This week sees the re-teaming of director Antoine Fuqua and actor Denzel Washington in the thriller The Equalizer. The two first partnered on the huge hit Training Day, which won Washington his second Oscar. Washington has been a box office heavyweight for almost three decades now, having played memorable supporting roles throughout the late 80s and early 90s, before becoming a top-lining name himself. While his film choices can sometimes be questionable as far as quality goes, he will undoubtedly pull in a large audience, no matter what.

Here's a look at Denzel Washington's Top Ten Greatest Films:


Directed by Boaz Yakin

Starring Denzel Washington, Will Patton, Wood Harris

Box Office: $115 million

It's one of the premiere modern-day sports movies and a staple in any film fan's mind from 2000. The movie was a huge box office success and one of the best-selling home video releases of the time. Washington's performance as Coach Herman Boone helped the film find its inspirational tone and its (sometimes predictable) heart. Ryan Gosling makes an early appearance as one of the football players.


Directed by Alan J. Pakula

Starring Julia Roberts, Denzel Washington, Sam Shepard

Box Office: $100 million

John Grisham adaptations are for the legal world what Nicholas Sparks adaptations are for the romantic drama: formulaic, but affective. Roberts, America's Sweetheart at the time, got top billing here as a law student in the midst of an affair with her professor. It's Washington's role as a reporter who comes to her aid that carries the film through its twisting premises. The film had its flaws, but was only an appetizer to the great legal thrillers the 90s would later produce.

8. CRIMSON TIDE (1995)

Directed by Tony Scott

Starring Denzel Washington, Gene Hackman, James Gandolfini

Box Office: $91 million

Two heads must come together as one as Hackman plays a veteran Navy Captain adapting to Washington's young Lt. Commander. In the rise of military movies shortly after the end of the Gulf War, Crimson Tide provided some legendary action from director Scott, while also giving audiences some commentary about war to chew on. Washington, fresh off of major attention for Oscar-winning films like Philadelphia, got top billing over veteran actor Hackman.


Directed by Ridley Scott

Starring Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, Ruby Dee

Box Office: $130 million

At this point Washington had completely established himself as a box office superstar. After turning in a few family-friendly pics, or at least PG-13 material, he looked to American Gangster to be a return to pedigree drama. The dark and violent world created by director Scott was enough to get attention. Crowe equally turned in one of his better performances, but Washington is the one who shines.

6. MAN ON FIRE (2004)

Directed by Tony Scott

Starring Denzel Washington, Dakota Fanning, Christopher Walken

Box Office: $78 million

It was the years of Fanning in full effect here as the young actress helped pivot this typical Tony Scott film to a higher degree of success. Washington, though, again proves that he can muster a great amount of strong-willed calm while remaining gentle. It's those tough and simple moments that help sell a Washington film. While critics weren't too kind to this one, it's definitely a crowd-pleaser and much more effective, quality-wise, than it's given credit for.

5. THE BOOK OF ELI (2010)

Directed by Albert Hughes and Allen Hughes

Starring Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis

Box Office: $$95 million

Stuck right in the middle of the Hollywood love-affair with post-apocalyptic stories, The Book of Eli made a decent box office mark, while simultaneously getting lost in the crowd. The film plays more comic book tale than dark, bleak drama. Some of the directors' choices are much more unique and effective here than we've seen in other high-concept action flicks. The entire first fight in the dark shadows of a former overpass is genius. Washington somewhat hones in on characters he's played before, but the material works in his favor. The twist at the end is a good one making the film worthy of additional viewings.


Directed by Edward Zwick

Starring Denzel Washington, Meg Ryan, Matt Damon

Box Office: $59 million

The film's plot may be a little predictable, but when handled with the care and quality of the director and cast, it allows itself to stand above the other, similar projects. Washington, especially, turns in one of his absolute best performances as a US Army officer put to the task of validating whether a female chopper commander is deserving of a medal of merit. The script is spitfire and Washington is intense as the film continues down a rabbit hole of questions and presumptions. Ryan is pretty stellar too (what happened to her?), but this is Washington's movie, completely.

3. GLORY (1989)

Directed by Edward Zwick

Starring Matthew Broderick, Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington

Box Office: $$27 million

Civil War movies can be a tough sell. Despite Gone with the Wind, thy aren't always the highest-grossing box office success stories. While Glory may not have been a huge moneymaker, it was a critic darling and an Oscar victor, earning Washington his first Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. The film follows the story of all-black infantry team led by Col. Shaw, played in a surprising turn by Broderick. As far as Civil War films go, it succeeds in impressive visuals and an often-ignored story.

2. TRAINING DAY (2001)

Directed by Antoine Fuqua

Starring Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke, Tom Berenger

Box Office: $76 million

Washington as a bad guy seems unthinkable, but Fuqua's film shows that even the bad guy can reign supreme. Playing a dirty cop, Washington ripped the mold off of what audiences came to expect, bringing a breath of fresh air and a fun, dark, twisted movie with it. Washington won his second Academy Award, this time for Best Actor (becoming only the second black actor to win that award, and the first to win two Oscars). Hawke turns in a great performance, too, but is, unfortunately, completely overshadowed by Washington's near-perfect performance. The film itself is quick-witted and dastardly dark.


Directed by Jonathan Demme

Starring Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, Mary Steenburgen

Box Office: $77 million

While the film, understandably, gives top-billing to Oscar winner Tom Hanks, Washington's turn is just as equally stunning and important. The two actors take a no-holds-barred approach to the story, one of the first in Hollywood to tackle the AIDS epidemic, resulting in a harrowing story of anguish, pity, and trying to survive. The story may have been tough to swallow, but Hanks and Washington both prove that even the hardest stories to tell are sometimes to most important. The film won a huge amount of accolades, including Hanks' first Oscar.

© 2018 by Scottie Knollin.