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The “Relieved Denzel Washington” GIF Is From a Little Known Movie You Should Absolutely Watch

Fallen fans, unite!


denzel washington is relieved

It’s a gif you see probably every week on Twitter, if not every day. Any time a celebrity name trends, or even just a brand, there’s Denzel Washington, patting his heart in relief that they’re okay. It’s a meme that’s become part of our internet language and it’s great. But do you know what movie the gif is from? And beyond that, did you know that Fallen, the source of the “relieved Denzel Meme” is a flat-out awesome flick?

Fallen hit theaters in 1998 and barely made an impression with audiences or critics. It didn’t make much money and got poor reviews and a lot of people forgot it, which is a shame because it’s a legitimately good movie. The film is modern noir in the vein of Se7en but with a twist that the supernatural and religious elements are far more real. It’s a moody, twisty, truly scary and surprising movie that didn’t deserve to be forgotten.

Fallen focuses on Detective John Hobbes, played by Washington, and starts with the execution of a serial killer that Hobbes caught after a long chase. That killer, Edgar Reese, delivers Hobbes a cryptic message in Aramaic before his execution, and as soon as he’s dead, copycat murders start occurring.

I don’t want to spoil anything about the rest of the movie, except to say that investigating the killings leads Hobbes down a dangerous, dark path and ends with a twist that will have you doing, well … this:


It’s somewhat ironic that this one moment from the movie has come to symbolize relief and happiness that no one is dead, when it’s from an extremely tense movie where, well, a lot of people are dead. It speaks more to how much we still love Denzel Washington, and how his charm and warmth shines through even in GIF format. Even in a horror film, Denzel is a comfort.

It’s a light moment from a really dark movie, one full of excellent performances by a stellar supporting cast (John Goodman! Donald Sutherland! James Gandolfini! Embeth Davidtz!) and moody, perfectly paced filmmaking. Director Gregory Hoblit does a great job, and it’s a bummer he never became a bigger name, though he did make other great films.

But if you’re a fan of mystery, horror, or anything supernatural, I highly recommend you add Fallen to your watch list. And luckily, it’s streaming right now on Hulu and might be the perfect addition to your weekend!

(image: Warner Brothers)

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Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author.