Back in the early '90s, who would've thought that Mark Wahlberg, known then as Marky Mark, would become one of our biggest movie stars? Whether or not anyone thought he had it in him, Wahlberg showed everyone that he means business by becoming an A-list celebrity and two-time Oscar nominee. Having worked with some of the finest filmmakers in Hollywood today, including Martin Scorsese, Paul Thomas Anderson, Ridley Scott, Tim Burton, James Gray, Peter Jackson, and more, and producing more than 30 different movies and TV shows, Wahlberg only continues to expand his creative outreach. Just this past weekend, Mark Wahlberg made his Netflix debut with Spenser Confidential, his newest collaboration with director Peter Berg. To celebrate his latest, we'd thought it'd be a fitting time to reflect on the best Mark Wahlberg movies to date.
Since Mark Wahlberg has starred in more than a few quality movies to bonafide classics, it won't be too hard to compile a list of ten. If anything, it'll be harder to narrow it down.
With that out of the way, let's take a look at Mark Wahlberg's ten best movies, ranked!
10. Ted (2012)
While Mark Wahlberg is celebrated as an action star or as a dramatic performer, his comedic skills shouldn't be overlooked. Indeed, some of Wahlberg's best performances come from comedies, including Seth MacFarlane's Ted. Playing John Bennett, a lifelong Boston native who, as a child, magically discovers his teddy bear has come to life, only to become a stoner burnout alongside his stuffed childhood buddy whenever the world stops caring. Wahlberg flexes his talents for playing a glib, goodhearted man-child who tries to disconnect from his friend when he tries to move on. The lighthearted, amicable movie carries a breezy, easygoing pace, benefitted by Wahlberg's surprisingly easy chemistry with his CG co-star, voiced by Seth MacFarlane. Mark Wahlberg's performance goes a long way towards selling the illusion and making you endeared to his unorthodox bromance. For that reason in particular, Ted features one of Wahlberg's most affable, unexpectedly heartfelt performances.
9. Invincible (2006)
Underdog sports movies can be a dime a dozen in Hollywood. But when they work, they work really well. Case-in-point: 2006's underrated Invincible. The story of Vince Papale, a former substitute teacher/part-time bartender who becomes an unexpected asset for the Philadelphia Eagles during the mid-to-late '70s, Wahlberg's knack for becoming assiduous men rising the ladder to greatness was certainly on display here, allowing the actor to play the humble, hard-working everyman who finds himself living out his dream of playing for his hometown football team and proving himself after several months of adversity. It's your standard sports movie story, but it's hard not to get swept by a nicely spun tale. I don't like the Philly Eagles. Hell, I don't even like football. Yet, it's easy to root for Wahlberg's Papale as he's running towards greatness during the climax. That is the power of a good film.
8. I Heart Huckabees (2004)
Admittedly, I Heart Huckabees isn't everyone's deal. It's sometimes seen as too twee, too cutesy, too beholden to the quirky indie movie cliches of the early '00s. That's understandable, to a certain respect, but that's also overlooking how smartly it's executed, how stylish it can be, and how much it's elevated by its all-star ensemble, which includes Dustin Hoffman, Lily Tomlin, Jude Law, Naomi Watts, Jason Schwartzman, Isabelle Huppert, and Mark Wahlberg. In their second collaboration together, Wahlberg turns in one of his funniest performances to date as Tommy Corn, a firefighter with an acute outlook on life. Made to seem like a '30s screwball comedy under the formal stylings of movies from two decades prior, it might be seen as pretentious and too cutesy. However, if you like this sort of off-beat, off-kilter high-minded comedy, there is a lot to like — notably from Wahlberg's supporting role.
7. Lone Survivor (2014)
In the first of several collaborations with Peter Berg, Mark Wahlberg teamed up with the Friday Night Lights filmmaker to tell the story of Operation Red Wings, where a four-man team of Navy SEALs were tasked with the dangerous mission of tracking down Taliban leader Ahmad Shah. Lone Survivor is a gripping, impressively suspenseful look at the Afghanistan war; it's at its best when it focuses on the life-threatening plight of our soldiers. Though not without its flaws, Lone Survivor is benefitted from taunt direction and strong performances, notably with Wahlberg as veteran Marcus Luttrell. It's a visceral, engaging war drama, one that's not afraid to show the brutal realities of the men who put their lives on the line for their country. You can see why it inspired a long-standing professional relationship between Wahlberg and Berg — even their later works didn't match this success.
6. Deepwater Horizon (2016)
As noted earlier, while Mark Wahlberg and Peter Berg's recent films (notably the dire Mile 22 and the lackluster Spenser Confidential) don't match their previous hits, they followed the success of Lone Survivor with arguably their best movie together yet: 2016's Deepwater Horizon. A thrilling retelling of 2010's BP oil spill, anchored by another commanding turn from Wahlberg as Mike Williams, the Chief Electronics Technician who does everything he can to save his crew members when disaster strikes, Berg's proven talent for grippingly grounded action sequences with unabashedly theatrical dramatic beats work tremendously in his favor, producing an engaging, impacting look at heroism and courage. It carries similar flaws in addition to similar strengths from Lone Survivor but is better served by Berg's even more confident, commanding directing style, which was unfortunately lost in the two most recent movies he made with Wahlberg.
5. The Italian Job (2003)
A pedal-to-the-metal thrill ride from top to bottom, 2003's The Italian Job is one of the rare early '00s remakes that works exceptionally well, mainly due to its knack for engaging action, slick cars, and fun performances from its all-star cast, including Mark Wahlberg. While the plot can be bumpy at times, the movie smooths itself out through its rousing action, sharp direction, and charismatic performances, notably with Wahlberg at the forefront. Before we got the Fast & Furious franchise being what it is today, The Italian Job was one of the most entertaining, accessible car-based action movies of the new millennium. It's a shame it never became the franchise it was meant to be, but at least we had a ton of fun with this exciting, chase-friendly film.
4. Three Kings (1999)
Centered around four soldiers on a quest for gold in 1991, towards the end of the Gulf War, Mark Wahlberg made his first movie with his long-time collaborator David O. Russell in the 1999 war movie, Three Kings. In a cast that also includes George Clooney, Ice Cube, and Spike Jonze (in a rare acting turn), the movie once again combines comedy, drama, and action in a palpable, engaging way that we tend to expect from the talented Russell. While the filmmaker has a reputation for his behavior on set, notably with this movie in particular, it's clear that he can often bring out the best in his performers, and that's notably the case with Wahlberg. Among the three collaborations they made together, Three Kings remains one of their finest.
3. The Fighter (2010)
In what remains his fourth and final collaboration with writer/director David O. Russell, The Fighter is another example of a sports biopic that could've easily gone south had it not been for the clear talent of the actor and filmmaker on hand. Centered on Mickey Ward, a professional Boston boxer hoping for greatness and driven by his older half-brother, Dicky, played by an Oscar-winning Christian Bale in an incredible performance, it's easy to see why Wahlberg took on the muscle-bound role. But his performance in this movie is quite easily among his best, and he surrounds himself with one of his strongest casts to date, including Amy Adams, Oscar-winning Melissa Leo and the aforementioned Bale. Even when The Fighter turns a little too predictable by its final moments, it's clearly a hell of a contender. It's very much apparent that this Wahlberg passion project was one worth fighting for.
2. The Departed (2006)
In a cast that also includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin, and Jack Nicholson, among others, only Mark Wahlberg's supporting turn in Martin Scorsese's excellent The Departed got an acting nomination at the Oscars. Indeed, that's pretty damn impressive. While I believe Nicholson's amazing performance was unjustly snubbed, there's little denying that Wahlberg fires on all cylinders in Scorsese's 2006 crime epic, the film that finally secured the long-revered filmmaker's first overdue Best Picture win. His profane, ball-busting Sgt. Sean Dignam is a memorable part in the proceedings; in a cast as good as this one, it's impressive to stand out — let alone be the only one to get a nomination. Indeed, The Departed would prove to many that Wahlberg was an actor cementing his Hollywood legacy, one who continued to prove himself but now had the Oscar nomination to flaunt it.
1. Boogie Nights (1997)
Even though Mark Wahlberg has several career highlights, it's one of the movie star's earliest leading roles in 1997's Boogie Nights that remains his high point. In the unforgettable role of Dirk Diggler, a boyishly handsome young Californian who rises the ranks of the '70s porn industry thanks to his, err, exceptionally large ... asset, Wahlberg's guides us through writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson's epic sophomore film, which runs nearly three hours but hardly feels its length. Even though it also features career-best work from Burt Reynolds and Heather Graham, as well as excellent supporting roles from Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly, William H. Macy, and the late, great Phillip Seymour Hoffman, this is Wahlberg's movie, and he shines so bright.
Taking us through the sprawling journey of this porn star's rise and fall through this subsection of the movie industry, it remains one of the finest movies of the late '90s, and that's certainly thanks to Mark Wahlberg's towering performance. While Wahlberg has expressed remorse for playing this role, he shouldn't. It's the epic film that proved the one-hit-wonder rap musician had what it took to become a bonafide A-lister. It's only ironically fitting that this tale of a rising-and-falling porn star would go on to make its leading film star one of the biggest actors in the business.
There are also some notable snubs in this list, including (but not limited to), The Other Guys (which just barely missed the cut), Date Night, We Own The Night, Shooter, The Perfect Storm, Rock Star, Contraband, Pain & Gain, Patriot's Day and The Gambler. Whether you agree with all the movies ranked above or not, it's clear that Mark Wahlberg has amassed an impressive career as an actor/producer, and we hope to see more quality movies from him in the future. What are some of your favorite Mark Wahlberg movies? Let us know in the comment section found below.
Also, say hi to your mother for me, alright?
Your Daily Blend of Entertainment News
Will is an entertainment writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. His writing can also be found in The Playlist, Cut Print Film, We Got This Covered, The Young Folks, Slate and other outlets. He also co-hosts the weekly film/TV podcast Cinemaholics with Jon Negroni and he likes to think he's a professional Garfield enthusiast.