Although he initially made his name in music under the stage name “Marky Mark,” Mark Wahlberg has gone on to become one of Hollywood’s most beloved and acclaimed movie stars. He burst onto the screen with Paul Thomas Anderson’s sprawling porn drama Boogie Nights, and for a musician-turned-actor, he’s enjoyed an incredibly successful career. Aside from the odd misfire like M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening and the last couple of Transformers films, he’s starred in some brilliant movies from the likes of Martin Scorsese, David O. Russell, and John Singleton.
So, here are Mark Wahlberg’s 10 best movies, according to Rotten Tomatoes.
10 The Other Guys (78%)
Adam McKay was having dinner with Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg when he realized they had the palpable chemistry to share the screen. So, he emailed his producer with the idea, saying that one example would be a buddy cop movie. The producer loved that idea so much that McKay’s off-the-cuff example went into production and became The Other Guys.
In addition to being a hilarious take on the tropes of the buddy cop genre and the action genre in general, The Other Guys has a sneaky satirical undertone with a lot of sharp points to make about the 2008 banking crisis.
9 TIE: Traveller (79%)
This was one of Mark Wahlberg’s earlier on-screen appearances. He doesn’t play the lead role – that distinction goes to Bill Paxton – but he does have an integral part in the film’s central band of con artists. There aren’t many movies that get made about Irish Travellers in Hollywood, although they’ve been depicted on the screen a few times in British movies.
This one sees Wahlberg’s character as the fish out of water who falls in with a crowd of Irish Travellers in North Carolina and introduces the audience into their world. Julianna Margulies also appears alongside Paxton and Wahlberg in a supporting role.
8 TIE: All the Money in the World (79%)
Ridley Scott directed this dramatization of the kidnapping of J. Paul Getty’s grandson. Getty was one of the richest people in the world and he refused to give up a penny to pay his grandson’s ransom. Scott actually ended up having to reshoot half the movie just a few weeks before its release, because he’d cut the whole movie and had it in the can with Kevin Spacey playing Getty.
And then disaster struck when Spacey got swept up in the #MeToo movement. Scott swiftly removed Spacey from the movie and recast the role with Christopher Plummer. Plummer shot all his scenes and the movie was ready, delaying the release by just three days.
7 Patriots Day (80%)
Peter Berg directed this powerful dramatization of the Boston Marathon bombings and the ensuing police investigation into them. Mark Wahlberg stars as a cop on the frontlines, while Kevin Bacon plays an FBI agent, John Goodman plays the city’s Police Commissioner, and J.K. Simmons plays a sergeant. Patriots Day is a compelling thriller, but its greatest merit is its focus on Boston’s strong as a tightknit community.
The film didn’t do as well at the box office as it deserved to; it was even chosen by the American Film Institute as one of the 10 best films of the year.
6 Instant Family (82%)
The studio sort of botched the marketing campaign for Instant Family, because it came and went without making much of a splash and it deserved so much more attention. Mark Wahlberg reteamed with Daddy’s Home director Sean Anders and stars alongside Rose Byrne as a couple who want to foster children. Since they don’t want to break up three siblings, they end up being the parents of three kids overnight.
Anders based the film on his own personal experiences of fostering three siblings, so there’s a delightful honesty and reality to the script that isn’t often seen in Hollywood comedies.
5 Deepwater Horizon (83%)
This big-budget film translation of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill points the finger at BP and exposes corporate greed that has been swept under the rug in the years since it took place. The corporate suits were negligent and the oil rig workers suffered greatly as a result – this movie by Peter Berg came along to champion them.
Mark Wahlberg stars alongside John Malkovich and Kurt Russell, and although the movie was controversial for its use of artistic license in glossing over historical facts, the message is clear: screw BP. It’s a shame that the movie bombed at the box office, because it was breathtaking.
4 TIE: The Departed (91%)
The Departed, Martin Scorsese’s Boston-set remake of the 2002 Hong Kong crime thriller Infernal Affairs, is a tense cat-and-mouse thriller about an undercover cop and a detective working with the mob chasing each other. Mark Wahlberg only had a small role in The Departed, but in the film’s final moments, his character became pretty integral (without spoiling anything).
He was being primed for a larger role in the sequel, which was being written by the original’s screenwriter William Monahan. It would’ve revolved around a corrupt U.S. Senator played by Robert De Niro. Unfortunately, the budget skyrocketed and Scorsese lost interest, so we’re left wondering what could’ve been.
3 TIE: The Fighter (91%)
This biopic of boxer Micky Ward falls into the same category as Raging Bull as the story of a boxer that focuses more on the man than the fighting. In this case, the focus is Ward’s relationship with his half-brother, Dicky Ecklund. Mark Wahlberg stars as Ward alongside an Oscar-winning Christian Bale as Eklund, and it’s their on-screen chemistry that carries the whole film.
A lot of biopics, including Raging Bull itself, are a rise-and-fall story, but The Fighter sets itself apart by instead being a fall-and-rise story. Wahlberg trained like a real boxer for the movie, and it brought a degree of authenticity that is often lacking in boxing films.
2 Boogie Nights (93%)
Paul Thomas Anderson’s sophomore directorial effort was a sprawling saga about the adult film industry. Mark Wahlberg starred in the lead role as Dirk Diggler, a porn star who works his way from the bottom of the business to the top and then falls from grace spectacularly.
He anchored the whole movie and carried the ensemble cast, which also included Julianne Moore, Don Cheadle, John C. Reilly, William H. Macy, Heather Graham, and Burt Reynolds. Anderson’s visual style and impeccable screenplay are the true stars, but it’s Wahlberg’s performance that keeps this tale of the Golden Age of Porn grounded and focused.
1 Three Kings (94%)
David O. Russell knew that he wanted to direct Three Kings before he’d even read the script. His agent simply described it as a heist movie set during the Gulf War and he knew he’d want to direct it. Russell ended up changing a lot of the original script, which was written by stand-up comic John Ridley, to suit his distinctive creative voice.
The movie stars George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, and Ice Cube as a trio of soldiers who are fighting a war that they don’t fully understand. It’s a darkly comic tale, but also the quintessential Gulf War movie.