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Every Mark Wahlberg Movie, Ranked Worst to Best

From ball-busting blue-collar cops to well-hung porn stars – our complete stem-to-stern breakdown of the ‘Deepwater Horizon’ star’s career

Let’s face some facts: Mark Wahlberg has never quite gotten the respect that he deserves. Once derided as a (not very good) rapper merely playing at trying to break into movies, the artist formerly known as Marky Mark quickly proved his talent and magnetism in the second half of the 1990s by appearing in a series of diverse hits (Fear, Boogie Nights, Three Kings). Even so, he continued to be thought of by some as a mildly talented hunk who’d just lucked out.

Cut to two decades later, and Wahlberg is not just one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, but possibly the most careful: He’s put together a filmography that speaks not just to his abilities but also his obsessions, playing sincere, working-class professionals whose quiet demeanor masks depths of heroism and achievement. His latest, the true-life disaster tale Deepwater Horizon, very much fits into that mold.

Meanwhile, people keep underestimating both his talents and his drawing power. Sure, he might not have the range of a typical “great actor”; he’s not going to be playing Abraham Lincoln anytime soon. But like all great movie stars, Wahlberg seems to understand his own limitations, and seeks out parts that play to his strengths and co-stars that complement his style (think Denzel Washington, Christian Bale, Joaquin Phoenix, or, um, Will Ferrell). Has he had his share of stinkers? Boy, has he! But look over the movies he’s made, and you might find yourself amazed at how much terrific work he’s done over the course of his career. Here are all of Mark Wahlberg’s performances, ranked from worst to best. (Keep in mind we’re ranking the performances, and not necessarily the films – if he’s great in a less-than-stellar movie, you’ll see if near the top, and vice versa.)

Mark Wahlberg Best Worst movies

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35

‘Max Payne’

In this overproduced, violent adaptation of the hit video game series, Wahlberg is a haunted cop (he plays haunted cops often) mourning the loss of his wife and child, all while slowly doing battle against what appears to be a demonic plague taking over the city. The actor really can't do much with such an underwritten part – he doesn't even get that many lines, and the film somehow doesn't take advantage of his physicality or his charm. So, he just broods. For two straight hours. Game over.

Mark Wahlberg Best Worst movies

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34

‘Ted 2’

For this second, lesser installment of Seth MacFarlane's profane-talking-teddy-bear movie, Wahlberg reprises his role as John, the stoner best friend of our everyone's favorite sentient furball. His performance, like so much of the rest of the movie, is pretty much phoned in – except, that is, when he's being humiliated, like the bit where he winds up covered in sperm after a hospital heist gone wrong. (Watch at your own peril.) Wahlberg is a solid comic actor, and a good sport, but this is one of those films where the laziness of the gags reflects poorly on the performers as well; they aim for charm, and wind up with smarm.

Mark Wahlberg Best Worst movies

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33

‘Mojave’

To be fair, Wahlberg steals the show with his extended cameo as a preening, fast-talking Hollywood producer (which could easily be modeled on himself) in this bizarre, symbolic macho art-drama. The thing is, it's not really a show worth stealing. Garrett Hedlund is a brooding filmmaker having an existential crisis; Oscar Isaac is the mysterious drifter with whom he crosses paths and talks literature and philosophy. And even though Wahlberg's brief turn is a welcome respite, it feels so calculated to inject energy into this testosterone-laden thriller that it leaves a strange aftertaste. Plus it's hard to believe the pseudo-poetic dialogue was written by none other than William Monahan, whose screenplay for The Departed gave Wahlberg one of his greatest roles. (See elsewhere on this list.)

Mark Wahlberg Best Worst movies

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32

‘The Corruptor’

An earnest white cop (guess who?) joins gruff hotshot Chow Yun-fat in investigating the gangs of Chinatown. The fireworks between the possibly corrupt veteran and the by-the-book tenderfoot would be fun, were the movie not more interested in stylized, over-the-top shootouts and explosions than exploring these two characters. We won't tell you what the twist is, but know that there is one, and that it's not entirely unpredictable. Still, even when the narrative circumstances change, the actor seems out of his element.

Mark Wahlberg Best Worst movies

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31

‘Entourage’

Our man is only in this 2015 big-screen of the HBO series for a few seconds. But he executive produced the show it's based on, and the brotastic shenanigans of fictional movie star Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) and his pals were apparently based on Wahlberg and his crew to begin with. In other words, he's spiritually all over this movie. His Markness briefly shows up as himself, even poking fun at some of his recent roles (he allows himself to get grief about appearing in Ted 2). It's also clear that he's having fun watching his fictional alter-ego. Imagine that: Mark Wahlberg, Benevolent Deity of the Entourage Franchise.

Mark Wahlberg Best Worst movies

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30

‘The Truth About Charlie’

It's been said that Will Smith's last-minute dropping out from this updating of the classic spy-romance Charade was what prompted director Jonathan Demme to turn the movie into a devil-may-care, pseudo-experimental love letter to Paris. Even so, Wahlberg's glum, befuddled performance is a poor replacement. He's supposed to be an enigmatic, charismatic hero here: a dashing, dangerous figure whose intentions always remain unclear. But mysterious is not the actor's strong suit. He himself seems more confused by his actions than anybody else in the film.

Mark Wahlberg Best Worst movies

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29

‘The Lovely Bones’

Nobody got out entirely clean from this Peter Jackson misfire (based on the best-selling novel) about a young girl who's brutally murdered, then watches from an idyllic afterlife as her loved ones try to piece together her fate. As the mourning father, Wahlberg wasn't actually given all that much to do – his performance is mostly a quiet, physical one. But though there are moments when he makes the character's grief palpable, he's ill at ease in an underbaked part. There were better angry-dad roles down the pike.

Mark Wahlberg Best Worst movies

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28

‘Broken City’

A surprisingly ambitious crime thriller — you can tell it wants to be a modern-day Chinatown — finds Wahlberg playing a cop who left the force after a questionable shooting. He's now working as a small time private eye when the city's corrupt mayor (Russell Crowe) hires him to spy on his wife. The protagonist is likable enough, but it's hard to buy the actor as an investigator – the role requires some subtlety, as well as a slightly weasely quality, that Wahlberg simply does not possess. In other words, he's no Jack Nicholson.

Mark Wahlberg Best Worst movies

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27

‘Contraband’

There's Alpha Male Mark Wahlberg, and then there's Shrinking Violet Mark Wahlberg. The latter can often spell death for a film – especially an action thriller – but occasionally, a director finds a way to make that kind of low-boiling energy work to a film's advantage. Here, the actor's New Orleans family man who has given up the thievery business and wouldn't you know it, he's forced to take one last job. Director Baltasar Kormakur uses Wahlberg's quiet tension to build both suspense and pathos. The actor is a reluctant hero here, and he knows that things are going to go off the rails. His regret and muted rage are often transfixing.

Mark Wahlberg Best Worst movies

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26

‘Transformers: Age of Extinction’

Michael Bay's fourth Transformers movie is far from the director's worst (that'd be the second Transformers movie, FYI), but come on: Mark Wahlberg as a scrappy inventor from Texas? The star was a newcomer to the series, essentially replacing the troubled Shia LaBeouf in the ordinary-guy-who-befriends-the-Autobots part. But LaBeouf's character was an anxious geek. Wahlberg, on the other hand, is a grown man, and he isn't really called on to do much; these movies were already post-human by this point. Really, he's just there to move the plot along and hold things together just long enough to get to the giant-robots-fighting-each-other part. It's not a bad performance; just a completely anonymous one.

Mark Wahlberg Best Worst movies

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25

‘The Gambler’

Wahlberg as a compulsive, high-stakes gambler? Sure, we'll bite. Wahlberg as a failed novelist and take-no-prisoners literature professor? Not so much. Based on a 1974 movie starring James Caan, this dour drama doesn't very hard to make the opposite poles of this conflicted, contradictory character work. Worse, the star doesn't seem at ease ranting about Shakespeare, class issues and artistic achievement; he delivers them too quickly, like he's trying to cover for not knowing what he's talking about. The actor fares a lot better, however, with the more elemental, desperate side of the character, especially when he's being squeezed by multiple loan sharks. Still, once the classroom scenes kick in, all bets are off.

Mark Wahlberg Best Worst movies

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24

‘Ted’

Seth MacFarlane's hit foulmouthed-teddy-bear movie should probably have cast Adam Sandler as an overgrown, stunted man-child who continues to be best friends with a chatty, perverted teddy bear. And while Wahlberg can often play shy, retiring types, he's not entirely convincing here as a pothead, loser lay-about. That said, the gaping wonderment on his character's face when he meets Sam Jones, the star of his favorite movie Flash Gordon, remains one of his greatest moments. And no living actor can fistfight a two-foot stuffed animal with more brute panache.

Mark Wahlberg Best Worst movies

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23

‘Shooter’

As a disillusioned ex-sniper framed for an assassination attempt on the American President's life, Wahlberg does his usual broody bit here. His terse performance fits the film's heady atmosphere of paranoia to a tee – though if there's one thing Mark Wahlberg absolutely cannot do, it's play a character who is patient. You can maybe imagine him moving to a remote location in disillusionment, but you can't really imagine him biding his time as a careful, composed, calculating sharpshooter. 

Mark Wahlberg Best Worst movies

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22

‘Four Brothers’

Wahlberg is the temperamental, troubled leader of a quartet of adopted brothers who exact revenge when their angelic mother is randomly killed; naturally, they discover that there's more to the situation than they first realized. Based on John Wayne's 1965 Western The Sons of Katie Elder, this is the kind of movie in which our heroes find themselves facing off against both cops and criminals. Wahlberg's anger is convincing – you can sense the years of resentment and rejection that have built up, and you can see how this guy can easily get in trouble. You just wish he'd inject more energy into the movie once the story starts to lag.