I’m going to make a statement that may some may disagree with, but I’m looking at the whole picture. Denzel Washington is the greatest African-American Actor of all time in my opinion. The guy can win Oscars (2 wins), he’s box office gold and still makes the women swoon with his trademark smile. I clearly understand some of Washington’s work may be lacking in quality (Virtuosity) and lately Denzel just wants to play Denzel (2 Guns). Washington has made some bad films, but so has Hanks and don’t get me started on the amount of bad films made by Robert De Niro. Plus, if you look at Washington’s total resume, it’s filled with dynamic roles with Washington flexing his acting muscles in diverse roles. These are the for roles that exemplify the talents of one Denzel Washington.
Washington took home his first Oscar for playing the anger filled Private Trip in Glory. The union enlisted soldier of the 54th had one thing on his mind. Revenge! The guy is bitter and he’s going to let every one of any color know it. The former runway slave may be mad at the world, but was also wise beyond his years concerning the social issues that still dogged the black soldiers serving for the Northern forces. There’s no better example of how strong Washington’s acting can be without saying a word than the scene concerning the stolen shoes. The flogging scene is brutal and tough to watch, but Denzel’s tears in that scene were powerful enough for him to walk home with his first Oscar.
This is the most intriguing role and film on this list that more people need to see. What if you found out the hero was nothing more than drunken waste of space? That’s the question posed in Robert Zemeckis’ Flight. After diverting an all out airplane catastrophe, Captain Whip Whitaker becomes a media star in the wake of the crash. The only problem is our savior Whip was blitzed when he saved the day and some people didn’t survive the crash sparking an all out insurance investigation. Should Whip get a pass? Should he be held accountable? How much booze can Whip consume during one sitting in a hotel room? All questions posed during Flight. Washington is superb as the drunk in denial who believes he has no problem. You going from cheering Whip to despising him in Washington’s Oscar nominated role. Flight will definitely make you think.
The only thing anyone remembers from Philadelphia is the performance of Tom Hanks. That’s a shame. Not the that Hanks was disappointing. He was incredible. The real travesty is the fact Denzel Washington was not nominated for Supporting Actor for his role as Joe Hill. Hill goes from ambulance chasing lawyer to defender of AIDS rights. What makes Washington’s role unique as Hill is he’s not taking the case for compassion. He’s taking it for fame. Truth is our heroic lawyer is a blatant homophobe with an attitude that was very prevalent in our society in the early 90s. The character does change over the course of the movie which is supposed to represent a change in thought towards individuals suffering from AIDS and HIV. Washington is real and dark confronting a fan in the pharmacy and shows simple compassion fixing a dying Andrew’s oxygen mask finally getting over his hang ups towards the gay lifestyle.
Training Day (2001)
There was no way Training Day was not making this list. To me it’s the obvious choice. Washington took home his second Oscar for playing the crooked Detective Alonzo Harris. Washington showed his evil side as the NARCO who gets his kicks from messing with the mind of his rookie partner played by Ethan Hawke and robbing drug dealers. Washington broke down the walls of how the audience viewed him playing a villain and not just any villain. A corrupt African-American Cop. Something we weren’t used to seeing on film. Denzel Washington brought an evil charisma to Alonzo the earned him the Oscar for Training Day. You’re definitely correct Alonzo. King Kong definitely ain’t got doo doo on you! Sorry I have to keep it clean for the corporation.