Mark Wahlberg is one of my favorite actors. He isn’t necessarily the “best” actor, making some dreadful films (*coughMaxPaynecoughHappening*, but a good Wahlberg film is usually a great film. He has grown over the years as an actor, showing he can do action, comedy, or heavy Oscar projects too. This weekend, Wahlberg teams up with director Peter Berg for the fourth time in Mile 22, an action flick I am genuinely excited for. So in honor of that, here are my picks for the best Mark Wahlberg movies.
Remember, these movies are based on movie quality and Wahlberg’s performance.
5 – LONE SURVIVOR/DEEPWATER HORIZON/PATRIOTS DAY (Peter Berg, 2014/2016)
As I said above, Mile 22 is Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg’s fourth collaboration together, but their first three collaborations are the reason I’m so excited for it. Lone Survivor, Deepwater Horizon, and Patriots Day are three films that show American triumph. Lone Survivor shows how a group of soldiers fought off an ambush. Deepwater Horizon shows us the largest oil spill in American history. And Patriots Day shows us the immediate aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings. Berg’s direction for these films is perfect, and he taps in to a new level for Wahlberg, who gives some career best performances. Patriots Day is my personal favorite of the three, but this a powerful, emotional, exhilarating trilogy.
4 – THE OTHER GUYS (Adam McKay, 2010)
The Other Guys is Mark Wahlberg in a role we’ve never seen him. Usually the hard talking badass, Wahlberg is a dimwitted, angry detective who needs to fly. After a freak accident, Detective Terry Holtz (Wahlberg) is placed at a desk next to Detective Allen Gamble (Will Ferrell), a passive, nerdy accountant. They get dragged into a case neither expected and what ensues is action-comedy gold. Wahlberg and Farrell are hilarious as the mismatched pair, perfectly complimenting each other’s personalities. We also get great supporting turns from Samuel L. Jackson, Dwayne The Rock Johnson, Michael Keaton, and Steve Coogan. Director Adam McKay made one of the great action-comedies of this decade. The shootouts are thrilling, the comedy is non-stop, and the plot is twisty and interesting. This showed McKay was more than just a pure comedy director and showed Wahlberg could dive into comedy seamlessly.
3 – THE FIGHTER (David O. Russell, 2010)
The Fighter boasts an all-star cast of Oscar winner’s Christian Bale and Melissa Leo, Oscar nominee Amy Adams, and Wahlberg, but its Wahlberg who gets put on the back burner and that is a problem. He is great as Irish Mickey Ward, the old, nothing boxer who rises from the bottom to become champion while dealing with family issues along the way. Sure, Bale, Leo, and Adams are all great, but Wahlberg is the emotional center of the movie. This is his movie and his story and he is sensational in arguably the most underrated performance of his career. David O. Russell created one of the finest boxing movies of all-time. It’s exciting, emotional, and triumphant.
2 – BOOGIE NIGHTS (Paul Thomas Anderson, 1997)
Paul Thomas Anderson’s wild, ambitious look at the world of pornography through the 70’s and 80’s showed that Wahlberg was far removed from this days as a hip-hop artist and that he needed to be taken seriously as an actor. Wahlberg plays Dirk Diggler, a rising porn star who makes it to the absolute top of the game, only to fall into a world of drugs and violence. Like most Paul Thomas Anderson movies, the cast is large and extraordinary, with Oscar nominated turns from Julianne Moore and Burt Reynolds, as well as stellar performances from Phillip Seymour Hoffman, John C. Riley, William H. Macy, and Don Cheadle, to name a few. But, much like The Fighter, it is Wahlberg who is front and center and it is an opportunity that he seizes, making us love and empathize with the bright eyed hot shot. Boogie Nights put the great talents to Wahlberg and Anderson into the spotlight and is one of the true masterpieces of the 90’s.
1 – THE DEPARTED (Martin Scorsese, 2006)
Martin Scorsese’s gangster classic is one of the best movies of the legendary director’s career. This is a cat and mouse thriller about a cop (Leonardo DiCaprio) who infiltrates the mob, while the mob places one of their own (Matt Damon) in the police unit. This is yet another all-star cast, featuring Wahlberg, DiCaprio, Damon, the great Jack Nicholson, Martin Sheen, and Alec Baldwin. Wahlberg plays Dignam, a tough, abrasive sergeant, but one who is very loyal and knows what to do to get the job done. He’s blunt, smart, and quick with the one-liners and Wahlberg absolutely nails it, stealing the movie from this legendary group of actors. Wahlberg received the recognition he deserved for this role, being the only actor from this stellar cast to be nominated for an Oscar. This is a great performance in a masterful movie.
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