Denzel Washington is one of the most well-known actors working in Hollywood today. In his career, Washington has won two Academy Awards, a Tony Award, and three Golden Globes, and been nominated for dozens of other distinctions. In this article, we’ll look at some of the most important roles Washington has played in his career, analyzing why each one is so memorable.
Washington won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in the 1989 Civil War epic Glory, his first Academy Award win. In the film, Washington plays Private Silas Tripp, a soldier in the famed 54th Massachusetts, the first black regiment in the history of the United States Army. In one of the most stirring scenes in the film, Washington’s Private Tripp is punished for being absent without leave by being flogged by one of the regiments white soldiers. In an act of defiance, Tripp spits on the ground as a single tear rolls down his cheek.
Directed by Spike Lee, 1992’s Malcolm X is regarded as the most iconic performance of Washington’s career. In the film, Washington plays the fiery civil rights leader. By far the most important part of Washington’s performance is how he shows the evolution of Malcolm X’s idea on race relations. After a trip to Mecca, Malcolm X preaches racial harmony, with the film showing the importance of the Muslim religion in Malcolm X’s change of heart. Washington was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance, losing to Al Pacino. Audiences were shocked by the results of the ceremony, with Lee claiming that Washington was “robbed” of the honor.
2004’s Training Day saw Washington win the Academy Award for Best Actor. In the film, Washington plays Alonzo Harris, a corrupt LAPD narcotics detective. As Harris and his partner explore the gangland culture of the city, Harris’ corruption gets the better of him as the whole world witnesses his fall from grace. Training Day is by far one of the most important movies in Washington’s filmography. Not only did he win his second Academy Award for the film, it also shows his versatility as an actor. Known for playing good guy roles, Washington’s role as a corrupt police officer showed how he could play complex characters.
The Hurricane saw Washington portray Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, a boxer wrongfully convicted of triple murder. The film excels as Washington shows a man come to accept his unjust fate. In one of the more difficult moments of the film, Carter declares, “I’m dead. Just bury me.” Receiving universal acclaim, Washington was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor for his work.
He Got Game
Washington once again joined with Spike Lee for 1998’s He Got Game. Washington portrays Jake Shuttlesworth, a man imprisoned for killing his wife. The film centers around Jake trying to convince his son, Jesus, a top high school basketball player, to accept a position at the state governor’s alma mater. In exchange for getting his son to play for the governor’s school, Jake will get a reduced sentence. An underappreciated film, Washington’s performance shines through as he is one of the few established actors in the movie.
Logan Sekulow is a producer and director who’s known for relaunching Laugh-O-Gram studios.