As one of Hollywood’s leading men for the past three decades, Denzel Washington is no stranger to immersing himself in memorable roles.
While Washington can play an excellent villain as evidenced by his turn as a corrupt cop in Training Day, he more often than not falls into the “good guy” role. With his action movie sequel The Equalizer 2 currently in theaters, now is the perfect time to look at some of the actor’s heroic highlights. From wild westerns to chilling murder mysteries, here are some of our favorite movies that featured Denzel Washington kicking bad guy butt.
In terms of action-packed popcorn movies, one can’t ask for much more than this 2016 remake of this classic western. Washington heads up the stellar cast that includes A-listers Chris Pratt and Ethan Hawke as a band of seven frontier heroes who have come to save a town from a ruthless gold-mining tycoon who’s turned the town into his own forced labor camp. With explosions, plenty of six-shooter action, and a hefty dose of jokes, it’s a rip-roaring good time.
Everybody’s had that one coworker who is just a little bit not right in the head. For agent Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) that coworker is Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington). The action-spy thriller moves at a breakneck pace with Reynold’s playing a CIA agent who does things by the book and Washington playing a veteran operative who handles mercenaries in Cape Town, South Africa by any — and often violent — means necessary.
The title character of Eli will surely go down as one of Washington’s coolest and toughest characters. Set in a hellish post-apocalyptic world that has left the United States looking like Death Valley, Eli tracks down a sacred book that holds the secrets to saving the human race. He also happens to carry a very large knife that he uses to drop every nasty band of brutes that he encounters along the way.
Taking down a maniac makes a good plot for a thriller, but why not ramp it up a notch with a fallen angel committing murders as it jumps from person to person? That’s the basic plot of this 1998 thriller that has Denzel Washington in the familiar role as a detective trying to solve a series of grisly murders in Philadelphia. With a cast including actors John Goodman, James Gandolfini, and Donald Sutherland, this film is sure to keep you guessing until the end.
Denzel Washington has played a CIA agent numerous times over the years (The Equalizer, Safe House) but Man on Fire might just be his best turn in the law enforcement role. Directed by the late Tony Scott, Washington is in charge of rescuing the daughter (Dakota Fanning) of a wealthy couple who has been kidnapped for ransom in Mexico City. Stylish action sequences that toe the line without going over the top help to make this one of Washington’s best movies of the 2000s.
The hot and humid South Florida setting makes for a perfect backdrop to this sexy mystery that has Washington working to solve a double homicide that points to him as the killer. With action scenes that have Washington dangling off of hotel balconies and sizzling onscreen chemistry with co-star Eva Mendes, Out of Time is a worthy watch on a hot summer night.
With the number of times Denzel Washington has played a law enforcement officer, one would think he’d have some sort of honorary badge. This time around he’s teamed up again with director Tony Scott to play an ATF agent who tries to stop some terrorists from bombing a ferry in New Orleans. The big twist is that he has to go back in time to do it. On the surface the plot is certainly a little silly, but Washington and Scott succeed in pulling it off.
This 2013 action comedy isn’t a movie that will be remembered as one of Denzel Washington’s finest films, but it’s a fun flick nonetheless. Teaming up with Mark Wahlberg, the pair play a couple of crooks who plan to take down a Mexican drug lord (Edward James Olmos) by robbing a bank of $3 million dollars. With far too many action movies stretching well over two hours these days, 2 Guns is an easily digestible 109 minutes of action and one-liners.
Okay, so maybe Denzel Washington isn’t punching out criminals and regularly getting in shootouts in this movie. He’s still using his mind to take down the bad guys though, so it makes our list. Playing a former homicide detective who is now quadriplegic, Washington guides his protege (Angelina Jolie) in tracking down a serial killer in New York City before the next body shows up. While it may not be as strong as say Silence of the Lambs, it’s sure to appeal to fans of creepy murder mysteries.
You didn’t think we were going to leave the film that spawned The Equalizer 2 off this list, did you? If the new movie looks appealing, but you haven’t yet seen the original then get ready to watch Washington use his fists, feet, and whatever else is within arm’s reach to take down one Russian gangster after another.