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All Denzel Washington Movies Ranked

Over the course of his decades in show business, Denzel Washington has done pretty much everything — he’s played cops (good and bad), lawyers, reporters, educators, doctors, mobsters, and more, earning multiple Academy Awards and more than a billion dollars in box office grosses along the way. Of course, it’s fairly difficult to do all that without piling up a pretty hefty stack of positive reviews, and Mr. Washington’s filmography has definitely drawn its share, from Oscar winners like GloryTraining Day, and Philadelphia to his collaborations with director Spike Lee, like Malcolm XHe Got Game, and Inside Man. With all of that in mind, we’re here to celebrate by taking a comprehensive look at his career, including the best Denzel Washington movies and the worst. Perfection! Let’s go to work.

#47

Heart Condition (1990)
10%

#47
Adjusted Score: 8694%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Racist police officer Jack Moony (Bob Hoskins) has a vendetta against Napoleon Stone (Denzel Washington), a charismatic black lawyer who... [More]
Directed By: James D. Perriott

#46

John Q (2002)
23%

#46
Adjusted Score: 27005%
Critics Consensus: Washington's performance rises above the material, but John Q pounds the audience over the head with its message.
Synopsis: Story centers on a man whose nine-year-old son is in desperate need of a life-saving transplant. When he discovers that... [More]
Directed By: Nick Cassavetes

#45
#45
Adjusted Score: 32422%
Critics Consensus: A talented cast is wasted on a bland attempt at a suspenseful, serial killer flick.
Synopsis: Policewoman Amelia Donaghy (Angelina Jolie) is in hot pursuit of a serial murderer whose calling card is a small shard... [More]
Directed By: Phillip Noyce

#44
#44
Adjusted Score: 30164%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: When Reuben James (Denzel Washington), a decorated paratrooper, is discharged from the British military, he returns to his old neighborhood... [More]
Directed By: Martin Stellman

#43

Virtuosity (1995)
32%

#43
Adjusted Score: 33408%
Critics Consensus: Woefully deficient in thrills or common sense, Virtuosity strands its talented stars in a story whose vision of the future is depressingly short on imagination.
Synopsis: A former cop who has been imprisoned for murdering the psychopath who killed his family, Parker Barnes (Denzel Washington) is... [More]
Directed By: Brett Leonard

#42

Man on Fire (2004)
38%

#42
Adjusted Score: 43986%
Critics Consensus: Man on Fire starts out well, but goes over the top in the violent second half.
Synopsis: In a Mexico City wracked by a recent wave of kidnappings, ex-CIA operative John Creasy (Denzel Washington) reluctantly accepts a... [More]
Directed By: Tony Scott

#41

Fallen (1998)
40%

#41
Adjusted Score: 42686%
Critics Consensus: Has an interesting premise. Unfortunately, it's just a recycling of old materials, and not all that thrilling.
Synopsis: After witnessing the execution of serial killer Edgar Reese (Elias Koteas), whom he arrested, police detective John Hobbes (Denzel Washington),... [More]
Directed By: Gregory Hoblit

#40

The Siege (1998)
44%

#40
Adjusted Score: 46010%
Critics Consensus: An exciting, well-paced action film.
Synopsis: After terrorists attack a bus in Brooklyn, a Broadway theater and FBI headquarters, FBI anti-terrorism expert Anthony Hubbard (Denzel Washington)... [More]
Directed By: Edward Zwick

#39
#39
Adjusted Score: 59341%
Critics Consensus: An exceptionally well-cast throwback thriller, The Little Things will feel deeply familiar to genre fans -- for better and for worse.
Synopsis: Deputy Sheriff Joe "Deke" Deacon joins forces with Sgt. Jim Baxter to search for a serial killer who's terrorizing Los... [More]
Directed By: John Lee Hancock

#38

The Book of Eli (2010)
46%

#38
Adjusted Score: 53787%
Critics Consensus: It's certainly uneven, and many viewers will find that its reach exceeds its grasp, but The Book of Eli finds the Hughes brothers injecting some fresh stylish fun into the kind of post-apocalyptic wasteland filmgoers have seen more than enough of lately.
Synopsis: Thirty years after war turned the world into a wasteland, a lone warrior named Eli (Denzel Washington) marches across the... [More]

#37

Power (1986)
50%

#37
Adjusted Score: 50303%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Once-noble media consultant Pete St. John (Richard Gere) is now employed by a number of corrupt politicians. A potential client... [More]
Directed By: Sidney Lumet

#36
#36
Adjusted Score: 60559%
Critics Consensus: Despite a strong cast, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 suffers under the excesses of Tony Scott's frantic direction, and fails to measure up to the 1974 original.
Synopsis: Chaos reigns in the New York City subway system when heavily armed criminals, led by a mastermind named Ryder (John... [More]
Directed By: Tony Scott

#35

The Equalizer 2 (2018)
52%

#35
Adjusted Score: 63236%
Critics Consensus: The Equalizer 2 delivers the visceral charge of a standard vigilante thriller, but this reunion of trusted talents ultimately proves a disappointing case study in diminishing returns.
Synopsis: If you have a problem and there is nowhere else to turn, the mysterious and elusive Robert McCall will deliver... [More]
Directed By: Antoine Fuqua

#34
#34
Adjusted Score: 56136%
Critics Consensus: Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington are a compelling team in the overlong Pelican Brief, a pulpy thriller that doesn't quite justify the intellectual remove of Alan J. Pakula's direction.
Synopsis: Taut thriller about a young law student whose legal brief about the assassination of two Supreme Court justices causes her... [More]
Directed By: Alan J. Pakula

#33

Safe House (2012)
53%

#33
Adjusted Score: 61135%
Critics Consensus: Safe House stars Washington and Reynolds are let down by a thin script and choppily edited action sequences.
Synopsis: For the past year, rookie CIA agent Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) has been eager to prove himself while cooling his... [More]
Directed By: Daniel Espinosa

#32
#32
Adjusted Score: 66896%
Critics Consensus: Intriguing yet heavy-handed, Roman J. Israel, Esq. makes the most of -- but never quite lives up to -- Denzel Washington's magnetic performance in the title role.
Synopsis: Roman J. Israel is an idealistic defense attorney whose life gets upended when his boss and mentor -- the legendary... [More]
Directed By: Dan Gilroy

#31

Déjà Vu (2006)
56%

#31
Adjusted Score: 61767%
Critics Consensus: Tony Scott tries to combine action, science fiction, romance, and explosions into one movie, but the time travel conceit might be too preposterous and the action falls apart under scrutiny.
Synopsis: The team of top-secret program brings ATF agent Doug Carlin (Denzel Washington) into its midst to capture the terrorist (Jim... [More]
Directed By: Tony Scott

#30
#30
Adjusted Score: 62208%
Critics Consensus: Solid performances and a steady directorial hand help The Preacher's Wife offer some reliably heartwarming - albeit fairly predictable - holiday cheer.
Synopsis: A cleric begins to doubt himself and is visited by an angel. The heavenly emissary is supposed to help the... [More]
Directed By: Penny Marshall

#29

The Equalizer (2014)
60%

#29
Adjusted Score: 67539%
Critics Consensus: The Equalizer is more stylishly violent than meaningful, but with Antoine Fuqua behind the cameras and Denzel Washington dispensing justice, it delivers.
Synopsis: Robert McCall (Denzel Washington), a man of mysterious origin who believes he has put the past behind him, dedicates himself... [More]
Directed By: Antoine Fuqua

#28

Out of Time (2003)
64%

#28
Adjusted Score: 68890%
Critics Consensus: A fun and stylish thriller if you can get past the contrivances.
Synopsis: Matt Lee Whitlock (Denzel Washington) is the police chief of a small Florida town, going through a divorce with his... [More]
Directed By: Carl Franklin

#27
#27
Adjusted Score: 82946%
Critics Consensus: The Magnificent Seven never really lives up to the superlative in its title -- or the classics from which it draws inspiration -- but remains a moderately diverting action thriller on its own merits.
Synopsis: Looking to mine for gold, greedy industrialist Bartholomew Bogue seizes control of the Old West town of Rose Creek. With... [More]
Directed By: Antoine Fuqua

#26

2 Guns (2013)
65%

#26
Adjusted Score: 71508%
Critics Consensus: Formulaic and often jarringly violent, 2 Guns rests its old-school appeal on the interplay between its charismatic, well-matched stars.
Synopsis: For the past year, DEA agent Bobby Trench (Denzel Washington) and U.S. Navy intelligence officer Marcus Stigman (Mark Wahlberg) have... [More]
Directed By: Baltasar Kormákur

#25
#25
Adjusted Score: 76982%
Critics Consensus: An inspirational crowd-pleaser with a healthy dose of social commentary, Remember the Titans may be predictable, but it's also well-crafted and features terrific performances.
Synopsis: In Virginia, high school football is a way of life, an institution revered, each game celebrated more lavishly than Christmas,... [More]
Directed By: Boaz Yakin

#24

Training Day (2001)
73%

#24
Adjusted Score: 79312%
Critics Consensus: The ending may be less than satisfying, but Denzel Washington reminds us why he's such a great actor in this taut and brutal police drama.
Synopsis: Police drama about a veteran officer who escorts a rookie on his first day with the LAPD's tough inner-city narcotics... [More]
Directed By: Antoine Fuqua

#23

Ricochet (1991)
74%

#23
Adjusted Score: 73701%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: After tracking down and arresting Earl Talbot Blake (John Lithgow), a psychotic hit man, rookie Los Angeles police officer Nick... [More]
Directed By: Russell Mulcahy

#22

Cry Freedom (1987)
76%

#22
Adjusted Score: 77400%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Set in apartheid-torn South Africa. Donald Woods is the editor of the East London Daily Express and Steve Biko is... [More]
Directed By: Richard Attenborough

#21

Flight (2012)
77%

#21
Adjusted Score: 87292%
Critics Consensus: Robert Zemeckis makes a triumphant return to live-action cinema with Flight, a thoughtful and provocative character study propelled by a compelling performance from Denzel Washington.
Synopsis: Commercial airline pilot Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) has a problem with drugs and alcohol, though so far he's managed to... [More]
Directed By: Robert Zemeckis

#20

Antwone Fisher (2002)
78%

#20
Adjusted Score: 82763%
Critics Consensus: Washington's directing debut is a solidly crafted, emotionally touching work.
Synopsis: The touching story of a sailor (Derek Luke) who, prone to violent outbursts, is sent to a naval psychiatrist (Denzel... [More]
Directed By: Denzel Washington

#19
#19
Adjusted Score: 84320%
Critics Consensus: A wonderful cast and top-notch script elevate The Great Debaters beyond a familiar formula for a touching, uplifting drama.
Synopsis: Poet and professor Melvin B. Tolson (Denzel Washington) teaches at the predominately black Wiley College in 1935 Texas. He decides... [More]
Directed By: Denzel Washington

#18
#18
Adjusted Score: 86723%
Critics Consensus: While not the classic its predecessor is, this update is well-acted and conjures a chilling resonance.
Synopsis: Years after his squad was ambushed during the Gulf War, Major Ben Marco (Denzel Washington) finds himself having terrible nightmares.... [More]
Directed By: Jonathan Demme

#17

Philadelphia (1993)
81%

#17
Adjusted Score: 81161%
Critics Consensus: Philadelphia indulges in some unfortunate clichés in its quest to impart a meaningful message, but its stellar cast and sensitive direction are more than enough to compensate.
Synopsis: Fearing it would compromise his career, lawyer Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks) hides his homosexuality and HIV status at a powerful... [More]
Directed By: Jonathan Demme

#16

He Got Game (1998)
81%

#16
Adjusted Score: 83074%
Critics Consensus: Though not without its flaws, He Got Game finds Spike Lee near the top of his game, combining trenchant commentary with his signature visuals and a strong performance from Denzel Washington.
Synopsis: Jake Shuttleworth (Denzel Washington) has spent the last six years in prison after accidentally killing his wife during a violent... [More]
Directed By: Spike Lee

#15
#15
Adjusted Score: 89289%
Critics Consensus: American Gangster is a gritty and entertaining throwback to classic gangster films, with its lead performers firing on all cylinders.
Synopsis: Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) earns his living as a chauffeur to one of Harlem's leading mobsters. After his boss dies,... [More]
Directed By: Ridley Scott

#14
#14
Adjusted Score: 85239%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: After Mina's (Sarita Choudhury) Indian family is ousted from their home in Uganda by dictator Idi Amin, they relocate to... [More]
Directed By: Mira Nair

#13

The Hurricane (1999)
83%

#13
Adjusted Score: 87862%
Critics Consensus: Thanks in large part to one of Denzel Washington's most powerful on-screen performances, The Hurricane is a moving, inspirational sports drama, even if it takes few risks in telling its story.
Synopsis: Denzel Washington is Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, a man whose dreams of winning the middleweight boxing title were destroyed when he... [More]
Directed By: Norman Jewison

#12
#12
Adjusted Score: 87938%
Critics Consensus: An emotional and intriguing tale of a military officer who must review the merits of a fallen officer while confronting his own war demons. Effectively depicts the terrors of war as well as its heartbreaking aftermath.
Synopsis: During the 1991 Gulf War, Lieutenant Colonel Nathaniel Serling (Denzel Washington) accidentally caused a friendly fire incident, a mistake that... [More]
Directed By: Edward Zwick

#11

Inside Man (2006)
86%

#11
Adjusted Score: 94908%
Critics Consensus: Spike Lee's energetic and clever bank-heist thriller is a smart genre film that is not only rewarding on its own terms, but manages to subvert its pulpy trappings with wit and skill.
Synopsis: A tough detective (Denzel Washington) matches wits with a cunning bank robber (Clive Owen), as a tense hostage crisis is... [More]
Directed By: Spike Lee

#10

Unstoppable (2010)
87%

#10
Adjusted Score: 93232%
Critics Consensus: As fast, loud, and relentless as the train at the center of the story, Unstoppable is perfect popcorn entertainment -- and director Tony Scott's best movie in years.
Synopsis: When a massive, unmanned locomotive roars out of control, the threat is more ominous than just a derailment. The train... [More]
Directed By: Tony Scott

#9

The Mighty Quinn (1989)
88%

#9
Adjusted Score: 87552%
Critics Consensus: A deft hybrid of laughs, espionage, and music, The Mighty Quinn is a smart, pleasant entertainment that offers an early example of Denzel Washington's onscreen magnetism.
Synopsis: Police chief Xavier Quinn (Denzel Washington) investigates the gruesome murder of Donald Pater, one of the wealthiest residents on a... [More]
Directed By: Carl Schenkel

#8

Crimson Tide (1995)
88%

#8
Adjusted Score: 90961%
Critics Consensus: Boasting taut, high energy thrills and some cracking dialogue courtesy of an uncredited Quentin Tarantino, Crimson Tide finds director Tony Scott near the top of his action game.
Synopsis: After the Cold War, a breakaway Russian republic with nuclear warheads becomes a possible worldwide threat. U.S. submarine Capt. Frank... [More]
Directed By: Tony Scott

#7

Malcolm X (1992)
89%

#7
Adjusted Score: 93103%
Critics Consensus: Anchored by a powerful performance from Denzel Washington, Spike Lee's biopic of legendary civil rights leader Malcolm X brings his autobiography to life with an epic sweep and a nuanced message.
Synopsis: A tribute to the controversial black activist and leader of the struggle for black liberation. He hit bottom during his... [More]
Directed By: Spike Lee

#6
#6
Adjusted Score: 92748%
Critics Consensus: Kenneth Branagh's love for the material is contagious in this exuberant adaptation.
Synopsis: In this Shakespearean farce, Hero (Kate Beckinsale) and her groom-to-be, Claudio (Robert Sean Leonard), team up with Claudio's commanding officer,... [More]
Directed By: Kenneth Branagh

#5
#5
Adjusted Score: 99009%
Critics Consensus: Humor, interesting characters, and attention to details make the stylish Devil in a Blue Dress an above average noir.
Synopsis: In late 1940s Los Angeles, Easy Rawlins (Denzel Washington) is an unemployed black World War II veteran with few job... [More]
Directed By: Carl Franklin

#4
#4
Adjusted Score: 92280%
Critics Consensus: A meticulously-crafted murder mystery with incisive observations about race in America, A Soldier's Story benefits from a roundly excellent ensemble and Charles Fuller's politically urgent screenplay.
Synopsis: A black Army investigator (Howard E. Rollins Jr.) travels to a remote military base in the heart of the Louisiana... [More]
Directed By: Norman Jewison

#3

Fences (2016)
92%

#3
Adjusted Score: 107956%
Critics Consensus: From its reunited Broadway stars to its screenplay, the solidly crafted Fences finds its Pulitzer-winning source material fundamentally unchanged -- and still just as powerful.
Synopsis: Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) makes his living as a sanitation worker in 1950s Pittsburgh. Maxson once dreamed of becoming a... [More]
Directed By: Denzel Washington

#2

Glory (1989)
93%

#2
Adjusted Score: 96363%
Critics Consensus: Bolstered by exceptional cinematography, powerful storytelling, and an Oscar-winning performance by Denzel Washington, Glory remains one of the finest Civil War movies ever made.
Synopsis: Following the Battle of Antietam, Col. Robert Gould Shaw (Matthew Broderick) is offered command of the United States' first all-African-American... [More]
Directed By: Edward Zwick

#1
#1
Adjusted Score: 105946%
Critics Consensus: Led by a stellar Denzel Washington, The Tragedy of Macbeth strips the classic story down to its visual and narrative essentials.
Synopsis: Power-hungry Macbeth sets his sights on the Scottish throne after receiving a prophecy from three witches.... [More]
Directed By: Joel Coen

Denzel Washington
Over the course of his more than 30 years in show business, Denzel Washington has done pretty much everything — he’s played cops (good and bad), lawyers, reporters, educators, doctors, mobsters, and more, earning two Academy Awards and more than a billion dollars in box office grosses along the way. In this weekend’s The Equalizer, Washington reunites with his old pal, director Antoine Fuqua, to deliver one more lethally effective variation on the timeless tale of a mysterious vigilante who brings the pain to a cadre of nasty Russian gangsters in order to protect one of their young victims (Chloë Grace Moretz), and we thought it seemed like the perfect opportunity to take a fresh look back at his brightest critical highlights. It’s time for Total Recall!


83%

10. The Hurricane

There probably really isn’t much that can make a person feel better about serving almost 20 years of prison time for a triple homicide you didn’t commit, but on the list of things that might come sort of close, having your life turned into a movie starring Denzel Washington must rank near the top. Washington toplined 1999’s The Hurricane as Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, the real-life boxer whose long incarceration for three 1966 murders inspired public protests from a number of activists (including Bob Dylan, who wrote the 1975 song “Hurricane” about Rubin). Of course, this being Hollywood, a few liberties were taken with the details of Rubin’s life, which understandably angered some of the people depicted in the film (such as boxer Joey Giardello, who sued The Hurricane‘s producers for libel) as well as a noticeable number of critics (among them the New Yorker’s David Denby, who called it “False, evasive, and factually thin — a liberal fairytale”). No matter how they felt about the film, though, pretty much everyone agreed that Washington was terrific in it — a position exemplified by the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Margaret A. McGurk, who said, “As the center of the drama, Mr. Washington more than fills the screen; he very nearly sets it on fire.”


85%

9. Courage Under Fire

Released in the years before American audiences developed an allergy to movies about wars in the Middle Eastern desert, Courage Under Fire used a Rashomon-style screenplay (written by Patrick Sheane Duncan) to keep viewers guessing about the final days of Army Captain Emma Walden (Meg Ryan), a Medal of Honor candidate whose death is being investigated by Nathaniel Serling (Washington), a lieutenant colonel with a painful history on the battlefield. To this point, Washington had played a lot of cool and/or affable characters, but Courage served as a reminder of the fact that he’s every bit as capable of showing depth; though the movie’s marketing hook had more to do with Ryan’s character than Washington’s, the story is about his redemption just as much as her death. The confidence with which he handled Serling’s troubled journey wasn’t lost on critics; though Washington already had a pair of Oscar nominations to his credit, Courage motivated Robin Clifford of Reeling Reviews to note, “Denzel Washington gives as fine a performance as I have seen him give.”


87%

8. Unstoppable

A buddy-pic action thriller that takes two quippin’-‘n’-squabblin’ guys and puts them on board an out-of-control train hurtling toward disaster with a lethal chemical payload, Unstoppable could easily have been the sort of C-level, direct-to-video nonsense that once awaited unlucky Blockbuster patrons who waited to peruse the shelves until after dark on a Saturday night. Director Tony Scott did it up right, however, turning Mark Bomback’s screenplay into a taut, laudably lean 98-minute ride that boasts plenty of visual thrills and a pair of purely entertaining lead performances from Denzel Washington and Chris Pine. “Some movies win you Oscars, and some have you playing second banana to an evil train,” noted an appreciative Moira MacDonald for the Seattle Times. “And both have their place.”


86%

7. Inside Man

Washington teamed up with Spike Lee for the fourth time in this heist flick, which pitted New York police detective Keith Frazier (Washington) against a bank robber (Clive Owen) who may not be everything he seems. A familiar premise? Absolutely, and there were more than a few people who raised an eyebrow at the knowledge that Spike Lee would direct what Newsweek’s David Ansen called an “unapologetic genre movie.” As far as genre movies go, however, Inside Man is pretty smart stuff — and with a top-shelf cast that surrounded Washington and Owen with Jodie Foster, Willem Dafoe, and Christopher Plummer, well… it isn’t hard to see why this represented Lee’s biggest commercial success. In the words of CHUD’s Devin Faraci, “Inside Man is the Spike Lee film for people who don’t go to see Spike Lee films, and it’s also a fun treat for people who see everything the man does.”


88%

6. Crimson Tide

Washington’s long and fruitful partnership with director Tony Scott kicked off with this maritime thriller, which put Washington in a submarine with Gene Hackman, tossed in a subplot about messy post-Cold War Russian politics — as well as some uncredited script doctoring by Quentin Tarantino — and grossed a healthy $154 million worldwide. For Washington, Tide was the third film in a box office-busting trilogy that started with The Pelican Brief and Philadelphia; put together, they combined for a whopping $558 million and cemented his status as one of the most bankable actors in the industry. Of course, that bankability sustained a bit of a dent with his next release, the painful flop Virtuosity, but the less said about that, the better; let us conclude, instead, with the words of the Madison Capital Times’ Rob Thomas, who wrote of Tide, “It’s great to see a high-tech thriller that thrills because of its actors, not its special effects.”


91%

5. Devil in a Blue Dress

After putting together a mostly unbroken string of high quality, financially successful projects between 1987 and 1995, Denzel Washington was overdue for what economists like to call a “correction” — and he experienced one after Crimson Tide, entering a lull that found him starring in misguided efforts such as Virtuosity, The Preacher’s Wife, Fallen, and The Siege. It wasn’t all bad, though; despite its failure to find a typically Denzel-sized audience, 1995’s Devil in a Blue Dress offered filmgoers a cool little morsel of neo-noir during a time when new entries in the genre were few and far between. Adapted from Walter Mosley’s novel, Devil starred Washington as factory worker-turned-private eye “Easy” Rawlins, whose initial foray into sleuthing for hire is filled with all the hangovers, dames, and threatening goons one could hope for. Despite a sequel-ready ending (and ten more books in Mosley’s Rawlins series), Devil has yet to spawn further installments — a shame for critics like Jeffrey M. Anderson of Combustible Celluloid, who observed, “In the aftermath of the Oscars, it now seems clear that Devil in a Blue Dress was one of the best films of 1995.”


88%

4. The Mighty Quinn

More than a few television actors have difficulty making the transition from the boob tube to the big screen, but Denzel Washington picked up his first Oscar nomination (for his supporting turn as slain South African activist Steven Biko, in 1987’s Cry Freedom) before finishing his six-year run on St. Elsewhere — and then he went on to earn even louder critical applause for 1989’s The Mighty Quinn. Based on A.H.Z. Carr’s novel Finding Maubee, the film gave Washington an opportunity to display his seemingly bottomless reserves of cool — and, in the first of what would be many police roles, his gift for brandishing a service revolver. While not a major box office success, Quinn‘s twisty mystery plot, sunny island locale, and a solid cast that included Robert Townsend, Mimi Rogers, and M. Emmet Walsh impressed critics — particularly Roger Ebert, who deemed it one of the year’s best films and wrote, “The Mighty Quinn is a spy thriller, a buddy movie, a musical, a comedy and a picture that is wise about human nature. And yet with all of those qualities, it never seems to strain.”


90%

3. Much Ado About Nothing

Following his Academy Award-nominated performance in 1992’s Malcolm X, Washington opted for a decidedly less serious role — that of the matchmaking prince Don Pedro of Aragon in Much Ado About Nothing. Kenneth Branagh’s second Shakespeare adaptation, Much Ado united a colorful cast (including Washington, Keanu Reeves, Emma Thompson, Kate Beckinsale, Michael Keaton, and Branagh himself) to tell the tale of warring half-brothers (Washington and Reeves) whose squabbling serves as the backdrop for all manner of machinations and misunderstandings surrounding the wedding of Claudio (Robert Sean Leonard) and Hero (Beckinsale). As with most Shakespeare adaptations, Much Ado didn’t make many waves outside the traditional arthouse crowd, but for the folks who saw it, it proved a deft, smartly rearranged version of one of the Bard’s lighter plays. Though some scribes took issue with the film’s eclectic cast, for most critics, its flaws were minor; in the words of the Washington Post’s Desson Thomson, “Director Branagh, who altered the play imaginatively for the screen, gives wonderful import to this silliness from long ago.”


89%

2. Malcolm X

A lightning rod in life and death, Malcolm X was a natural fit for the biopic treatment — but it isn’t hard to understand why producer Marvin Worth had to labor through 25 years of turnarounds, screenplay revisions, changing leading men (including Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy), and multiple directors before Malcolm X finally made its way to theaters in November of 1992. And even with Washington signed on to play the slain activist, and Spike Lee in the director’s chair, Malcolm didn’t see release without multiple controversies, a creative tug of war between Lee and Warner Bros., and a last-minute influx of cash from a group of donors that included Bill Cosby, Oprah Winfrey, and Michael Jordan. Somewhat predictably, given Malcolm X’s thorny reputation — not to mention the movie’s three-and-a-half-hour length — this wasn’t a biopic for everyone, but most of those who did see it (including 91 percent of Tomatometer critics) agreed that, for all its struggle in getting to the screen, Malcolm X was a tribute worthy of its subject. It is, wrote Vincent Canby of the New York Times, “An ambitious, tough, seriously considered biographical film that, with honor, eludes easy characterization.”


93%

1. Glory

The first of three films to unite Denzel Washington with director Edward Zwick, Glory arrived in theaters five days before 1989’s other big war drama, Born on the 4th of July — and although July‘s grosses quickly dwarfed Glory‘s, critics were quick to point out that Glory, which dramatized the struggles faced by the Union Army’s first all-black Civil War regiment, was every bit as compelling. Washington starred here as an escaped slave-turned-soldier known as Trip — and although the cast was heavy with talent, including Morgan Freeman, Andre Braugher, and Matthew Broderick, it was Washington who walked away with the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. In an Entertainment Weekly retrospective of his career, Washington looked back on Glory, revealing that before he filmed a crucial scene in which his character is flogged, he walked around “calling on the spirits of all the slaves” — and that “that whip actually hurt.” That quote is enough to explain the level of commitment to craft that has helped make Denzel Washington one of Hollywood’s most respected actors, and Glory‘s 122 minutes are enough to tell you why it inspired ReelViews’ James Berardinelli to call it “without question, one of the best movies ever made about the American Civil War.”


In case you were wondering, here are Washington’s top ten movies according RT users’ scores:

1. Remember the Titans — 93%
2. Glory — 93%

3. Malcolm X — 91%
4. Man on Fire — 90%
5. Training Day — 89%
6. Philadelphia — 89%
7. Cry Freedom — 89%
8. American Gangster — 87%

9. The Hurricane — 87%

10. Much Ado About Nothing — 87%


Take a look through Washington’s complete filmography, as well as the rest of our Total Recall archives. And don’t forget to check out the reviews for The Equalizer.

Finally, here’s the opening for St. Elsewhere, the show that brought Washington to prominence:

This week on home video, we’ve got a few more new releases for you to peruse, and, as always, the requisite re-releases of older films in high definition. Among the new releases is a Denzel Washington-powered post-apocalyptic road movie, a standard rom-com starring Kristen Bell and Josh Duhamel, Michael Cera’s latest awkward-boy effort, and a powerful docu-drama on the freedom of speech. Then, we’ve got a couple of made-for-TV movies starring everyone’s favorite mulleted secret agent (no, not MacGruber), a controversial film from Paul Verhoeven, one of Sam Raimi’s early movies, and a classic from Jim Jarmusch. In other words, there’s something for everyone. Read on and see for yourself!



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The Book of Eli

The last feature film the Hughes Brothers tackled was 2001’s From Hell, so they’ve been absent from the big screen for quite some time. This year, they returned with the post-apocalyptic action thriller, The Book of Eli. Starring Denzel Washington, Mila Kunis, and Gary Oldman, The Book of Eli focuses on its titular hero Eli (Washington), a lone wolf roaming the United States en route to the west coast. Oldman plays Carnegie, the self-made leader of a broken down town who is in search of the last remaining copy of the King James Bible, which, as fate would have it, Eli possesses. The two cross paths, and a struggle ensues that changes both men’s lives forever. Critics weren’t entirely sold on the film, some calling it a relatively fresh take on the “end-of-the-world” scenario, and others calling it too disjointed and uneven. There certainly hasn’t been a dearth of post-apocalyptic films as of late (particularly of the zombie ilk), but most critics at least seemed to agree that The Book of Eli struck an effective tone with its dark atmosphere and gritty action. In other words, it might be worth checking out if you need something to entertain you on a rainy night.



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When in Rome

Rom-coms are formulaic in general; reliability is part of their package. Since they can’t sell surprises their big draw comes from aesthetics. The smarter ones try to give the film a look and feel that pleases a certain audience, the ones looking for a faster fix turn the show into a parade of clothes and shoes. Frankly, neither is a bad bargain — again, reliability is the package, and When in Rome is reliable. It’s like a checklist: Kristen Bell plays a career obsessed woman (check) who’s given up on love (check) and does something drunken (check) at a wedding (check) that sends the man of her dreams (check) running to change her mind (check) about the opposite (check) sex (check). But boy is it cute, and it’s gratefully absent of all the accidental offenses that show up in so many comedies of its ilk — the main character’s sanity isn’t called into question (All About Steve), she isn’t intolerable (How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days) and her personal problems aren’t solvable by any random under-aged boy wielding remote controls (The Ugly Truth). What you’re left with is nice scenery and some pleasant comic chemistry between stars Bell and Josh Duhamel. The DVD includes Alternate Opening and Ending, a “Mischief From the Set” Featurette, Deleted Scenes, Bloopers and never before seen music videos: “Starstruckk” and “Stupid Love Letter.”



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Youth in Revolt

Later this summer, Michael Cera will square off with 7 evil exes to win the heart of his dream girl in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, based on the graphic novel of the same name. But just about six months ago, Michael Cera squared off against an ex-boyfriend and a slew of oddball adults in order to win the heart of his dream girl in Youth in Revolt, based on a six-part story in novel form. Alright, so maybe we’re stretching the parallels just a bit here, but we thought it was worth mentioning. In Youth in Revolt, Cera plays Nick Twisp, a not-so-impressive teen who wants to impress Sheeni (Portia Doubleday) and resorts to creating an alter-ego of himself to do so. When the slick, mustachioed “Francois” (Nick’s alter-ego) gets Nick into trouble, his life encounters complications he never expected to face. Critics felt that Youth in Revolt didn’t quite do its source material justice, but also that it was still fun and funny enough to be highly enjoyable. They also cited Portia Doubleday as a new face to watch and believed it was an effective vehicle for Cera’s typically self-deprecating eccentricities. It didn’t do so well at the box office, but it’s on home video this week for those of you who missed it.



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Burma VJ

In 2007, the ruling military government of Burma (formally the Union of Myanmar) announced its decision to discontinue fuel subsidies, which led to massive increases in the cost of gasoline. This was sort of the straw that broke the camel’s back, and in response, the people rose up in protest. Soon, reports began to trickle out of the country about brutal encounters between Buddhist monks and the government. Burma VJ captures these events as we’ve never seen them before: from the cameras of first-hand witnesses. Because foreign TV crews are not allowed to enter the country, these accounts are the most accurate the outside world have seen, and the video journalists (or VJs) who documented the footage risked penalties as severe as prison time and even torture to ensure their voices were heard. Nominated for an Academy Award in the Documentary category, Burma VJ is powerfully visceral stuff, and critics everywhere praised it for its unflinching portrayal of censorship within a military regime. It stands Certified Fresh at a whopping 96% on the Tomatometer, so if gripping docs are your bag, this is one not to miss.


MacGyver: The TV Movies

If you didn’t know who Angus (yes, that was his first name) MacGyver was a year ago, chances are you probably do now. Thanks to a certain SNL sketch-turned-feature film called MacGruber, which lampooned the popular 1980s action TV show, MacGyver fans have come out of retirement to sing the praises of the campy secret agent who famously finagled his way out of tight situations with the most rudimentary tools available. Following on the heels of the recent release of MacGruber, almost as if to say, “Now, THIS is how it’s done,” we get both of MacGyver‘s made-for-tv movies in one package. Created two years after the end of the show, these two features were filmed in Europe, and both aired in 1994. Thought they were previously available in the collector’s box set that featured the entire series, the two movies, MacGyver: Lost Treasure of Atlantis and MacGyver: Trail to Doomsday, are now available in a standalone disc in a keep case. If you’re a fan of the original show, I’m sure you’ll MacGyver a way to find it and snag it for your home library.



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Showgirls (15th Anniversary Sinsational Edition) Blu-Ray

Audiences expected Showgirls to be Elizabeth Berkeley’s breakout. The willowy dancer known for her part on the oddly popular Saved by the Bell seemed poised for a big moment. But this film, which is principally a modern sexploitation film, was made by the Dutch master of the (anti)classic, Paul Verhoeven (Basic Instict, RoboCop) and penned by camp phenom and repeat offender Joe Eszterhaz, with tongue planted firmly in cheek. A sincere “breakout,” it wouldn’t be. Plus, since sexploitation was just far enough in the half-buried past when this came out, crowds were often not sure how to receive the film; still, even the confused crowds had something to talk about. Eerily tarted up to resemble a real life Jessica Rabbit, Berkeley managed a sturdy strain of… well, strain, in her performance (hot tub scene, anyone?). Intermittently laughable and titillating, the whole thing decamps and camps simultaneously — and in the ways of the cult classic, it’s the director who’s star also rises. The 15th Anniversary Blu-Ray features the NC-17 131 minute uncut version with commentary by David Schmader and (better still) two tutorial featurettes: “Pole Dancing: Finding Your Inner Stripper” and a lap dance tutorial featuring the world-famous girls of Scores.



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Darkman – Blu-Ray

After producing a couple of the modern era’s most beloved cult classic films (The Evil Dead and Evil Dead II), Sam Raimi set his sights on Hollywood. Though he initially wanted to do a film adaptation of The Shadow or Batman, he was unable to secure the rights to either, so instead he fabricated an original superhero story and Darkman was born. Starring Liam Neeson as the titular hero and Frances McDormand as his lawyer girlfriend, Darkman centers around Peyton Westlake (Neeson), a scientist who is attacked and left for dead by mobsters. When Westlake is administered an experimental treatment that kills his nerves but enhances his strength, he assumes the identity of Darkman and sets out to exact his revenge. By all accounts, Darkman was a sign of things to come for Raimi, whose wish to direct an official superhero film was granted when he was eventually given the reigns to the Spider-Man franchise. Featuring his trademark flair for visuals and a dark, brooding atmosphere, Darkman is Certified Fresh at 77% on the Tomatometer and stands as an early success story for the fan-favorite director. It’s available on Blu-Ray for the first time this week.



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Mystery Train – Criterion Collection Blu-Ray

Though his films have flown beneath the mainstream radar for most of his career, Jim Jarmusch remains a critical darling, with his only real feature misfire being his most recent, 2009’s The Limits of Control. Early on in his career, however, Jarmusch was knocking them out of the park, and his fourth film, 1989’s Mystery Train, was no exception. Adhering to his “travelogue” style, Jarmusch utilizes Mystery Train to paint a specific portrait of Memphis, Tennessee through three slightly interrelated vignettes, connected by one hotel. The first story, “Far From Yokohama,” centers on a Japanese tourist couple who have come to Memphis specifically for its connection to Elvis Presley; the second, “A Ghost,” tells the story of an Italian woman stranded in the States for an extra day before returning to Rome; and the third, “Lost in Space,” focuses on a down-and-out ex-boyfriend who encounters some troubles with a couple of friends. Mystery Train enjoys an 80% Fresh Tomatometer, with critics praising Jarmusch’s keen eye for local color and his knack for peculiar characters, and this week, it’s not only available in a Criterion edition, but in Blu-Ray, no less. This director-approved special edition includes features like a fan Q&A with Jarmusch, an original documentary on the film’s locations and musical history of Memphis, and more. A must for fans of the auteur.

Written by Ryan Fujitani and Sara Maria Vizcarrondo

This week at the movies, we’ve got Biblical bloodshed (The Book of Eli, starring Denzel Washington and Gary Oldman); neighborhood intrigue (The Spy Next Door, starring Jackie Chan and George Lopez); and life after death (The Lovely Bones, starring Saoirse Ronan and Mark Wahlberg). What do the critics have to say?



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The Book of Eli

For those who like their religious parables with plenty of fire and brimstone, The Book of Eli should be up your alley. That said, most critics say Eli is a bit of a muddle. Denzel Washington stars as the title character who, even though he walks through a post-apocalyptic, illiterate wasteland, will fear no man, for he carries the last known copy of the Good Book — as well as plenty of deadly weaponry. Standing in his way is the frontier-town despot Carnegie (Gary Oldman), who wants to get his hand on the book. The pundits say The Book of Eli has its moments, adding some originality to the recent glut of cinematic dystopias. However, others say it’s awfully inconsistent, and never quite achieves the gradeur it’s aiming for. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down Washington’s best-reviewed films.)



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The Spy Next Door

Not since the days of Buster Keaton has anyone combined slapstick comedy with astonishing stunt work quite like Jackie Chan. However, critics say his talents are risibly misused in The Spy Next Door, a flat, witless family action/comedy. Chan stars as a former CIA agent who retires after marrying a widow with three kids, but is forced back into action when he and the little urchins are threatened by evil spies who are hell-bent on world destabilization. The pundits say The Spy Next Door is one of Chan’s worst ever, a juvenile, generic, sticommy mess that utterly fails to thrill or amuse.



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The Lovely Bones

With the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Peter Jackson proved he could adapt complex literary material for the screen with aplomb. However, critics say he’s on much shakier ground with his latest, based on Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones. Saoirse Ronan plays Susie, a 15-year-old who explores the afterlife after being murdered by a neighbor; Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz play her grieving parents, who try to pick up the pieces in the wake of Susie’s death. The pundits say The Lovely Bones marks an odd miscalculation on Jackson’s part — the special effects overwhelm the humanity of the story, and the film fails to find a consistent tone. (Check out Jackson’s Five Favorite Films, as well as our interview with star Susan Sarandon.)


Also opening this week in limited release:

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