In Honor of His Birthday, Let’s Celebrate the Most Denzel Washington Moments of All Time

Actor Denzel Washington poses for a photo during the photo call for ‘The Equalizer 2' on August 8, 2018 in Berlin, Germany.
Actor Denzel Washington poses for a photo during the photo call for ‘The Equalizer 2' on August 8, 2018 in Berlin, Germany.
Photo: Sean Gallup (Getty Images for Sony Pictures)

Hi, Denzel is better than you. Note: “You,” in this instance, does not include Monique Judge.


Today, on the day of Denzel Washington’s 64th birthday, Dec. 28, 2018, we salute the man who is not simply a highly lauded thespian and filmmaker. He is a brand.

How is he a brand, you probably didn’t ask? Well, no one can quite do anything like Denzel can. And that applies to major things (winning Academy Awards like a boss) and to smaller details (the unique way his eyes and lips move when he’s emoting).

As such, I want to honor Denzel Washington’s Denzel-est Washington-est moments ever in the history of theatrical arts.

When Denzel Fucking Finally Won His Academy Award For Best Actor

Not only was the win alone a huge deal. (Because, how did he not win for X again? Oh right, systemic racism. Anyway.) The way he began his speech was iconic. You may have blinked and missed it or was too busy shouting from the rooftops to hear, but Denzel began his speech in the best way ever.

“Two birds in one night, huh?”

Nigga. NIGGA. Well said. If you recall correctly, Halle Berry had just made Academy Award history, having been the first black woman to win Best Actress in a Leading Role. The first black person to ever win Best Actor, Sidney Poitier, was also being honored that night with prime box seats. Denzel calling out the Academy for basically patting themselves on the back for lumping in these historic moments (only to go full whitewash again) almost made me tear up. It was so perfect.


While we’re on the subject of the movie that won him that Oscar ...

When Denzel Changed The Way Everyone Said “My Nigga”

My nigga” isn’t a phrase invented in 2001. We’ve been saying that. But, we weren’t saying it exactly the way Denzel said it until he said it exactly the way Denzel says it in Antoine Fuqua’s Training Day.


One cannot simply say “mah nigga,” you have to say “mahhhhhhh nigga” in the exact method Denzel says it. Use as many h’s as possible.

When Denzel Blew My Mind While Listening To The Radio One Random Day 

I make this no secret: X is my favorite role of Denzel’s. He did not portray Malcolm X. He did not even embody Malcolm X. He used the power of pure lye to suck the soul out of Malcolm X’s grave to become him. I surely wore out many a VHS tape watching it over and over and had memorized the film by heart. So, cut to one random day, I’m riding in the passenger seat of my mom’s car and catch a clip of a Malcolm X speech out of context. Now, here I’m thinking they’re promoting the film because it had debuted around that time. I turned to my mama and said something like, “Wow, I really love that movie. Denzel was so good.”


Mama then gave me the blankest stare and replied, “No, honey, that’s really Malcolm X.”

Mind. Blown.

Granted, I had likely seen Denzel making a speech as Malcolm X more than I had seen the real-life Malcolm X making a speech at that point in my life, but still. How did he swipe Malcolm’s voice and vocal inflections that way?! It was eerie as fuck, and I’ll never forget it.


When Denzel’s Tear Out-Acted Everyone Else In an Entire Fucking Feature Film

Before there was Viola’s patented snot nose, there was Denzel’s tear. In Glory, the film where Denzel won his first Oscar—for Best Actor in a Supporting Role—his portrayal of Private Trip getting flogged as he stares down Colonel Robert Gould Shaw (Matthew Broderick) was a master class of subtleties. Holding his face in firm defiance, the tear’s escape was the only source of release for Trip. It not only represented his releas but the release of pain for all of the black soldiers who endured the Civil War. A classic “for your consideration” clip for an actor.


When Denzel Fell In Love With The Preacher’s Wife And Made Us Fall, Too

Portraying Dudley the angel was more of a lighthearted role for notoriously dramatic Denzel, but he still acted his ass off. There was one moment that stood out from the rest and subtly showcased his acting chops. Julia Biggs (Whitney Houston) tentatively took the stage to perform “I Believe In You And Me,” and not only did Denzel make me believe he was completely in love with Houston, he made me yearn for someone to look at me that way, too.


Denzel is everything, y’all.

Additionally, I have to give thanks to a couple of The Root-est moments ever that happened to feature Denzel, which make them eligible as some of the Denzel-est Washington-est moments ever, too.


One, where he truly proves he’s everybody’s uncle. And two, where he proves he is still about that youthful life. Don’t get it twisted.

Get your life.


All hail Denzel forever. Mahhhhh nigga.

Staff Writer, Entertainment at The Root. Sugar, spice & everything rice. Equipped with the uncanny ability to make a Disney reference and a double entendre in the same sentence.



He might be the angriest man in Hollywood, with good reason. He gave so many good performances, from Steve Biko, to Bleek Gilliam, to Malcolm X (really like 6 performances), to (my personal favorite) Easy Rawlins and ultimately wins the premiere award for playing a pimp-like corrupt cop. He gave a lot of depth to a role that was pretty much a procedural villain, but he made it work. He also went toe-to-toe with Gene Hackman in my favorite submarine movie Crimson Tide.

I think the real piece of work that hurt him was not winning for Fences. He tested that play on stage for years, really working it. He got the best team he could around the work and really made it great, and when it didn’t get the accolades that he (and me) thought it deserved, you can see him kind of say “fuck this town” maybe for good: