Listen Live
KMJQ Featured Video
48th NAACP Image Awards - Press Room

Source: Jason LaVeris / Getty

It’s no secret that Denzel Washington is one of the best American actors to ever live.

With over 40 years in Hollywood and more than 56 film and television credits under his belt, Mr. Washington is also one of the most decorated performer with two Academy Award wins, a Golden Globe, SAG award, a Tony, multiple NAACP trophies and dozens of nominations across the board.

He is truly the GOAT of acting.

So, to celebrate all that #BlackExcellence and his 65th birthday, here are 12 of his most iconic performances….ever


#BlackExcellence: Twelve Iconic Denzel Washington Roles  was originally published on

1. “Fences” (2016)

Oh Troy! Denzel’s take at gifted baseball player turned garbage man, is one of the most powerful in the actor’s body of work. It’s a shame that he didn’t win the Oscar in 2017, because his depiction of a dream deferred meets toxic masculinity was nothing short of perfection.

2. “Malcolm X” (1992)

There isn’t anyone I could imagine playing Malcolm X, other than Denzel Washington. He embodied the American Muslim minister and human rights activist down to the T with the mannerisms and dialect. Had this film been made now, he definitely would have taken home the Oscar for this Spike Lee classic.

3. “John Q” (2002)

“John Q” may not have sat well with critics, but it’s powerful nonetheless showing how deep and powerful Black fatherhood can be, especially in the face of death. Denzel put his foot in this one, y’all.

4. “Mo’ Better Blues” (1990)

Always Spike’s muse, Denzel transformed himself into a masterful trumpet player in “Mo-Better Blues.” You can’t decide if you love or hate, Bleek as he you root for him to succeed, but can’t stand how he treats the people in his life. That is what you call nuance folks.

5. “Training Day” (2001)

Oh Alonzo! Denzel finally snagged his first Best Actor Academy Award for his unprecedented performance as a corrupt cop in “Training Day.” While some don’t like that he was awarded for being a villain, this role only proved just how much range this man has in repertoire.

6. “Glory” (1989)

There’s more to Denzel’s role in the Civil War drama than being a whipped enslaved Black man. This film about the United States’ first all-African-American regiment (54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry) illuminates our humanity, resilience and ongoing contributions to this country’s history.

7. “The Hurricane” (1999)

In the true-life story of wrongly convicted boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, Denzel shows the dimensions of a confident built boxer in his prime, outrage of being framed for murder and the emotional toll prison takes on people. Another role that he was robbed of Oscar gold.

8. “Philadelphia” (1993)

Denzel’s craft allowed him to portray a homophobic lawyer along-side Tom Hanks in the classic film AIDS drama “Philadelphia” in a nuanced and complicated way. His role not only won awards but this role helped promote love and acceptance in the LGBTQ community.

9. “He Got Game” (1998)

As the incarcerated father of the most sought after college ballplayer in the country, Denzel brought to life the struggles and triumphs of a convicted felon in the Spike Lee-directed “He Got Game.”

10. “The Great Debators” (2007)

There’s so much to admire in this inspiring film, most importantly it’s Denzel that wins our hearts as the tough, yet loving English professor whose high standards help his debate team win the coveted the national championship.

11. “American Gangster” (2007)

Denzel transformed his entire being for the role of real life New York gangtser Frank Lucas. He brought a likeable feature to the character, so much so, that despite the damage his character did on the community, viewers really didn’t want him to go to jail at the end.

12. “Cry Freedom” (1987)

This epic drama set in 1970s apartheid era in South Africa is stunning, as is Denzel who plays real-life Black activist Steve Biko. If you haven’t seen it yet, you are missing out on the actor’s early brilliance.