Denzel Washington’s 10 Highest-Grossing Movies At The Box Office
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Denzel Washington’s 10 Highest-Grossing Movies At The Box Office


  • Washington’s diverse filmography includes high-octane thrillers and socially conscious dramas, appealing to a wide audience.
  • Collaborations with famed directors like Tony Scott and Spike Lee elevated Washington’s performances in hit movies like “Inside Man.”
  • Films like “The Equalizer” franchise and “American Gangster” showcase Washington’s versatility and box office success.



The acclaimed career of Denzel Washington has been categorized by major success at the box office as he has traversed both compelling prestige dramas and high-octane action thriller genres. This duality of Washington’s range made him a consistent box office draw whose mere name on a movie poster was often enough to convince audiences to check out a new release. From fast-paced crime capers to deeply socially conscious legal dramas, the highest-grossing movies in Washington’s filmography were as varied and challenging as his entire catalog and stood as some of Washington’s definitive performances.

From works with major directors such as both Tony and Ridley Scott to leading the majorly successful action franchise The Equalizer, Washington elevated every movie he was in and brought depth and nuance to the characters he played. Despite Academy Award-winning performances in Glory and Training Day not standing among his highest-grossing releases, Washington still consistently brought the same commitment that won him those accolades to his less critically acclaimed but more financially successful performances. The highest-grossing movies from Washington act as a compelling, albeit limited, representation of his entire career.

10 Unstoppable (2010)

Box office: $167,805,466

Denzel Washington as Frank Barnes and Chris Pine as Will Colson approach train tracks in Unstoppable


Based on a real-life incident, Unstoppable tells the story of an out-of-control freight train whose path threatens countless lives, and two men who must stop the train before it’s too late.

Tony Scott

Release Date
November 12, 2010

98 minutes

As the final movie by acclaimed Top Gun director Tony Scott, Unstoppable acted as a fitting swansong for the filmmaker who revolutionized the action and thriller genre. Featuring Denzel Washington as Frank Barnes, a railway engineer tasked with averting a nail-bitingly tense disaster involving a half-mile-long freight train barreling toward a city. Unstoppable was a hugely successful disaster movie that took in over $167 million at the worldwide box office and featured strong visuals, heart-pumping suspense, and good chemistry between Washington and his co-star Chris Pine.

9 Déjà Vu (2006)

Box office: $180,557,550

Tony Scott Deja Vu Denzel Washington 2006

Déjà Vu

Tony Scott

Release Date
November 22, 2006

Denzel Washington , Paula Patton , Val Kilmer , James Caviezel , adam goldberg , Elden Henson

125 minutes

In his first collaboration with director Tony Scott, Denzel Washington showcased his potential as an action movie leading man in the science fiction thriller Déjà Vu. Washington played Special Agent Douglas Carlin tasked with traveling back in time to prevent a domestic terrorist attack in New Orleans in a movie that kept the tension high but whose supposed scientific examination of time travel fell apart upon investigation. Despite its shortcomings, Déjà Vu was a winner at the box office and took in over $180 million worldwide.

Washington played Special Agent Douglas Carlin tasked with traveling back in time to prevent a domestic terrorist attack in New Orleans.

8 Inside Man (2006)

Box office: $186,003,591

Inside Man

Release Date
March 24, 2006

129 minutes

Inside Man was an excellent crime thriller that once again paired director Spike Lee with Denzel Washington for their highest-grossing collaboration following Mo’ Better Blues, He Got Game, and Malcolm X. Inside Man focused on Clive Owen as the ringleader of an elaborate heist who claimed to have pulled off the perfect bank robbery, while Washington portrayed the New York City police detective tasked with bringing him down. A major box office draw, Inside Man was well-received by audiences and critics, securing the number one spot at the box office, and took in over $186 million worldwide.

7 The Equalizer 2 (2018)

Box office: $190,400,157

Denzel Washington hold guns in The Equalizer 2

The Equalizer 2

The Equalizer 2 is the follow-up film to Antoine Fuqua’s 2014 The Equalizer, starring Denzel Washington as Robert McCall. The sequel was released four years later and follows McCall as he seeks revenge after one of his close friends is murdered. The film wasn’t as well received as the first movie but was still considered a worthy addition to the Equalizer franchise.

Antoine Fuqua

Release Date
July 20, 2018


The Equalizer 2 proved Denzel Washington’s potential not just as a major action movie star but as the leading man of his own vigilante-based franchise. While The Equalizer 2 did not outgross either its predecessor or its sequel, it took in an impressive $190 million at the worldwide box office and, once again, brought Washington, as Robert McCall, on yet another path of revenge following the murder of his friend. With a strong supporting cast including Pedro Pascal and Orson Bean in his final film role, The Equalizer 2 proved this action series’ potential as an ongoing franchise.

6 The Equalizer 3 (2023)

Box office: $191,067,560

Denzel Washington with blood spatter on his face as Robert McCall in The Equalizer 3.

The Equalizer 3

Antoine Fuqua

Release Date
September 1, 2023

109 Minutes

Denzel Washington confirmed that The Equalizer 3 would be his final outing as Robert McCall (via ET) and he bowed out leaving viewers wanting more because it debuted first at the box office and took in $191,067,560 worldwide. The Equalizer 3 took McCall to an international setting as his friends in Southern Italy were under the control of local crime bosses, which left McCall with no option but to take on the mafia himself. While The Equalizer 4 has been confirmed without Washington, the trilogy stood as one of the best action-based endeavors in Washington’s long and varied career.

5 The Equalizer (2014)

Box office: $192,330,738

denzel washington in the equalizer poster

The Equalizer

Antoine Fuqua

Release Date
September 26, 2014

Marton Csokas , Denzel Washington , Melissa Leo , Bill Pullman , Chloe Grace Moretz

Denzel Washington’s first outing as Robert McCall in The Equalizer was the most successful release in the franchise and took in over $192 million at the worldwide box office. An exciting action thriller, the story of The Equalizer followed a highly skilled former agent on a mission to protect a trafficked teenager and was highly reminiscent of other franchises such as Taken and John Wick. A hit with viewers, The Equalizer blended high-octane and action with Washington’s innate power as a leading man to signal the dawning of a brand-new franchise.

4 The Pelican Brief (1993)

Box office: $195,268,056

The Pelican Brief

Alan J. Pakula

Release Date
September 17, 1993

141 minutes

As a thrilling legal drama based on a novel by John Grisham, The Pelican Brief paired Denzel Washing with Julia Roberts pulp conspiracy involving a newspaper reporter and a law student who soon find themselves in over their heads. The Pelican Brief took in an impressive $195,268,056 at the worldwide box office but failed to live up to director Alan J. Pakula’s best efforts, such as his Watergate scandal political drama All the President’s Men. However, Washington excelled in the role of reporter Gray Grantham and his onscreen chemistry with Roberts helped ensure the success of The Pelican Brief.

3 Philadelphia (1993)

Box office: $206,678,440

Joe Miller (Denzel Washington) and Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks) in court in Philadelphia.


jonathan demme

Release Date
January 14, 1994

125 minutes

While Tom Hanks may have taken home the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of the lawyer wrongly fired after being diagnosed HIV positive in Philadelphia, Denzel Washington was an essential factor in this socially conscious drama’s success. Grossing over $200 million, Philadelphia played an important role in educating filmgoers about the nature of the AIDs epidemic and helped humanize the victims of the disease who find themselves ostracized by everyday society. Washington’s role as defense attorney Joe Miller effectively juxtaposed the homophobic discrimination patients faced with racial discrimination and boosted the empathetic message of Philadelphia.

2 Safe House (2012)

Box office: $208,076,205

Safe House 2 Denzel Mirror

The action thriller Safe House brought Denzel Washington together with Ryan Reynolds for a tension-filled conspiracy where almost every character has some glaring moral flaw. Safe House was the second-biggest opening in Washington’s entire career and went on to gross $208,076,205 at the worldwide box office. While the story of a low-level CIA operative in over his head has been done countless times, Safe House transported the action to Cape Town, South Africa, and Washinton conjured the corruption of Detective Alonzo Harris in Training Day to portray ex-CIA operative turned international criminal Tobin Frost.

1 American Gangster (2007)

Box office: $269,755,430

Denzel Washington’s highest-grossing movie was the biographical crime drama American Gangster which took in a whopping $269,755,430 at the worldwide box office. Loosely based on the life of Harlem drug lord Frank Lucas, Washington delivered a compelling lead performance opposite Russell Crowe as the detective and aspiring lawyer Richie Roberts. An enjoyable homage to classic gangster movies, American Gangster was a major success for director Ridley Scott, who returned to the high-octane action genre following the failure of his rom-com A Good Year the previous year.

Denzel Washington’s highest-grossing movie was the biographical crime drama American Gangster which took in a whopping $269,755,430 at the worldwide box office.

Sources: Box office in from Box Office Mojo, ET

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