Reel Rankings | Denzel Washington

by Tim Gordon

Since bursting on the scene in a forgettable light comedy, Denzel Washington has defined excellence and artistry for close to four decades. Over the course of his storied award-winning career, Washington has become defined as one of the greatest actors of his generation who is as known for his classic leading man features, piercing intensity, and his ability to not just get into character but simply BE them.

His 47th film, The Equalizer 2 finally finds Washington in a sequel and we take the time to examine the evolution of a performer who is adept at turning in one performance after another as he is in the roles that he chooses. While many have debated the secret to Washington’s career longevity, no one has questioned his prestigious talent which has garnered him nine Academy Award and Golden Globes nominations (two wins each, including the Cecille B. Demille Award), a Tony Award, twenty Black Reel Awards nominations (seven wins),  and a host of other accolades cementing his rich legacy as a true industry titan.

It’s clear that Washington understands the business of film. In a recent interview with fellow Oscar winner, Jamie Foxx on “Off Script,” Washington remarked, “You want people to go I can’t wait to see him not we see him everywhere . . . I think if you drink too much water, you’ll drown. You want to keep some mystery, keep things quiet so that you build up to the next movie,” stated Washington. “Branding for an actor is being good NOT being known.”

We decided to rank Washington’s best dozen performances as a living testament to a career with few equals. Among the pantheon of greats who have made their mark as leading men, Washington’s consistent and impactful performances place him squarely in the company of such legendary figures as Brando, Olivier, Tracy, DeNiro, Pacino, Day-Lewis, Nicholson, Stewart, Hopkins, Newman, Poitier, as well as countless others.

Here are Washington’s Top Dozen Performances . . . .