If you’ve seen and loved The Pelican Brief before, you’ll love them. The following is a list of films like The Pelican Brief.
1. The Firm 1993
Mitch McDeere is a young man with a promising legal future. To sit his Bar Exam, ‘The Company’ approaches him and makes an offer he doesn’t refuse. Seduced by the money and gifts on him, he is totally unaware of his company’s more heinous side. Then two associates are assassinated. The FBI contacts him to ask him for information and his life is suddenly ruined. He has a choice – working with the FBI or staying with the company. He’s going to lose his life any way he knows it. Mitch figures are the only way out of his plan.
2. All The President’s Men 1976
Before the election in 1972, Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward covered what seemed to be a minor break-in at the National Headquarters of the Democratic Party. He is surprised to find senior lawyers on the case and the discovery of the names and directions of the organizers of the republican funds on the accused raises further suspicions. After Woodward and Carl Bernstein have the story written by the editor of the Post, they find the trail that leads to the Republican Party – and then to the White House itself.
3. Heart Condition (1990)
This theoretical ‘comedy’ stars Bob Hoskins as a racist cop — the film is so open about its racism that it uses the word ‘spook’ regularly — who receives a heart transplant from a black lawyer (Washington) who has despised in his life but who now needs to solve his murder. This is as humorous as it sounds. Although Washington is so graceful and funnier than usual, at times you can look at it from the offscreen and know better things are coming and eager to get out of it. (In the following years, he made two Spike Lee films.)
4. Carbon Copy (1981)
In his debut film in Washington, he plays George Segal’s long lost son, a lawyer so concerned about appearances that he hides himself that his anti-Semitic boss has been Jewish. Segal has to decide whether he accepts his sudden son or the racist jerk in his law firm. Take a guess. Take a guess. Washington is fun and cocking, but what you really do need to know is that “Every similarity between father and son is strictly hysterical,” which shows a fudged Segal looking terrified that he is standing next to a black person.
5. The Preacher’s Wife (1996)
This earnest, silly family comedy is a rework of The Bishop’s Wife and the stars of Washington as an angel from the heavens sent to the preacher (Courtney B. Vance, twenty years prior to playing Johnny Cochran) (Whitney Houston). The film creates a love triangle but does not really follow it: it just wants to give Houston the chance to sing. She sings, just like Whitney Houston, and viewers end up unchallenged and unable to remember anything else that happened in the film.
6. For Queen and Country (1988)
Denzel is accentuated in English by Reuben, a former British troop who, after years of fighting, only returns home to discover that his country sees him less as war hero than as a black man during thatcherism. Ruben strikes back the police and government who forgot him following a series of setbacks and confrontations with a system against him. Washington’s ability to root for him at once helps a ton, and its performance is the perfect combination of rage and vulnerability. And yes: the accent is nailed.
7. Safe House (2012)
The Washington movie you most likely take to be directed by frequent collaborator Tony Scott finds the actor playing a brilliant lethal CIA agent who went astray with the wet-behind-the-ear agent, Ryan Reynolds, escorting him back to the United States to face penalty. The film has this slender Scottish style (but is actually directed in its Hollywood debut by the Swedish filmmaker Daniel Espinosa), and Washington rules with its super-chill. Nevertheless, it is no one’s favorite Denzel movie, and forgetting it ever existed could be forgiven.
8. The Little Things (2021)
Washington has nothing to do to show the tarnished grandeur and stubborn brilliance of the character other than… be Denzel Washington. The Little Thingsgoes a long way on the authoritative, unnonsense person of the actor, particularly when Deke is paired with the hotshot detective of Rami Malek who recruits the old man to help him figure out who kills the women throughout Los Angeles in the same sadistic manner. Much of the fun of John Lee Hancock’s marginal thriller is Washington’s familiar outlook and a wearisome grandeur that shows all the horrors he has seen in his job. He is such an imposing force that Malek and Jared Leto (as their likely suspect) cannot measure up, which is probably why they perform self-consciously. You can’t hope to match your lived, mühelose swagger.
9. The Pelican Brief (1993)
The Pelican Brief is probably best known in the world for the great 30 rock episode that parodied the film, and is an important pivot for Washington, which has moved from a famous actor to a major star. The dogged character of journalist Gray Grantham was white in John Grisham’s original novel, but co-star Julia Roberts reportedly stressed that Washington had been cast into this role. Gray was a charismatic and coolly intelligent early platform for Washington’s leading chops. He would soon be anchoring every movie he appeared in.
10. Courage Under Fire (1996)
Washington met with Glory Director Edward Zwick to perform this drama of Gulf War where a lieutenant colonel (Washington), haunted with a mistake on the ground, had to examine whether a female soldier (Meg Ryan) would be awarded the Medal of Honor for her heroism. Courage In the Rashomon studios of Fire and gender politics, however, Washington’s steady righteousness is undermined by the inability of the character to forgive for his sins. Few actors feel like a kind of heroism to self-torture.
11. Out of Time (2003)
If you didn’t know any better, it would look like a junky Washington thriller at the beginning of the century; I mean, Dean Cain is in this movie. But just give it another look. Out of Time is a dark, funny, sexy offering by an alcoholic Florida cop who stumbles into a series of masses and has to maneuver himself. But it’s still a bubble and Washington appears to be having the odd-angle vibe of the movie: Take a step back, and it is nearly a more traditional run for Inherent Vice, except in Florida and with rum rather than weed.
12. Much Ado About Nothing (1993)
“I never acted as stupidly in a film as I am in it.” This is how Washington described his portrait of Don Pedro in the sunny adaptation of Kenneth Branagh, and his large smile in the interview revealed how much he enjoyed the pace change. Alo About Nothing does not suggest that the actor has missed his calling as Shakespeare’s actor — he doesn’t play entirely comfortably — but he’s huge charisma, flashing the sex appeal and good humour.
13. Unstoppable (2010)
His final collaboration with director Tony Scott who took his life 2 years later is an old-fashioned, non-man thriller and, as such, is a late-day example of how fantastic Washington can be when he plays intelligent, unselfish men. While he is obviously the star, Washington is also a good duet partner and working seamlessly with the newcomer Chris Pine while struggling to stay alive while running a fading locomotive. What a simple premise—and look like Washington’s singing.
14. American Gangster (2007)
If we ranked Washington’s results solely based on its cold blood, American Gangster Frank Lucas would be close to the top. The Harlem gangster operates according to a strict moral code – do they all not? – but the ferocity of the image of Washington is enhanced by the racial resentment of the character. He is also a black man in White America, as admired and as fearful as Lucas may, and with a perpetual wrath he carries the chip on his shoulder which suggests that no power will ever remove it.
15. Roman J. Israel, Esq. (2017)
For his peculiar and absolutely fascinating portrait of the title character, Washington earned its ninth Oscar nomination and its sixth Best Actor Node, an aggressively principal defense attorney, who faces an ethnic crisis of his own. Roman J. Israel, ESQ is a deeply bizarre character drama — Nightcrawler writer and director Dan Gilroy is attempting to graft a thriller plot into the story near the end, driven by Roman’s idealistic, combative attitude. This old guy champion yearns for a fight at every opportunity, not aware that his stubbornness and ego have proved his rubbish and that Washington responds with a harsh, vulnerable performance. For fans who got used to the actor’s more swaggering portrays, Roman J. Israel, Q.E. represents a brazen change in pace, as Washington shows us the flop sweat and despair of a right man who has done little to change the world in his years of activism.
16. A Soldier’s Story (1984)
Washington had most advertising features, but in fact, he was a supporting character in the adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Charles Fuller Play of a black officer (Howard Rollins) investigating the murder of a black sergeant in Louisiana towards the end of the Second World War. Denzel plays the earnest private in a smart, eager-to-please secret, covering up the craft and hazard. It’s an amazing performance and you always wait for Washington to come back, even with all the fine actors on the screen.
17. The Mighty Quinn (1988)
Roger Ebert said it was “one of the roles that a movie star creates overnight,” and wow he always was right. This is not Washington’s best movie ever, and it might not be his best performance but it might be his most charismatic: He makes wafts off the screen every move. He is playing the Caribbean cop to save a childhood friend (Robert Townsend) from doing the time he did not commit, but Denzel is really the most lovely person on the planet. Watch him play the piano below, seriously. It’s nearly unfair.
18. Inside Man (2006)
Washington and Spike Lee made a straightforward crime thriller after working on three films about race and class that, of course, was the biggest hit in the band. But that should not lessen just how awesome Inside Man is—or the grandeur of Washington’s smooth hostage dealer as he squares up the unflattering Bank Theft of Clive Owen. Washington always brings something extra when he’s in a Lee Joint, and it gives a jazzlike improvisational flair to this street-savvy character who is both compelling and exciting.
19. Mississippi Masala (1991)
Mira Nair makes big Disney movies (Queen of Katwe) now and ambitious biopics (Amelia), but her follow-up to Salaam Bombay is never better than here! She tells the story of an Indian-American woman (Sarita Choudhury), who loves a tapestry cleaner in Mississippi, and how much trouble each family has in coupling. The film doesn’t shy off darker issues and has an underlying sadness, but focuses on how sexy this film is and what overwhelming is sometimes the chemistry between Washington and Choudhury. The film is currently unfairly forgotten, but it deserves a different look.
20. Fences (2016)
Working on Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play in August, Washington makes its strongest managing effort and gives him a performance that covers the various categories that we have defined for him. He’s funny and charming as hell as Troy Maxson, former ball player working in the sanitary sector of Pittsburgh in the 1950s, and he’s also projecting the patriarchal moral force, who’s trying to play a role in a just living. In many ways, Troy is Denzel’s loving audiences: as a regular man he’s the super hero, balancing that 1000-watt smile with the weary gravitas of his later years. However, only when we believe we know the noble character of salt of the earth does Fences set us up for its dark twist that forces us not to view Troy as a man of quiet dignity, but as a conceited, angry heel, whose troubles have largely been inflicted on himself. Washington has previously played monsters, but never someone who seemed so dully human.
21. He Got Game (1998)
Washington never has been more heartbreaking than in Lee’s He Got Game about a convicted murderer (Washington), who was released from prisons from the governor for a week in return for persuading his talented basketball player son (Ray Allen) to sign with the Governor’s alma mater. This is a story about redemption, but the uneducated, careful character of Washington makes that personal transformation unlikely—which only moves you. It is a performance full of male pride and the actor showcases this strained bond between the dad and the child and plays a bad man who finally must learn how to be the good man.
22. Training Day (2001)
At first that looks like just another cop thriller, with Denzel teaching a few tricks like the smart street veteran Ethan Hawke. But slowly it has been shown that Detective Alonzo Harris is more corrupt, pathetic and dangerous than it was first. Washington won a performance Oscar and he deserved it for boy: he took a genre thriller and turned it into something frightening, funny, sexy and sometimes frightening. Usually Washington played a series of noble, but dull heroes before Training Day, and you can see him enjoying playing a little monster, even though he cannot help but make human. It is a thunderous performance that cannot be disabled anytime it appears on the cable on a random Saturday afternoon. He really ought to be playing more bad guys.
23. Malcolm X (1992)
This wasn’t the first time Denzel Washington played the slain leader in civil rights – in the early 1980s, when the Chickens Came Home to Roost, the actor depicted him on the stage. So, when he signed up for Spike Lee’s most ambitious film, he was still prepared to spend a year on the other work and dip into the mentality of the man. Washington denotes Malcolm’s steadily militantness and talent, but the achievement goes much deeper, exploring early failures and ultimately righteous fury that turned him into a once-in-a-lifetime political person. Malcolm X is his most powerful and searching Washington, his most funny and inspiring. And believe us, you won’t go back to see who beat him that year for Best Actor.