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Top 10 Denzel Washington Performances

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Alex Crilly-Mckean. He’s played the best of the best and the baddest of the bad. From an innocent man imprisoned, to a gangster, and every variety of cop on the morality spectrum; Denzel Washington's characters all have a couple things in common: speeches and gravitas. In this video, WatchMojo.com counts down our picks for Denzel Washington’s top 10 performances. Special thanks to our users Steven Castillo, Josh3000, erick palacios, Mara Steinhardt, Andrew A. Dennison, Jones and Damo Saheed for submitting the idea on our Suggestions Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Script written by Alex Crilly-Mckean.

Top 10 Denzel Washington Performances


He’s played the best of the best and the baddest of the bad. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for Denzel Washington’s top 10 performances.

For this list, we’ve chosen the roles that best show off the actor’s range and which earned him the most recognition.

#10: Captain Whip Whitaker
“Flight” (2012)

An Oscar nomination already? This is gonna be a good list. Earning his first Academy Award nod in over ten-years, Denzel plays a pilot struggling with various addictions, who saves lives after his plane starts a hellish descent. What follows is a harrowing story of personal demons and doing what’s right. With Denzel steering the way with one of his bravest and most complex performances, it’s one wild ride.

#9: Coach Herman Boone
“Remember the Titans” (2000)

Keeping the drama rolling is Washington’s role as the football coach in a racially-divided school. As the team struggles to make it as a unit, Washington shows off his skills as a speech-maker with some rousing pep talks. Finally finding common ground in the game they love, the Titans manage to beat the odds and come out on top, in no small part thanks to Denzel’s work.

#8: Joe Miller
“Philadelphia” (1993)

Moving away from racially sensitive pieces, Denzel dives into the role of this conflicted lawyer who defends homosexual AIDS sufferer Tom Hanks, with a critical look at how society treats other sexualities out of fear and miscommunication. While Hanks may have been the one to grab the Oscar, Washington’s performance is nothing to snub your nose at, as he goes through a visible transformation along the way.

#7: Lt. Commander Ron Hunter
“Crimson Tide” (1995)

This underwater epic pits Denzel against Gene Hackman, as the assistant commander of a submarine armed with nuclear weapons. When an incomplete message regarding the launch on Russia comes into play, both leads clash over what is right and wrong, with lives hanging in the balance. Washington’s portrayal of a good-hearted man with boundless determination helps ensure you’ll be talking about this one long after it’s over.

#6: Frank Lucas
“American Gangster” (2007)

Stepping into a villain role, Denzel brings his intensity to real-life criminal Frank Lucas. By taking over the heroin trade during the Vietnam War, Lucas rises to become New York’s most fearsome gangster, only to fall from grace when he tangles with honest cop Russell Crowe. What we love about this performance is that Denzel makes clear how much respect and honor, albeit twisted, means to Lucas’ character.



#5: Rubin “Hurricane” Carter
“The Hurricane” (1999)

Putting himself back in the sports drama limelight, Denzel portrays this middleweight boxer-turned-prisoner as he deals with twenty years behind bars. Recounting how racism and the failings of the court landed him in jail on a triple murder rap, he’s eventually freed by the love of a Canadian foster family. Denzel’s angry but focused efforts earned him a Golden Globe and an Oscar Nomination, and we are not surprised.

#4: Det. Keith Frazier
“Inside Man” (2006)

Spike’s Lee’s most successful film called for one helluva protagonist, and no one was better than Denzel to play NYPD hostage negotiator Keith Frazier. What we love about this role is that Denzel has gone on record to say he used his experience playing Brutus in “Julius Caesar” to really encapsulate the character – and you can see that in the choices he makes and the speeches he delivers.

#3: Det. Alonzo Harris
“Training Day” (2001)

This one earned Denzel an Oscar. In a departure from his usual roles, Denzel plays the corrupt, hard-as-nails, no-nonsense badass Alonzo Harris, who’s leading rookie cop Ethan Hawke on the longest day of his life. Playing a rogue LA policeman who’ll do anything to get his way, Denzel is manipulative, magnetic and over-the-top. But he’s also a broken, unsympathetic and repugnant character – no wonder we can’t get enough!

#2: Pvt. Silas Trip
“Glory” (1989)

Winning Washington his first Oscar is this Civil War drama. Even this early in his career, Denzel brings forward the charisma and heart of one of the many soldiers that formed the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, the first formal all African-American U.S. Army unit. One of the film’s many highlights, Denzel’s performance enthralls us and makes us choke up at this beautiful story of sacrifice and overcoming adversity.

#1: Malcolm X
“Malcolm X” (1992)

This powerful, biographical piece is considered one of the greats, thanks to Spike Lee’s vision and Denzel Washington’s acting. One of his most commanding performances to date, Denzel brings the chilling and awe-inspiring character of Malcolm X back to life. Portraying his journey from the streets all the way to Mecca with incredible precision despite the dramatization, Washington is convincing in all aspects of the controversial leader’s existence.

Do you agree with our list? What’s your favorite Denzel Washington performance? Leave your comments below and be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com for more of your favorite top 10s published daily.
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