Denzel Washington was recently nominated for Best Actor at the Academy Awards for an impressive sixth time thanks to his turn in Roman J Israel, Esq.
The legal drama, directed by Dan Gilroy, is finally out in the UK today and it features another standout performance from one of Hollywood’s most consistent acting talents.
Over the years, he’s lent his incredible charisma to some great roles, from tense thrillers to searing biopics.
So as his latest flick hits the big screens, here are his very best past performances ranked:
7. American Gangster
In Ridley Scott’s biographical crime thriller, Washington plays drugs kingpin and committed family man, Frank Lucas.
While Russell Crowe’s character is ostensibly the film’s central hero, it’s Washington’s Lucas who firmly dominates the narrative.
A man of contrasts, Washington’s Lucas is charming and suave but also capable of being utterly ruthless when required.
6. The Hurricane
While this biopic of falsely imprisoned boxer Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter is not without its flaws, Washington’s captivating performance is emphatically not one of them.
Capturing the pride, despair and rage of the wrongly convicted felon, he gives a typically powerful and incredibly affecting portrayal of a man struggling to live with a grave injustice.
5. Devil In a Blue Dress
An oft-overlooked neo-noir here, in which Washington stars as a street-smart PI embroiled in a twisting mystery, in post Second World War LA.
Bouncing brilliantly off co-star Don Cheadle, Washington gives an effortlessly charming performance.
As debonair detective Easy Rawlins, he delivers a potent mix of style, grit and determination in a wonderfully hard-boiled tale.
4. He Got Game
Washington anchors Spike Lee’s father-and-son basketball drama superbly.
He delivers a striking turn as the imprisoned father thrust back into the life of his son, with both men weighed down by the consequences of his previous actions.
Capturing the nuances of such a contrasting and imperfect man, Washington brings a subtle humanity to an inherently flawed figure.
3. Training Day
Denzel’s first Best Actor Academy Award came thanks to his explosive turn as corrupt cop, Alonzo Harris.
Washington towers over proceedings throughout the Antoine Fuqua cop thriller; a mesmerising presence who commands our attention in every scene he appears in.
It’s not often we see him in a straight-up bad guy role, but here, Denzel shows he can be every bit as frightening as he is charismatic.
Washington first tasted Oscar glory when he received the best supporting actor award for his performance as Private Tripp in American Civil War epic, Glory.
One of his earlier screen roles, it earmarked the actor as a real talent to watch out for.
It’s a powerful and moving performance in which he imbued Tripp with heroism and dignity, as well as cynicism and anger.
It’s a rounded and well-measured portrayal of a hugely conflicted character.
1. Malcolm X
Washington gave a true powerhouse performance in Spike Lee’s seminal biopic of renowned civil rights figure, Malcolm X.
Capturing the magnetic appeal and complex personality of the controversial leader, Denzel is mesmerising throughout.
Washington shows his versatility as he fully immerses himself into the role and does an incredible job of realising this influential figure in the various distinct stages of his life.
‘Antebellum’ has a ‘Get Out’ vibe, but doesn’t live up to its twist
“Antebellum” is built around a provocative twist, and it’s a good one — as well as one that definite..
“Antebellum” is built around a provocative twist, and it’s a good one — as well as one that definitely shouldn’t be spoiled even a little. Once that revelation is absorbed, however, the movie becomes less distinctive and inspired, reflecting an attempt to tap into the zeitgeist that made “Get Out” a breakthrough, without the same ability to pay off the premise.
Originally destined for a theatrical run, the movie hits digital platforms trumpeting a “Get Out” pedigree in its marketing campaign, since there’s an overlap among the producing teams.
More directly, the film marks the directing debut of Gerard Bush + Christopher Renz, who have championed social-justice issues through their advertising work. The opening script features a quote from author William Faulkner, whose intent will eventually become clearer: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
If that sounds like a timely means of drawing a line from the horrors of slavery to the racism of today, you’ve come to the right place.
The story begins on a plantation, where the brutal overseers carry out grisly punishments against those tilling the fields. A few have just tried to escape, led by Veronica (Janelle Monae), and they pay a heavy price for their resistance, which does nothing to curb her defiance.
Also written by Bush + Renz, the script take too long before revealing what makes “Antebellum” different, but the middle portion — a “The Twilight Zone”-like phase when it’s hard to be sure exactly what’s going on — is actually the film’s strongest. (Even the trailer arguably gives away too much, so the less one knows, the better.)
The final stretch, by contrast, veers into more familiar thriller territory, and feels especially rushed toward the end, leaving behind a host of nagging, unanswered questions. That provides food for thought, but it’s also what separates the movie from something like “Get Out,” which deftly fleshed out its horror underpinnings.
Although the filmmakers (in a taped message) expressed disappointment that the movie wasn’t making its debut in theaters, in a strange way, the on-demand format somewhat works in its favor. In the press notes, Bush says the goal was “to force the audience to look at the real-life horror of racism through the lens of film horror. We’re landing in the middle of the very conversations that we hoped ‘Antebellum’ would spur.”
“Antebellum” should add to that discussion, so mission accomplished on that level. Monae is also quite good in her first leading film role (she did previously star in the series “Homecoming’s” second season), but otherwise, most of the characters remain underdeveloped.