Denzel Washington is an Academy Award-winning actor who has had one of the most successful careers in history. At the same time, he is an accomplished director and producer. Each role he takes on completely transforms Washington into his character, physically and emotionally. He has unparalleled charisma and it’s exciting to see him on screen every minute. Washington has received several awards throughout his career, including the Cecil B DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award. His career spans several decades and he had a number of great films in the 1990s.

Born in Mount Vernon, New York, Washington earned a BA in Acting and Journalism from Fordham University. His acting career began in the theater but he made his screen debut in a TV movie Wilma. He played dr. Phillip Chandler in St Elsewhere and continued to work in television. Washington won his first Oscar for his brilliant supporting role in glory. In the 1990s, Washington delivered several good performances. Let’s look at the best, in order.

7 The Bone Collector

Phillip Noyces The Bone Collector was an entertaining thriller starring Washington and Angelina Jolie. Washington plays a paraplegic forensic scientist named Lincoln Rhyme who helps his partner (Jolie) track down a serial killer. Washington portrays a man who finds the will to live through his work. At the same time he describes the hopelessness of the situation in which he finds himself. His chemistry with Jolie was top-notch, and Washington created an honest and highly emotional character.

Related: Best Angelina Jolie Movies of the ’90s, Ranked


6 Crimson Tide

Tony Scotts Crimson Tide follows a first officer (Washington) who clashes with his captain (played by Gene Hackman) on a US submarine. Washington plays an educated and intelligent commander, and his conflict with Hackman’s character was compelling to watch. Washington was completely believable as a submarine commander, and he embodied his character from start to finish. The conflict and tension between Hackman and Washington was brilliant and very entertaining to watch.

5 The Pelican letter

The Pelican letter is a fantastic legal thriller based on the novel of the same name. The film follows a law student, played by Julia Roberts, who works with reporter Gray Grantham (Washington) to uncover the murders of two Supreme Court justices. Roberts and Washington work very well together, and Washington, as an established reporter, has fully impressed. He portrays his character’s intelligence and passion in every minute he is on screen. Washington gives a fantastic dramatic performance as a careerist seeking justice.

4 He has game

Spike Lee wrote and directed this sports drama starring Denzel Washington and Ray Allen. He has game follows the incarcerated father (Washington) who is released from prison to convince his basketball prodigy son (Allen) to play for the governor’s alma mater. Washington gives a brilliant performance as an intense and flawed father who takes his son’s training too far. The conflict between Washington and Allen is at the heart of the film, and Washington is entertaining from start to finish. This film continued the first-rate collaboration between Lee and Washington.

Related: Here’s Why We Could Watch Spike Lee’s Movies Forever

3 The Hurricane

In boxing drama The HurricaneWashington plays boxer Rubin “The Hurricane” Carter, who is wrongly convicted of murder. The film follows his years of struggle to get out of prison. Washington is brilliant from start to finish as a desperate man who refuses to give in to his situation. He delivered a very physical and emotional performance and took home a Golden Globe for Best Actor. His performance evokes a lot of emotions, but he is undoubtedly an inspiration.

2 Philadelphia

Jonathan Demme’s brilliant courtroom drama Philadelphia follows a lawyer, Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks), who is suing his employer after being fired for AIDS. Washington plays a smart and wild lawyer, Joe Miller, who helps Hanks’ character get justice. Washington’s chemistry with Tom Hanks was top-notch, and we’re watching Miller gain an understanding of Beckett’s situation. Washington portrays an unconventional lawyer full of passion and charisma. The film is brilliant and honestly portrays the tragic AIDS crisis of the 1990s.

1 Malcom X

Washington’s performance as Malcolm X is considered by many to be his finest. He fully embodies the personality and passion of Malcolm X, and he was undoubtedly the perfect actor to play this iconic character in history. Washington’s performance was a complete transformation, and he proved once again that his and Lee’s collaboration is one of the best in Hollywood. Washington received an Oscar nomination for his brilliant performance.

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