Denzel Washington turns 60 today, and in his lifetime he’s played a lot of badasses. From Jake Shuttlesworth in He Got Game to Det. Alonzo Harris in Training Day, his characters have had a rough-and-tumble in history that’s given the Washington a reputation for being one of the grizzliest actors in the game. However, alongside that, he’s also been stacking his filmography with roles that’ve required of him inspiring speeches, self-sacrifice, and subtle sweetness, the kinds of roles that’ve essentially made him a kind of Hollywood father figure.
Who wouldn’t want an old man who could put you into place in one profound speech or risk his entire life just to ensure your safety? In celebration of his birthday, here are five times you wished Denzel Washington was your dad.
That time he brought together a segregated football team in Remember the Titans (2000).
Tired of the interracial fighting that’s destroying his football team, Washington’s Coach Boone wakes up all the players at training camp, runs their asses to Gettysburg, and lays out the pettiness of their prejudice. It’s so effective that it’ll even make you consider how much of an asshole you’ve been.
That time he almost gave up his life for his dying son in John Q (2002).
As the titular character, John Q. holds up an entire hospital when his son’s heart transplant is rejected by his insurance. When the doctors inform him they’re out of options, he offers to take his own life so he can give up his heart. Perfect, albeit absolutely insane, role model.
That time he helped a little girl get over her anxiety in Man on Fire (2004).
As a hired bodyguard, John Creasy (Washington) isn’t obligated to entertain the little girl he’s tasked to protect. Yet he softens his thick skin and does so anyway, here spooking her out of the fear that’s keeping her from achieving her potential as a competitive swimmer. Just imagine you as a nine-year-old, with your dad championing you this hard. You probably would’ve competed in the Olympics by now.
That time he set his personal beliefs aside and stood up against injustice in Philadelphia (1993).
Washington plays homophobic attorney, Joe Miller, hired to defend a man who was fired from his job for suffering with AIDS. Although his messed-up morals conflict with his job, he recognizes the injustice in the case and makes it his mission to bring the jury to this realization. Think about how awesome this kind of thinking would’ve been for you and your dad’s relationship during your goth phase.
That time he owned up to all of his personal failings and used it as a teaching tool to help others in Flight (2013).
Being celebrated for saving everyone’s life on plane that you were too intoxicated to fly in the first place is a huge blow to your entire being. How can you have ego after? Honor? Dignity? Here, as Whip Whitaker Sr., Washington gives a speech that exposes his vulnerability, admits his grave mistakes, and encourages his fellow inmates to learn from him. It’s like the convo you’ve always wanted to have with your dad around the campfire, except in prison.
Plus, he’s FUNNY. Just ask his wife.