Top 10 Denzel Washington Performances (Video Edition)

THE EQUALIZER opens today and puts Denzel Washington back in an action hero role. But, like every Denzel role, this is not your standard paint by numbers thriller. Through his illustrious career, Denzel has played a wide array of characters who may seem similar on the surface until you get sucked in by their brilliance. Here are our favorite roles from Denzel Washington's career. IF your favorite didn't make the cut or you disagree with our ranking, feel free to comment in the talk backs below.


MAN ON FIRE is not the type of movie that wins Oscars nor is it one many would expect here at number one. But, MAN ON FIRE is the perfect amalgam of what makes Denzel Washington so great. John Creasy is a tormented character who comes out of his shell to save a little girl he has come to love. Not full of happy endings but definitely brimming with brutal and brilliant action sequences, Tony Scott's film is TAKEN before Liam Neeson learned his skills. Denzel Washington epitomizes cool badassery in this film that is possibly the most rewatchable of any of his movies.


Written by FURY's David Ayer and THE EQUALIZER's Antoine Fuqua, TRAINING DAY looked like another run of the mill dirty cop movie. But, Denzel won the Best Actor Oscar (rightfully so) because he became Alonzo Harris and made him not only a real person but a real monster. Ethan Hawke is along for the ride in a movie that truly surprises by being not only good but very good. King Kong has nothing on this movie.


Another Spike Lee collaboration, MALCOLM X put Denzel in one of his most high profile roles and required him to undertake a full physical transformation, one that he achieves with flying colors. Another well deserved Best Actor nomination came Denzel's way in a movie that deserves it's place amongst the best biopics of all time.


When Quentin Tarantino helps write your screenplay, you know you will be in for some great dialogue. Pitting Denzel opposite the iconic Gene Hackman delivers one of the best dramatic thrillers of all time. Unlike most Jerry Bruckheimer productions, CRIMSON TIDE works both as an action movie and a damn fine drama. This is one of the many reasons Tony Scott will be missed.


Robert Zemeckis helming live action featuring Denzel Washington was automatically going to be must see filmmaking, but no one expected a serious drama about drug addiction and the effects it can have. After an amazing aerial opening thrill ride, FLIGHT became a tour de force for Denzel who played one of his most vulnerable parts.


Another Oscar nomination for Washington came in his performance as Ruben Carter, middleweight boxer wrongly convicted of a crime based on his race. What could have been a melodramatic movie ends up a master class in acting thanks to Washington. At his most physically fit, Washington is more than convincing as a fighter both in and out of the ring.

#7 - GLORY

Denzel Washington won his first Oscar for his great turn as Private Trip in GLORY. The character is angry and potent and endures one of the most brutal whipping scenes ever put to film. The amazing aspect of the performance is how strong Denzel looks even while sharing the screen with Morgan Freeman and Andre Braugher.


Denzel has played a lot of lawyers in his career but none like Joe Miller. The deeply vain and bigoted attorney learns to embrace the plight of his client who is suffering from AIDS. Tom Hanks and Bruce Springsteen won Oscars for their performance and song, but Washington failed to get the trophy he deserved. A powerful film full of powerful performances.


Denzel cited Brutus from Shakespeare's JULIUS CAESAR as his inspiration for his role in INSIDE MAN and it shows. A very dialogue heavy film, INSIDE MAN is one of Spike Lee's most mainstream films and also one of the best thrillers of the last ten years. Brilliant performances all around, but once again Denzel steals the show.


Denzel Washington going toe to toe with Russell Crowe in a Ridley Scott film sounds as good on paper as it does on screen. Playing one of his many real life characters, Denzel knocks it out of the park as Frank Lucas, crime boss and the titular gangster. A great performance full of very quotable lines, like in the clip above.

Honorable Mention - RICOCHET

While maybe not one of Denzel's strongest performances, RICOCHET is a nice, pulpy thriller from the early 1990s that would set the stage for roles like DEJA VU and OUT OF TIME. Playing opposite the great John Lithgow, Denzel chews the scenery and kicks all sorts of ass. Plus, that great carousel scene.

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