The Countdown: Top Ten Denzel Washington Movies

| October 5, 2016

Denzel Washington.  One of the great actors of our time.  His work truly does speak for itself, so let’s get right to it, but first, I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I have not seen Malcolm X, or Philadelphia.  Both are supposedly film classics and important, but I haven’t managed to make the time to watch  them.  They’re on the list though!  Well, the list of movies I’ve never seen that I need to.  Not this list.  That was clear, right?


Honorable Mention:  2 Guns (2013)
Dir. Baltasar Kormakur
Denzel seems like a man who loves being an actor, and every once in a while he makes a movie that doesn’t have a ton of substance to it, but is just pure fun.  This action comedy with Mark Wahlburg is exactly that and while I may never watch the movie again, it’s not because I didn’t enjoy it a great deal.

10. Flight (2012)
Dir. Robert Zemeckis
This should be much higher on my list.  Denzel, Goodman, Zemeckis, no brainer.  A while back, Paul and Wayne did a Countdown episode about movies that “died in the ass” meaning that they were perfectly good films that didn’t end strongly and it more or less ruined the rest of the movie.  Flight is an excellent movie.  Well acted, well directed, gorgeously shot, and a really frightening look at what alcoholism can do to a man, but in the end I couldn’t buy his admitting to his addiction and accepting the consequences.  Didn’t feel earned to me.

09. American Gangster (2007)
Dir. Ridley Scott
I put off seeing this for a long time because Ridley Scott (in my opinion) makes more bad movies than good and I didn’t fancy sitting through a 3 hour crime drama from someone with such a spotty track record.  Actually, the movie is quite good, and the 3 hours races by as you see things unfold between Washington’s character and Russell Crowe’s.  I’m actually surprised this isn’t remembered as a better film than its immediate obscurity would have you believe.

08. John Q (2002)
Dir. Nick Cassavetes
Kind of a modern day Dog Day Afternoon except with higher stakes since Denzel is taking an emergency room hostage to get a transplant for his kid.  Admittedly, I haven’t seen this in years, and my liking of it may be colored by the nostalgia of visiting this old run-down dollar theater near my house with my friends, but I remember this being a great movie with human characters you really care about.

07. Crimson Tide (1995)
Dir. Tony Scott
It makes me chuckle seeing that this is Tony Scott, a director I’ve never been the biggest fan of.  No disrespect, Tony.  Rest in peace.  There’s so much to like about this film.  I like the small, theatrical setting of a submarine.  It makes the tension between the two leads that much more powerful.  Denzel and Gene Hackman are both stellar as men living in a very chaotic and confusing situation and trying to do what is right.  Great stuff.

06. The Bone Collector (1999)
Dir. Phillip Noyce
I have a pretty good track record for guessing who the murderer is in various movie mysteries.  I guessed that Maggie Simpson shot Mr. Burns, I guessed that Monica Potter kidnapped that girl in Along Came a Spider, and I guessed that that one guy from Bone Collector was clearly doing it all.  It’s a very complicated deductive process I have where I pick the person I least suspect and run with it.  Unfortunately, it works more often than not, but this is still a fun movie with a great dynamic between Denzel’s character and a young Angelina Jolie, who has to be his eyes in the field since he’s confined to a hospital bed.

05. Glory (1989)
Dir. Edward Zwick
I tend to take movies based on true events with a grain of salt.  They get blown out of proportion and sensationalized to better appeal to their audience and there’s something manipulative about that to me.  That being said, if the end result is good, I don’t care of Mark Zuckerberg isn’t really an enormous monster who speaks in Sorkin quips.  So, if Glory is sensationalized, I don’t really care.  The end result is still a great movie.

04. The Magnificent Seven (2016)
Dir. Antoine Fuqua
To start, I’ve never seen the original Magnificent Seven, but even if I had, I’m not as against remakes as everyone else seems to be as long as the new one is an enhancement on the original.  Sometimes the original is perfect and can’t be improved upon, so I know it’s going to be bad, but I was able to go into this completely ignorant of its roots in spaghetti westerns and Japanese cinema.  That being said, I thought this movie was a blast start to finish.  A great ensemble of cool heroes, a strong female lead, no messages of race shoved down the audience’s throat, and a pretty menacing villain.

03. Training Day (2001)
Dir. Antoine Fuqua
I considered putting this further down my list simply because it has spawned a ton of movies about corrupt cops, most of which are boring and unwatchable.  Hard to deny the quality of this though, and it’s hard to condemn so many movies for trying to capture the same magic and inevitably falling short.  Even Antoine Fuqua tried to make the same movie a couple of times and fell well short of the mark.

02. Remember The Titans (2000)
Dir. Boaz Yakin
There will always be a special place in my heart for this one.  Besides launching so many careers, it utilized some wonderfully seasoned actors in a variety of roles to look at racism surrounding a high school football team.  The story is maybe even more relevant today when every week there’s new video of some cop gunning down a black kid for no reason at all.  Devestating.  Black lives matter, guys.

01. The Equalizer (2014)
Dir. Antoine Fuqua
When Paul and Wayne announced this week’s list, this was the first movie that popped into my head, and as I went through Denzel’s filmography to find what ten movies would be my top ten, I couldn’t justify putting any of them over this.  First of all, I had no interest in watching this.  I thought it looked stupid, so when I got a free digital copy of the movie from my girlfriend’s father, I put it on figuring it would be worth a laugh or two.  But it is absolutely amazing how much fun this movie is.  I recently pitched it to a friend of mine as “Home Alone if Kevin McCallister were a 60 year old black man who works at Home Depot.”  How do you not want to see that movie?!  My expectations being so low may have helped, but for now I am super excited that they are in production on the sequel.

Don’t forget to check out The Countdown: Movie and TV Reviews Podcast wherever podcasts are found, follow the guys on twitter @TheCountdownPC and rate and review them on itunes to help them find a bigger audience.  Next week, Paul and Wayne will be discussing the Top Ten Movies Set at Sea while discussing the new Mark Wahlburg movie Deep Water Horizon.  Can’t wait.

About the Author:

Joe Ketchum Joe Sanders is a podcaster, playwright, and college instructor in Kalamazoo, MI. He has a master's degree in playwriting and a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Western Michigan University, where he currently teaches thought and writing, and is the host of the Quote Unquote Guilty podcast, part of the Word Salad Network.

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