Denzel Hayes Washington Jr. (born December 28, 1954) is an American actor, director, and producer. He has been described as an actor who reconfigured “the concept of classic movie stardom”, associating with characters defined by their grace, dignity, humanity, and inner strength. He made his feature film debut in the comedy Carbon Copy (1981), with George Segal, Susan Saint James, and Jack Warden. Other early roles include Norman Jewison’s A Solider’s Story (1984), with Howard E. Rollins Jr. and Adolph Caesar; Sidney Lumet’s Power (1986), with Richard Gere, Julie Christie, and Gene Hackman; and The Might Quinn (1989), with Robert Townsend, James Fox, Mimi Rogers, M. Emmet Walsh, and Sheryl Lee Ralph.
Washington has received seventeen NAACP Image Awards, three Golden Globe Awards, one Tony Award, and two Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actor for playing Union Army soldier Private Trip in Edward Zwick’s historical drama film Glory (1989), with Mathew Broderick, Cary Elwes, and Morgan Freeman; and Best Actor for his role as corrupt detective Alonzo Harris in Antoine Fuqua’s crime thriller Training Day (2001), with Ethan Hawke and Scott Glenn. In 2016, he received the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award at the 73rd Golden Globe Awards. In 2020, The New York Times ranked him as the greatest actor of the 21st century.
Washington has received much critical acclaim for his film work since the 1980s, including his portrayals of real-life figures such as South African anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko in Richard Attenborough’s Cry Freedom (1987), with Kevin Kline and Penelope Wilton; Muslim minister and human rights activist Malcolm X in Spike Lee‘s Malcolm X (1992), with Angela Bassett; boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter in Jewison’a The Hurricane (1999), football coach Herman Boone in Boaz Yakin’s Remember the Titans (2000), with Will Patton, Wood Harris, Ryan Hurst, Donald Faison, Ethan Suplee, and Ryan Gosling; poet and educator Melvin B. Tolson in The Great Debaters (2007), with Forest Whitaker, Denzel Whitaker, Kimberly Elise, Nate Parker, Gina Ravera, Jermaine Williams and Jurnee Smollett; and drug kingpin Frank Lucas in Ridley Scott‘s American Gangster (2007), with Russell Crowe, Ted Levine, John Ortiz, Josh Brolin, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Norman Reedus, Ruby Dee, Lymari Nadal and Cuba Gooding Jr.
Other notable films in the 1990s include Heart Condition, with Bob Hoskins; Lee’s ‘Mo Better Blues (1990), with Wesley Snipes, Giancarlo Esposito, and John Turturro; Mira Nair‘s Mississippi Masala (1991), with Sarita Choudhury, Roshan Seth, Charles S. Dutton, and Joe Seneca; Russell Mulcahy’s Ricochet (1991), with John Lithgow, Ice-T, Kevin Pollak, and Lindsay Wagner; Much Ado About Nothing (1993), with Kenneth Branagh (who also directed), Emma Thompson, Robert Sean Leonard, Michael Keaton, Keanu Reeves, Kate Beckinsale, and Brian Blessed; Alan J. Pakula’s The Pelican Brief (1993), with Julia Roberts; Jonathan Demme‘s Philadelphia (1993), with Tom Hanks, Jason Robards, Mary Steenburgen, Antonio Banderas, and Joanne Woodward; Devil in a Blue Dress (1995), with Tom Sizemore, Jennifer Beals, and Don Cheadle; Courage Under Fire (1996), with Meg Ryan, Lou Diamond Phillips, and Matt Damon; Fallen (1998), with John Goodman, Donald Sutherland, Embeth Davidtz, James Gandolfini, and Elias Koteas; The Siege (1998), with Annette Bening, Tony Shalhoub, and Bruce Willis; and The Bone Collector (1999), with Angelina Jolie.
Films in the 2000s include John Q. (2002), with Robert Duvall, Kimberly Elise, Anne Heche, James Woods, and Ray Liotta; Man on Fire (2004), with Dakota Fanning, Christopher Walken, Radha Mitchell, Giancarlo Giannini, Marc Anthony, Rachel Ticotin and Mickey Rourke; The Manchurian Candidate (2004), with Meryl Streep and Liev Schreiber; Inside Man (2006), with Clive Owen, Jodie Foster, Christopher Plummer, Willem Dafoe, and Ejiofor; and The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009), with John Travolta.
Films in the 2010s include The Book of Eli (2010), with Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis, Ray Stevenson, Jennifer Beals, Michael Gambon, and Tom Waits; Unstoppable (2010), with Chris Pine and Rosario Dawson; Safe House (2012), with Ryan Reynolds, Vera Farmiga, Brendan Gleeson, Sam Shepard, Rubén Blades, Nora Arnezeder, and Robert Patrick; Robert Zemeckis’s Flight (2012), with Cheadle, Kelly Reilly, Goodman, Bruce Greenwood, and Melissa Leo; 2 Guns (2013), with Mark Wahlberg; The Equalizer (2014), with Marton Csokas, Chloë Grace Moretz, David Harbour, Bill Pullman, and Leo; The Magnificent Seven (2016), with Chris Pratt, Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Lee Byung-hun, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Martin Sensmeier, Haley Bennett, and Peter Sarsgaard; Roman J. Israel, Esq. (2017), with Collin Farrell and Carmen Ejogo; and The Equalizer 2 (2018), with Pedro Pascal, Ashton Sanders, Leo, Pullman, and Orson Bean.
Washington made his directorial debut with the biographical film Antwone Fisher (2002), with Derek Luke. His second directorial effort was The Great Debaters (2007). His third film, Fences (2016), with Viola Davis, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Jovan Adepo, Russell Hornsby, Mykelti Williamson and Saniyya Sidney; was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.
Each review will be linked to the title below.
(*seen originally in theaters)
(**seen rereleased in theaters)
- Wilma (1977) – directed by Bud Greenspan – TV movie
- Flesh & Blood (1979) – directed by Jud Taylor – TV movie
- Coriolanus (1979) – directed by Wilford Leach – TV movie
- Carbon Copy (1981) – directed by Michael Schultz
- License to Kill (1984) – directed by Jud Taylor
- A Soldier’s Story (1984) – directed by Norman Jewison
- Power (1986) – directed by Sidney Lumet
- The George McKenna Story (1986) – directed by Eric Laneuville – aka Hard Lessons – TV movie
- Cry Freedom (1987) – directed by Richard Attenborough
- For Queen and Country (1988) – directed by Martin Stellman
- The Mighty Quinn (1989) – directed by Carl Schenkel
- Glory (1989) – directed by Edward Zwick
- Heart Condition (1990) – directed by James D. Parriott
- Mo’ Better Blues (1990) – directed by Spike Lee
- Mississippi Masala (1991) – directed by Mira Nair
- Ricochet (1991) – directed by Russell Mulcahy
- Malcolm X (1992) – directed by Spike Lee
- Much Ado About Nothing (1993) – directed by Kenneth Branagh
- The Pelican Brief (1993) – directed by Alan J. Pakula
- Philadelphia (1993) – directed by Jonathan Demme
- Crimson Tide (1995) – directed by Tony Scott
- Virtuosity (1995) – directed by Brett Leonard
- Devil in a Blue Dress (1995) – directed by Carl Franklin
- Courage Under Fire (1996) – directed by Edward Zwick
- The Preacher’s Wife (1996)* – directed by Penny Marshall
- Fallen (1998) – directed by Gregory Hoblit
- He Got Game (1998) – directed by Spike Lee
- The Siege (1998) – directed by Edward Zwick
- The Bone Collector (1999) – directed by Phillip Noyce
- The Hurricane (1999) – directed by Norman Jewison
- Remember the Titans (2000) – directed by Boaz Yakin
- Training Day (2001) – directed by Antoine Fuqua
- John Q. (2002) – directed by Nick Cassavetes
- Antwone Fisher (2002) – also director & producer
- Out of Time (2003) – directed by Carl Franklin
- Man on Fire (2004) – directed by Tony Scott
- The Manchurian Candidate (2004) – directed by Jonathan Demme
- Inside Man (2006) – directed by Spike Lee
- Déjà Vu (2006) – directed by Tony Scott
- American Gangster (2007) directed by Ridley Scott
- The Great Debaters (2007) – also director
- The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009) – directed by Tony Scott
- The Book of Eli (2010)* – directed by Albert & Allen Hughes – also producer
- Unstoppable (2010)* – directed by Tony Scott
- Safe House (2012) – directed by Daniel Espinosa
- Flight (2012) – directed by Robert Zemeckis
- 2 Guns (2013) – directed by Baltasar Kormákur
- The Equalizer (2014) – directed by Antoine Fuqua – also producer
- The Magnificent Seven (2016)* – directed by Antoine Fuqua
- Fences (2016) – also director & producer
- Roman J. Israel, Esq. (2017) – directed by Dan Gilroy – also producer
- The Equalizer 2 (2018) – directed by Antoine Fuqua – also producer
- Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020) – directed by George C. Wolfe – producer only
- The Little Things (2021) – directed by John Lee Hancock
- The Tragedy of Macbeth (TBA) – directed by Joel Coen