Total Recall

Mark Ruffalo's Best-Reviewed Movies

In this week's Total Recall, we look at the most critically acclaimed work of the Now You See Me 2 star.

by | June 8, 2016 | Comments

Few of us will ever have the opportunity to hang out with Mark Ruffalo in real life, but he’s one of those actors whose screen presence feels so honest and effortlessly down-to-earth that you can’t help feeling like you sort of know him. All that charm may not help his latest release, Now You See Me 2, achieve Certified Fresh status, but no matter — we’re using its arrival as our long-overdue excuse for taking a fond look back at some of his brightest critical highlights. It’s time for Total Recall!


Begin Again (2014) 83%

Begin-Again

With 2007’s Once, writer-director John Carney proved himself a deft hand with musically driven romantic drama — and then he went and did it again seven years later with Begin Again. Sunnier and poppier than its predecessor, it finds Carney telling the tale of a record exec (Ruffalo) who’s at loose ends in his personal and professional lives when he happens across a rough-edged singer/songwriter (Keira Knightley) whose gifts inspire him to… well, you get the idea. It’s sweet, crowd-pleasing stuff, and if it hits some of the same beats Carney played with Once, they land with irresistible sincerity. “There are times when the thing you want most is not a big, important movie but a simple, beautiful story told with sensitivity, warmth, humor and a big heart,” observed TheWrap’s Steve Pond. “Times when you don’t need a movie to save your life, you just need a movie to make you feel good.”

Watch Trailer


Collateral (2004) 86%

Collateral-Ruffalo

Michael Mann’s Collateral was largely sold as a two-hander pitting Tom Cruise (as a hitman hired to murder witnesses and a prosecutor in a court case) against Jamie Foxx (as the cab driver he hires to drive him to the killings). Really, though, this sleek thriller took more than a couple of big-name stars — for one thing, as in other Mann productions, Los Angeles essentially served as a supporting character, and for another, Cruise and Foxx were ably abetted by a talented ensemble that included Jada Pinkett Smith, Javier Bardem, and (as the cop who ends up on their tail) Mark Ruffalo. It all added up to what the Washington Post’s Stephen Hunter called “The best kind of genre filmmaking: It plays by the rules, obeys the traditions and is both familiar and fresh at once.”

Watch Trailer


Foxcatcher (2014) 87%

Foxcatcher-Ruffalo

Moneyball director Bennett Miller brought his knack for adapting real-life stories to bear on a decidedly darker tale with 2014’s Foxcatcher, which dramatizes multimillionaire heir John E. du Pont’s stranger-than-fiction descent into mental illness — and the terrible impact it had on the lives of Olympic wrestling champion Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) and his brother Dave (Ruffalo). Joined by Steve Carell as du Pont, Ruffalo and Tatum anchored a film whose painful conclusion can be felt from the first few moments, but still exerts an inexorable grip. As Peter Rainer wrote for the Christian Science Monitor, “It’s rare to see an American movie that explores, let alone acknowledges, the class system in this country, or one that gets so far inside the abyss of the ethic that drives so many men to succeed — and to implode when they don’t.”

Watch Trailer


Zodiac (2007) 89%

Zodiac-Ruffalo

In the hands of an ordinary filmmaker, any attempt to tell the story of the Zodiac Killer might have been equal parts conjecture and garden-variety gore — after all, the serial murderer who terrorized the San Francisco Bay Area for years in the 1960s and 1970s, taunting the police with a series of cryptic letters, eventually disappeared, never to be identified. For director David Fincher, though, the truly interesting story didn’t lie so much with the Zodiac as it did with the men and women who devoted themselves to apprehending him — particularly Robert Graysmith (played by Jake Gyllenhaal), the San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist who broke the Zodiac’s code and eventually became an asset to the investigation led by police detective Dave Toschi (Ruffalo). Gyllenhaal and Ruffalo led the viewer on a darkening spiral of dead ends, wild goose chases, and grim obsession — and anchored a showy cast that included Robert Downey, Jr., Chloe Sevigny, and Anthony Edwards. Unfortunately, the words “David Fincher” and “serial killer drama” sparked hopes that Fincher was returning to his Se7en roots, and the studio’s marketing campaign did nothing to set filmgoers straight; ultimately, despite a strongly positive reaction from critics, Zodiac was a non-starter at the box office, and by the time awards season arrived, this March release was all but forgotten. It deserved better, according to writers like the Toronto Star’s Geoff Pevere, who argued, “It makes you want to study it even more closely, in search of things you might have missed, trailing after leads that flash by in the relentless momentum of going nowhere fast. If you’re not careful, it might make you obsessed.”

Watch Trailer


Marvel's The Avengers (2012) 91%

Avengers-Ruffalo

The Hulk is a creature of mindless rage and limitless strength who lurks within a mild-mannered scientist horrified by his own alter ego — all of which sounds like it should be more than compelling enough for its own film franchise. Yet after a pair of somewhat underwhelming attempts at a Hulk movie, it became obvious that it was going to take more than simply hiring a leading man and a fleet of CGI programmers to turn the comics legend into big-screen big green. The answer, as presented by Marvel’s The Avengers, was to turn the Hulk into a supporting player — and one whose human face was played by Mark Ruffalo. Over a pair of Avengers movies, Ruffalo breathed new life into his character’s cinematic fortunes, turning the split-personality brute into something much more than a wrecking ball — and although he’s just one cog in the smoothly running Marvel machine, more than a few fans have clamored for a standalone Hulk feature in the MCU. “Never,” warned CNN’s Tom Charity, “underestimate the entertainment value of the Hulk Smash.”

Watch Trailer


The Kids Are All Right (2010) 92%

The-Kids-Are-All-Right

Ruffalo received a BAFTA nomination for his work in this Lisa Cholodenko dramedy, which traces the messy fallout after a boy (Josh Hutcherson) enlists his sister (Mia Wasikowska) to find the sperm donor responsible for siring the two of them — thus setting off a chain of events that brings the man in question (Ruffalo) into the domestic orbit of the women who raised the kids (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore). It’s just as messy as it sounds, yet thanks to Cholodenko’s empathetic work — and the fine efforts of her incredible cast — The Kids Are All Right never teeters into indie caricature. As Ann Hornaday wrote for the Washington Post, “Just about everyone who has been a parent, child or partner will find resonance in its bittersweet depiction of the joys and trials of lifelong intimacy.”

Watch Trailer


Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) 92%

Eternal-Sunshine-Ruffalo

Ruffalo’s critically acclaimed turn in 2000’s You Can Count on Me didn’t immediately lead to a major increase in his Hollywood profile — he’d been working steadily for years leading up to the film, and he continued to log supporting turns for a few years after, many of them in ill-remembered efforts like Committed and The Last Castle. He picked a winner, though, in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which found him logging screen time with Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet (not to mention Kirsten Dunst and Elijah Wood) in Charlie Kaufman and Michel Gondry’s endearingly bizarre drama about love lost and the nature of memory. The result, wrote Owen Gleiberman for Entertainment Weekly, “may be the first movie I’ve seen that bends your brain and breaks your heart at the same time.”

Watch Trailer


The Normal Heart (2014) 94%

The-Normal-Heart

Ruffalo earned a slew of nominations (and a SAG Award) for his portrayal of an activist in director Ryan Murphy’s HBO adaptation of the Larry Kramer play, which takes a hard street-level look at the dawn of the public’s awareness of the AIDS crisis in the early 1980s. Surrounded by a sterling cast that included Julia Roberts and Alfred Molina, Ruffalo helped dramatize agonizing events that impacted real people — some of whom directly inspired the characters in the film. “You should watch,” wrote David Wiegand of the San Francisco Chronicle, “because Larry Kramer’s play is so much more than an agitprop relic from the early years of AIDS — it is a great play that has become an even greater television film.”

Watch Trailer


You Can Count On Me (2000) 95%

You-Can-Count-On-Me

Ruffalo found relatively steady work during his early years in Hollywood, but mainly via roles in films like The Dentist and a couple of Mirror, Mirror sequels. It wasn’t until he developed a working relationship with writer-director Kenneth Lonergan that things started to pick up — most notably with 2000’s You Can Count on Me, a small-scale, character-driven drama, written and directed by Lonergan, that eventually served as a critically lauded calling card for himself, Ruffalo, and Laura Linney (who earned a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her work). Ruffalo doesn’t get to smash in this story about a ne’er-do-well brother whose sudden reappearance proves a mixed blessing for his sister and nephew, but his performance is infused with the same quiet soulfulness that Joss Whedon has relied on to help ground some of the Avengers movies’ more meaningful moments. Observed Michael Dequina for the Movie Report, “Linney and Ruffalo’s rapport is warm but raw and unsentimental, capturing the unconditional tough love dynamic that can only exist between siblings.”

Watch Trailer


Spotlight (2015) 97%

Spotlight-Ruffalo

Investigative reporting isn’t typically exciting work, but you’d never know it from watching Spotlight. Director/co-writer Tom McCarthy commanded an imposing ensemble cast for this Best Picture Academy Award winner — including Michael Keaton, Liv Schreiber, Rachel McAdams, Stanley Tucci, and (of course) Mark Ruffalo — to tell the sadly fact-based tale of the Boston Globe reporters who fought their way past systemic corruption and indifference to unearth decades of child abuse at the hands of the city’s Catholic priests, all allowed to continue while the church turned a blind eye or actively covered it up. Despite the inherently uncinematic nature of the work, and the fact that most filmgoers knew the end of the story going in, Spotlight proved positively gripping stuff — and a critical and commercial hit that racked up nearly $90 million at the box office on its way to earning six Oscar nominations (including Best Supporting Actor for Ruffalo).

Watch Trailer

  • ntvnyr30

    Maybe instead of “Spotlight” a film exposing the pedophilia of Hollywood perverted producers would be a more timely topic

    • ProtoGeek Productions

      *cough*Singer*wheeze cough*

      • HolotheHoganJohnson

        Wasn’t that allegation debunked?

        • ProtoGeek Productions

          1: No, it was just covered up by Hollywood, and people forgot.

          2:That profile picture is really familiar-looking.

    • World’s Finest Comments

      Why not both? All pedophiles should be exposed…

  • Af Keck

    What??? The Brothers Bloom! It is the best and ONLY greatest Ruffalo film!!!!!

  • Christopher Reed

    You missed his best performance. “What Doesn’t Kill You”

  • BIGNASTY

    I wish they would do an adaptation of Planet Hulk with Mark Ruffalo

    • The rumor is that large parts of Thor: Ragnarok will incorporate the Planet Hulk storyline.

  • Lou B

    HULK SMASH!!!!

  • TomNewYorker

    My 10 Favorite Mark Ruffalo Movies are

    1-The Avengers
    2-Zodiac
    3-Collateral
    4-Foxcatcher
    5-Eternal Sunshine
    6-Thanks For Sharing
    7-13 Going On 30
    8-In The Cut
    9-54
    10-Begin Again

    • JJF

      You Can Count On Me is one of the finest films ever made. Period. Ruffalo and Laura Linney? I mean, can you imagine a better pairing???

  • JJF

    I’ll say it again. You Can Count On Me is one of the finest films ever made. Period. Ruffalo and Laura Linney? Can you imagine a better pairing?

Tag Cloud

Western Fall TV directors anime Endgame DC Universe documentaries Election Polls and Games Pop TV Marvel Studios Disney+ Disney Plus Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt FX on Hulu a nightmare on elm street Syfy Travel Channel telelvision Avengers dceu news USA TV renewals Ghostbusters Fox Searchlight Infographic Awards Tour Food Network Christmas cartoon 4/20 Rock universal monsters RT21 SXSW OneApp teaser versus Anna Paquin IFC CBS All Access harry potter Tumblr Lifetime Christmas movies spanish Universal Sundance Now films Winners The CW comics adventure TCA 2017 dc nfl psycho Video Games indie San Diego Comic-Con Emmy Nominations TLC worst movies Cannes zero dark thirty cancelled television Teen singing competition composers romance Watching Series TV Land toronto facebook binge Vudu Action rom-coms Song of Ice and Fire ABC talk show cancelled TV shows biography mission: impossible Grammys political drama Oscars animated prank canceled Disney Plus renewed TV shows National Geographic The Walking Dead Broadway DC Comics disaster E3 Apple TV Plus DGA Opinion parents 20th Century Fox Showtime cancelled Classic Film 21st Century Fox Mary poppins Black History Month japanese Holidays Crunchyroll finale dramedy south america New York Comic Con docuseries stoner emmy awards 2021 transformers SundanceTV Comedy rt archives true crime children's TV Ellie Kemper heist movie History halloween tv Nickelodeon supernatural worst screen actors guild satire Horror technology popular Thanksgiving italian adaptation Binge Guide concert 24 frames police drama YouTube Premium game show Valentine's Day WarnerMedia LGBTQ Funimation sports 2016 President NYCC series boxing name the review mockumentary medical drama nature television Discovery Channel godzilla Nat Geo Spike CW Seed die hard richard e. Grant hollywood vampires sequel TCA Winter 2020 Photos PlayStation TV 45 comic books AMC Epix zombies SDCC Film Captain marvel dark Reality GLAAD YouTube Red Starz zombie Biopics Esquire Comedy Central james bond science fiction Rocketman blaxploitation romantic comedy Comics on TV comic screenings quibi space slashers Set visit Television Critics Association 72 Emmy Awards comedies Hallmark Sundance TV Year in Review movie Crackle VH1 BBC One cooking breaking bad asian-american Creative Arts Emmys 2015 best mutant chucky Toys Sony Pictures TBS Heroines fresh Cosplay Mindy Kaling Schedule Amazon Studios MTV ITV NBC Premiere Dates dogs book criterion movies TIFF Pet Sematary Women's History Month golden globes Amazon festival obituary Warner Bros. cinemax TCA ViacomCBS Best and Worst Mystery Paramount Network Star Trek Extras Music Netflix Christmas movies HBO Go Shondaland CNN fast and furious latino foreign Exclusive Video IFC Films boxoffice OWN Awards The Arrangement 007 saw A&E Summer Ovation festivals Lucasfilm Baby Yoda diversity anthology Pride Month FX Trivia FOX thriller canceled TV shows hispanic 2017 Fox News based on movie discovery Apple TV+ doctor who WGN 71st Emmy Awards werewolf USA Network kaiju kong indiana jones Paramount spanish language jamie lee curtis The Walt Disney Company remakes Mary Poppins Returns BBC 93rd Oscars independent golden globe awards Logo stand-up comedy monster movies RT History Winter TV docudrama cults Academy Awards cars DC streaming service dragons Star Wars Musicals streaming australia crime drama El Rey Sneak Peek 2019 natural history documentary The Witch sitcom Animation X-Men kids Stephen King Character Guide FXX Amazon Prime twilight Arrowverse Red Carpet Superheroe CBS Turner Classic Movies Turner football reboot child's play Mary Tyler Moore toy story Amazon Prime Video Nominations sag awards Countdown Reality Competition period drama Superheroes razzies YA spy thriller superman unscripted sequels book adaptation hist Pixar Holiday spider-man rotten movies we love Lifetime Bravo Freeform crime women jurassic park reviews BAFTA Tubi ratings superhero LGBT spinoff scary movies hidden camera Martial Arts high school miniseries politics historical drama Britbox Brie Larson Certified Fresh war Peacock TCM Dark Horse Comics halloween Writers Guild of America Elton John ghosts American Society of Cinematographers Apple Spring TV theme song Columbia Pictures Black Mirror Fantasy award winner blockbuster The Purge king kong Walt Disney Pictures Spectrum Originals Sundance CMT cops PBS rotten ESPN comiccon Pop Lionsgate ID ABC Family trailers BBC America strong female leads A24 2020 Cartoon Network christmas movies serial killer critics joker Television Academy Super Bowl 99% deadpool justice league Masterpiece DirecTV Family Disney Channel The Academy tv talk Country TNT Tomatazos BET MCU Chernobyl aliens social media Adult Swim Acorn TV what to watch Trophy Talk Quiz Trailer YouTube See It Skip It scorecard new star wars movies Marathons green book archives blockbusters MSNBC black PaleyFest video on demand ABC Signature Podcast 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards First Reviews batman game of thrones Drama free movies pirates of the caribbean cats venice Legendary Film Festival Netflix APB casting revenge HBO Max Disney streaming service GoT psychological thriller witnail Rom-Com elevated horror GIFs cancelled TV series Mudbound franchise Tarantino laika spain First Look crossover Hulu Calendar classics travel Paramount Plus HBO Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Interview VICE Sci-Fi Box Office Marvel all-time stop motion Rocky Kids & Family Hear Us Out Disney robots Marvel Television Hallmark Christmas movies crime thriller Musical VOD 2018 Emmys nbcuniversal Alien video Comic Book Pirates TruTV TV One BET Awards TCA Awards Shudder E! french