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Dominik Vetrák
March 15, 2015, 3:25pm
Reading time: 7:28

Top 10 Denzel Washington Movies

One of the most famous actors of African-American descent and the coolest dude with charisma unlike any other. That's Denzel Washington.

Dominik Vetrák
March 15, 2015, 3:25pm
Reading time: 7:28
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Top 10 Denzel Washington Movies
Zdroj: SONY PICTURES / Scott Garfield
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I'm sure Kesty won't mind if I pick up his column, in which he subjectively chooses 10 best films starring well-established, in all cases really great and popular actors. He's brought you TOP 10's from Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Daniel Day-Lewis, and also Christian Ball. Fifth addition to this group will be Denzel Washington. My favorite, especially when it comes to actors of African-American descent. Part of the reason why I've decided to write about him is because I think he's a little under-appreciated, both by the media and by fans and critics alike. It is obvious to me that he might not reach the qualities of any of the above-mentioned actors. Denzel is a very good actor, but in his 60s he might regret that he's only signed a few  great and substantial films where his talent could fully shine.


Denzel can fit any role. He has played an alcoholic, a murderer, a cop, a lawyer, some sports giants, a pilot, tough gangster, a loving father, we could go on. As already mentioned, he is simply a multi-talented guy. If you've seen enough of his films, you are fully aware that there are few actors like him out there, who always put something of themselves into their characters. Especially to such an extent. However different the role is, you can always feel he's put a piece of himself in it, and that's good, because everyone loves Denzel. Now let's take a look at the 10 films that I consider to be his best.


10. John Q
If you haven't seen this movie, you must not watch TV. Once delve deep into the past, the drama John Q seems to be my oldest memory in connection with this actor. With time and a possible further screening (a.k.a. looking at the monitor), I would probably call this film a sentimental fairy tale full of deep moralistic thoughts, but I don't want to spoil my childhood memories. For me, at the time, this film represented a relaxing piece of cinematography depicting the devotion and love of an honest father, whose son's insurance doesn't cover a heart transplant. However, if your son is about to lose his life to this circumstance, you would also opt for the last resort and illegal blackmail with hostages.


Denzel Washington Source: SONY PICTURES / Scott Garfield


9. Equalizer
If I had to choose between John Wick and Equalizer, I would probably choose the latter. First of all, the choreography of the fights is not so cringey and the main character itself is more believable and closer to reality (which is again thanks to Denzel, who does not lose his charisma even when he's jamming a wine opener into your throat). And the motive why the retired killer decided to work, was simply more human and understandable in Equalizer in my opinion. Also a more realistic view of mafia's confrontation with a perfectly trained killer. Keanu murdered a hundred people, and Antoine Fuqua (director of Equalizer) decided to at least make the finals less theatrical. He did not let the main character shoot the entire gang without a scratch.


8. De Ja Vu

The second collaboration of the Scott-Washington duo (there were 5 of them in total, and you'll find two more of them in this list) has a really original theme, but a less elaborate script and supporting characters. Again most of the magic here is done by Denzel. He fit the role superbly and fit perfectly into the De Ja Vu program. At some point, his character finds out that what we consider to be a slight shortcoming of our brain is, in fact, something much more important and greater than anyone could have ever imagined.


7. Unstoppable
Denzel's latest collaboration with Tony Scott, turned out to be excellent. For Tony, Unstoppable actually was the last film he worked on, since he passed away in 2012. Many consider this film the best one from their "quintet". And it ain't no wonder. Scott put the two main characters in very challenging and mentally difficult situations. On the one hand, we have the character of Chris Pine, who was experiencing his rapid Hollywood rise at the time (2009 - Star Trek, 2010 - Unstoppable), as a loving husband with huge problems. On the other hand, we have the great Denzel. The train company wants to cancel his employment and it's difficult to find a job at his age. But before he passes the torch to his successor, he decides to rescue the densely populated area awaiting disaster. An almost kilometer-long freight train carrying toxic waste is approaching them in high speed. Unstoppable is a great thriller in any case. It is filled with tension, interesting dialogues, building of relationships between the characters and even a deeper look at their mental state. I admit that I didn't expect any miracles before I pressed the play button, but the younger of the Scott brothers got me again.


6. Training Day
The second directorial work of the young Antoine Fuqua will be remembered in the cinematography history forever, especially as far as the crime drama genre is concerned. Denzel plays Officer Alonzo Harris, who works in the narcotics department. One day, he is paired with the not-so-experienced Jake Hoyt, who's longing for this position. But in 13 years in the industry, Alonzo has understood that the system has failed a long time ago, and if he wants to detain criminals, he must practice completely different police methods than those taught in the academy. But Jake is a prototype of a good, law-abiding cop, and it's clear to us from the very beginning that the upcoming day will bring a lot of confrontation between the two characters. And not only that, but also some self-reflexing thoughts and psychological questions about the boundaries of good and evil. Particularly enjoyable was the action, the building of the relationship between the characters and also the view of a slightly different world of the law enforcement system.


5. Inside Man
If any of Denzel's films can be described as very entertaining, but at the same time respecting the boundaries of the genre (in this case, an action thriller / heist movie), it is Inside Man. Bluntly-said, it's taking The Heat with Pacino and De Niro and turns the A's into B's. Great acting performances, escalation of tension, various interesting twists in the story and other pluses ensure an intelligent and entertaining bank robbery. The crime is perfect on the outside, even more on the inside.


Denzel Washington Source: GettyImages/Rich Fury

4. Man on Fire
And here we have Denzel's first collaboration with Tony Scott. For starters, they prepared a classic theme for action films about the cliché of building a relationship between a child and his protector. However, they did it in their own style. Focusing on bringing former government agent John Creasy closer to the 9-year-old Pita not illogical and not just because the script required it. When the young girl is kidnapped, Creasy declares war on almost the entire city. You can look forward to a well-edited action, a few great moments and an interesting finish. Man on Fire is now a genre classic and you will definitely not regret reaching for it.


 3. Flight

Few alcoholics can look in the mirror and see what is actually there. That, what reflects the wreck of a person that's often dangerous for their surroundings. Whip Whitaker has it all the more difficult, since he is the captain pilot of a plane. According to the regulations, but also unwritten ethical laws, alcohol should be an absolute taboo for him. However, he drinks big time and is not sober even during the crash of the plane he is piloting. His maneuver ends up saving hundreds of people's lives, but the court doesn't care about that. A bottle of alcohol was found in the cockpit and the hunt for the destroyed alcoholic facing a difficult decision and an uncompromising mental state begins.


If you enjoy looking into a sore soul that wants to correct itself, but it's too weak for that, Flight is the perfect choice for you. Nothing is artificial, it doesn't glorify anyone and it shows life just as it is. Excellent performance of both Robert Zemeckis as a director and Denzel Washington as a man with a severe alcoholic past, who is convinced that he simply can't go on like this. Or can he?



2. American Gangster
I have to admit that I had to watch American Gangster in two sessions. I don't even know why anymore. Certainly, Ridley Scott has made a truly high-quality mob film that is not a typical representation of the mafia. It focuses more on mob life and the other side of the coin. At a time when Omerta no longer meant as much as it once did, an ordinary cop decided to take down the most influential and greatest man of New York's underworld. Whether he succeeded or not, you'll find out in the film. Acting performances are excellent here, but the absence of sufficient escalation is a bit of a bummer. In fact, with the passing of time, I can't even remember any particularly distinctive or memorable scenes, apart from the end. However, there is an element that rises above everything else. Denzel Washington simply became a mobster with a capital M. There wasn't a second when you wouldn't be convinced by him and his acting range, without a doubt. The American Gangster is still a very good piece of cinematography that will definitely stir something up within you. It's just the type of film that'll leave you questioning your conscience about why you didn't reach for it much earlier.

1. Philadelphia
I fully understand that you are probably judging me for my choice of first place. But Philadelphia is the one I watched as the last film on the list, and I realized something. That although I might have seen hundreds of really amazing movies, there is so much more of them out there waiting for me to get around to them. Why did I actually put this drama so high (or actually so low, because you're scrolling downwards)? I have multiple reasons for this. Let's start with the great acting performances by both Denzel Washington and Tom Hanks (he actually won an Oscar for the role in 1993, even though the film itself wasn't even nominated in the "best film" category), guaranteeing amazing two hours full of thoughtful and encouraging discoveries about homophobia and its illogical power in our society. Very strong point is also made while looking into the soul of a person suffering from homophobia as such, although still enforcing laws and justice. The film beautifully depicts the reality in which you find yourself as a person with AIDS, rejected by society before being rejected by the very physical form of life.

Honorable mentions: If you like relaxing action movies, I definitely recommend 2 Guns, Safe House or Train Abduction 1 2 3. Denzel also made his way into Hollywood thanks to well-known and quite successful biographical dramas. Whether they were sports biopics or not, if you like Washington, you should see them. I'm talking about the aforementioned Great Debaters, Hurricane or Malcolm X.

Did you agree with the list by any chance? Does it seem completely out of proportion? In any case, I think that at least the top five should resonate in the memory of every movie fan. I guarantee you won't be bored or disappointed. On top of that, knowing that Denzel Washington turned 60 in December, it is clear to me that the remake of Maginificent Seven might be his last possible big film. However, I'm all the more looking forward to it. Before you reject this project just because it's a remake, keep in mind that the 1960 American version is also "just" a remake of the Japanese Seven Samurais. What is your TOP 10 when it comes to  Denzel? Are you into different kind of actors? In that case, do not hesitate to tell us which filmography you would like to read about next time. I personally dare to tackle two particular ones.


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Thumbnail: GettyImages/Rich Fury
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