nation of Islam, bringing to life his early mistakes and the righteous anger that fueled his later political rise. It’s one of the actor’s strongest performances, but sadly he lost the Best Actor Oscar to Al Pacino that year. Still, you can’t leave it out when you count the best Denzel Washington movies.