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Top 33 Denzel Washington Quotes On Success and Hardships



There are few actors as prolific as Denzel Washington.

Born in Mount Vernon, New York on December 28, 1954, Denzel Hayes Washington Jr is an American actor, producer, and director. And although he has gained much critical praise for his performances over the years, his interest in acting grew rather late compared to others – blooming during his college years when he was pursuing a degree in Journalism.

Denzel made his film debut in 1981 in the comedy, Carbon Copy. He went on to be cast in the hit medical drama St. Elsewhere and has appeared in several hit movies since. He has been nominated for over 30 different awards and has won three Golden Globe Awards, two Academy Awards, and a Tony Award. In 2016, Denzel received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 73rd Golden Globe Awards.

Often appearing in movies with strong underlying social themes, the characters Denzel Washington plays have a lot of interesting things to say about life. Here are some quotes by Denzel Washington that will make you reflect on your life and attitude.

33 Denzel Washington Quotes that will change your outlook on life

1. Progress – not Perfection. (The Equalizer)

"Progress - not Perfection." - Denzel Washington


Perfection maybe a nice goal to have but often times it is unachievable. Focus on making progress instead of pursuing perfection. Remember that achievement almost always comes with small steps.

2. When you pray for rain, you gotta deal with the mud too. (The Equalizer)

Everything has consequences. For example, ice cream tastes good but eat too much and you’ll end up with serious health issues. Good things are great and all but we shouldn’t be surprised when the side effects follow.

3. Do something about it because you can. (The Equalizer)

In October 2011, Wang Yue, a two-year old girl, was struck by two vehicles and fatally injured in a narrow road in Guangdong. At least 18 people passed her by but all of them ignored her cries – choosing to skirt around her instead. Wang Yue passed away two days later.

There are few things as dangerous as apathy. It is easy to believe that it is not our responsibility or that someone else will take care of it. But there is no reason why it can’t be you. Choose to be the person who acts. Remember that bad things only happen when good people do nothing.

4. You gotta be who you are in this world, no matter what. (The Equalizer)

"You gotta be who you are in this world, no matter what." - Denzel Washington


Stay true to yourself. You are magnificent and unique. There is no reason for you not to embrace that and be who you are.

5. Either you’re somebody … or you’re nobody. (American Gangster)

When you don’t believe in yourself, you surrender your own identity. Don’t let yourself down. Know that you are special and believe it. Because if you don’t believe in yourself, other people won’t either.

SEE ALSO: 28 Johnny Depp Quotes to Help You Embrace Your Uniqueness

6. You best be makin’ sure they’re doin’ right by you! (Fences)

The only person who can really stand up for you is yourself. Don’t allow yourself be intimidated by others. Because people will walk all over you if you let them. Don’t let them. You are better than that!

7. I just expect to be treated like you expect to be treated. (Cry Freedom)

"I just expect to be treated like you expect to be treated." - Denzel Washington


Everyone deserves some respect for just being a fellow human being. Treat others the way you wish to be treated. Because when you boil it down to the bare bones, everyone in this world is just trying to get by – just like you.

8. You can beat or jail me or even kill me, but I am not going to be what you want me to be! (Cry Freedom)

Don’t compromise on who you are for anybody. Some people will try to change you so that you match their ideal. These people don’t deserve you. If they can’t accept you for who you are, then it’s their loss not yours.

9. Ain’t nobody clean. Be nice to get clean, though. (Glory)

Even the people we look up to have flaws. Learn to accept it. Try to improve yourself for the better but never be disheartened by the fact that you aren’t perfect. Because nobody really is.

10. I know we got issues, but rejecting your heart isn’t going to make things easier, now is it? (Heart Condition)

"I know we got issues, but rejecting your heart isn't going to make things easier now, is it?" - Denzel Washington


Your heart knows what you want. Learn to trust it. The things you want might seem impossible to achieve or get but not listening to your heart is not going to make you any happier.

SEE ALSO: 28 Inspirational Tom Hank Quotes on Life, Acting, and Success

11. 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. (Philadelphia)

Never let the actions of an individual color your perspective. Politicians and media have been doing it for a long time – using the actions of a few bad seeds to vilify entire groups. Don’t ever let their hate-mongering rhetoric get to you. Be open-minded and meet people who are different from you. You will see that we aren’t all that different after all.

12. In the nuclear world, the true enemy is war itself. (Crimson Tide)

Wars have never been a good thing; especially now with technology has reached such a stage that all of human civilization could end with the push of a few buttons. Support and promote peace. We can make the world a better place with our actions if we unite as human beings instead of dividing ourselves into groups.

13. No orders are right if they’re wrong. (Crimson Tide)

"No orders are right if they are wrong." - Denzel Washington


As human beings, we instinctively know when injustice occurs. It is our duty to disobey during these moments. A great many tragedies could have been prevented if people had just listened to their hearts instead of following orders.

14. Something is always happening, but when it happens, people don’t always see it, or understand it… or accept it. (Fallen)

At this very moment, numerous atrocities are being committed around the world. What makes it worse is that we are actually all aware of it. It’s just that we tend to subconsciously tune them all out because they make us feel uncomfortable.

Take a stand on these matters. Let your voice and opinions be heard. A spirit of charity is never a bad thing to have.

15. Strong people keep moving forward, no matter what they’re going to find. (Fallen)

The key to success is to always be in motion. Never back down because of uncertainty. The future might be scary but it’s going to happen whether you choose to act or not. Do the former and actively control your own destiny.

SEE ALSO:54 Inspirational Movie Quotes of All Time

16. Sometimes, I think the basic job that human beings have is just to figure out what the hell is going on. (Fallen)

"Sometimes I think the basic job that human beings have is just to figure out what the hell is going on." - Denzel Washington


The thing is nobody has really figured life out. We are all just fumbling in the dark, trying to grasp at the bigger picture and make sense of our lives. So, don’t feel down just because you think you are out of the loop. You are definitely not alone and there’s nothing wrong with that.

17. Criminals don’t accept consequences. They kill somebody, somehow it’s not their fault. (Fallen)

All actions have consequences. So, you shouldn’t really be surprised when something you did comes back to spite you. Accept responsibility for your own actions. It will make you a human being and always keep you in check.

18. Destiny is what we make it (The Bone Collector)

Often times, we feel powerless over things life throws our way. But that does not mean we should allow it. You can make a difference in your life. The strongest force that plays a part in your future is yourself. The only thing you have to do is choose to act!

19. Just follow those instincts you were born with. (The Bone Collector)

"Just follow those instincts you were born with." - Denzel Washington


We still retain our instincts for a reason. Without them, humans would never have made it to the top of the food chain. Listen to yours. More often than not, your gut feelings will protect you from danger and harm.

20. I don’t scratch my head unless it itches and I don’t dance unless I hear some music. (Remember the Titans)

Don’t do things just because someone else wants you to. Do it because you want to. Not everyone wants what is good for you. Learn to filter them out. The only person telling you what you should do should be you.

21. Do your best. That’s all anybody can ask for. (Remember the Titans)

You cannot always control the outcome. The only thing you can do is give it your best. And that is more than enough. Because, whether you fail or succeed, you will have peace in knowing the fact that you gave it your all.

22. It takes a wolf to catch a wolf. (Training Day)

"It takes a wolf to catch a wolf." - Denzel Washington


Life is tough. And the only way to not let it get you down is to get tougher. Be strong and have courage. Do not give in to your fears and self-doubt. Success only comes to those with the resilience to pursue it.

23. Nothing’s free in this world, Jake. (Training Day)

Everything has a price. Every action has a consequence. That is why it is important for us to be aware of the costs of our actions and choices. Always remember what the costs of your actions are and never commit unless you are willing to give it your all and accept the consequences.

24. Sometimes you gotta have a little dirt on you for anybody to trust you. (Training Day)

We as human beings are distrustful of things or people that are too perfect. Because when something is too perfect, it makes most human beings feel uncomfortable and suspicious. So, it’s okay to be a little flawed. Be proud of it even. Because it is our little imperfections that make us beautifully human.

25. When you say you’re gonna do something, you do it. Because your word is your bond, son, that’s all you have. (John Q)

"When you say you're gonna do something, you do it. Because your word is your bond, son, that's all you have." - Denzel Washington

The Movie My Life

Remember that old story about the boy who cried wolf?

If you don’t stand by your words, people are eventually going to lose faith in you. It is only natural. Never make a promise you can’t keep. Your reputation is important and you should never let anyone – even you – besmirch it.

SEE ALSO:The Most Inspirational Bill Murray Quotes You Didn’t Know You Needed

26. There is no such thing as tough. There is trained and untrained. (Man on Fire)

Even things that appear impossible can be achieved if you put effort into attaining them. Train yourself to reach your goals, listen to those who have experience, and do your research. The best in any business did not get to where they were on luck alone.

27. Most of the guys up in Sing Sing weren’t murderers until they killed somebody. (Inside Man)

A single bad choice is all takes for someone to mess up their life. Be aware of your actions and their results. What might appear like a good idea now might have terrible long-term consequences later. We all make mistakes from time to time. And that’s okay. But some mistakes are so terrible that they stick with you till you die. Learn to sort them out.

28. The loudest one in the room is the weakest one in the room. (American Gangster)

A barking dog seldom bites. Just because someone is trying to intimidate you or overpower you doesn’t make them strong. People who bully others are often some of the most insecure people on Earth. So, don’t let them push you around. Stand up to these people a few times and they’ll start running at the sight of you.

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

"The most important thing in business is honesty, integrity, hardwork... family... never forgetting where we came from." - Denzel Washington


The successful get to where they are because they follow a strong code. Honesty, integrity, hardwork – integrate these traits into your everyday actions. Be grateful for the people who have your back. And no matter how far you get, always remember where you came from to keep you humble.

30. When you own something, you can call it what you want. (American Gangster)

What you have earned or achieved is yours and yours alone. Others might try and take it from you but it is your right to refuse them. Remember that you don’t owe them anything. Nobody but you has any right over your achievements.

SEE ALSO:Best Jack Nicholson Quotes of All Time

31. The shepherd walks quietly behind his flock… Now he’s got the stick, and the cane, and he’ll use it! If he has to. But most times he doesn’t have to. (American Gangster)

A trait of any good leader is their ability to instill discipline in those under them. Leaders know when to be strict and aren’t afraid of confrontations. They are fearless – and that is what their followers respect.

32. It’s beat up. But it will do the job. (Book of Eli)

Learn to be satisfied with what you have. Just because something is a bit outdated does not mean you should bin it. As long as something works, you really don’t need a new one. Instead, do the smart thing and save your money for more important things.

33. Don’t doubt yourself, son. Doubt kills. (The Equalizer)

"Don't doubt yourself, son. Doubt kills." - Denzel Washington


Doubt is the enemy. When you doubt yourself, you undermine your own progress. Nobody else is going to believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself!

Denzel Washington is one of the most influential African-American actors of all time. Not only has he given the world stellar performances on film, Denzel has also helped pave a path for numerous African-Americans in the film industry. In fact, Chadwick Boseman (who recently made quite a splash with the Marvel film ‘Black Panther’) revealed in an interview with Jamie Foxx that Denzel Washington actually paid for his special classical acting course when they were complete strangers.

A social activist and a devout Christian, Denzel Washington has undoubtedly left a permanent mark on Hollywood. Let us hope he entertains the world for many more years to come.

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