Best Denzel Washington Movies: Top 5 Films Most Recommended By Experts

Few actors have established an illustrious career like Denzel Washington. Spanning decades, his talent is unrivaled while his transformative ability to breathe life into every role is legendary. Known as a meticulous master of his craft, Denzel’s brilliance extends beyond the silver screen and has broken down cultural barriers across the globe. From high-octane thrillers to heart-wrenching dramas,  the best Denzel Washington movies keep us coming back time and time again. 

Using his acting success as a springboard, Denzel’s significant presence in social activism and philanthropy has had incredible benefits for people from all walks of life. Moreover, he’s been a consistent advocate for diversity and equal representation in the entertainment industry. This is invaluable as a recent study found that 60 percent of children don’t feel represented in the books they read – because of their gender or ethnicity. And given that 44 percent of children would like to see more people like themselves in movies, it’s empowering to know that Denzel is leading the way

However, the generosity of Denzel Washington doesn’t stop there. He’s incredibly well-known for fostering the next generation of actors. For instance, without his contributions, the beloved Chadwick Boseman may have missed his opportunity for movie stardom. Considered a master alchemist of the silver screen, the magic of his performances is everlasting. From joy, laughter, sorrow, love, and triumph, Denzel puts on an acting masterclass every time we hit play. 

From his timeless classics to his recent blockbuster hits, the best Denzel Washington movies leave you star-struck and ready to watch another. For these reasons, we’ve compiled a list of the top Denzel Washington movies as voted by popularity, box office success, and career impact. Don’t happen to see your favorite film? Let us know in the comments below! 

two people eating popcorn and watching a movie
Two people watching TV (Photo by on Pexels)

The List: Denzel Washington Movies, According to Fans


1. “American Gangster” (2007)

A gripping crime epic, Denzel Washington plays a formidable drug kingpin in the 1970s. Based on true events, Denzel portrays Frank Lucas, whose charm and ruthlessness allow him to control the drug trade in Harlem. As Movie Web describes, “Lucas works as a driver for one of the most powerful mobsters in Harlem.” It isn’t until “After his employer passes away that he turns into one of the most prominent criminal lords.” Adding depth, excitement, and blue-collar grit to the counter role, Russell Crowe plays Detective Richie Roberts who pursues Lucas after “noticing a shift in the mob’s hierarchy.” 

“American Gangster” (2007)
“American Gangster” (2007)

Despite knowing that Washington’s character is in the wrong, his performance is so captivating that you almost want to start cheering for him. That’s how mesmerizing of a performance Denzel delivers in this film. But don’t take our word for it, as Gold Derby says,”Washington is electrifying and he proves he’s really good at playing the bad guy.”  Additionally, “Ruby Dee who plays Frank’s mother, had an Oscar-nominated supporting performance.”

An engrossing narrative, master stage presence, and outstanding performances – what’s not to love about this classic. There’s a reason why “American Gangster” is one of the best Denzel Washington movies of all time. As Thrillist writes, “Working with Director Ridley Scott, Denzel encapsulated being both bad and badass in his performance as drug kingpin Frank Lucas.” His performance “was truly memorable” and revolved around a “scary-yet-sophisticated self-made entrepreneur, making a lot of money and a lot of enemies as the No. 1 drug supplier during the ’70s.”

2. “Training Day” (2001)

“Training Day” is a morally abrasive crime thriller that takes you on a gut-wrenching rollercoaster of emotions from start to finish. And in this role, Denzel is NOT the good guy! As Time Out breaks down, “After years playing noble, Oscar-friendly heroes, Denzel scored his first Best Actor win as the dirtiest cop in the LAPD.” Portraying Detective Alonzo Harris, Denzel “became an icon of screen evil, and it’s all due to his performance.” In his role, “he’s genuinely creepy and so unashamedly vicious and corrupt you wish he played bad guys more often.”

“Training Day” (2001)
“Training Day” (2001)

If the murky waters of corrupt narcotic officers and moral dilemmas interest you, then “Training Day” is a must watch film. And with Denzel’s impeccable performance, there’s absolutely no doubt as to how he won an Academy Award. As The Digital Fix mentions, “Washington won his second Oscar for his role as the dirty LAPD detective Alonzo Harris.” Backed with supporting actor, Ethan Hawke, “Training Day‘s thrills come from never being able to pin Alonzo down.” Overall, “It’s an exciting story of corruption and morality with unpredictable turns.”

“Training Day” serves as a testament to Denzel’s prowess and excellence as an actor. Cutting into the dark underbelly of the Los Angeles streets, Denzel is corrupt, gritty, and unpredictable. More impressive, however, is how “Washington is the first black performer to win the Academy Award as Best Actor after 38 years,” states Gold Derby. For added depth, “Washington plays Alonzo Harris, a rogue LAPD detective who shows a young rookie the ropes.” All in all, “Washington is electrifying in a rare villainous performance.”

3. “Remember the Titans” (2000)

Remember the Titans is a heartwarming tale of unity and triumph. Playing Coach Herman Boone, Washington touches the mind, hearts, and souls of all who watches and reminds us, deep down, that we’re all human and deserve to be treated as such. As Film Life Style describes, “‘Remember the Titans’ is a sports drama film that is based on the true story of the integration of a high school football team in Alexandria, Virginia, during the early 1970s.” As the head coach, “Coach Boone faces numerous challenges as he strives to unite a racially divided team and build a winning football program.” At its core, “The film explores themes of race, prejudice, teamwork, and leadership.”

Denzel is an absolute driving force in this heartwarming sports drama. Through his performance, “Remember the Titans” is remembered as one of the best Denzel Washington movies of all time. As We Got This Covered writes, “It’s easy for a movie like Remember the Titans to be overly inspirational and melodramatic” but instead this “character-driven drama went on to become an American classic” whose powerful message is “as timeless as Washington’s performance.” 

This is more than a movie. It celebrates the triumph and resilience of the human spirit. “There’s a reason why ‘Remember the Titans’ is a popular favorite for teachers hoping to mollify their students for two hours,” claims Gold Derby. Directed by Boaz Yakin, this “sports movie is a rousing and effective inspirational story” and is “an absolute crowd pleaser.”

4. “Malcolm X” (1992)

Bringing Malcolm X to life is no small feat – and Denzel Washington absolutely crushes it as the influential civil rights leader. As you’ll agree, Denzel does a masterful job at further cementing the life and legacy of this great leader. Like Giant Freakin Robot raves, “Denzel Washington has done a few different biopics, but this is clearly his best.” Directed by Spike Lee, “Malcolm X in the eponymously-named movie” where “Washington fully inhabits the role, bringing charisma, fearlessness, bravado, and humanity to a layered character.”

“Malcolm X” (1992)
“Malcolm X” (1992)

With unparalleled depth and sensitivity, Denzel delivers an Oscar-nominated performance. For these reasons, Malcolm X will continue to be an important biopic for generations to come. As Time Out puts it, “Malcolm X is one of the very few cradle-to-grave biopics that not only justifies its epic sweep but brings a historical figure into better view.” In this role, “Denzel so believably inhabits the role that there is a whole generation who actually believe he’s Malcolm X.” 

At the pinnacle of his career, Denzel starred in Malcolm X. As an outspoken advocate for civil rights and racial equality, Washington’s performance takes us on a transformative journey to another era of our history. “ As Film Lifestyle explains, “The movie follows Malcolm X from his childhood in the Midwest, through his time as a street hustler and his conversion to Islam in prison.” Following his release, “Malcolm X becomes a prominent member of the Nation of Islam” where later on, “as the Civil Rights Movement gains momentum in the 1960s, Malcolm X becomes increasingly critical of the nonviolent approach advocated by others, and he begins to advocate for black self-defense and separatism.”

5. “Glory” (1989)

“Glory” is an emotionally charged true story of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. Through his stellar performance, Denzel won his first Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Playing Silas Trip who is “an obstinate, proud, stubborn, and rebellious former slave,” Denzel’s best moments “comes when the men gather around fires to deliver pre-battle hymns, prayers, and speeches,” writes Slash Film

“Glory” is a true testament to Denzel’s ability to embody the human spirit and bring profound authenticity and emotional depth to any role. There’s a reason he’s an acting powerhouse. “And although it wasn’t his first movie, Glory is what really put Denzel Washington on the map,” states Giant Freakin Robot. “Washington is a man fighting for respect and dignity amidst clearly horrific circumstances in the Civil War.” His “tour de force performance during the flogging scene is among the most emotional and brutal you will see in a film.”

The historical significance and relevance permeating from Glory is unmatched. To this day, it is a timeless classic about unforgettable courage, sacrifice, and injustice. We Got This Covered says the film is definitely something to add to your watchlist. They point out his “breathtaking performance where tears slowly roll down his eyes while being brutally flogged.”

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.


  1. 1) The Hurricane, 2) Malcolm X,
    3) Training Day, 4) American Gangster, and 5) Glory.
    The Hurricane, IMO, is the Oscars’ GREATEST ERROR.

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