Few actors lend a movie instant credibility the way Denzel Washington does. I don’t know how you decide what movies you end up watching, but for me, it’s usually a question of first and foremost who the director is. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney aside, I want to see Gravity crazy badly because of Alfonso Cuaron. That said, there are some actors whose presence can sway me entirely on their own to see something they’re starring in. Daniel Day-Lewis is the most obvious example, since he tends to have such selective and keen discretion when it comes to picking roles, and he’s the most exciting actor to watch in movies right now, except for maybe Matthew McConaughey.
But Denzel Washington comes pretty close to the top of the list of actors many people will seek out at the theater whenever he has something new coming out. Right now the movie he’s appearing in is 2 Guns with Mark Wahlberg, and I honestly don’t know who the hell directed or wrote it or is appearing in it with those two but Denzel’s presence alone makes me want to see it.
Unlike Day-Lewis, he doesn’t always pick projects that are interesting on their own—pick just about any Tony Scott collaboration for an example of this—but it’s often his work in them that gives them their most interesting quality. He has a way of overpowering the screen quite unlike anyone else I’ve seen aside from Marlon Brando or Orson Welles, that quality that exudes masculine bravado in a number of forms, whether physical, psychological, intellectual, inspirational, or hierarchical. And he can do that just by laughing.
Here are 8 outstanding performances in which Denzel Washington just absolutely brings it.