100+ Thoughtful Denzel Washington Quotes

Denzel Washington Quotes

Denzel Washington is an American actor, producer, and director, who is known for acting and performances both in movies and on stage. In this article, we share with you the best and most inspiring Denzel Washington quotes.

Denzel Washington has collaborated over the years with the greatest and best movie directors, among them are Spike Lee, Tony Scott, Antoine Fuqua, and others. Washington has been acting for more than 40 years, and during his career has won many awards.

Of the biggest awards in his career, Washington had won two Academy Awards. The first for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for the movie Glory (1989) and the second for Best Actor in a Leading Role for the movie Training Day (2001). He has also won a Tony Award for his acting in the play Fences (2010) and three Golden Globe Awards.

In 2016, Washington received the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award, and later in 2020 was named the greatest actor of the 21st century by The New York Times.

Denzel Washington started his acting career not in movies, but in theatre and off-Broadway shows. During the 1980s he slowly came to be known in movies as well, and during the 1990s, he established himself as a leading actor in films like Malcolm X, Philadelphia, The Hurricane and more.

To top all that, Denzel Washington is only one of five male actors that was nominated for an Academy Award for acting in five different decades, and that my friends, is quite impressive.

And now, it’s time to read and enjoy some of the best Denzel Washington quotes from the man himself and from his roles in the movies.

Here is a sneak peek at the quotes in this article:

Table of Contents

Denzel Washington Quotes on Life

If you have an enemy, then learn and know your enemy, don’t just be mad at him or her.


I’ve worked in a factory. I was a garbage man. I worked in a post office. It’s not that long ago. I like to think that I’m just a regular guy.


I still have my unemployment books and I remember when I worked for the sanitation department and the post office.


I say luck is when an opportunity comes along and you’re prepared for it.


You pray for rain, you gotta deal with the mud too. That’s a part of it.


I’d be more frightened by procrastination and laziness.


I made a commitment to completely cut out drinking and anything that might hamper me from getting my mind and body together. And the floodgates of goodness have opened upon me – spiritually and financially.


Growing up I didn’t watch movies.


I’d be more frightened by not using whatever abilities I’d been given.


Every day, sincerely and without phoniness, try to understand and appreciate the people who work with you. Do your job well, learn your job well, but always remember that the people you work with are your most valuable asset. Embrace them. Honor them. Respect them.


I think a role model is a mentor – someone you see on a daily basis, and you learn from them.


If I am a cup maker, I’m interested in making the best cup I possibly can. My effort goes into that cup; not what people think about it.


What it taught me was forgiveness. It taught me that when people present themselves in a certain way, there’s probably some back story or issue or reason for the way that they are… And a lot of times, it’s about something that’s completely out of their control.


Goals on the road to achievement cannot be achieved without discipline and consistency.


We’ve all received our share of good fortune, so that’s my definition of much. A single blessing is all the bounty in the world, and if you’ve been blessed at all you’re meant to pass some of that on. You’re meant to set a positive example.


I’ve found that nothing in life is worthwhile unless you take risks.


I wasn’t allowed to go to movies when I was kid; my father was a minister. 101 Dalmatians and King of Kings, that was the extent of it.


I’m not a film buff. I don’t watch a lot of movies.


Do what you gotta do so you can do what you wanna do.


The chances you take; the people you meet; the people you love, the faith that you have – that’s what’s going to define your life.


I’m very proud to be black, but black is not all I am. That’s my cultural historical background, my genetic makeup, but it’s not all of who I am nor is it the basis from which I answer every question.


You have to grab moments when they happen. I like to improvise and ad lib.


My mother used to tell me: “You gotta smile more. Because if you don’t smile, the way you look at people, they’ll think you’re mad at them.”


My mother never gave up on me. I messed up in school so much they were sending me home, but my mother sent me right back.


Don’t be afraid to fail big, to dream big.


The poorest people are the sweetest people.


I’m a logic monster, if things don’t make sense I gotta make sense of them.


Fall forward. Here’s what I mean: Reggie Jackson struck out 2,600 times in his career – the most in the history of baseball. But you don’t hear about the strikeouts. People remember the home runs. Fall forward. Thomas Edison conducted 1,000 failed experiments. Did you know that? I didn’t either – because number 1,001 was the light bulb. Fall forward. Every failed experiment is one step closer to success.


You never know how you’re going to affect people.


Don’t aspire to make a living, aspire to make a difference.


The greatest lesson I’ve learned in life is “Who knows what’s good or bad?” Things come along that you really want, and they turn out to be the worst thing in the world. And some of the worst tragedies that you can conceive turn out to be the best things, the exact medicine you need in that moment.


My ultimate life dream project is my kids. My family.


Just stick with your kids. There’s no set of rules on how to be a parent. No handbook. Just hang around your kids and ask them a lot of questions. You have to stay involved in your children’s lives and monitor everything they’re doing whether they like it or not. You’re not in the job of making them like it. You’re there to protect them in a world that can be troubling.


I actually don’t hang out with any celebrities. My closest friends are old friends. And my real close friends, none of them are actors.


The time to worrying about flying is when you’re on the ground. When you’re up in the air, it’s too late. No point in worrying about it then.


If you don’t trust the pilot, don’t go.


Success? I don’t know what that word means. I’m happy. But success, that goes back to what in somebody’s eyes success means. For me, success is inner peace. That’s a good day for me.


Dreams without goals, are just dreams and they ultimately fuel disappointment.


There are two kinds of pain in this world. The pain that hurts, the pain that alters.


You practice anything a long time, you get good at it. You tell a hundred lies a day, it sounds like the truth. Everyone betrays everyone.


A man once told me that you step out of your door in the morning, and you are already in trouble. The only question is are you on top of that trouble or not?


The purpose of war is to serve a political end but the true nature of war is to serve itself.


If you don’t fail, you’re not even trying.


We live in a time when people give up too easy.


You can beat or jail me or even kill me, but I am not going to be what you want me to be!


Everybody has a job to do. There are people in Iraq on both sides of this war who do what they do for religious reasons, and they feel with God on their side. Some people are good at annihilating people. Maybe that’s their gift.


The secret to a happy marriage? Do whatever your wife tells you. ‘Yes, dear.’ And breathe.


Some said America took a step forward electing a black president. In light of the unconstitutional expansion of powers, lack of transparency and fueling the fires of unrest that clearly hasn’t been the case. Vote based on merits, not to fill a racial quota.

Denzel Washington Quotes on Acting

I’m not interested in being a celebrity- I’m interested in being a better actor and a better director.


Black or white good parts are hard to come by. A good actor with a good opportunity has a shot- without the opportunity it doesn’t matter how good you are.


In Los Angeles, everyone is a star.


It’s simple: You get a part. You play a part. You play it well. You do your work and you go home.


Acting is just a way of making a living, the family is life.


I work hard for the audience. It’s entertainment. I don’t need validation.


And what is wonderful about movies is that once they’re done, they belong to the people. Once you make it, it’s what they see. That’s where my head is at.


I’ve been fortunate. I don’t pick scripts. Scripts pick me.


In any profession it gets to be a grind.


I don’t concern myself with award. I’d been to the party enough times to know it really didn’t matter.


My role 14 years ago in Richard III – that was the first time I played a bad guy and learned a lot about it – they have all the fun!


Where I think the most work needs to be done is behind the camera, not in front of it.


You don’t know when you’re being watched. That’s one of the weird things about celebrity. It’s my least favourite part of acting, celebrity.


I just try to be honest and true to the character and play the part.


One good thing about acting in film is that it’s good therapy.


I played Othello, but I didn’t sit around thinking how Laurence Olivier did it when he played it. That wouldn’t do me any good.


I’m not in the loop; I don’t know any actors, really, just the ones I work with.


I had a lot of success from the start. I never really was tested for long periods of time. I got my first professional job while I was a senior in college. I signed with the William Morris Agency before I graduated.


Michelle Pfeiffer hasn’t been finding a lot of work recently because she doesn’t like what a woman her age is offered. That’s a real double standard. You get Sean Connery, who gets older and older, still playing opposite young ladies, but it doesn’t work the other way around.


Dakota Fanning is a child, but she is a wonderful actor. I don’t know what a child actor is. She’s an actor who’s a child.


When I did A Soldier’s Story, I was very young and green and thought I knew everything. Now I know I know everything!


When people protest and are upset with a movie, it becomes a big hit. They hated Passion of The Christ, it worked out pretty well for the box office. So let’s get that going.


Meryl and Katharine Hepburn are probably the two greatest actresses of this and the last century.


Any good piece of material like Shakespeare ought to be open to reinterpretation.


I think the bottom of the totem pole is African-American women, or women of colour. I think they get the least opportunities in Hollywood.

Denzel Washington Quotes on Religion and God

I never really had the classic struggle. I had faith.


My faith helps me understand that circumstances don’t dictate my happiness, my inner peace.


True desire in the heart for anything good is God’s proof to you sent beforehand to indicate that it’s yours already.


My mother used to tell me man gives the award; God gives the reward. I don’t need another plaque.


Talent comes from God. If you have been given some, then value it, cultivate it, work and develop it.


Why do we close our eyes when we pray, cry, kiss, or dream? Because the most beautiful things in life are not seen but felt by the heart.


I believe in God. I don’t fear man, I fear God.


When I was a child I thought I saw an angel. It had wings and kinda looked like my sister. I opened the door so some light could come into the room, and it sort of faded away. My mother said it was probably my Guardian Angel.


I pray that you all put your shoes way under the bed at night so that you gotta get on your knees in the morning to find them. And while you’re down there thank God for grace and mercy and understanding. We all fall short of the glory, we all got plenty.


Thank God in advance for what’s already yours.


The Bible says “faith without works is nothing” so destiny is great, fate is great, faith is great – but you still have to work at it. I don’t just sit at home and wait for it all to unfold.


For whatever reason, God has blessed me with the ability, put me in a position to make these leaps and bounds. I’m fulfilling my part of the bargain, which is to give back and be a positive influence on others.


I walk by faith, not by sight.


I read the Bible every day.


Put God first in everything you do. Everything that I have is by the grace of God, understand that. It’s a gift. I didn’t always stick with Him, but he stuck with me.

Denzel Washington Quotes from Movies

I ain’t much about no prayin’, now. I ain’t never had no family, and… killed off my mama. Well, I just… Y’all’s the onliest family I got. I love the 54th. Ain’t even much a matter what happens tomorrow, ’cause we men, ain’t we?

Pvt. Trip, Glory (1989)


Let me tell you something, boy. You can march like the white man; you can talk like him. You can sing his songs; you can even wear his suits. But, you ain’t NEVER gonna be nothing to him, but an ugly ass chimp… in a blue suit.

Pvt. Trip, Glory (1989)


I was special. The only colored kid in the class. I became sort of a mascot. Like a pink poodle. I was called a nigger so many times, I didn’t think there was anything wrong with it. I thought that was my name. They talked about me like I wasn’t there. Like I was a pedigreed dog or a horse. Like I was invisible.

Malcolm X, Malcolm X (1992)


You know, some people call this hate-teaching. This isn’t hate-teaching. This is love-teaching. l wouldn’t tell you this if l didn’t love you. l wouldn’t stick my neck out for you if l didn’t love you.

Malcolm X, Malcolm X (1992)


My father used to say that… you can’t make a rooster stop crowing once the sun has come up. Well, the sun is up.

Malcolm X, Malcolm X (1992)


Since neither one of us are God, I don’t think either one of us are in any position to say who’s good and who’s evil.

Malcolm X, Malcolm X (1992)


Don’t be ashamed when l call you black. Because that’s what you are. You’re black! You’re black and you’re beautiful. Because black is beautiful.

Malcolm X, Malcolm X (1992)


This is the essence of discrimination: formulating opinions about others not based on their individual merits, but rather on their membership in a group with assumed characteristics.

Joe Miller, Philadelphia (1993)


We’re standing here in Philadelphia, the, uh, city of brotherly love, the birthplace of freedom, where the, uh, founding fathers authored the Declaration of Independence, and I don’t recall that glorious document saying anything about all straight men are created equal. I believe it says all men are created equal.

Joe Miller, Philadelphia (1993)


Hate put me in prison. Love’s gonna bust me out.

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter, The Hurricane (1999)


He who bemoans the lack of opportunity, forgets that small doors many times open up into large rooms.

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter, The Hurricane (1999)


The one thing I could do, and the only thing was box. I had tasted my own blood and I loved it.

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter, The Hurricane (1999)


This is where they fought the battle of Gettysburg. Fifty thousand men died right here on this field, fighting the same fight that we are still fighting among ourselves today. This green field right here, painted red, bubblin’ with the blood of young boys. Smoke and hot lead pouring right through their bodies. Listen to their souls, men. I killed my brother with malice in my heart. Hatred destroyed my family. You listen, and you take a lesson from the dead. If we don’t come together right now on this hallowed ground, we too will be destroyed, just like they were. I don’t care if you like each other of not, but you will respect each other. And maybe… I don’t know, maybe we’ll learn to play this game like men.

Coach Herman Boone, Remember the Titans (2000)


Now I may be a mean cuss. But I’m the same mean cuss with everybody out there on that football field. The world don’t give a damn about how sensitive these kids are, especially the young black kids. You ain’t doin’ these kids a favor by patronizing them. You crippling them; You crippling them for life.

Coach Herman Boone, Remember the Titans (2000)


I don’t scratch my head unless it itches and I don’t dance unless I hear some music. I will not be intimidated. That’s just the way it is.

Coach Herman Boone, Remember the Titans (2000)


You look like a bunch of fifth grade sissies after a cat fight! You got anger, that’s good you’re gonna need it, you got aggression that’s even better you’re gonna need that, too. But any little two-year-old child can throw a fit! Football is about controlling that anger, harnessing that aggression into a team effort to achieve perfection!

Coach Herman Boone, Remember the Titans (2000)


To protect the sheep, you gotta catch the wolf, and it takes a wolf to catch a wolf.

Alonzo, Training Day (2001)


This shit’s chess, it ain’t checkers.

Alonzo, Training Day (2001)


Shit, you can shoot me, but you can’t kill me.

Alonzo, Training Day (2001)


You wouldn’t mind if I have some of your three thousand dollar-a-glass shit there, would you?

Alonzo, Training Day (2001)


It’s not what you know, it’s what you can prove.

Alonzo, Training Day (2001)


The loudest one in the room is the weakest one in the room.

Frank Lucas, American Gangster (2007)


The most important thing in business is honesty, integrity, hardwork… family… never forgetting where we came from.

Frank Lucas, American Gangster (2007)


See, ya are what ya are in this world. That’s either one of two things: Either you’re somebody, or you ain’t nobody.

Frank Lucas, American Gangster (2007)


My man. You know what normal is to me? I ain’t see normal since I was 6 years old. Normal is seeing the police ride up to my house, dragging my 12-year-old cousin out and tying him to a pole, shoving a shotgun in his mouth so hard they bust his teeth, then they bust two shotgun shells in his head, knocking it off. That’s what normal is to me. Didn’t give a fuck about no police then… Don’t give a fuck about no police now.

Frank Lucas, American Gangster (2007)


This is my home. My country. Frank Lucas don’t run from nobody. This is America.

Frank Lucas, American Gangster (2007)


I got Harlem. I took care of Harlem, so Harlem’s gonna take care of me.

Frank Lucas, American Gangster (2007)

Interesting Facts about Denzel Washington

Now that you’re inspired, it’s time for some fascinating and interesting facts about Denzel Washington. Ready? Here we go…

  1. Denzel Washington Planned on Becoming a Doctor – Denzel Washington is named after his father, and his father is named after the doctor who delivered him back in 1909, Dr. Denzel. Denzel’s father was a pastor, but he was interesting in medicine. So, Denzel went on to study in order to become a doctor and also took a class in acting only because he was told that there will be an essay and it will be easy to get a good grade this way, and he loved getting good grades. That one class changed his life and he decided to change his focus and primary class. Eventually, in 1977 Denzel graduated from Fordham University with a BA in Drama and Journalism. Fast forward to 1982, Denzel got his breakthrough role when he played a doctor, Dr. Philip Chandler on the Emmy-winning hospital series St. Elsewhere.
  2. Denzel Washington Got Crucial Career Advice from Sidney Poitier – Sidney Poitier was a role model for Washington, and when he was offered a part in a movie that did not felt just about right to him, he asked Poitier whether to take the role or not. Poitier did not tell him to take it or refuse, but did tell Washington that the first two, three or four movies that he’ll do in this business will dictate how he’ll be perceived in this business. According to that advice, Washington decided to refuse the part in the movie he was offered, and only 6 months later, he was offered the supporting role in the movie Cry Freedom. That role got Washington his first Academy Award nomination.
  3. Washington Could Have Played in the Movie Seven – Denzel Washington could have played the role of detective Mills in David Fincher’s movie Seven. However, he thought that the script was too demonic. Later, when he saw the movie, he understood that he had missed a good role in a great movie that became a box office hit.
  4. Denzel Washington Helped Chadwick Boseman Become an Actor – Before becoming an actor, Chadwick Boseman was a Howard University student, and his tuition for an illustrious summer acting program was paid for by none other than Denzel Washington. The two did not know each other. It was Phylicia Rashād (The Cosby Show star) who had contacted Washington to donate for education and aid gifted young Black performers who’d been accepted to the program. Washington agreed, which paved the way to Boseman to become an actor. Sadly, on August 28, 2020, Boseman passed away after battling for four years with colon cancer. He was 43 years old.
  5. Denzel Washington Does Most of His Stunts – Many if not most of the leading actors in Hollywood have stunt doubles who shoot the dangerous scenes, but this is not the case when it comes to Denzel. He prefers to do all the stunt scenes by himself and even said that he enjoys it.
  6. Denzel Washington (Allegedly) Refused to Kiss Julia Roberts – When the two were shooting the 1993 film, The Pelican Brief, there was a scene where Washington and Roberts shared a kiss. Roberts said that she wanted to kiss Washington, but he proposed to cut the scene from the movie. This was not the first time when Washington refused to kiss a white woman, as the same thing happened with actress Mimi Rogers due to fear of negative reactions from women in the black community. Eventually, Washington and Roberts did share a kiss in 2002, when she handed him the Academy Award for Best Actor.

For more quotes from famous actors, please visit our pages dedicated to Morgan Freeman quotes, Charlie Chaplin quotes, and John Wayne quotes.

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