Denzel Washington attends the photo call for Columbia Pictures' "The Equalizer 2" on July 13, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Amanda Edwards/WireImage)

Denzel Washington, the Oscar-winning icon in the realm of cinema, celebrated his 69th birthday on December 28.

From intense dramas to action-packed thrillers, Denzel’s versatility and undeniable talent as an actor and director have kept us in awe of his incredible performances and running to the theater when his name is top-billed.

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To honor Mount Vernon’s finest and a fellow Capricorn, I have compiled a list of Denzel Washington’s best movies in order of popularity (which is subjective). 

Best Denzel Washington Movies

Training Day (2001)

“Training Day” (2001), directed by Antoine Fuqua, is a gripping crime thriller that follows rookie LAPD officer Jake Hoyt, played by Ethan Hawke, as he partners with the charismatic and morally ambiguous Detective Alonzo Harris, portrayed by Denzel Washington. 

Over a single day, Alonzo introduces Jake to the harsh realities of urban policing, blurring the lines between right and wrong. 

Washington’s powerhouse performance earned him an Academy Award for Best Actor. 

The film’s intense narrative and morally complex characters make “Training Day” a riveting exploration of corruption and morality in law enforcement.

Remember the Titans (2000)

“Remember the Titans” (2000) is a powerful sports drama directed by Boaz Yakin.

Set in 1971, the film follows Coach Herman Boone, played by Denzel Washington, as he takes on the challenge of integrating a racially divided high school football team in Virginia.

Amidst racial tensions, Boone unites the players, teaching them the true meaning of teamwork and friendship.

The cast includes Will Patton as Coach Bill Yoast, Wood Harris, Ryan Hurst, and a young Hayden Panettiere.

This inspiring true story explores themes of racial harmony, leadership, and resilience on and off the football field.

Malcolm X (1992)

Spike Lee’s “Malcolm X” (1992) is a powerful biographical drama featuring Denzel Washington in the titular role of the influential civil rights leader.

The film chronicles Malcolm X’s transformative journey from his troubled youth to becoming a prominent voice in the Nation of Islam.

Washington’s riveting performance earned him an Academy Award nomination, supported by a stellar cast including Angela Bassett as Betty Shabazz, Delroy Lindo, and Spike Lee himself.

The narrative, rich in historical context, explores Malcolm X’s evolution, ideologies, and impact on the civil rights movement, offering a poignant portrayal of a complex and inspiring figure.

Inside Man (2006)

“Inside Man” (2006), directed by Spike Lee, is a gripping thriller starring Denzel Washington as Detective Keith Frazier.

When a bank robbery unfolds, masterminded by Clive Owen’s Dalton Russell, Frazier finds himself in a high-stakes game of wits. Jodie Foster adds complexity as a mysterious power broker.

As Frazier navigates the twists, the film explores deception, intrigue, and the blurred lines between right and wrong.

The stellar cast, including Willem Dafoe and Chiwetel Ejiofor, delivers riveting performances in this suspenseful heist film that keeps audiences guessing until the final reveal.

Glory (1989)

“Glory” (1989) is a powerful historical drama directed by Edward Zwick, depicting the story of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment during the American Civil War.

Denzel Washington delivers a gripping performance, earning him the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

The cast includes Matthew Broderick as Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, Morgan Freeman, Cary Elwes, and Andre Braugher.

The film explores the complexities of race, honor, and sacrifice as the regiment, comprised of African American soldiers, fights for equality on and off the battlefield.

“Glory” stands as a poignant tribute to the resilience and courage of those who fought for freedom.

Flight (2012)

“Flight” (2012) stars Denzel Washington as Whip Whitaker, a seasoned pilot whose heroic landing of a malfunctioning plane saves many lives.

However, as the investigation unfolds, Whip’s struggles with alcohol and personal demons come to light.

Directed by Robert Zemeckis, the film explores themes of addiction, redemption, and moral complexity.

The cast includes Kelly Reilly as Nicole, Don Cheadle as Hugh Lang, and John Goodman as Harling Mays.

Washington’s gripping performance earned him an Academy Award nomination, contributing to the film’s critical acclaim for its intense narrative and thought-provoking portrayal of a flawed protagonist.

The Equalizer (2014)

The Equalizer” (2014) stars Denzel Washington as Robert McCall, a retired black-ops operative with a strong sense of justice.

When he meets a young prostitute (Chloë Grace Moretz) brutalized by the Russian mafia, McCall’s desire for righteousness is reignited.

His lethal skills come to the forefront as he takes on the criminal underworld, setting the stage for a gripping action thriller.

Directed by Antoine Fuqua, the film showcases Washington’s intense performance, supported by a talented cast including Marton Csokas, David Harbour, and Bill Pullman.

“The Equalizer” delivers a relentless and satisfying tale of one man’s quest for justice.

American Gangster (2007)

“American Gangster” (2007) is a gripping crime drama directed by Ridley Scott.

Denzel Washington stars as Frank Lucas, a real-life drug lord, and Russell Crowe as Detective Richie Roberts, tasked with bringing him down.

Set in the 1970s, the film explores the rise and fall of Lucas’s drug empire, revealing the complexities of power and morality.

With an outstanding ensemble cast including Josh Brolin, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Cuba Gooding Jr., the movie delves into the dark underbelly of organized crime and law enforcement.

Washington’s magnetic performance and the film’s intense narrative make it a standout in the crime genre.

Fences (2016)

“Fences” (2016), directed by Denzel Washington, is a poignant drama based on August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play.

Set in the 1950s, the film revolves around Troy Maxson, a sanitation worker played by Denzel Washington, as he grapples with racial tensions and family dynamics.

Viola Davis delivers an Oscar-winning performance as Troy’s wife, Rose.

The film explores themes of dreams, aspirations, and the impact of societal constraints on African American families.

Washington’s powerful direction and the stellar performances of the cast, including Stephen Henderson, Mykelti Williamson, and Jovan Adepo, contribute to the film’s emotional depth and critical acclaim.

Crimson Tide (1995)

“Crimson Tide” (1995) unfolds as tension escalates aboard the USS Alabama nuclear submarine when an ambiguous order to launch missiles is received.

Director Tony Scott skillfully navigates the intense power struggle between Captain Frank Ramsey, portrayed by Gene Hackman, and Lieutenant Commander Ron Hunter, played by Denzel Washington.

The stellar cast, including Viggo Mortensen and James Gandolfini, amplifies the suspense as moral and military principles collide in this gripping thriller.

Washington’s commanding performance adds depth to the film, making “Crimson Tide” a riveting exploration of leadership and morality in the face of imminent danger.

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