After The Internet Debated Whether Will Smith Or Denzel Washington Are The Better Actor, They're Facing Off At The Oscars Again

Will Smith as Venus and Serena Williams' dad and Denzel as Macbeth
(Image credit: Warner Bros., A24)

Over the past several months the Internet had been obsessed with debating Will Smith and Denzel Washington, trying to pinpoint who is, in fact, the better actor. The debate ran around so wildly that Washington was even asked about it on a red carpet and had a fun answer. Now, the two heavy hitters are going to be facing off at the Oscars for a second time, and I’m a little surprised about the Internet’s reaction in this case. 

A Brief History Lesson On Will Smith, Denzel Washington And The Oscars 

Here’s a brief history lesson on Will Smith and Denzel Washington. Both had been nominated for Academy Awards ahead of the full list of Oscar nominations coming down the pipeline this week. Will Smith had previously been nominated for Ali in 2002 and The Pursuit of Happyness in 2007; he won neither before getting nominated again for King Richard this year. Washington, on the other hand, has been nominated a slew of times and has won twice. 

The actor got a nod for his role in The Tragedy of Macbeth this year and his last (and well-deserved) nomination was as recently as 2018 for Roman J. Israel, Esq. He’s also been nominated in the Best Actor category for Fences, Flight, Training Day, Malcolm X and The Hurricane, winning for Training Day. He also was nominated twice in the Supporting Actor category, winning for Glory

With this in mind, it’s easy to see why a large faction of the Internet devotedly said that Denzel Washington was the better actor when this debate waged online. Michael B. Jordan, who worked with his mentor on A Journal For Jordan even said the director “perfected” the leading man, so it seems he leans strongly in the Washington camp. 

And yet. And yet, I think it’s worth noting that Will Smith has devoted the majority of his career to Entertainment with a capital “E” -- for a time he said he was even strategizing to be the "biggest movie star in the world" --while Washington has peppered his resumé with projects of both the critical and populist variety over many years. That’s even the crux of what the director joked about when asked about the Internet debate between him and Smith, saying of the Wild Wild West star: “He has a whole lot more money than me.” So awards may not be the full story here.

It’s also worth noting  this isn’t the first time the two greats were set to square off against one another during an Awards ceremony, it’s the second. The awards in 2002, the ceremony in which Washington became only the second Black actor to win the Best Actor category at the Oscars, was also the first time he and Will Smith went toe-to-toe during awards season. Denzel won for 2001’s Training Day, as noted prior, but the former Fresh Prince was up for his role in Ali. Now they are squaring off again.

What The Internet Is Saying About The 2022 Oscars

Surprising, the Internet has not been particularly chatty about the actor debate over Will Smith and Denzel Washington as the nominations news came down the pipeline. Most of what's been said since has been from fans simply noting it’s happening or offering their congrats. Perhaps interest in the Oscars is just less high than it used to be, as ratings have been dropping for some time. 

Or maybe the debate died down because a huge chunk of the Internet when literally asked, “Who is the better actor?” by one Twitter user had the same answer. Most people replied with a comment similar to this: 

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But I’ve seen King Richard and it’s a great performance from Will Smith. There's also a feeling from some that it may be his time, and if he pulls through with the win, he and Denzel will both have one Oscar win apiece in the Best Actor category. Of course, Denzel will still have that second Supporting Actor win and he’ll still have more nods overall, but it could be an interesting wrinkle on awards night, should Andrew Garfield, Javier Bardem or Benedict Cumberbatch not land the coveted statue instead.

Or Denzel could win, of course, and he'd be up 2-0 in the Best Actor category, and 3-0 at the Oscars with wins overall. The 94th Academy Awards air on March 27, 2022. To see what else is headed to television, take a look at our full TV premiere schedule.  

Jessica Rawden
Managing Editor

Reality TV fan with a pinch of Disney fairy dust thrown in. Theme park junkie. If you’ve created a rom-com I’ve probably watched it.