DAR Films: 7 Of The Greatest Denzel Washington Roles

By @TrueGodImmortal

At every turn, I've been adamant about the fact that I think Denzel Washington is the greatest actor of our time, and truthfully all time. His poise and presence as an actor is unmatched and over the years, he's had numerous classic performances and roles. The question is, which of these roles are his greatest? There are so many to choose from, as Denzel brings it with every performance, but today I wanted to cover 7 of those. There are plenty of performances that will just miss the list, including his Oscar winning performance in Glory, as well as his Oscar nominated performance in Flight, along with other pivotal roles, but that's the beauty of narrowing it down to 7 choices. Which roles DO make the list? Let's take a look.

*Bleek Gilliam
(Mo' Better Blues)

-There is something special about Denzel working with Spike. His first official role working with Spike would spawn one of my favorite movies. The jazz setting and the drama surrounding the eclectic yet distant Bleek Gilliam character that Denzel plays perfectly is excellent for anyone who wasn't entirely familiar with Denzel and his acting chops. We see Denzel showcase an array of emotions through numerous experiences, from losing his woman, losing friends, losing his ability to play music, as well as going through strenuous times and bouncing back. Denzel executes every line and expression with a flair that is unmatched. To me, anyone else in this role as Bleek couldn't have done it justice. Denzel brings what I feel is his most underrated performance ever and shines in a very good movie.

*Malcolm X
(Malcolm X)

-Of course. His greatest role. It was the biggest travesty ever that Denzel never won an award for this performance. He was perfect as Malcolm and brought the exact fire that Malcolm had in his speeches and interviews to this performance. The movie itself was going to be great due to who it was about, but picking the right person to play the titular character in a biopic is the most important part of the film. Spike Lee and Denzel once again combine for a legendary movie, and this is the best work that they've both have done in their careers. For Spike, it is his pinnacle as a director, for Denzel, it is his peak as an actor, with both men providing what they do best in their roles. The nuances that made Malcolm such a charismatic leader shine through in Denzel's performance, and despite the fact that this movie didn't get enough support upon release, it is widely viewed as a classic film and deservedly so. Denzel's performance is the biggest reason for that honestly.

*Alonzo Harris
(Training Day)

-When you win an Oscar for a performance, it is safe to say you've done your job as an actor right? Well, for Denzel, he had never played the true role of a villain in a film before, at least not to this extent, so in a way, his role in Training Day came as a shock all around. I think the shock came more so from the depth of the role than the actual surface of the role, as Denzel plays a crooked cop named Alonzo Harris, who essentially is doing what he does for his bottom line, but most of all, his family. It is that type of thought process that spawns the beauty of the performance, as you don't know where to hate or root for Alonzo. That is the true beauty in this performance. He is a villain..... but a villain who might just be justified when it's all said and done.

*Rubin Carter
(The Hurricane)

-I was never the biggest fan of this movie personally, but for the most part, I found that this was one of the biggest and greatest roles easily in the career of Denzel by far. He was definitely in his element here, playing the wrongfully jailed boxer Rubin Carter who was better known as the Hurricane, and he delivered big time. The movie itself teetered on boring and bland in certain spots, but sure enough, Denzel did what he does best and that's carry a pretty bland script to higher levels and showcase exactly what he does as an actor. He was flawless in this role, adding dimensions upon dimensions onto a character with whom we didn't really know much about, and expressing emotion throughout. The story chronicles the rise and fall of The Hurricane, as well as the truth on why he was convicted wrongfully and finally freed. Overall, this is one of his most inspiring performances for sure.

*Frank Lucas
(American Gangster)

-I personally was a huge fan of this movie and while the writing was a bit off at times, I felt as if Denzel was the best part of the movie. As the drug lord Frank Lucas, he gave a cool yet balanced performance in this biopic, which showcases his rise to the top in Harlem and beyond, and how his empire was able to come about. For me, the best part of this performance from Denzel was more so the fact that he was able to go out and play a drug lord with poise and style that I'm sure the real Frank Lucas didn't completely possess. Now, when we look at the movie itself, there was a lot of normally spotty dialogue, but the biggest factor to me is that Denzel has impeccable delivery that truly makes the most regular of lines seem spectacular. American Gangster would have been just an ordinary movie with anyone else in the role, but with Denzel, it is a classic. That's how good the performance is in this film.

*John W. Creasy
(Man On Fire)

-This might not be the most popular choice, but this is one of the roles that essentially showcased how good Denzel is at what he does. What was typically a standard mediocre film otherwise was raised by the value in his performance. If you place anyone else in this role as John Creasy, this movie is on the level of a Jason Statham action film, but with Denzel in this role, the movie gets taken up a few notches. For the most part, Denzel is excellent in this movie, turning a typical "hitman for hire" movie into one with more depth and slight twists carried by his performance.

*Troy Maxson

-The last great Denzel performance. Perhaps his next performance in another important film will be able to surpass this, but that's years from now I bet. To me, this is the greatest Denzel performance in a true drama, as he is able to explore dimensions of himself as an actor that perhaps he never had the chance to in other performances. Playing a troubled yet well to do father and husband who makes big mistakes and lives in his old life of being one of the better baseball players of his time, Denzel shines as Troy and steals every scene. It helps that he had the perfect complement in Viola Davis as well, but the highlight of this film was easily Denzel and he was robbed of plenty of awards for this excellent role. That's been a sad regular occurrence in his career. Denzel deserves Oscars at least every 5-7 years. It's why he's the GOAT.



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