Home Movies Movie Lists

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.)

Play video

Everett Collection


‘The Other Guys’

An absurdly funny buddy comedy, this. Wahlberg is a small tornado of fury, playing a disgraced, loose-cannon cop who's forced to partner up with nerdy paper-pusher Will Ferrell on a case after two superstar fellow officers (played by The Rock and Samuel L. Jackson) buy it on the job. In their first pairing, the two actors balance out each other very well, in part because each takes his shtick to extremes. Ferrell is surreally geeky to the max; Wahlberg goes to 11 with the pent-up rage and earnest ambition. The actor always had a talent for comedy, but watching him go broad and big with such abandon here is a real joy.

Play video

Everett Collection


‘Three Kings’

Our man of the hour is the heart and soul of David O. Russell's masterful, bitter action comedy about a group of American soldiers trying to make off with Saddam Hussein's bullion during the first Gulf War. His Sgt. Troy Barlow is a dim, gung-ho patriot whose matter-of-fact acceptance of war is challenged when he finds himself tortured, wounded, and faced with the consequences of his country's actions. George Clooney might be the ostensible star of the film, but Wahlberg's journey is the one that mirrors the movie's emotional trajectory. It all begins with him killing a man in cold blood. By the end, we are totally gripped and moved by his ordeal as he learns to care about people he once thought of as barely human.

Play video

Everett Collection


‘Boogie Nights’

Behold, the final nail in Marky Mark's coffin, and ground zero for the Wahlberg we know today – it's still his single best lead performance. Paul Thomas Anderson's delirious epic of the porn industry in the Seventies and Eighties has the structure of A Star is Born, and as our generously-hung hero Eddie Adams becomes skin-flick stud Dirk Diggler, Wahlberg gets to put the full range of his talents to good use. His shyness and physicality eventually blossom into earnest grandiosity and peacocking aggression; don't even get us started on his close-up during the "Sister Christian" sequence, when he conveys the sense of giving up and giving in with one single, draining facial expression. A comedy, a drama, a coming-of-age movie (no pun intended), an epic, a spoof, a tragedy…this is a film of many moods and modes, and Mark Wahlberg nails every single one of them.

Play video

Everett Collection


‘The Departed’

Leave it to Martin Scorsese to find the perfect part for Wahlberg's unique blend of muted aggression and working-class contempt. With his rat-tat-tat delivery, his incessant ball-busting, his absolute and total suspicion of everybody and everything, Wahlberg nearly walked away with the director's star-studded, Oscar-winning gangster epic. Meet the no-nonsense staff sergeant Dignam, who relishes his pissy interactions with Leonardo DiCaprio's undercover officer Billy Costigan, Alec Baldwin's department go-to guy and anyone else who questions him (asked who he is by an incompetent underling, he shoots back, "I'm the guy who does his job. You must be the other guy."). These foul-mouthed tirades are a perfect fit for the actor. He was nominated for an Oscar for the part; frankly, he deserved to win.

Show Comments