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'Book of Eli' star Denzel Washington has become one of the most respected and influential actors of the current generation: a genuine movie star with grace, vigor and magnetic charm.

Audiences love to root for the five-time Oscar nominee, who's become Hollywood's go-to hero -- for proof, see his latest, 'The Taking of Pelham 123.' But he's also proven, with films like 'Training Day' and 'American Gangster,' that he enjoys the occasional foray to the villainous side of the screen.

Of Washington's almost 40 screen credits, we've chosen his top 10. Check out our picks for Denzel's best films, and then tell us yours. 'Book of Eli' star Denzel Washington has become one of the most respected and influential actors of the current generation: a genuine movie star with grace, vigor and magnetic charm.

Audiences love to root for the five-time Oscar nominee, who's become Hollywood's go-to hero -- for proof, see his latest, 'The Taking of Pelham 123.' But he's also proven, with films like 'Training Day' and 'American Gangster,' that he enjoys the occasional foray to the villainous side of the screen.

Of Washington's almost 40 screen credits, we've chosen his top 10. Check out our picks for Denzel's best films, and then tell us yours.


10. 'Inside Man' (2006)
Critics hailed Spike Lee's crime drama as his best film in years. And they had good reason: Lee put his movie in the hands of some of the best actors in the biz, chief among them Washington, whose Det. Keith Frazier -- tough, savvy, just a touch beaten down -- went mano-a-mano with both Jodie Foster's "fixer" and Clive Owen's criminal mastermind. In the end, he earned their respect ( ... and we would say ours, but heck, he already had it).
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9. 'Mississippi Masala' (1991)
Indian director Mira Nair's first English-language film was this multiracial romance, starring Washington and Sarita Choudhury as star-crossed lovers in the Deep South fighting cultural differences to stay together. It's our favorite of Nair's films, and remains Denzel's sexiest role -- so far. We haven't given up hope.
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8. 'Cry Freedom' (1987)
It didn't take long for Washington to get the Academy's attention, earning his first of five Oscar nominations in only his fourth film, about Apartheid freedom fighter Steve Biko. In the true story of the author (Kevin Kline) who risked his life to tell Biko's story, the South African revolutionary perishes early on, but Washington made a strong impression. Now if only Biko could get his own movie.
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7. 'American Gangster' (2007)
Washington excels at playing true-hearted heroic types (see 'Glory,' 'Courage Under Fire,' etc.) -- but we dig it when he plays the villain. And here, as real-life Harlem drug kingpin Frank Lucas, he's bad to the bone -- a man with no qualms about lighting someone on fire and so full of himself that he shoots a rival dead in broad daylight in front of a crowd without thinking twice. It's a testament to Denzel's acting ability that by the film's end we actually kind of like Lucas.
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6. 'Philadelphia' (1993)
Even though 'Philadelphia' is the story of Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks, who won an Oscar for the role), a lawyer discriminated against because he has AIDS, one of the movie's most poignant messages comes from Joe Miller (Washington). As Beckett's attorney, Miller learns to accept his client and better understand his disease -- which was still a relative mystery in the early '90s -- while fighting for his basic human rights.
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5. 'The Hurricane' (1999)
This one-two punch of a film delivered an emotional knockout. As the regularly hard-edged Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, the real-life boxer wrongly accused of murder and imprisoned for 19 years, Washington revealed just enough vulnerability to make you feel his pain, and more than enough ferocity to leave you looking for a wall to beat through.
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4. 'Training Day' (2001)
Washington is simultaneously magnetic and loathsome as a rogue L.A. narcotics detective who puts a rookie (Ethan Hawke) through the wringer -- and then some -- during his first day on the job. Machiavellian to the extreme, badass to the core, Denzel's Alonzo is a trash-talking, multilayered character for the ages. Are we shocked the role won him the 2002 Oscar for Best Actor? No f***ing way.
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3. 'Remember the Titans' (2000)
Here's Washington at his likable-everyman best, as an embattled high school football coach putting his heart and soul into integrating his team. At once father figure and drill sergeant to his rowdy crew of gridiron players, his Coach Herman Boone is a good man doing good work, and there's no one better than Washington to play him.
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2. 'Malcolm X' (1992)
In a performance that boasts enough great moments to fill a highlight reel, Washington's riveting portrayal of the controversial Muslim leader and Civil Rights activist earned him his first Oscar nomination in a leading role. Is it any surprise that one of Hollywood's greatest actors would knock it out the park playing one of modern America's most fascinating and polarizing historical figures?
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1. 'Glory' (1989)
The second of Washington's Oscar nods (and his first win, for Best Supporting Actor) was for this devastatingly moving drama based on the true story of a volunteer company of black soldiers fighting in the Civil War. Though, again, as in 'Cry Freedom,' the lead role was for a white man (Matthew Broderick in this case), Washington's performance as Private Trip was superlative -- he was the only actor from the film to win (or even be nominated for) any awards. Even then, we knew he deserved a promotion.
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