Face-Off: Denzel Washington vs. Mark Wahlberg

Last Updated on August 3, 2021

Last week, you gave Woody Allen a slight edge over Larry David and named him your favorite neurotic New York Jew that didn’t create Swamp Thing and Wolverine.

This Friday, Baltasar Kormákur’s 2 GUNS hits theaters and stars two cinematic heavyweights: Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg. So who wins when Malcolm X and Dirk Diggler face off?

The 58-year-old Washington has close to 50 films to his credit, beginning with 1975’s DEATH WISH (where he played Street Thug). Washington moved to prominent works like CRY FREEDOM and GLORY, and he soon after teamed with Spike Lee for a handful of films, including MO’ BETTER BLUES, MALCOLM X and HE GOT GAME. Another notable teaming with Tony Scott landed Washington CRIMSON TIDE, MAN ON FIRE and more. Some of Washington’s duds include HEART CONDITION, JOHN Q and SAFE HOUSE.
Despite being 16 years younger than Washington, Wahlberg has around 40 films on his resume. He started off with a number of small parts, but took off after 1996’s FEAR, where he had no problem beheading the family dog. From there, he strapped on a prosthetic for BOOGIE NIGHTS, stole Saddam’s gold in THREE KINGS and did his best to ruin the good names of PLANET OF THE APES and THE ITALIAN JOB. In the last ten years, Wahlberg has balanced action (SHOOTER, MAX PAYNE) and more respectable works (THE DEPARTED, I HEART HUCKABEES), while showing off his comedic chops on SNL and in TED.
Washington has six Academy Award nominations, with two wins (GLORY, TRAINING DAY), which puts him with the likes of Michael Caine. He also has seven Golden Globe nominations, with two wins there as well. Washington has also proved a favorite with the likes of the Screen Actors Guild, the NAACP Image Awards and the MTV Movie Awards. In 2003, the American Film Institute named his turn as Detective Alonzo Harris as one of the greatest villains ever. Outside of film, Washington won a Tony Award in 2010 for FENCES.
Wahlberg has been nominated for two Oscars: one for Best Supporting Actor for THE DEPARTED and one for producing THE FIGHTER. Those same two films earned him his only Golden Globe nods, though both were for acting. Wahlberg has proved more popular with the MTV crowd, having been nominated six times and winning for Best On-Screen Duo with an animatronic teddy bear. His behind-the-scenes roles on both ENTOURAGE and BOARDWALK EMPIRE have garnered him five Emmy nods.
Box Office
Despite being one of the most bankable African-American movie stars in history, Washington’s box office performances at a glance aren’t all that impressive, as only four of his films have grossed more than $100 million domestically (only one of which was in the last five years). Although his lifetime gross is an impressive $2.1 billion, his average is around the $50 million zone.
Six of Wahlberg’s movies have grossed more than $100 million, with four of them pulling in more than Washington’s highest-grossing effort. Wahlberg also has the distinction here of starring in a movie (TED) that crossed the $200 million mark. And even though Wahlberg’s lifetime total of $1.8 billion is less than Washington’s, his average sits at $61.2, or around 20% higher.
Non-Cinematic Ventures
Aside from the aforementioned foray into the theater world, Washington hasn’t done much acting save for a couple of TV movies early in his career. Some of his non-thespian roles have seen him serving as a spokesman for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, donating millions to charity/schools and receiving honorary doctorates from multiple universities.
Wahlberg’s third most successful career (outside of film and TV) has been that in the music industry. After he branched from NKOTB, Wahlberg formed Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, who had a number one hit with “Good Vibrations,” which your babysitter used to grind to her boyfriend in the pool to. Other ventures include modeling underwear, forming the Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation and dodging al-Qaeda when he canceled his flight on 9/11 last minute.

It’s near impossible to say which charities/organizations are “better,” but we’re giving the point to Washington because he turned down a spot in the NKOTB lineup.
Denzel Washington
Both Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg have their share of hits and duds, but the former comes out on top this week despite not having the box office numbers of his competitor, and courtesy of two Academy Awards and never having been a part of any “funky bunch” whatsoever.

If you have suggestions for an upcoming Face-Off column, shoot me an e-mail at [email protected]!

Which actor do you prefer? Washington or Wahlberg?


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