There are few actors with the same international allure as Denzel Washington, with the star of Malcolm X, Flight, Training Day and Mo’ Better Blues having built a loyal following of fans ever since his inception into the industry in the 1980s. It was the actor’s appearance as Dr. Phillip Chandler in the NBC series St. Elsewhere that would catapult him to industry success back in the 1980s, appearing in the show with the likes of Howie Mandel, David Morse and Mark Harmon.
Becoming one of the most prominent black actors in all of Hollywood, Washington found recent success playing the titular role in Joel Coen’s Shakespeare adaptation The Tragedy of Macbeth co-starring the likes of Frances McDormand, Harry Melling, Brendan Gleeson and Corey Hawkins. Striking in its monochrome theatrics, Washington was celebrated for his leading performance and has subsequently been nominated for an Academy Award.
In conversation with inews, the actor recognised how the industry has changed since the ‘80s, stating, “The things I can do as a black man in this industry now, I couldn’t do when I started”. Recognising the important strides Hollywood has made, he adds, “I could be the buddy of Macbeth in a film, but nobody was asking anybody who looked like me to play Macbeth”.
Speaking to Cindy Pearlman about the films that have shaped his life in the book You Gotta See This, Washington discussed some of his favourite movies of all time, rightfully noting from the outset, “my favourite film of all time depends on what age I was when I saw it. Films affect you differently during various periods of your life”.
Starting with one of the first films to have a considerable impact on him, Washington picks The Education of Sonny Carson, stating, “I just remember that film because it was the first time as a young man that I went to a serious film”. As the son of a minister, often the young actor would only go to the cinema to see throwaway feel-good films, but as Washington further explains, “Here was this film about Sonny and the streets…It’s completely brutal and shocking. I just sat there with my eyes wide open thinking, ‘Wow, something really serious is going on here’”.
Aside from his childhood favourite, Washington remembers, “I’ll never forget the first time I saw The Godfather,” with the film being one of the first true classics the actor ever saw, recalling, “It affected me because I remember thinking, ‘Now, this is a good picture from start to finish’”.
Choosing The Education of Sonny Carson and The Godfather, Washington throws one final film on the pile in the form of David Lynch’s Blue Velvet, recalling, “It was the first time I saw anything so strange”. Starring the likes of Kyle MacLachlan, Dennis Hopper, Isabella Rossellini and Laura Dern, the film is considered an American classic, with Washington adding, “You gotta love a movie that has your jaw dropping. At least it provokes a response, which is what a great film is supposed to do”.
Denzel Washington’s favourite films:
- The Education of Sonny Carson
- The Godfather
- Blue Velvet