Denzel Methodology

I’m on a mission to find a good Denzel Washington movie, and I have thirty-three opportunities to succeed. There has to be one good one . . . right?

Qualifications for a “good” movie
But what constitutes a good movie? Everyone has different taste in movies; everyone differs on what is good. So I am going to try to lay down some straightforward items for analysis in order to be as objective as possible in my endeavor.

Screenplay: Is the dialogue realistic? Do the characters ring true? If I sense that the dialogue is fake, or find myself saying, “no one would ever say that” then Houston, we’ve got a problem. Even the best actors struggle with a poorly written screenplay.

Story: An obvious component to any movie. Is the story believable within the constructs it creates? I am all for the suspension of disbelief, so I’m not saying that the movie has to be realistic—it just has to be true to itself. Is the plot predictable?

Acting: I have already stated that I think Denzel is a good actor, so I do not foresee this being too big of a problem. But again, a bad screenplay can lead to unbelievable acting. And what about the rest of the cast? Are they believable? Are they right for their roles?

Music: A more minor issue than the others, but important nonetheless. I am not necessarily looking for music that I like. Instead does the music mesh with the tone of the movie? Does it complement the movie or disrupt it?

Entertainment Value: For some, entertainment is the only important factor in a movie, and there is something to be said for that. If a movie doesn’t entertain, what is the point? This is a less scientific, more subjective criteria, but I included it because it is an essential quality of a good movie.

Directing: Does the director substitute special effects for story (a la Michael Bay)? How are the camera angles? How is the lighting?

Others: Bonus if it involves irony, time travel, or if it makes me think.

After pondering the order in which to watch the movies, I decided to view them from worst to best so that I would be exposed to the largest number of Mr. Washington’s films.

In order to establish a ranking, I approached it using three qualifications: the audience and Tomatometer ratings from and the Netflix predicted rating of each of his movies.

The Tomatometer rating is a percentage of positive reviews by established critics. So if one hundred critics reviewed a movie and eighty-eight gave it an overall favorable review then the movie would receive an 88%. The audience rating is a percentage of users who rated the movie 3.5 stars or higher.

The Netflix predicted rating or “our best guess” as the company calls it is a personalized, five-star rating, but Netflix breaks it down to one-tenth star increments. For example, its best guess for me for the movie Philadelphia is 3.2 stars. The algorithm Netflix uses has been well-publicized, but essentially it is customized based on how a user rates other movies. 

In order to average the three criteria, I first multiplied the Netflix prediction by twenty to get it on the same 100-point scale as the other two (being that a 5 out of 5 is a perfect score and 5 x 20 = 100). Then I averaged the three scores.

Here’s an example:

Courage Under Fire has a Tomatometer rating of 85%, an audience rating of 61% and a Netflix best guess of 3.5. I multiplied this last score by twenty to get 70.

85 + 61 + 70 = 216

216 / 3 = 72

Here is the order of movies with their composite scores. (For full data click here. Note that some data from Rotten Tomatoes may have changed since I compiled the info around 5/30/11.)

Heart Condition 34.3
For Queen and Country 34.5
Virtuosity 46.3
The Bone Collector 52.7
Carbon Copy 53.0
Power 53.3
The Siege 57.3
The Taking of the Pelham 123 59.0
The Mighty Quinn 63.7
Fallen 64.0
Ricochet 64.3
Out of Time 64.7
Mississippi Masala 65.7
Déjà Vu 68.3
Mo' Better Blues 68.3
Man on Fire 68.7
The Manchurian Candidate 69.7
Courage Under Fire 72.0
Devil in a Blue Dress 72.7
Philadelphia 75.3
Training Day 75.7
He Got Game 75.7
Antwone Fisher 76.7
A Soldier's Story 77.3
Unstoppable 78.3
The Great Debaters 78.3
Cry Freedom 78.7
The Hurricane 80.3
Much Ado About Nothing 80.7
American Gangster 80.7
Inside Man 81.7
Malcom X 83.3
Glory 87.7

I did not include any made-for-television movies.

Some older films did not have much data associated with it. Carbon Copy and For Queen and Country had no critic reviews, so I was compelled to leave out this component and find the mean of the other two scores.

The highest “best guess” from Netflix was 3.9 for three movies: Man on Fire, Inside Man, and Glory. The lowest score was a 2.4 for For Queen And Country

Denzel won academy awards for Glory and Training Day. Not a shock then that these two movies are near the top of the list.

I find intriguing the movies for which there is a large discrepancy between the Tomatometer and the audience ratings. These are: Man on Fire (50-point difference), The Bone Collector (40), Fallen (34), and The Mighty Quinn (33). The first three are rated poorly by the critics. The Mighty Quinn only received a 49% audience rating.
I may not follow the order of movies exactly, as not all are available to me at all times, but I will deviate from it as little as possible.

There you have it: thirty-three Denzel movies. How many do you think it will take me to get to a good one? My guess is somewhere in the 9-12 range, but only time will tell.

I'm gonna ask your wife a couple of questions. You move... you make one sound... I'll snatch the life right outta you, understand? 
Denzel Washington as Creasy in Man on Fire

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