It’s fair to say that Denzel Washington changed the game for Black actors. Until his flurry of critically acclaimed roles primarily in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, conventional wisdom in Hollywood held that African Americans were not broadly appealing nor bankable in leading roles. Despite many critically praised performances by older luminaries, such as Sidney Poitier and James Earl Jones, commercially successful films starring African Americans were few and far between.
However, Washington began to make history in the ‘90s, with several movies in which he starred (1993’s “The Pelican Brief,” 1995’s “Crimson Tide,” and 1998’s “The Siege” among them), grossing over $100 million worldwide. Along with rapper-turned-actor Will Smith, Denzel Washington paved the way for Hollywood production companies to cast Black actors in big-budget films. His string of commercially successful films has lasted well into the 2000s, with recent films such as “2 Guns,” “Flight,” “The Equalizer,” and “The Equalizer 2,” also has grossed well over $100 million in box office receipts.
Given his drawing power at the box office, Washington brings in an estimated $20 million per film. A Forbes estimate of Washington’s earnings since 2003 contend he’s made a whopping $290 million pre-tax between 2003 and 2017. However, this doesn’t include earnings from the 29 films he appeared in before then or the four he’s filmed since. It further excludes compensation for his numerous stage appearances and various turns he’s taken at film production and directing. It also excludes earnings from any business ventures in which he may have a stake.
As AfroTech previously reported, Denzel Washington has an estimated net worth of $280 million. This figure is partially based on his estimated annual salary of $60 to $80 million per year, given his film compensation and how frequently he acts these days. Not one to flaunt his wealth, it’s unclear how exactly he spends his money. However, we do know he maintains an upscale 28,887-square-foot residence in Los Angeles with his wife and four children, worth an estimated $16.5 million. He also donates to charity, having directly supported and raised money for the Boys and Girls Club for years, given its impact on his life during his formative years. He even covered the late Chadwick Boseman’s tuition at a prestigious summer theater program at the University of Oxford.
Given his pioneering work (which has paved the way for many Black actors to earn substantial paydays), as well as philanthropy, Denzel Washington has earned every dollar.
Editorial note: The net worth listed in this piece is a speculative estimate drawn from a variety of online sources.
Acting, Directing, Producing
According to Celebrity Net Worth, the bulk of Denzel Washington’s money comes from his acting, directing, and producing career. He makes approximately $60 million to $80 million a year in salary and has won several Oscars. In 1989, he won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for the film, “Glory,” and in 2002, he became only the second Black actor (after Sidney Poitier) to win the Best Lead Actor Oscar for his role in the film “Training Day.”
Denzel Washington also has a handsome real estate portfolio. His first big purchase came in 1992 when he purchased ex-Disney CEO Michael Eisner’s old Beverly Hills mansion for $2.675 million. The mansion is a sprawling one, boasting nearly 30,000-square-feet, and featuring eight bedrooms and 14 bathrooms.
According to VelvetRopes, he also owns a home in New York. A native of Mount Vernon himself, Washington purchased a 3,000-square-foot penthouse overlooking Manhattan’s Central Park West in 2006. He paid $13 million for the luxurious pad.
As AfroTech previously reported, Denzel Washington is also actively involved in philanthropy, especially toward HBCUs. In July 2021, he and his family pledged $1 million to Historically Black Wiley College.
The Denzel Washington Family Foundation paid its fourth $100,000 installment toward its $1 million commitment to Texas historically Black college in support of students on the legendary Wiley College debate team at that time.
Wiley College was home to the film, “The Great Debaters,” which depicted Washington as a college professor who helped coach the university’s student-led team on its 10-year winning streak in the 1930s, according to a press release. The movie showed how the team went on to pioneer interracial collegiate debates during the Jim Crow era.