Mark Ruffalo was the new Bruce Banner we'd all been waiting for. Eric Bana and Edward Norton weren't as bad as the writing in their Hulk movies made them seem, but something wasn't there, and Ruffalo found it. A while back, I wrote an article about Chris Evans's best movie roles other than Cap. I figured I'd round it out and make it a series, with an article for each of the Earth's Mightiest.
Mark Ruffalo has always played the easy-going, quiet guy with ease. In his free time, he does activist work for climate change and a number of other causes. He's great at playing hippies and thoughtful cool-guys, and he had a period where he was the starring male in a TON of romantic comedies, good and bad. So why was he the perfect Bruce Banner? It's simple: versatility. Ruffalo's got a special something, and it shows in every movie he puts out. So, in no particular order, here are some of my personal favorites.
7. Just Like Heaven as David
Remember what I said about romantic comedies, good and bad? Just Like Heaven falls somewhere in the middle. I think it's fantastic, but I have a bit of a reputation for loving bad rom-coms. Mark Ruffalo plays a widower with a slight drinking problem who moves into a new, under-priced apartment. Trouble is... someone's already there: it's the ghost of Reese Witherspoon. Ruffalo's character is, for some reason, the only one who can see her.
(Hint: the reason is true love, or some bullshit.)
Mark Ruffalo takes a little while to get over the shock of hanging out with a tiny, cute ghost, and tries to help her figure out what happened, since she doesn't have any memories and doesn't even know she's a ghost. Long story short, and I'm not giving any spoilers since you know this from near the beginning, Reese isn't all dead.
It's kind of a cliche movie, but it's cute and definitely a fun break from reality. It's funny, and touching, so it's what you'd expect from a 2005 romantic comedy. I'll admit, I've cried into ice cream at it before. It's not perfect, but it's worth a watch, and I'm not afraid to admit that it's on my favorites list.
6. Now You See Me as Dylan Rhodes
Face it: Every actor has to have their what-the-hell role. A role with a delightful twist, and a fleshy character. And Mark Ruffalo did a great job with this one in Now You See Me. Don't worry, I won't give any spoilers on what that twist is. That sort of limits my ability on this part of the article, so just know that Ruffalo's gonna blow your mind, along with the rest of the film.
He plays a police officer who's trying to catch a team of law-breaking, impressive magicians in the act. Sure, they were only escaping tanks of piranhas and swindling cheating husbands in the beginning, but once they get offered the opportunity to join a secret society of magicians, they start taking shit to the next level. And it's up to Mark Ruffalo to get them behind bars.
Or, well... try, anyway. They're magicians after all.
This one's also recently been confirmed for a sequel, and it's currently on Mark Ruffalo's imdb page... I, for one, can't wait to see him reprise the role.
5. Shutter Island as Chuck Aule
Okay, so maybe every actor needs two what-the-hell roles. Again, no spoilers, but this movie has more twists than your average Shyamalan film. Except, you know, this one came out in 2010 and has merit to it. Unlike The Last Airbender.
Shutter Island is absolutely one of my favorites. Ruffalo plays second to Leonardo DiCaprio in this psychological thriller, where two cops are investigating the disappearance of a woman on Shutter Island, a mental institution that has exactly the right kind of chillingly creepy aesthetic.
Honestly, the cinematography in the entire film is brilliant. It's pretty and memorable while conveying exactly the right mood for the piece, and much like the above gif, it haunts you without being as in-your-face as most psychological thrillers.
4. Thanks for Sharing as Adam
In case you've recovered from the above gif, Thanks For Sharing is an underrated gem. I know, I know, I said that Mark Ruffalo is great at playing the chill guy, so what is he doing in the gif above? He's still being chill, honestly. In this film, Ruffalo plays a recovering sex addict who, when he gets into a serious relationship with Gwyneth Paltrow, must confront his demons once more.
Wait... Gwyneth Paltrow and Mark Ruffalo... as in, Pepper and Bruce?
With an amazing cast including the aforementioned Paltrow and Ruffalo along with Tim Robbins, Josh Gad, and even P!nk, Thanks for Sharing delivers a powerful message about addiction and how it can be fought one day at a time.
3. The Normal Heart as Ned Weeks
In this powerful and thought-provoking film about the rising AIDS crisis and how if affected the LGBT community, Mark Ruffalo plays a gay writer who is dedicated to raising awareness for the deadly disease. In a role that won him a SAG award for best actor in a TV movie, Ruffalo touched the hearts of LGBT viewers like me everywhere.
Sure, he's great at playing the cute, fun quiet guy, but Mark Ruffalo has some serious acting chops when it comes to drama too. One of the highlights of The Normal Heart for me was Ruffalo's ability to portray not only the growing love between his and Matt Bomer's character's, but also Ned's pain at discovering that his lover was succumbing to the same illness that was already killing his friends.
And Matt Bomer's acting in this film was nothing to scoff at, either. Not to mention all of the weight he had to lose to portray an HIV patient.
2. 13 Going on 30 as Matt Flamhaff
If 13 Going on 30 wasn't the movie that made you fall in love with the giant teddy bear that is Mark Ruffalo, then quite frankly, I don't trust you. As a nine or ten year old girl watching this movie for the first time when it came out, I knew that I needed to find my Mattie. The meek, mild-mannered best friend of our protagonist, Jenna, was (and probably still is) everyone's dream man.
Besides Mark Ruffalo's sigh-inducing performance, the film itself is a gift. When thirteen-year-old Jenna gets tired of teenage drama and her best friend Mattie preventing her from getting popular, she wishes to be "thirty, flirty, and thriving," just like the women in the magazines.
Of course, adulthood isn't quite what it's cracked up to be, and Jenna doesn't seem to be a very nice person in the future, where she's given up her friendship with Mattie in order to be popular and successful - at any cost.
And who could ever forget one of the best cinematic dance numbers in history?
1. The Kids are Alright as Paul
This Oscar-nominated movie is unabashedly one of my favorite movies, as well as one of my favorite of Ruffalo's roles. As Paul in The Kids are Alright, he learns that his donated sperm went on to give a lesbian couple two kids - two kids that really want to get to know their biological father. But Paul's reckless, go-with-the-flow attitude severely disrupts the lives of this family, and it's not long before the parents are fighting over whether or not to allow Paul to be a part of their children's lives.
Alongside wonderful performances from Julianne Moore, Annette Benning, Mia Wasikowska, and Josh Hutcherson, Ruffalo still manages to shine. And when you learn that he based his performance off the easy-going personality of his late brother, Mark Ruffalo only becomes more touching and more impressive in the role.
And although we're focusing on Mark Ruffalo, this movie was also one of the best roles I've ever seen Julianne Moore in, and she's one of my favorite actresses. Seriously, if you haven't seen this one, get on it.