Top 10 Denzel Washington Movies

10. Roman J. Israel, Esq. (2017)

Top 10 Denzel Washington Movies - #10 Roman J. Israel, Esq.
Roman J. Israel, Esq.

First on our list of top 10 Denzel Washington movies begins with a film that didn’t blowout the numbers. Roman J. Israel, Esq. didn’t wow fans likely because it was different role for the actor. But it is a great film.

And it is not the first time Mr. Washington has played a lawyer (Philadelphia 1993 was another). He plays Roman, a man stuck in the 70s. An extremely knowledgeable attorney with the ability to remember little things about previous trials.

What makes Roman J. Israel so good is the honest character that Denzel nails. A great legal mind living his life by the book. He takes pride in doing things the right way.

Things go sideways however, when Mr. Israel concludes that he’s getting the short end of the stick. And he decides to take advantage of an opportunity.

Director: Dan Gilroy

Cast: Denzel Washington, Colin Farrell

Release date: November 17, 2017

Runtime: 122 minutes

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9. Remember the Titans (2000)

Top 10 Denzel Washington Movies - #9 Remember the Titans

Fans may not have thought they’d see a Denzel Washington football movie. But that’s just what we’ve got in Remember the Titans.

Titans is not a new Denzel Washington movie, but it is one of his most inspirational. It’s based on the true story of coach Herman Boone (Denzel Washington). Boone tries to integrate the T. C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia, in the 70s.

Indeed, there are lots of race-related issues that this movie faces. But the quick wit, intelligence, and patience of Denzel’s character helps to balance things.

Coach Boone manages to get bigoted parents, hostile faculty members, and narrow-minded players, to come together for a higher purpose.

Director: Boaz Yakin

Cast: Denzel Washington, Will Patton, Donald Faison, Nicole Ari Parker

Release date: September 29, 2000

Runtime: 113 minutes

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8. The Tragedy of Macbeth (2021)

Top 10 Denzel Washington Movies - #8 The Tragedy of Macbeth
The Tragedy of Macbeth

Continuing our Denzel Washington movies 2021 list is Oscar nominated The Tragedy of Macbeth.

Director Joel Coen (No Country for Old Men, Hail, Caesar!, and The Big Lebowski), takes on a Shakespeare staple. Macbeth is played by Denzel Washington, Lady Macbeth by Frances McDormand, and King Duncan by Brendan Gleeson.

Filled with betrayal and rivals, The Tragedy of Macbeth takes us on a familiar path. With the support of an ambitious wife, and the prophecy of all-knowing witches, Macbeth will stop at nothing to fulfill his destiny.

Power is a very tricky thing. It’s incredibly hard to acquire, and even more to keep. And in the case of power-hungry Macbeth—and his quest for the Scottish throne—that person is Macduff (Corey Hawkins).

Macbeth is Washington’s second go at Shakespeare (The first was 1993’s Much Ado About Nothing), but it is this new movie that is one of Denzel’s best.

Director: Joel Coen

Cast: Denzel Washington, Frances McDormand, Bertie Carvel, Alex Hassell, Corey Hawkins, Harry Melling, Brendan Gleeson

Release date: December 25, 2021

Runtime: 105 minutes

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7. American Gangster (2007)

Top 10 Denzel Washington Movies - #7 American Gangster

Couldn’t wait for this–Denzel Washington American Gangster. This is one the best drug dealer performances in recent years.

Denzel movies like this one are so good because of the lead actor of course, but also because it is based on the true story of Frank Lucas (Washington). Frank assumes the reigns of heroin kingpin after his boss dies of heart attack.

“Blue Magic. That’s a brand name.”

The movie would not have been as good if Frank hadn’t decided to run his drug operation like a regular company. He viewed his drug business as a cut above the rest.

Lucas avoids the middleman by traveling to Thailand to get his product. To say his method of doing business was disruptive to his competition is an understatement.

Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Russell Crowe, Denzel Washington, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Cuba Gooding Jr., Josh Brolin, Ted Levine, Armand Assante, John Ortiz, John Hawkes, RZA

Release date: November 2, 2007

Runtime: 157 minutes

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6. Fences (2016)

Top 10 Denzel Washington Movies - #6 Fences
Fences

#6 on our Denzel Washington top 10 movies list is his directorial debut Fences. A dialogue and character rich film with a screenplay by Pulitzer Prize winner August Wilson.

Washington’s film and acting performance received commercial success and critic praise. Box office sales tripled the film’s budget. But enough of that, why is the film Fences one of Denzel’s best?

The latest movies tend to focus on special effects, costumes, etc. however, the Fences movie concentrates on the actors. Their story alone is front and center.

The movie revolves around Troy Maxson (Washington) a city garbage collector who missed an opportunity to play Major League Baseball because of racism. This is one demon that haunts Troy. Another is killing a man during a robbery.

But that was a long ago, and he tries to do right by his wife Rose (Viola Davis). He is constantly tested by his two sons Lyons (Russell Hornsby) and Cory (Jovan Adepo), his mentally impaired brother Gabriel (Mykelti Williamson), and even Death.

Director: Denzel Washington

Cast: Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Jovan Adepo, Russell Hornsby, Mykelti Williamson, Saniyya Sidney

Release date: December 16, 2016

Runtime: 139 minutes

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5. The Equalizer (2014)

Top 10 Denzel Washington Movies - #5 The Equalizer
The Equalizer

Okay we’re at the halfway point–the top 5 Denzel Washington movies. At first glance The Equalizer movie doesn’t seem like it would be special enough to warrant a spot on our best Denzel Washington movies list. But it does.

Robert McCall (Washington) lives in Boston and works at a hardware store. Some nights he reads in a diner, and it is here that he meets Alina (Chloë Grace Moretz), a teenage prostitute working for the Russian mafia.

One night, Alina is hospitalized after being beaten by her pimp, Slavi (David Meunier). McCall visits Alina’s hospital room and speaks with her friend, Mandy (Haley Bennett), then visits Slavi and offers to buy Alina’s freedom. Slavi refuses, so McCall kills Slavi and his men.

But the story is just getting started. Vladimir Pushkin (Vladimir Kulich), Slavi’s boss and a Russian mafia kingpin, sends his enforcer, Teddy Rensen (Marton Csokas), to find and kill McCall. Rensen visits Mandy, questioning her about who could have killed Slavi.

Director: Antoine Fuqua

Cast: Denzel Washington, Marton Csokas, Chloë Grace Moretz, David Harbour, Bill Pullman, Melissa Leo

Release date: September 26, 2014

Runtime: 132 minutes

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4. Safe House (2012)

Top 10 Denzel Washington Movies - #4 Safe House
Safe House

The Ryan Reynolds and Denzel Washington movie is filled with action.

In Cape Town, South Africa, junior CIA officer Matt Weston is serving as a “housekeeper”, an operative in charge of securing and maintaining a local CIA safe house in case of an operation. He calls his mentor and immediate superior, David Barlow, and asks about a station in Paris, where he hopes to follow his live-in girlfriend, Ana.

Barlow tells him he’s not qualified for the position, which frustrates Matt as he has not had a “houseguest” during his yearlong assignment, and thus has been unable to gain field experience. Barlow promises to reconsider in a few months.

But it’s not just Denzel and Ryan who put in great performances, fellow cast Brendan Gleeson, Sam Shepard, and Vera Farmiga round things out perfectly.

Director: Daniel Espinosa

Cast: Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Vera Farmiga, Brendan Gleeson, Sam Shepard, Rubén Blades, Nora Arnezeder, Robert Patrick

Release date: February 10, 2012

Runtime: 115 minutes

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3. Fallen (1998)

Fallen

Gregory Hoblit directed this supernatural thriller in 1998. Denzel Washington plays a Philadelphia police detective who is investigating occult murders committed by an apparent copycat killer.

John Goodman, Donald Sutherland, Embeth Davidtz, James Gandolfini and Elias Koteas also star. Warner Bros. released Fallen on January 16, 1998. Despite this Denzel movie not doing well at the box office, it has gained a cult following and is considered one of Washington’s most underrated films.

Director: Gregory Hoblit

Cast: Denzel Washington, John Goodman, Donald Sutherland, Embeth Davidtz, James Gandolfini, Elias Koteas

Release date: January 16, 1998

Runtime: 124 minutes

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2. Training Day (2001)

Top 10 Denzel Washington Movies - #2 Training Day
Training Day

Denzel Washington movies list that includes cop roles are as numerous as some actor’s entire resumes.

Training Day starts with an ambitious LAPD Officer Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke), who is up for promotion. He’s assigned to Detective Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington), a highly decorated narcotics officer, for a one-day evaluation.

In a single day Hoyt sees Alonzo let two rapists go free, steal $4 million, and kill an unarmed man in cold blood. Hoyt starts slow, but he quickly discerns that he’d better get with the program, or he will not make it back home.

Denzel’s Oscar winning performance in this movie was beyond apparent, it was guaranteed. Unquestionably, fans had never seen this talented actor play such a ruthless, lowdown, thug character before.

Obviously, Denzel Washington filmography includes several cop movies (The Little Things, Inside Man, The Bone Collector, and more), but his Alonzo portrayal is the best.

Director: Antoine Fuqua

Cast: Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke, Scott Glenn, Cliff Curtis, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg

Release date: October 5, 2001

Runtime: 122 minutes

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1. Malcolm X (1992)

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We’ve reached the top of our Denzel Washington movie list with Malcolm X. The American epic biographical drama film about the African American activist Malcolm X. Directed and co-written by Spike Lee, the film stars Denzel Washington in the title role, as well as Angela Bassett, Albert Hall, Al Freeman Jr., and Delroy Lindo.

Along with directing duties Lee has a supporting role, while Black Panther Party co-founder Bobby Seale, the Rev. Al Sharpton, and future South African president Nelson Mandela make cameo appearances. It is the second of four film collaborations between Washington and Lee.

Director: Spike Lee

Cast: Denzel Washington, Angela Bassett, Albert Hall, Al Freeman Jr., Delroy Lindo, Spike Lee

Release date: November 18, 1992

Runtime: 201 minutes

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