Denzel Washington is one of the best actors of his generation. Appearing in 49 different movies and television shows over the course of his career, Washington first became a household name after appearing for six seasons on the medical television drama St. Elsewhere. He broke out in the movie industry in 1992 when he played civil rights icon Malcolm X in the same titled movie. While he has had his share of stinkers, Washington has had some great movies as well, here are his top 10 films according to IMDB.com‘s rating system.
10). The Siege
This movie was rather prescient as it actually aired several years before 9/11. The story depicts what happens when the country is caught in the grip of all out terror thanks to Muslim extremists.
9). The Pelican Brief
Everyone loves a good government conspiracy and this movie was one of the better ones in the 1990s. Washington plays a Washington, D.C. reporter who is drawn into a massive murder mystery involving Supreme Court Justices and the law student who correctly guesses who is behind the crimes.
While the movie wasn’t beloved by critics or fans the story still stands the test of time. The fact that Washington’s character narrates a story that takes quite a twist at the end makes it all the better.
7). Crimson Tide
Acting alongside Gene Hackman, Washington plays second in command on a nuclear submarine when the sub loses contact with the United States during a tense standoff with an Eastern European dictator. This is one of those films where even though you know everything is going to turn out okay, real tension is built throughout the film.
6). The Hurricane
Depicting Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter Washington showed the struggle that the man had to go through, spending decades in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.
5). Remember the Titans
Yes, it is odd to have a feel good football story so high on the list, but considering that Washington plays a head coach in rural Virginia just as the state was beginning to integrate its schools. Despite having to overcome the inherent racism of the time, Washington’s character built the team into a state powerhouse.
4). Man On Fire
Former law enforcement official turned body guard to the rich in Mexico, Washington got to kick a little butt and endear the audience to him at the same time.
3). Training Day
Might be the most famous role of his career playing the rogue cop who is taking Ethan Hawke out for a ride on his first day as a detective. “King Kong ain’t got nothing on me” is a line that has been entered into the American vernacular thanks to Washington’s performance in this film. It was also incredibly rare because Washington has rarely played the villain in any of the films he has appeared in.
Playing a homophobic attorney who defends another attorney who was fired for having AIDS (Tom Hanks), this was an especially poignant movie at a time when AIDs and HIV were sweeping the country and starting some panic about a disease that was still not well known.
1). Malcolm X
By far his most famous work considering how unknown the actor was when he was cast in this Spike Lee epic. It wasn’t just the fact that Washington looked quite a bit like the former civil rights activist, but he was able to mimic the former Malcolm Little’s speech patterns and cadence at a level that was superb. The movie was a rare peak into a man who is still widely misunderstood in the general public.