In the late 1990s, Washington established himself as a leading man with starring turns in Mo’ Better Blues (1990), Mississippi Masala (1991), the courtroom drama Philadelphia (1993), and the thriller Crimson Tide (1995).
Edward Zwick’s Civil War drama earned him an Oscar nomination for his performance as Private Tripp, the runaway slave who joined a black union regiment.
Glory is the story of the first African-American unit in the Civil War. The film stars Matthew Broderick and Morgan Freeman and is directed by Antoine Fuqua.
Washington won an Oscar for his performance as Trip, a defiant slave soldier who joins the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment and is challenged by the brutality of his fellow black soldiers. His performance was powerful and harrowing. He followed this with a series of challenging roles in films like Cry Freedom and For Queen and Country. He also starred in the dramas Out of Time and Man on Fire.
Training Day (2001)
Despite two Oscars to his name, Denzel Washington still isn’t fully appreciated. While he’s best known for his roles as Civil Rights icons and determined lawyers, he can also deliver a chilling performance as a straight-up villain.
He stars as a Los Angeles narcotics detective with a twisted past in director Antoine Fuqua’s Training Day, which is an unflinching parable about policing that disavows the Hollywood-perpetuated cliche of smug streetwise cops.
Other films from this period include Spike Lee’s He Got Game (1998), which portrays a prison inmate and top-ranked high school basketball player.
Antwone Fisher (2002)
In this drama, Navy seaman Antwone Fisher (Derek Luke) is sent to a psychiatrist because of his short temper. At first, he refuses to talk, but then begins to open up about his painful past of abuse.
This drama about a man trying to build a new life after leaving prison has a powerful and moving message. It won a number of awards and was nominated for an Oscar. It’s one of Washington’s best films.
The Great Debaters (2007)
The Great Debaters is a drama about the real-life debate team that led Wiley College in East Texas to debating glory in the 1930s. Washington stars as Melvin Tolson, the team’s fearless coach.
The pelispedia film is fairly mature fare, tackling racism in all its brutality and capturing a time when Southern doors, drinking fountains and bus seats were marked “white only.” It even includes a scene depicting a lynching, although it’s not gratuitous or overly shocking.
This is a powerful and moving movie. The acting is excellent, and the plot is intriguing.
American Gangster (2009)
American Gangster is a drama about Harlem drug kingpin Frank Lucas. Washington and Russell Crowe deliver compelling performances in this film, which explores themes of loyalty and betrayal.
In this thriller, Washington portrays a DEA agent who investigates a case of smuggled drugs in the United States. The movie received positive reviews from critics and audiences alike. It also stars Chris Pine and Jodie Foster. The movie was directed by Antoine Fuqua. This was Washington’s first collaboration with the director after Training Day. It was a hit at the box office.
The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (2009)
Despite not being one of the best Denzel Washington movies, this Antoine Fuqua film is a terrific example of his considerable onscreen power. In the unshowy role of a Navy psychiatrist, he provides empathy and patience to help troubled sailor Antwone Fisher overcome his rage issues.
In this time travel thriller, he plays ATF agent Doug Carlin, who uses a device to travel back four days in order to prevent a terrorist attack. It’s a thrilling and intense film for all the family to enjoy. 7.5/10.
The Book of Eli (2010)
In this post-apocalyptic drama, Washington stars as a lone wanderer who is protecting a book that could be the wellspring of humanity’s revival—or, in the hands of a despot, its downfall. He keeps his blade sharp and his survival instincts strong as he traverses a ravaged wasteland.
In this drama, Washington portrays Melvin B. Tolson, a college debate team coach who helps his students overcome racial barriers. This film earned him a nomination for an Academy Award. Other notable films in Washington’s career include Cry Freedom, The Mighty Quinn, and For Queen and Country.
In this thriller based on a true story, Washington stars alongside Chris Pine in the role of rail workers who try to stop a runaway train. It was the final film directed by Tony Scott, who died before completing the movie.
In this Antoine Fuqua-directed crime drama, Denzel Washington plays a detective who must outsmart the bad guys in Los Angeles. This is one of his best performances to date. The movie also features an outstanding supporting turn by Octavia Spencer. The film received positive reviews from critics.
Safe House (2012)
In this tense thriller, Washington plays a sheriff who investigates a serial killer. He delivers a strong performance with subtlety and restraint.
He reprised the role of retired intelligence operative Robert McCall in this sequel to the 2014 film directed by Antoine Fuqua. The movie is an intense and kinetic action flick with solid performances from Washington and Chris Pine. It’s a serviceable espionage thriller but not as good as Training Day or Unstoppable. It’s also a bit too predictable. The movie is still worth watching.
Washington continued to impress in a diverse range of roles, from futuristic thriller The Book of Eli to August Wilson classic Fences. He also starred in 2012’s Harrowing Flight as an alcoholic pilot who must deal with his alcoholism while attempting to land a dangerous flight.
In his directorial debut, Washington delivers an unshowy performance as the Navy psychiatrist whose empathy and patience help troubled sailor Antwone Fisher (Derek Luke) overcome resentment and anger. This meditative drama showcases Washington’s trademark laid-back professionalism.