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Denzel's Top Five

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Mark Kermode | 10:10 UK time, Tuesday, 21 February 2012

This week's guest on the 5 Live show will be Denzel Washington talking about his new film, Safe House.

Here I pick my five favourites among all his films - not necessarily the ones you would expect.

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Related Reviews
The Book of Eli
The Taking of Pelham 1,2,3

Mark's reviews on 5 live
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Hear Mark Kermode review the week's new films every Friday from 2pm on BBC Radio 5 live. Kermode & Mayo's Film Review is also available as a free podcast to download and keep.



  • Comment number 1.

    Hi Mark,

    Big fan of Denzil's work also a big fan of yourself but having seen that list that may be at an end. How can Malcolm X not be in your top 5? It is the role which defines him, the one that separates him from the others and above all everyone knows when he won an Oscar for Training Day he didn't win it for Training Day, it was purely belated recognition for Malcolm X.

    Other notable omissions are American Gangster, and Philadelphia that said I give you credit for Inside Man and Glory both good shouts.

  • Comment number 2.

    Ricochet, completely forgot about that one! damn good film

  • Comment number 3.

    Deja Vu is all together a bizarre, self destructive and flatly executed film - yet Denzel probably puts in one of the best performances I've ever seen, filling the void with a character both driven & awkward, injecting a great sense of uneasy charisma into every line of dialogue. He singlehandedly raises a poor project into something remarkably watchable.

  • Comment number 4.

    I always have slight issues that his persona so dominates his roles that he is always Denzel in whatever he plays. Always good but always Denzel (e.g. even in "Hurricane", its Denzel)
    Anyway, my tuppence worth - I have a soft spot for the slightly off-kilter "Fallen". Detective film with a nice twist.

  • Comment number 5.

    He is usually pretty Likeable, however I always felt that the Training Day Oscar was a make up Oscar for him missing out earlier. My favourite Denzel film is Malcolm X but I also really like Inside Man, Dejavu was fun too if you can look past the plot.

  • Comment number 6.

    American Gangster is under-appreciated I think, think it will be a film looked back on as a film in the same mould of contemporary gangster classics like Goodfellas and Casino. Though not as good as either of them still well made, well acted and enjoyable.

    However, what I really wanted to mention was Fallen. I watched this on DVD years back with a few friends and Denzel was exceptionally sinister in it. The refrain of "Time is on my side" became an in-joke amongst us.

  • Comment number 7.

    +1 for Fallen.

  • Comment number 8.

    Hi Mark,

    I'm a big fan of Denzel, as I'm sure most people are. First of all, though, it's probably right to point out that he actually did win an Oscar for Glory. He made headlines for being the first African-American since Sidney Poitier to win Best Actor, but it was his second Oscar win, as he was awarded Best Supporting Actor for Glory in 1990.

    Anyway, outside of the ones mentioned, I think he is terrific in He Got Game (replete with a fabulous Afro), Philadelphia & Much Ado About Nothing. Also, let us not forget his other role in an Edward Zwick film, Courage Under Fire, opposite Meg Ryan as a helicopter pilot.

  • Comment number 9.

    +1 for He Got Game. I absolutely love that film.
    I'd forgotten about Book of Eli, I'll seek that out.
    His submarine sparring with Gene Hackman in Crimson Tide is epic.

  • Comment number 10.

    I'm so glad someone else loved Book of Eli! I thought it was great fun and the cream on the cake was "Miss Jones" turning up as a mad cannibal pensioner. Beat that!

  • Comment number 11.

    Inside Man is an excellent heist movie although personally I don't think Denzel is that good in it by his own high standards.

    His greatest performance has to be Alley Mugger #1 in Death Wish.

  • Comment number 12.

    The first thing that came to mind when I saw the title of this blog was 'Fallen'.
    I'm also surprised that no one has mentioned Man on Fire yet. Denzel's role in that film is outstanding, and one of his most entertaining.

  • Comment number 13.

    I seem to remember Inside Man got pretty good reviews when it was released, did very well at the box office too. Excellent film, good too see it in Mark's list.

  • Comment number 14.

    Makes me really happy to hear that you liked the Book of Eli, Dr. K. It was, for my money, the most underrated movie of the last 10 years alongside The Fountain.

  • Comment number 15.

    Man On Fire, Courage Under Fire and crimson Tide are all better then The Book of Eli.

  • Comment number 16.

    Denzil Washington is one of the very few black actors not to be trapped in 'black' roles. Whoopi Goldberg and Morgan Freeman could do a lot more than the wise black mentor to the white hero, but seemingly never do. Even Laurence Fishburne strays into that terratory (eg. The Matrix).

    But somehow Washington manages to land both roles where race is central to the character's identity (Driving Miss Daisy, Malcom X), and completely colourblind roles (Manchurian Candidate, Hurricane).

    And he has that difficult to define 'screen presence' which makes unremarkable films like The Bone Collector enjoyable - and rewatchable.

    One day someone's going to work out how to manufacture 'presence', and we'll get new golden age of actors.

  • Comment number 17.

    While I do love Inside Man not just for denzel but also the delicious Clive Owen my top five would look a bit different.

    Firstly, the political movies, I first saw him in cry freedom as a kid and that film changed the way i look at the world so there's cry freedom, Malcolm X, and the hurricane.

    My view of denzel was however dramatically altered in my late teens by Much Ado about Nothing where he wore a pair of leather trousers that did not lead to thoughts of politics to say the least.

    But my favourite performance has to be him going head to head with Gene Hackman in Crimson Tide. Just brilliant.

  • Comment number 18.

    Washington has made a number of films with Tony Scott: "Deja Vu", "Man on Fire", "Unstoppable", "The Taking of Pelham 123", and my favourite Washington role is also my favourite Tony Scott film. Their first collaboration: "Crimson Tide". It's a movie I keep going back to and always find very absorbing. Scott's direction has never been tighter and I'd like to see him do something else that claustrophobic, rather than the shaky cam aesthetic he seems wedded to now.

    In "Crimson Tide", Washington raises his game to face down his co-star, Gene Hackman, and both make each other better. This is often the case when great actors face off, like Samuel L. Jackson and Kevin Spacey in the otherwise mediocre "The Negotiator", and of course, Al Pacino and Robert De Niro in "Heat". "Crimson Tide" belongs in that category as well - two great actors made all the better by going head-to-head. Now what if Washington co-starred with Ryan Gosling...

  • Comment number 19.

    5. Man On Fire. Great to see him play the kind of Charles Bronson hard ass role, but Tony Scott goes mad with distracting MTV subtitles.

    4. I actually like Philadelphia. Opera scene aside Denzel Washington is pretty good in it. In the less showey role.

    3. Its good to see Richocet getting some attention finally but I think John Lithgow is a bit of a panto villain and almost kills it.
    Lithgow: " I'm gonna go to you house. Im gonna f.... your daughter. I'm gonna f.... your wife. Hell I may even f.... your dog!"

    2. Guilty Pleasure alert! Heart Condition with Bob Hoskins.

    1. Glory. Nuff said.

    Yet to see Devil In A Blue Dress, Book Of Eli but thanks for the tip!

  • Comment number 20.

    For me, Denzel's best performance has to be in Courage Under Fire.

    There are so many others who distinguish themselves in that film; Meg Ryan, Matt Damon, but Washington leads the pack with his psychologically scarred war veteran. The haunted look of Denzel's character not only elevates the emotional intensity of the film, but also shows why he is such a great actor.

  • Comment number 21.

    I'm looking forward to the Mayonator's interview with Denzel as the last one was a little "frosty" if I remember? What I would love to know is why Mr washington subscribes to the "thespeatian" school of acting - spending large parts of a role munching on something while speaking. He has of course been usurped by Brad Pitt - who if I recall - spent pretty much all of the 2nd oceand film wolfing down and spitting snacks. Also is DW aware that he has cultivated an "affectation" over the years which is a cross between a yawn and imaginary masticating?

  • Comment number 22.

    To me Denzel's strongest performance was The Hurricane, which I would not especially rate highly as a film in general, Denzel carried the role with sincerity and heart.

  • Comment number 23.


  • Comment number 24.

    How can you leave out Man on Fire? (Trying too hard to be "alternative" perhaps? I kid! lots of love). Fantastic film and performance. SPOILERS. His touching scene with Dakota Fanning on the bridge at the end never ceases to bring tears to my eyes.

  • Comment number 25.

    I for one didn't like "Inside Man" or "The book of Eli" as I remember them both relying on rubbish twists too much that I didn't care for. I think most people accept though that even if the movie is no good, Denzel will always make it worth watching at least once. My top five would have to be:

    #5 - "American Gangster" was a decent effort from Ridley Scott. Nothing really wrong with it, but still doesn't stick in the memory for many.

    #4 - Recently watched "The Bone collector" which displays Denzel's great ability to steal the show even from the confines of a bed.

    #3 - "Fallen" is strangely unheard of for a film that stars John Goodman, Donald Sutherland and Mr Washington. A great, original thriller, definitely worth the watch.

    #2 - "Training Day" is the signature Denzel Washington performance movie I think. I was recently talking with a friend about how great the whole thing is but how different or even boring it could have become if the Alonso role was played by someone else. Every word spoken and action taken is delivered with such charisma.

    #1 - Even though I don't nessasarily consider it his best performance though, my favourite Denzel film would have to be "Man on Fire". Maybe it's length, slightly dark subject matter or slow build up is why this one never gets talked about but I love it. A film of two halves, brings strong emotional bonds towards the start and a believable vengeance story afterwards. I hope one day this film will get the publicity and acclaim it deserves.

  • Comment number 26.

    Queue everyone quickly visiting IMDB for films he has been in...

    For me, it is The Manchurian Candidate. I just loved everything about this film. I love political films, and conspiracy films, and Denzel was great in it.

  • Comment number 27.

    Hi Mark
    Some crackers in there but I think my 2 top Denzel movies would have to be Man on Fire and Training Day - Both powerhouse performances from a truly great actor.

  • Comment number 28.

    I was always disappointed that Devil in a Blue Dress didn't do better (in H'wood's financial estimate) and lead to Denzel doing more of Walter Mosley's books. I once was introduced by a friend to Mosley, they were sharing a book reading as they were both on the Serpent's Tail imprint in the UK at the time. It's a shame as there are too few franchises actually built around good literary works.

    Denzel's almost always worth watching, and you could easily make a list of his films that just wouldn't work without him, starting with all the Tony Scott's. The Pelham remake was almost entirely hateful except for his performance, although even he doesn't quite carry off the rubbish script's ending. Fallen, which many have noted, is a nice little genre flick, that even if you guess the twists is enjoyably watchable due to Denzel. Inside Man is a good solid Bmovie given an A list patina with his performance. Despite all this, nothing could convince me to watch more than just the trailer of Unstoppable.

  • Comment number 29.

    Sadly I've not seen many Denzel Washington films, not because I don't like him, but more because his recent stuff is mediocre Tony Scott fare, and his olde rstuff I just haven't got round to seeing.
    Although, I do really like Philadelphia, even though that's more of a Tom Hanks vehicle than a Washington one. I know that the court scenes are a little cliche, but nonetheless Washington's good in the film, Hanks gives one of his best performances ever, and the last scenes of the film are really touching.

  • Comment number 30.

    Following on from Max Marriott, I'm not sure his relationship with Tony Scot is altogether healthy. I think the occasional "no thanks Tony" might be in order. His last, Unstoppable, was a bit of a clunker. Crimson Tide is better.

    For me Washington's best have been: Glory, Cry Freedom, Malcolm X (to link to a previous thread this should have been his Best Actor Oscar-winning performance and not the slightly overblown Training Day), Mo' Better Blues and The Hurricane. He is, undoubtedly though, a STAR!

    His most bizarre performance was in Queen and Country where he played an ex-Falkland War veteran from London. Strange!

  • Comment number 31.

    I'm quite clearly in the minority here, looking at the above posts, or maybe it's simply that people of a similar persuasion have decided somewhat wisely to keep quiet; i really don't rate Denzel.

    Yes he's fairly entertaining in the majority of films but i don't think i've ever seen a performance that merits the sometimes, in my opinion, overglowing reviews from critics and fans alike. He is, as pointed out above, Denzel in every single film. In itself this isn't such a bad thing, like i said he's usually quite entertaining and i'd infinitely prefer to watch him in a film than another actor quilty of the same thing, Daniel "Granite Face" Craig.

    It's just that when you look at other Oscar winners down the years or indeed anyone with the same level of critical acclaim, he simply doesn't stack up with the best.

    I suppose ambivalence best summizes my feelings towards his work.

  • Comment number 32.

    Firstly to anyone who named "The Manchurian Candidate"... shame on you and please watch the original, it's one of 5 best American films ever made.

    Onto Denzel.... I like Book of Eli and Inside Man very much my top 5 would be....

    1. "Malcolm X", There just ins't much to say except damn
    2. "Training Day", very fine performance unfairly bashed now as a "it's his time oscar award".
    3. "American Gangster", easily the best American gangster film since "A Bronx Tale", I wouldn't count the Tarantino stuff as gangster films and one of Ridley Scott's finest films and best collaboration with Russell Crowe.
    4. "Inside Man", one of my favourite Spike Lee films, Denzel is great but it's really Clive Owen's show.
    5. "The Book of Eli", criminally underrated post-apocalyptic film which some nice nods to older films... note boy & his dog poster.

  • Comment number 33.

    Okay, this is your list of FAVORITES, so how can anyone say that you're wrong, Dr. K? However, if this was a list of DW's BEST films then I would be screaming things at my computer monitor like "Where is American Gangster on this list? Is Ridley Scott's political affinity the reason that you just can't bring yourself to be more than lukewarm towards any of his films?"

    Or... 'Why is Malcolm X not at the top of your list? Clearly that is the defining role... the shining light... in Washington's spotty career filled with mediocre films. It was the proverbial 'role of a lifetime' in which he (and Clint Eastwood for Unforgiven) lost in the Best Actor category at the Academy Awards to Al Pacino doing an obnoxious Foghorn Leghorn imitation in a cheesy coming of age film (The 'superior, more well informed' awards ceremony didn't even NOMINATE him). The to make matters worse, the Oscars give him the award for 'Training Day' a second cop film where Washington himself played a cartoon character. Clearly Malcolm X is the Best film of Washington's career. I even have it in my Top 100 films of the 1990s ( ). It's that good."

    Or... "Ricochet? RICOCHET?! Are you just trying to sound 'knowledgeable' by picking a little seen film in his career? I saw that when it came out and there's a REASON it's obscure. IT'S HORRIBLE. The only thing good about the film is that the cinematography was fairly slick for a 'cop action film' made in the early 1990s. That's it. And I DO NOT believe that an actor can have a great performance in a terrible film. If the acting was not good enough to 'save' a film from itself, then it's not deserving of noteworthy praise."

    But... "I did like one of the films on tour list."

    I think the problem with Denzel Washington's films (with the exception of Malcolm X) is that the scripts usually feature several characters in the film letting the audience know that he's "the smartest guy in the room" or "he's the best detective in New York" or "he's the best railway man they've ever worked with" as if Washington himself would not be able to convince the viewers otherwise. I do think Washington is a good actor, but he seems to have the Tom Cruise/Eddie Murphy Ego Syndrome where they only allow themselves to be seen in a certain way in their films. Cruise can get away with that, because he generally only works with the top directors in Hollywood, while Washington has worked with the likes of Brett Leonard, Gregory Hoblit and yes, Russell Mulcahy, who (whom?) have all had less than stellar careers as far as film quality goes.

    But this was your list of FAVORITES, so I really can't disagree with what you like. For me, not being a fan of most of Washington's films, my list would have to be shorter than 5. I also haven't seen Glory or The Book of Eli so I would not be able to make a list that would be completely informed. I will say of the films of Washington that I have seen.... The Pelican Brief, Inside Man, Deja Vu, The Bone Collector, Crimson Tide, (Un)stoppable, etc... I would really only recommend Malcolm X as a 'must see' film.

    Aaaaannnd sorry for the semi-rant. I'm a regular listener of Wittertainment and had to find an illegal way of viewing your Kermode Awards ceremony on The Culture Show (since I live in the US). I enjoy listening to your discussions on film even if I often disagree with your judgments, at times. Carry on.

  • Comment number 34.

    For me this is any easy one: "Fallen."

    Not a well known film. Didn't do much business at the box office, and has since become something of a cult film. Maybe if they had called it "The Devil and Denzel Washington" more people would have gone to see it.

    But regardless of the name, it's still a nice, twisted little supernatural drama. Worth at least one viewing, or in my case---twenty.

  • Comment number 35.

    Correction: "For me this AN easy one."

  • Comment number 36.

    Another vote for Fallen, really underrated, great film with an excellent Denzel Washington performance. "Time is on my side, yes it is."

  • Comment number 37.

    Denzel Washington is, by far, one of the most accomplished and formidable actors of his generation and although widely respected, never seems to be discussed in the debate of great actors, which is, in my humble opinion, a travesty. I was fortunate enough to see him in Julius Caesar on Broadway and he absolutely commanded the stage. To list my top 5, I would go with the following;

    1 Man on Fire

    2 Crimson Tide

    3 Glory

    4 He Got Game

    5 American Gangster

    I'd like to add one more thing if I may, a role I think he was born to play, Denzel Washington would have been the perfect James Bond, charming, witty and debonair? In his sleep. Lethal, calculating, menacing? No problem. A missed opportunity now as he is a bit too advanced in years, but much as I like Daniel Craig's interpretation, Denzel as Bond? You know that would have been fried gold.

  • Comment number 38.

    My Top 5 Denzel movies

    Deja Vu, American Gangster, Inside Man, Training Day, Book of Eli.

    A predictable enough list, but honesty has always been my policy.

  • Comment number 39.

    1. He Got Game
    2. Training Day
    3. Man On Fire
    4. The Manchurian Candidate
    5. Crimson Tide

    In that order

  • Comment number 40.

    Mo' Better Blues is one of both Washington's and Spike Lee's most underrated films and one of his very best performances and perhaps my favourite to remember.
    On the subject of Philadelphia, although far more contrived as a whole than the quality of the performances would suggest, it is remarkable for the weight given to Hanks by Washington's if not quieter, but equally engaging turn.

  • Comment number 41.

    Easy, best performance and film, Crimson Tide, just briliant, great shouting match with Gene Hackman and I love how he says 'nuclear holocaust'. Plus he decked Tarantino on stage, something i think we all wanted to do at somepoint. Also I like the other Tony Scott films Pelham and Unstoppable.

    Glory is also really good, the only good film Ed Zwick ever made.

  • Comment number 42.

    I´m afraid I´m gonna have to say Man On Fire. There´s so much wrong with this film. It´s decadent, cheesy, lurid, and plays to the dumbest levels of vengeance of it´s audiende. But then again I love it. In spite - or maybe because - of all that. And for one of Denzel´s most powerfull performances ever.

  • Comment number 43.

    btw Ricochet? nice call Doc!

  • Comment number 44.

    I too have to cast a vote for Fallen. I really don't understand why the critical opinion was so mixed. I thought it was suspensful, quite creepy, exciting when it needed to be and just a good film.

  • Comment number 45.

    Really glad to see so many mentions of Fallen. It's a really great film, packed to the gills with great performances, lead by Denzel. I also think he's brilliant in Crimson Tide and American Gangster.

  • Comment number 46.

    I love the film Ricochet, glad to see it getting some recognition. I really liked him in Deja Vu, Unstoppable, Out of Time and Man on Fire.

  • Comment number 47.

    Mo' Better Blues for me. Fallen is up there too.

  • Comment number 48.

    #32, @Ian Schultz: ""The Manchurian Candidate" [...] watch the original, it's one of 5 best American films ever made."

    The original is certainly a great film, but the remake isn't a dreadful one. And I think one of the reasons it isn't is...Denzil Washington's performance. Which brings us back to the recent topic of good performances in bad films - or here, mediocre films made pretty good by single performances.

    We seem to have taken the insight that most remakes aren't much good, and turned it into the prejudice the no remake can be *any* good.

  • Comment number 49.

    5... 'Virtuosity'
    4... 'Man on Fire'
    3... 'The Pelican Brief'
    2... 'The Bone Collector'
    1... 'Fallen' (Good ole Gregory Hoblit never disappoints me) :o)

  • Comment number 50.

    I love Denzel Washington as Don Pedro in Kenneth Branagh's "Much Ado About Nothing", great comic timing and Shakespearean clout.

    However, my No. 1 favourite role of his has to be in "Glory". An intense, heartfelt movie, Glory brings the issues of the time - slavery, freedom and sacrifice - down to human scale. Superb performances from Morgan Freeman, Matthew Broderick and a well deserved Best Actor Oscar for Mr W.

  • Comment number 51.

    Man on Fire is the best thing Tony Scott has ever done. In fact its better than most of his brother's recent films and Denzel is startlingly good in it even by his standards. Fallen is pretty good too. I was going to say its underrated but it seems to be getting a lot of votes on the blog!

  • Comment number 52.

    Top 5 Films of Denzel Washington?! I posted a video on YouTube of that very subject 4 years ago! Get your own ideas Kermode! ;-0

  • Comment number 53.

    Crimson Tide, an insanely intense film in which Denzel more than matches the incredible Gene Hackman.

    Also, another shout for American Gangster. I'm not sure how it slipped so far under the radar.

  • Comment number 54.

    I'm unsure if it deserves the plaudit of his best performance, but Fallen always springs to mind when I think of Denzel Washington films.

    It has a good supporting cast and a story that twists and turns all the way to the end.

  • Comment number 55.

    This one is easy....

    1. "Training Day"
    2. "Glory"
    3. "Man on Fire"
    4. "Cry Freedom"
    5. "Inside Man"

  • Comment number 56.


    I ture great hollywood horror thiller. one of the best of all time.

    how dare U forget it.
    Doc K.

    Time is on my side

  • Comment number 57.

    Evening Dr K
    Totally agree with your choices there especially Book of Eli which I loved. Big up for his portrayal of Malcolm X and Steve Biko too. However the talented Mr Washington is one of those actors that when you see him in the cast line up you just know if the film itself isn't going to be right up there, his performance will be, always brings something to the table.

  • Comment number 58.

    I'm too tired right now to give you my top Denzel films right now, Mark, but I will say two things:

    1. Thank you for not including Man of Fire. While a good film, I feel it is clichéd and a very predictable and uninteresting performance by Mr. Washington.

    2. You should have included Philadelphia. A wonderful performance by both the leads (even though I know you dislike Tom Hanks - for reasons that are beyond me). Denzel was edgy, convincing and an utter dick in that movie. Just fantastic. Wonderful performance.

  • Comment number 59.

    My suggestions are

    1. Inside Man- a very well written heist thriller.
    2. The Book of Eli- a good action thriller and the twist is good.
    3. The Taking of Pelham 1.2.3.-another well exeucted thriller with Tony Scott and one of the better films from their collaboration in terms of action set pieces.
    4. Man on Fire-one of the stronger performances Denzel gives from his collaboration with Tony Scott.
    5. Deja Vu-not a bad Sci Fi Film.

  • Comment number 60.

    Also just to mention The Siege was not too bad but makes it outside my top 5. Ricochet sounds likes an interesting film and will check it out.

  • Comment number 61.

    Firstly, I'd like to give Kermode "props" for giving a shout-out to the Hughes Brothers' Dead Presidents (a very underrated, solid film). Secondly, I like the non-popular listing (i.e. including Book of Eli on the list). And lastly, here is my fave faves by Denzel (in no particular order): Devil in a Blue Dress; Malcolm X; Glory; Training Day and A Soldier's Story.

  • Comment number 62.

    Hey Dr. Kermode,

    Love your work and really enjoy your reviews. Keep up the amazing work. For Denzel movies, I have a few that I really enjoyed.

    I would like to mention one that no one else seemed to mention, which is John Q. I know its a little preachy with the health care system and its a tad overdone, but I guess it is somewhat of a guilty pleasure of mine. Loved Malcolm X, despite the fact that is incredibly too long. However he was fantastic in it.
    One final note, I am not really a big fan of American Gangster, however my qualms are more with the movie itself and less about Denzel's acting.

    Becoming a regular on this blog is going to be enjoyable. Thanks!

  • Comment number 63.

    Denzel Washington's films are always peculiar. They're often far from perfect but usually contain an interesting performance by the man himself.

    A good example of this would be 'Deja Vu', which contains several plot and continuity errors but still results in an enjoyable viewing experience. On the other hand, 'Transformers' also has one or two plot flaws but Michael Bay's time is over. Or so I had thought...

  • Comment number 64.

    I doff my cap at all those nominating 'Fallen', but Washington's best film for me is 'Antwone Fisher'. Granted he wasn't the centrepiece of the story, but under his direction, the film is incredibly powerful. It's one of the few film to always reduce me to tears at its climax.

  • Comment number 65.

    Although I do love Devil in a blue dress for me the list is missing Crimson Tide, Fallen and The Siege, Made 2 years before 9/11, it should be shown to everyone as an warning of what could happen, and lets face it it would not be made today............

  • Comment number 66.

    I can't stand him. However I'm always compelled to sit through a film and admire his performance. My problem with the actor is that I feel (or think I can see) how he nails his roles. Which I guess can be called transparency. At the same time I always feel he's covering the same ground in certain film roles, either he's type cast and/or not as versatile as you wish to think. Inside Man, Training Day, American Gangster - he has the same vibe. Am I wrong? Who cares.

  • Comment number 67.


  • Comment number 68.

    WHat about "Queen and country"? I saw it yeeeeeeeears ago and didn't find it displeasing

  • Comment number 69.

    Denzel is the man and with such a dramatic filmography, picking just 5 films is tough, but I'll give it a shot...

    5. American Gangster
    4. Mo' Better Blues
    3. Devil in a Blue Dress
    2. Man on Fire
    1. Training Day

    However I love He Got Game and I thought Unstoppable was a wonderfully high-octane thrill-ride.

  • Comment number 70.

    5. He Got Game
    4. The Manchurian Candidate
    3. Glory
    2. Training Day
    1. The Hurricane

  • Comment number 71.

    Only Denzel film I remember is 'The Manchurian Candidate'. And 'The Pelican Brief'...but wasn't that more of a Julia Roberts film? He's nothing special, always seems to play himself.

  • Comment number 72.

    This made me think about something else. How actors success varies as they age in hollywood. Denzel seems to have had the most consistent career from start to even now whereas others like Tom Hanks, niro, pacino, nicholson peaked a while back and can't seem to be in good films anymore. Tom Cruise is kind of in between. Others keep rising like George Clooney. Props to Denzel for lasting over time.

  • Comment number 73.

    Mark I would find it interesting to hear your view on this topic. On an award season roundtable Aaron Sorkin said film was 'America's indigenous art form.' The English interviewer disagreed mentioning Chaplin, Hitchcock, Erich Von Stroheim, Italian neorealism, French newwave. Who really claims this artform!? Link to video is go to about 43min.

  • Comment number 74.

    I really like him in American Gangster, Man on Fire, Much Ado About Nothing, Heart Condition and the films are a bit duff but he's great in both Virtuosity and The Taking of Pelham 123.

  • Comment number 75.

    Shout-out to DEAD PRESIDENTS! Love that film.

    5.) THE SIEGE
    4.) FALLEN
    3.) GLORY

    (This might be the first time Ed Zwick has placed twice in a Top 5, ever.)

  • Comment number 76.

    Hey Mark, I've watched your posts for a long time but this is the first time I've put in a comment. I do so because Mr. Denzel is in fact my favourite actor. Here is my top 5

    5 - Man on Fire
    4 - American Gangster
    3 - The Great Debaters
    2 - John Q
    1 - Hurricane

    I hope you enjoy my list! and don't beat yourself up about not meeting Denzel!

  • Comment number 77.

    Crimson Tide , Man On Fire, The Bone Collector, Training Day, Remember The Titans (if only for the Trevor Rabin score)

  • Comment number 78.

    Man On Fire for me. Also superb for Tony Scott's directorship and brilliant supporting cast. Denzil Washington in revenge mode but with heart and sadness, its a brilliant performance.

  • Comment number 79.

    Devil - one of my favourites and one of the only reasons I still have a VHS machine wired in - so I can watch my copy every now and then. Glad you picked that one. Apart from that - Fallen and The Bone Collector - one of the only book series I read and only see the film actor as the lead. Funny enough I watched all of his performances in St Elsewhere (pre-movies) and though he was the weakest link. Now he is watchable in everything... even Tony Scott movies!

  • Comment number 80.

    Denzel is one of the most consistent actors of his generation, often turning in better performances than the film deserves. Here's my top 5 (no order):

    1. Training Day ("I'm King Kong!")
    2. Philadelphia (Tom Hanks might be the lead actor, but the film is largely told from Denzel's point of view)
    3. Malcolm X (So magnetic in this underrated biopic)
    4. Man on Fire ("I wish I had more time...")
    5. American Gangster (The film sags whenever he's off screen)

    Love your blog, Mark.

  • Comment number 81.

    Hey Mark - great ideas as usual - I pretty much agree with everything you said, except maybe I like Eli a little less...I found it's direction to be a tad shaky and jumpy at times and it's a film I may have switched off if not for the magnetic performance of Mr.W...oh, and the eye candy of the beautiful Mila Kunis!!

  • Comment number 82.

    I did love him in "Philadelphia", Hanks got the Oscar but Denzil Washingtons’ character had far more depth I felt. Favourite Washington film however? Easy, "For Queen And Country" memorable also for Amanda Redman (who I thought was going to be a huge star! New Tricks anyone?) Denzil does a passable cockney accent and I did enjoy the particularly bleak ending..

  • Comment number 83.

    First Denzel film I saw was "For Queen and Country" haven't seen it for many many years but it gets my vote.

  • Comment number 84.

    Ta for the tips, I'll be checking out a few of Denzel's back catalogue. I liked Training Day and Crimson Tide, Book of Eli was a bit of a guilty pleasure, a comic-booky confection of a film. Oh and Ricochet is awful cheese. But one film that's not been mentioned much here is The Siege, I love Annette Bening (esp for The Grifters), add Denzel, season with a little Bruce and some explosions. Nice.

  • Comment number 85.

    Sorry to disagree Mark but the Book of Eli is one of the worst films I've ever seen in my life. I almost walked out of the theatre. The Book of Eli felt like a remake of The Road but by Zach Snyder. Dreadful, dreadful stuff. If I see a poster or dvd for that film anywhere it sends shivers down my spine!

    Wholeheartedly agree with everything else said though oh wise flappy-handed one!

  • Comment number 86.

    Finally got round to seeing American Gangster the other night. As someone who utterly detests 50% of Ridley Scott's CV, I found this to be one of the good ones. Extraordinarily good, in fact, and this I'm sure is down in no small part to Denzel Washington's subtle, unshowy performance as the titular hood, a man who manages to be at once principled yet amoral, charming yet chilling.

    Inspired by this, last night I went back and watched Spike Lee's Malcolm X for the first time in ten years. (Six hours of Denzel spread over two nights; there are worse ways to spend one's free time.) Problematic film, to be sure, but yet another committed and powerful performance.

    Hollywood is lucky to have him.

  • Comment number 87.

    1. Training Day
    2. Man On Fire
    3. Glory
    4. American Gangster
    5. Remember The Titans

    Nej T. Nejington

  • Comment number 88.

    Actually didn't mind The Book of Eli. However, it did remind me of a Levi's commercial at points. Lots of people roaming around in the dusty west wearing amazing styled yet dirty clothing.

    Favorite Denzel film: Man on Fire. I can't see it without sobbing and Dakota Fanning is amazing too.

  • Comment number 89.

    Hi Mark,

    I'm not as big a Denzel fan as I should be, but I do very much admire his work, and Safehouse looks fantastic. I remember seeing him in Training Day some years ago and really enjoying it, but I have to say that his performance in Crimson Tide was literally mind blowing. I vividly remember being absolutely rooted to my seat during his verbal duel with Gene Hackman, and when the scene finished I just thought 'that was absolutely incredible'!!

  • Comment number 90.

    Come on, we all know why Book of Eli did so well at the US box office, despite mixed reviews- the American public laps up Jesus "Chicken Soup for the Soul" stuff like a cat laps up cream. It was guaranteed to do well in the US, but its overt Christianity is alienating to more secular or non-Christian audiences, so its box-office takings overseas could have been hindered by it.

    Having read the synopsis of the film, I am glad I did not go to see it at the cinema (I thought the trailer looked cool,) as I would have been laughing at it all the way through. (Did Eli remember the bit about homosexuals being "abominations" that bit's really important.)

    Off the top of my head, I will say that Denzel had a great presence in "The Manchurian Candidate" "Devil in a Blue Dress" sounds good, I will have to look for it.

  • Comment number 91.

    How can you include Book of Eli and not include John Q????

  • Comment number 92.

    Book of Eli? come on Mark, his performance was not one of his best and deffinately not in the top 5 I'd rather have he got game or hurricane but each to his own

    Devil in a blue dress on the other hand is a brilliant addaptation and was one of the main reasons I began reading Walter Mosley novels and crime fiction in general, to this day whenever I pick up an easy rawlins novel I still imagine the man himself reading out those brilliantly poetic monologues, I don't beleive anyone else could have done a better job

  • Comment number 93.

    When we were kids, on Friday after school, my friend and I used to rent videos on offer - 3 for 3, 3vids for 3 nights for 3 quid.

    I remember we did a denzel weekend, not because of Virtuosity ( a really campy Russell Crowe bad guy if I remember correctly ), nor Crimson Tide ( but I'll watch anything with Gene Hackman in it ... yes Heartbreakers ). It was Fallen that stuck with me, and whenever I hear Denzel's name, it's the scene were he 1st see's Azazel pass from person to person on the street.

    Also enjoy him in Pelican Brief and Man on Fire.
    Personally I think 95% of his movies does/plays the same thing, it's just that he has fantastic screen presence 100% of the time.

  • Comment number 94.

    Enjoy all of Denzil's films, especially "Man on fire". Great show and interview, Denzil came across as a really nice guy too.
    Just a quick comment on the two stand up comedians last week. Talk about spoil alerts! I now have no need to watch any of the films they discussed, as I now know the films from beginning to end with all the plots and twists. Thanks a lot!


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