For those of you living off-planet for the past twenty years, Denzel Washington is perhaps the greatest living actor. He can do drama, action, comedy. He can play characters or he can play himself. He can be the good guy or the bad guy. He can take a crap movie and make it watchable, and a decent movie great. Don’t even get me started on what he does in a truly awesome movie. (Hint: he makes it AWESOMER.) He totally got robbed by the Academy by not winning the Oscar for Hurricane (they made it up to him later).
He is so awesome I originally wanted my book, Dancing With Jack Ketch, to be a movie with him in the lead. Can you imagine Denzel as pirate captain? I sure can. Due to my lack of movie connections, the film fell apart in pre-pre-production, but you can still read my story. Whenever they say “Jackson,” think “Denzel.”
What follows is a list of Denzel’s best movies.
1. Malcolm X – The definitive Denzel. An epic movie that doesn’t feel 800 hours long, thanks to Spike Lee’s kinetic camerawork and a good editor.
2. He Got Game – Denzel as the self-serving, incarcerated dad of a college basketball recruit. The man uses his own son to get out of jail. Cold.
3. Inside Man – Denzel’s definitive Good Guy Cop. It really helps that this was a good Spike Lee movie; these two seem to bring the best out in each other.
4. The Mighty Quinn – Denzel’s first movie with a Bob Dylan connection. He plays Xavier Quinn, the Chief of Police in Jamaica. Includes a regge version of the song The Mighty Quinn. In Chronicles Vol. 1, Bob puts his seal of approval on Denzel’s performance. That’s all the reason I need to love this movie.
5. The Manchurian Candidate – There was no reason to remake the original; it had all the markings of a timeless classic political thriller. Somehow, this movie managed to become its own thing. It is modern and just as terrifying as the original.
6. The Siege – Especially prescient in the wake of September 11. Denzel plays an FBI agent hunting down terrorist cells in Brooklyn. Co-stars Bruce Willis as a flag-waving, power-mad general who uses the exact same logic as Dick Cheney. At least Bruce was just acting.