Denzel Washington Just Made Movie History

By Tyler Pisapia | Published

This article is more than 2 years old

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Denzel Washington just very quietly made history on Tuesday when he extended his run as the most Oscar-nominated Black actor in Academy Awards history. On Tuesday Tracee Ellis Ross and Leslie Jordan appeared virtually to announce nominations in all 16 categories for the 94th Annual Academy Awards. There were a lot of important, incredible projects and talented people nominated. However, it’s Denzel Washington’s nomination that has made history. 

The star was nominated in the category of best actor in a leading role for his turn as the titular Macbeth in the Joel Coen-directed black-and-white film The Tragedy of Macbeth. As Deadline notes, the nod makes him officially the most decorated Black actor in Oscar history with a total of ten nominations and two wins. Denzel Washington earned his first nomination in a supporting role for his work in the 1988 film Crying Freedom where he played Steve Biko. Two years later, he played Edward Zwick in the civil war film Glory where he stole the show from an already star-studded cast that included Morgan Freeman, Andre Braugher, Cary Elwes and Mathew Broderick. As a result, he won his first Academy Award that year. 

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Denzel Washington in The Tragedy of Macbeth (2021)

The hits kept on coming for Denzel Washington after he appeared as the title character in Spike Lee’s biopic about the acclaimed civil rights leader Malcolm X. He followed that up with a turn as the character Norman Jewison in Hurricane. With four Oscar nominations and one win under his belt, he received yet another nomination and a subsequent win for his now-iconic performance as the most crooked cop in Los Angeles, Alonzo Harris in Antoine Fuqua’s 2001 hit Training Day

Denzel Washington’s Oscar streak took about a ten-year break before it picked up again. He earned another four nominations in subsequent years starting in 2012 with his role of Whip Whitaker in Flight. In 2017, he got back into a character he’d previously played on the stage, Troy Maxson in an adaptation of August Wilson’s Fences. Most recently, Denzel Washington earned an Oscar nomination in 2018 for starring in Dan Gilroy’s Roman J. Israel, Esq.

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Denzel Washington in Roman J. Israel, Esq. (2017)

Sadly, Denzel Washington’s win is not necessarily a surprise as he already held the record for the Black actor with the most nominations. His nomination for The Tragedy of Macbeth only extends that streak. Unfortunately, while Denzel Washington is an unprecedentedly talented person, there is simply not a ton of competition when it comes to Black nominees at the Oscars. In fact, He’s one of only four Black people to be nominated in the best lead actor category. 

Denzel Washington stands with Sidney Poitier, Jamie Foxx and Forest Whitaker as the only Black men to earn a best actor nomination from the Academy. Hopefully, that changes in the coming years. Until then, all movie fans can do is hope that Denzel Washington keeps raking in the hits and being a presence that looms large over an awards show and an organization that desperately needs voices and talent like his. The 94th Annual Academy Awards are scheduled to be held from the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood on Sunday, March 27.