Sure, it's fun to watch Denzel Washington shoot 'em up and kick ass in movies like "The Equalizer." But it's also worth remembering that he's one of our great dramatic actors, with six Oscar nominations and two wins on his CV. If you need a reminder of his sheer intensity and strength as an actor, start with these seven performances.
Washington won his first Academy Award for his supporting role in this Civil War saga. His performance as Trip, a fiery-tempered slave-turned-soldier, is shockingly raw and physical in a way Washington has seldom been before or since.
'Malcolm X' (1992)
The best of Washington's many collaborations with Spike Lee is this epic biopic. Here, Washington grandly embodies the activist as he evolves over 20 years from casual street hustler to righteous separatist leader to enlightened anti-racist. Not the last time the star would be robbed of an Oscar.
Director Jonathan Demme's canny casting made Tom Hanks the sympathetic AIDS patient, but the film wouldn't have worked without the equally smart casting of Washington as the everyman lawyer to Hanks' character. The Oscar-winner stands in for the general audience as he learns about the realities of living with AIDS.
'The Hurricane' (1999)
Washington is quietly powerful in this biopic about the boxer who was framed and imprisoned for murder. Like Malcolm X, his Rubin "Hurricane" Carter manages to find prison a character-building -- even redemptive -- experience, making his tale all the more heartbreaking.
'Training Day' (2001)
We're so used to seeing Washington play noble and stiff (as in 2000's "Remember the Titans") that it's a liberating joy to see him cut loose and play evil, as he does here as the rogue cop who tries to corrupt rookie detective Ethan Hawke. His reward for going over to the dark side: the first Best Actor Oscar for an African-American actor since Sidney Poitier's in 1963.
'American Gangster' (2007)
Again, Washington is surprisingly winning as a bad guy, in this case, real-life Harlem drug kingpin Frank Lucas. Actually, the methodical, low-profile, quiet nature of Lucas's ruthlessness makes him a natural for Washington to play.
Washington brings together his latter-day action heroics and his gift for brooding drama with his role as a daring, addict pilot also suffering from deep and tragic character flaws. It's a rare treat to see him playing someone so erratic and unreliable, though as a viewer, you always feel like you're in safe hands when Washington is at the controls.