By Ann Silverthorn
I became a fan of Denzel Washington after a chance encounter with him in 2009. He won’t remember it, but my former colleague and I recall it every so often.
We were waiting to get on an elevator at the Nittany Lion Inn in State College, PA, home of The Pennsylvania State University, where we worked at one of the branches at the time. A group of men got off the elevator, and one ordinary-looking man, wearing a red hat said hello to us as he passed by.
Once we were in the elevator, my colleague said, “Isn’t that guy a famous actor?”
“What guy?” I said.
Over dinner, she brought him up again. She described him as a good-looking African American actor whose name I would know. Running down a list, I came up with Denzel Washington.
“That’s him!” she said.
Although I acted impressed, I wasn’t fully convinced. What would Denzel Washington be doing in State College, Pennsylvania?
The next day, in a meeting, someone asked us where we were staying, and we told them.
“Have you seen Denzel Washington?” one of them asked.
So, it was him! My colleague wasn’t crazy. He was in town filming Unstoppable, which came out in 2010.
Ever since that chance encounter with Denzel Washington, I’ve become quite a fan of his. My absolute favorite Denzel Washington movie is Man on Fire, which I’ll discuss a bit later. But first, a little about the man.
You might like to know that Denzel Washington was born on December 28, 1954 in Mount Vernon, NY. He originally wanted to be a journalist and earned a bachelor’s degree from Fordham University. While in college, he participated in theatre productions, and we can all be glad that he decided to change his focus. He’s been acting since 1975, and in 2016, he received the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award at the 73rd Golden Globes.
To try to see all of Denzel Washington’s movies would take you quite a bit of time, and there is a vast collection of them on DVD.com. To get you started, here are seven must-see Denzel Washington movies.
After standard operating procedures are not followed correctly, a half-mile long train, carrying a cargo of chemicals speeds out-of-control toward a town, threatening to derail and spill its contents. A sage railway engineer, Denzel’s character, Frank, and an inexperienced conductor (Chris Pine), must work together against the clock to get control of the Unstoppable train.
Denzel Washington plays an escaped slave, serving in the first African-American regiment during the Civil War. Glory is loosely based on the letters of Col. Robert G. Shaw, who was in charge of the group and had to combat the prejudice shown against his men from both sides of the War.
Twenty years after playing a Civil War soldier, in The Book of Eli, Denzel Washington plays the title character, a loner in a post-apocalyptic world. Eli is the owner of a book that could save humanity, but there are others who want it for themselves.
When no other lawyer will take the wrongful-termination case of a prominent HIV-positive attorney (Tom Hanks), a personal-injury lawyer, Joel Miller (Washington), reluctantly agrees to represent him. It’s the early 1990s, and Philadelphia takes on the many misconceptions and prejudices that were common at the time.
What happens when an experienced pilot, with personal problems, somehow manages to land a damaged plane and save nearly all of the passengers? In Flight, this would-be hero is found to have alcohol and cocaine in his system after the crash and must figure out how to save his reputation.
In Fences, we meet a man who appears to be gregarious and affable, but for whom there’s a current of bitterness running under the surface. That’s Troy Maxson (Washington), a 1950s trash collector, who deals every day with the memory that he could have been a major-league baseball player if not for discrimination.
If you’ve never seen Man on Fire, you should add it to your queue immediately. Set in Mexico City, Denzel Washington plays a rough ex-CIA agent, John Creasy, who takes a job as a body guard for a 10-year-old girl (Dakota Fanning). After an initial rough patch, the two form a tight bond, and when the girl is kidnapped, Creasy must call on his own wit to save her.