Denzel Washington

Denzel Washington in The Book of Eli

Denzel Washington in “The Book of Eli”

One of the most passionate actors in film history, Denzel Washington has the rare talent of saving even the worst films from complete failure with his vigorous and powerful performances. Carving his own name into the history books in 2001, Denzel became the first African-American male to win an Oscar for Best Actor in 40 years – the same year that Halle Berry became the first African-American female in her top category. Regardless of his single golden statue, Denzel has either received or deserved a nomination for his intense onscreen feats nearly every year, an indisputable testament to his incomparable ability as an actor. Brought up in the house of a preacher father and a gossiping, beautician mother in the late 50’s and early 60’s, Denzel’s future love for the dramatic arts was initially sparked from listening to the burning sermons and zealous storytelling of his parents. After attending Fordham University for journalism, Denzel quickly became fascinated with theater, after appearing in a number of student-run productions, and continued his acting lessons at the American Conservatory Theater on a scholarship. Although he made his very first film appearance in 1981, Denzel’s claim to fame came only a year later as Dr. Phillip Chandler on the popular drama “St. Elsewhere.”

While a cast member on “St. Elsewhere,” Denzel used his spare time to further his film career with an Oscar-nominated performance in “Cry Freedom” and an Oscar-winning performance for Best Supporting Actor in the historical slave drama “Glory.” In the early 90’s, Denzel had already become a well-known actor in the business, but he continued to solidify his reputation as the leading African-American actor with critically acclaimed collaborations alongside celebrated director Spike Lee like “Malcolm X” and “He Got Game,” as well as blockbuster thrillers like “The Pelican Brief,” “Crimson Tide” and “The Bone Collector” with Hollywood’s A-listers. He has continuously made his mark nearly every year with nominations and rave reviews – even in horrible films like “John Q” – resisting the urge of taking on popcorn-action roles with his over-the-top star status. Denzel has instead used his popularity for other causes as a spokesman for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, the Gathering Place and the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund. In 2002, Denzel made his first Hollywood credit off-screen when he ducked behind the camera in “Antwone Fisher” as the film’s director. With so many pretty boys rushing the Hollywood screens with their good looks and lack of talent, Denzel bypasses most men’s jealously even after being named countless times to People’s “50 Most Beautiful People List” and having been used as a major case point in a Newsweek article about the scientific explanation behind beauty. Whatever the medium, he has managed to stay true to his dramatic roots and never surrenders to a weak script with a lazy performance; Denzel has become a reigning lion in a kingdom of bratty cubs.

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Check out our list of 10 overlooked and underappreciated movies from Denzel Washington’s career.

10 overlooked and underappreciated movies from Denzel Washington's career

Denzel on the Screen

Denzel’s impressive run as an actor doesn’t show signs of wear and perhaps never will. It’s true what they say about wine, though it could probably be applied to Denzel as well: he gets better with age. After his six-year run on the NBC drama “St. Elsewhere,” Denzel quickly became a recognized face in Hollywood with consistently positive reviews and numerous nominations for Golden Globes and Oscars. Among his best films include the Civil War epic, “Glory,” the Spike Lee-directed biopic, “Malcolm X” and “Philadelphia” alongside Tom Hanks. In the 90’s, Denzel went on a cold streak for nominations, but continued to pump out excellent pictures like “Crimson Tide,” “He Got Game” and “The Bone Collector.” His most recent films include his Oscar-winning performance in “Training Day,” his Oscar-nominated performance in “The Hurricane,” “John Q” and the revenge thriller “Man on Fire.”

Denzel Quotes:

On choosing performance over action films:
“I like talking. I like acting. Running and jumping and ducking bullets is not my idea of a good day.”