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Denzel Washington: The Least Successful A-List Star in Hollywood?

By Dustin Rowles | Box Office Round-Ups | February 19, 2012 |

By Dustin Rowles | Box Office Round-Ups | February 19, 2012 |

When Safe House opened at number one this weekend with $24 million to bring its total after 10 days to close to $80 million, I took a gander over at Denzel Washington’s career box office numbers and noticed something striking. Through 30 years, two Oscar wins (and 5 nominations), and a number of iconic roles (or close to it), Denzel Washington has only three $100 million movies. In fact, the highest grossing Denzel movie of all time was American Gangster, which made $130 million. His lifetime average, after 40 movies, is $47 million. Not even $50 million, despite the fact that Denzel is one of the most recognizable, most popular actors in America.

The question is why? But the answer is simple: Denzel doesn’t do franchise movies. He has never done a sequel. He doesn’t do superheroes. And he’s only made a couple of remakes (The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 and The Manchurian Candidate). What does that make Denzel, besides one of the least successful A-list stars at the box-office? It makes him one of the most respectable. Denzel movies aren’t about the special effects or merchandizing, they are about Denzel, and so far as I’m concerned, that’s all they need to be about. He is a power house, a force of nature. He is flat-out amazing, and even when saddled with mediocre scripts like Safe House, Denzel transcends. Bonus: The guy rarely strays away from downbeat endings: How many times, in fact, has Denzel died in his movies? But that motherfucker is not the first black guy to die in his films, he’s the last. And he owns every scene in every film he’s in.

Here are his 10 most successful films

1. American Gangster — $130 million

2. Remember the Titans — $115 million

3. Pelican Brief — $100 million

4. The Book of Eli — $94 million

5. Crimson Tide — $91 million

6. Inside Man — $88 million

7. Unstoppable — $81 million

8. Safe House — $78 million

9. Man on Fire — $77 million

10. Philadelphia — $77 million

Here are his 10 Best Films

1. Philadelphia

2. Glory

3. Out of Time

4. Malcolm X

5. The Hurricane

6. Training Day

7. Devil in a Blue Dress

8. Remember the Titans

9. Inside Man

10. Unstoppable

Now, on to the rest of the weekend’s box office: The Vow, last week’s number one film, dropped slightly below last week’s number two film, Safe House, both of which edged out the week’s top debut, Ghost Rider: The Spirit of Vengeance. The Nic Cage sequel didn’t exactly bomb, but it’s opening frame was less than half of the first film’s opening weekend. But then again, the second film had half the budget of the first on account of people knowing that no one wanted a goddamn sequel. Last week’s number three film, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island had a slight drop (27 percent) to hold on to number four, while This Means War, debuted with a weak $17.5 million. I honestly didn’t get that movie: How do you fuck up Tom Hardy, Chris Pine, and Reese Witherspoon? I was absolutely floored by how terrible it was. That’s the power of McG, though. The man couldn’t boil water in hell.

Finally, The Secret World of Arreity debuted at number nine with $6.4 million, and while that might sound disappointing, it is the highest debut ever for a Studio Ghibli film, besting Ponyo’s $3.4 million. According to Agent Bedhead, it’s also a fantastic film.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.