4. Training Day (2001)
Let's forget for a minute that Washington won his second Oscar basically playing a piece of shit. His Detective Alonzo Harris is a chain-smoking, whip-riding, utterly corrupt LA cop who takes a naïve white-boy cop (Ethan Hawke) for an ever-eventful ride. Let's remember instead the devilish layers Washington brought to that role. For most of the movie, he had audiences wondering if he'd take Hawke on a crooked-but-ultimately righteous path or send him to hell along with him. Yeah, he was a bad guy, but he was one of the most fascinating bad guys anyone has ever seen.
3. Cry Freedom (1987)
For the first hour of this movie, Denzel is the star of the show -- and what a glorious hour it is. As murdered African activist Steven Biko, Washington commands the screen with such sophistication and charisma, it's almost unnerving he didn't win the Best Supporting Actor Oscar he was nominated for. This is probably because, unfortunately, Biko is killed halfway through, and the movie turns into a caper flick where his white journalist friend (Kevin Kline) tries to sneak out of Africa to tell Biko's story. Still, that hour, though.