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13 Best Mark Wahlberg Movies, Ranked

13 Best Mark Wahlberg Movies, Ranked

From TED (2012) to Boogie Nights (1997), we rank the best Mark Wahlberg movies.

One of the highest-paid actors in Hollywood, Mark Wahlberg is also an accomplished producer. Born June 5, 1971, he was raised in a working class neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts. His father drove a delivery truck and mother worked as a nurse. Mark was the youngest of the nine Wahlberg children. As a young adult, Mark Wahlberg dropped out of school and briefly turned to a life of drugs and petty crime. He served 45 days in prison after being found guilty of assault at the age of 16. But thanks to his older brother Donnie Wahlberg – who was a teen pop idol – Wahlberg became a member of a boy band. Donnie helped Mark with a recording contract. Subsequently, the delinquent became a rapper and dancer for the hip-hop group Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch in 1991.

His bad boy image led to multiple scandals and often made tabloid headlines. His music career spiraled south after being accused of homophobia and charged for assaulting a security guard. In 1994, Wahlberg underwent yet another transformation. He left behind the moniker Marky Mark and made his silver-screen debut with Renaissance Man.

Despite the film’s failure, casting agents were drawn to Mark Wahlberg’s touching portrayal of an army recruit. The major turning point came with Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights (1997). Since then he’s taken on a range of dramatic roles across genres. Mark Wahlberg is also the co-owner of Wahlburgers, a burger chain founded by his elder brother-and-chef Paul Wahlberg. Quickly then, here’s our ranking of the best Mark Wahlberg films:

 

Best Mark Wahlberg Movies

13. We Own the Night (2007)

Image Source: IMDb.com

We Own the Night by James Gray tells a familiar tale of two brothers caught on the opposite sides of law. Set in 1988, Brooklyn, a conflict unfolds between a nightclub manager and a New York Police officer on the rise. Club manager Bobby (Joaquin Phoenix) has strayed from the path set by his father Burt (Robert Duvall) and cop brother Joseph (Wahlberg). Soon, Joseph seeks Bobby’s help to bring down the Russian mobsters who own the night club. But Bobby refuses and things spiral out of the brothers’ control.

Mark Wahlberg is brilliantly restrained as Joseph. Wahlberg subtly expresses both animosity and sympathy for Phoenix’s character. This was clearly one of his most underrated roles, and that’s largely because Phoenix effortlessly overshadows all the other actors in the narrative with his charming screen-presence. Overall, it’s the solid performances that make this simple drama robust.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

 

12. Patriots Day (2016)

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Patriots Day marks the third collaboration between Wahlberg and director Peter Berg, following Lone Survivor & Deepwater Horizon. It was a vivid and tense retelling of the 2013 Boston marathon bombings. Wahlberg plays police sergeant Tommy Saunders, a fictional character that draws from real-life experiences. Similar to the two previous collaborations between the actor and director, Patriots Day is a character-driven thriller. Berg anchors the emotional appeal of the narrative in Wahlberg’s self-assured everyday man. Through his eyes we witness the horror and agony of the first responders.

Berg and his co-writers Matt Cook and Joshua Zetumer add some interesting shades to Tommy Saunders. Saunders is a hard-drinker, for instance and suffers from a knee injury. What we get eventually is a rounded out story of a man’s triumph over adversity. There’s also a circle of fascinating supporting characters around Wahlberg’s Saunders, who remain unified and vigilant enough to recover from the traumatic incident.

Where to watch: Lionsgate Play

 

11. Invincible (2006)

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Ericson Core’s inspirational sports drama Invincible is based on the true story of Vincent Papale. In 1976, 30-year-old Vincent tried out for Philadelphia Eagles soccer team. What followed was a classic underdog story an outsider overcoming great odds to play in the NFL. Mark Wahlberg plays Vincent with great restraint. Wahlberg’s Vincent is shown going through tough times. His teaching career has fallen through and his wife has abandoned him. The only job he’s able to secure with the help of his buddy is of a bartender. 

Vincent’s buddies and their weekend football games push the determined guy to give the tryouts a chance. Mark Wahlberg brilliantly embodies Vincent’s sensibilities, including his ceaseless enthusiasm and resilience. Wahlberg had mentioned that he could relate to Vincent because they both hail from rough working class backgrounds. The supporting cast including Greg Kinnear and Elizabeth Banks also deliver nuanced performances. 

Where to watch: Disney+ Hotstar

 

10. Shooter (2007)

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Antoine Fuqua’s Shooter is based on the 1993 thriller novel Point of Impact by Steven Hunter. It is part of Bob Lee Swagger series, a disgruntled ex-marine sniper who is the protagonist of 12 Hunter novels (so far). The narrative opens with Mark Wahlberg’s Bob Swagger living quietly in the middle of nowhere. However, he is pressured by Colonel Isaac Johnson (Danny Glover) to return to service as a sharpshooter to thwart an assassination attempt on the President. Things get twisty when Bob is framed for a high-profile murder and hunted down by the government.

Shooter is a solid action film which relies on Wahlberg’s cool-headed performance as the stoic and determined protagonist. His character is a combination of John Rambo and Jason Bourne. Wahlberg’s Bob is more reserved compared to the cocky Sgt. Dignam (The Departed), a character he played just before this movie. In fact, the quiet yet tough guy character in Shooter paved the way for similar roles in The Fighter, The Lone Survivor, etc.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

 

9. The Other Guys (2010)

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Adam McKay’s buddy cop movie The Other Guys perfectly tapped into Wahlberg’s barely explored funny side. The film released right after Wahlberg’s three consecutive domestic box-office flops, The Happening, Max Payne, and The Lovely Bones. McKay gets the much needed yin-yang dynamic in this cop action drama as Will Ferrell’s naive desk-bound detective Allen Gamble is paired with Walhberg’s street-smart detective Terry Hoitz. The central plot revolves around a complex white collar crime. The bad guy is portrayed by Steve Coogan, a billionaire with sketchy business contracts.

But ultimately the investigation takes a back seat to Wahlberg-Ferrell’s invigorating bromance. There’s also a great deal of silly slapstick humor and explosive chase sequences. While Will Ferrell’s Allen is a geeky and shy forensic guy, Mark Wahlberg’s Terry is a hot-headed character. Wahlberg showcases the same intensity he embodied in The Departed. However, here McKay effectively utilized it for laughs. Wahlberg later collaborated with Will Ferrell in the Christmas comedy Daddy’s Home (2015).

Where to watch: Netflix

 

8. Lone Survivor (2013)

Image Source: nytimes.com

Peter Berg’s Lone Survivor is an engrossing and well-staged dramatization of US Navy SEALS operation in Afghanistan. The film is based on the 2007 non-fiction book by Marcus Luttrell, a retired Navy SEAL. He was the sole survivor of Operation Redwing, a mission that set out to capture or kill the Al-Qaeda leader Ahmad Shahd. Unfortunately, their mission gets compromised and Luttrell and his team are stranded in the mountain region facing a well-armed Taliban force.

Lone Survivor largely works due to subtle characterizations and Berg’s realistic re-enactment of the battlefront action. Mark Wahlberg as Luttrell gives one of his most (one of the is always followed by ‘most’) stirring performances. The actor effortlessly slips into the role of a capable, battle-hardened soldier. The film is a fine example of how Wahlberg can deliver a hard-hitting performance if he finds the right subject and character. Lone Survivor also boasts exceptional supporting performances from Taylor Kitsch and Ben Foster.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

 

7. TED (2012)

Image Source: IMDb.com

Mark Wahlberg has mostly played intense, macho action figures in his career. But his comedic prowess, which shone in Date Night and The Other Guys led to him further explore the genre. In Seth MacFarlane’s blockbuster hit TED, Wahlberg plays a world-weary, beer-drinking Bostonian named John Bennett. John’s childhood dream comes true when he wishes for his stuffed teddy bear to come to life. They both became stars. But now years later, the embittered Ted and grown-up John are stuck with each other.

Ted was voiced by MacFarlane himself, and created by impressive motion-capture technology. Wahlberg offers a seamless performance as the man-child John. He’s got a fine chemistry with his furry co-star, enacting the tender as well as funny scenes with Ted in a very convincing manner. On the outset, TED is a predictable R-rated comedy. However, Wahlberg brings an element of innocence and sweetness to the character which counterbalances the stuffed bear’s foul-mouthed humor.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

 

6. Three Kings (1999)

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David O. Russell’s Three Kings was a solid action-packed war picture with splashes of dark humor that reminds us of Robert Altman’s MASH (1971). The narrative is set in the backdrop of the 1991 Gulf War. The film opens just after the conflict has ended. Sgt. Troy Barlow (Wahlberg) and Staff Sgt. Chief Elgin (Ice Cube) find a map that supposedly shows where the huge cache of gold bullion stolen by Saddam Hussain from the Kuwaitis is hidden. Soon, their Commanding Officer Gates (Clooney) also learns about the map. They all head off in search of Saddam’s treasure.

Wahlberg does an excellent job playing the naive and obedient American soldier Troy. There’s also a dark side to his character which is revealed at a crucial point. Three Kings was shot in the Arizona desert and the production was extremely grueling. There were even reports of conflict and a physical fight between Clooney and director Russell. Yet, incredible performances from Clooney and Wahlberg perfectly convey the film’s political as well as humanistic messages.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

 

5. I Heart Huckabees (2004)

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David O. Russell’s exhilarating and unconventional comedy sees Mark Wahlberg playing a fire-fighter in the throes of an existential crisis. I Heart Huckabees was the second of the three collaborations between Russell and Wahlberg. And in all the three movies, Wahlberg offers fascinating internalized performances. Besides, in both Three Kings and I Heart Huckabees, Russell utilizes Wahlberg’s underestimated comedic abilities. The film revolves around a frustrated environmentalist named Albert (Jason Schwartzman), who is unsettled by a strange coincidence in his life.

And so, Albert hires a pair of Existential Detectives to investigate the mystery. Their inquiry touches upon a few intriguing characters including Tommy Corn, a disturbed and angry post-9/11 fire-fighter. Tommy believes that all evils of the world are caused by petroleum. Though a supporting role, Wahlberg finely fleshes out his character with enough gusto and energy.  Wahlberg’s Tommy sounds funny, but there’s a sensitive and vulnerable side to him, which is well explored by the actor.  

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Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

 

4. The Gambler (2014)

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Image Source: nytimes.com

Rupert Wyatt’s The Gambler was a remake of the 1970s crime classic of the same name, directed by Karel Reisz. The narrative revolves around Jim Bennett (Mark Wahlberg), a literature professor obsessed with gambling. He’s borrowed a great deal of money from a loan shark, which threatens the safety of his family. Jim also further complicates his situation by getting into an inappropriate relationship with his student Amy (Brie Larson). Pushed to the brink of self-destruction, Jim takes the biggest gamble in his life. 

The Gambler largely comes across as a mediocre remake of the original movie. It’s because of the superficial, flimsy treatment by writer Monhan and director Wyatt. Thankfully, Mark Wahlberg’s captivating performance as Jim keeps us invested in the character’s redemption. Wahlberg must have seen the potential in the subject and the character, since he also served as one of the producers. Nevertheless, the actor’s mature, powerful performance is let down by a disappointing screenplay.

Where to watch: Apple TV+

 

3. The Departed (2006)

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The profanity-laced diatribes of Mark Wahlberg’s Sgt. Dignam are the most fun part of Scorsese’s epic crime drama. While Wahlberg has less screen time in the two hour plus movie, he steals every scene he’s in. The actor nabbed an Oscar nom for the role. But what’s more impressive is that he gave such a memorable performance amidst other acting heavyweights like Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, and Alec Baldwin.

The Departed is a story about corruption and violence within the police force and organized crime. Wahlberg’s Sgt. Dignam works under Captain Oliver Queenan (Charlie Sheen). They run a Special Investigation Unit that’s dedicated to collect evidence and arrest Boston’s most dangerous mobster, Frank Costello (Nicholson). To achieve that, Queenan and Dignam send a cop named Billy Costigan (DiCaprio) to infiltrate Costello’s gang. Wahlberg’s over-the-top performance provides a fine counterpoint to the low-key performances of Sheen and DiCaprio. His character also had some of the best lines in the film.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

 

2. The Fighter (2010)

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David O. Russell’s The Fighter is a biographical film that chronicles the life of boxing legend Micky Ward and his half-brother plus trainer Dicky Eklund. The Fighter was Mark Wahlberg’s passion project. He was also credited as one of the movie’s producers. Christian Bale, who played Dicky and won an Oscar for the role, said in an interview that Wahlberg trained for years in the boxing ring to play Micky Ward. The film marks Wahlberg’s third successful collaboration with David Russell after Three Kings and I Heart Huckabees.

The Fighter is a narrative of two distinct halves. The first-half explores Micky’s family dynamics particularly his conflicts with an overbearing mother (Melissa Leo) and a drug-addicted brother. The later-half is all about the underdog Micky training himself for the boxing title bout. Wahlberg is brilliantly restrained as Micky. It’s unfortunate that the Academy decided to only acknowledge the fine yet flamboyant performances of Bale and Melissa Leo.

Where to watch: Lionsgate Play

 

1. Boogie Nights (1997)

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PT Anderson’s second film offered Mark Wahlberg a breakthrough role. Though Wahlberg played important roles inBasketball Diaries (1995) and Fear (1996), Anderson cast him in the central role, that helped solidify his reputation as a serious performer. Boogie Nights is set in the backdrop of the LA porn industry between late 1970s and mid 1980s. The story revolves around 17-year old Eddie Adams (Wahlberg) who leaves his dead-end job as a busboy and works for a pornography auteur Jack Horner.

Eddie takes up the name Dirk Diggler for his on-screen persona, and quickly becomes a skin flick star. The decadent lifestyle, however, ruins Eddie’s life by the time he reaches his mid-20s. Wahlberg truly gets into the skin of the character. It’s deeply affecting to look at Eddie’s transformation from an innocent young boy to a washed-out junkie. The role was initially offered to DiCaprio, who allegedly turned it down for Titanic.

Where to watch: Tubi 

 

Conclusion

These are some of the best Mark Wahlberg performances. If you’re looking for more films, check out The Basketball Diaries (1995), The Perfect Storm (2000), Planet of the Apes (2001), The Italian Job (2003), Pain & Gain (2013), and All the Money in the World (2017). His upcoming films include Arthur the King and Our Man from Jersey, The Family Planand The Six Billion Dollar Man.

What are your favorite Mark Wahlberg films?

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