I could argue that Denzel Washington is the greatest actor of my lifetime and it would be a strong argument. Since as long as I can remember, Washington has been one of my favorite actors, consistently turning out great performance after great performance in movies from all genres, from Oscar nominated dramas to entertaining action flicks. This week, Washington reprises his role as Robert McCall in The Equalizer 2, a movie I am rather excited for. So in honor of that, here are my picks for the best Denzel Washington movies.
Remember, this is based on movie quality as well as the performance from Washington.
5 – 2 GUNS (Baltasar Kormákur, 2013)
2 Guns gets a spot on this list for Denzel being badass and having fun while doing it. This isn’t a groundbreaking performance, nor a groundbreaking movie, but god damn is it a ton of fun. Washington and co-star Mark Wahlberg have pitch perfect chemistry as two undercover lawmen who get into some serious shit with a Mexican drug lord and corruption within their units. The plot is cool, and twisty and the action is explosive, with a shoot em up finale that will slap a smile on your face that won’t quit. Washington’s charm is in full force, and he’s as badass as ever. I’m sure there are better performances in Washington’s career that deserve recognition, but Washington has never had this much fun in any movie.
4 – AMERICAN GANGSTER (Ridley Scott, 2007)
It’s amazing to think how under-appreciated this movie is. This true story about the rise and fall of New York crime lord Frank Lucas is an epic cat and mouse gangster thriller. Directed by the legend Ridley Scott, this is the best film Scott has made this millennium, making an engrossing, gritty film that feels like it belongs in the 70’s. Washington is superb as Lucas, the methodical, business savvy gangster who takes over the New York drug trade. Russell Crowe gives a great performance as Richie Roberts, the cop on Lucas’s tail, and Josh Brolin is a stand out as the corrupt detective who messes with Frank and Richie’s life. This is a gangster classic.
3 – FENCES (Denzel Washington, 2016)
Fences is one of Washington’s finest achievements, as it is one of his best performances ever and his strongest directorial effort as well. Adapted word for word from August Wilson’s award winning play, (the late Wilson has the only screenwriting credit on the film), Washington perfect portrays this story about a working class man going through a midlife crises all while trying to raise his family in 1950’s Pittsburgh. Washington and co-star Viola Davis recite Wilson’s dialog like Shakespeare, hitting every emotional beat, whether happy, angry, or heartbroken in Wilson’s biting, detailed, sometimes expansive monologs. This is an acting showcase for Washington and Davis and proof that Washington is a legitimate director.
2 – MALCOLM X (Spike Lee, 1992)
This is how a bio-pic should be made. Spike Lee’s sprawling, fascinating look at the life of the controversial black activist is massive in scale, yet intimate in story. We see X go from a young street gangster, to his ministry as a member of the Nation of Islam. Lee shows us parts of X’s life we wouldn’t have seen, really giving us a full picture of the man. This is the best performance of Washington’s career. He really transforms himself more than any other performance in his career. He has the look, the voice, the unique speech patterns, and brings the fire and intensity X was known for. Criminally robbed of an Oscar, this is one of the greatest performances I have ever seen on screen.
1 – TRAINING DAY (Antoine Fuqua, 2001)
Training Day is one of the most important movies of my life. I saw it when I was 13 years old and after I saw it, something clicked in my mind that transformed my brain into what it is today. This was my favorite movie for about three years. I was so riveted by the whole movie, from the realistic street violence, to the story, to the Oscar-worthy acting, and still am to this day. Alonso Harris is unlike anything Washington had ever played before because he was a villain. Washington was the leading man, the protagonist who would save the day. Not in Training Day. He plays a corrupt cop who takes a rookie (played by the excellent Ethan Hawke) on a tour of the streets of LA, where he is exposed to drugs, violence, and corruption of the highest sort. Washington lights up the screen. He’s a ticking time bomb waiting to explode and you cannot take your eyes off him. For being such a terrible person, you love Harris and that is because of what Washington brings tot the table. Training Day is an all-timer for me and the best Denzel Washington movie.
What are you favorite Denzel Washington movies? Comment below or hit me up on Twitter and Instagram, @kevflix, or on Facebook by searching Kevflix.