Mahershala Ali's 45th Birthday: The 'Green Book' and 'True Detective' Star's Best Movies and TV Shows


Born Mahershalalhashbaz Gilmore on February 16, 1974, Mahershala Ali was until recently mostly known as a talented TV actor in serious dramas such as House of Cards and Treme. Occasionally he would also pop up on the big screen in small parts (as in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and The Hunger Games franchise).

Then, in 2016, he played the Cuban drug dealer Juan in Barry Jenkins's haunting, dreamlike drama Moonlight. For his part in the film, Ali won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, making him the first Muslim to triumph in any acting category at the Oscars.

Now the 44-year-old is back in the running for another Best Supporting Actor award for his role in Green Book, a Peter Farrelly-directed comedy-drama in which Ali plays a pianist on a tour of the 1960s Deep South. It looks like he should be rehearsing an acceptance speech—betting group Betfair has him on the shortest odds to win.

It's a busy season for the newly minted Hollywood star. He is currently starring in Season 3 of True Detective and he is in the newly-released movie Alita: Battle Angel, a cyberpunk action movie based on a manga series. While critics haven't been as kind to the movie as they were to Moonlight and Green Book, they have praised his performance. IndieWire wrote that Ali "compels in a small role—as stylish here as he is at award shows, the actor brings his one-of-a-kind presence to the role of a sophisticated baddie."

Newsweek has gathered data from critical aggregation websites IMDb, Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes to rank all of his major TV and movie work so far, from worst to best.

01 Predators
Twentieth Century Fox

17. Predators (2010). Total score: 56.875%. IMDb users: 6.4. Metacritic: 51. Rotten Tomatoes: 5.8. Rotten Tomatoes users: 3.2.

Directed by: Nimród Antal. Starring: Adrien Brody, Laurence Fishburne, Topher Grace, Alice Braga, Danny Trejo, Mahershalalhashbaz Ali.

Plot summary: A group of elite warriors parachute into an unfamiliar jungle and are hunted by members of a merciless alien race.

What the critics said: "Predator fans, fearing another lapse into disappointment, can relax. Although it's arguably not saying much, this is the second-best movie of the series to have 'Predator' in the title." James Berardinelli, ReelViews.

02 Free State of Jones
STX Entertainment

16. Free State of Jones (2016). Total score: 58.125%. IMDb users: 6.9. Metacritic: 53. Rotten Tomatoes: 5.5. Rotten Tomatoes users: 3.6.

Directed by: Gary Ross. Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Mahershala Ali.

Plot summary: A disillusioned Confederate army deserter returns to Mississippi and leads a militia of fellow deserters and women in an uprising against the corrupt local Confederate government.

What the critics said: "An earnest but inert and unwieldy historical drama that, in its commendable attempt to rescue a forgotten figure from obscurity, too often looks and feels like 12 Years a Woke Dude." Ann Hornaday, Washington Post.

03 Alita- Battle Angel
Twentieth Century Fox

15. Alita: Battle Angel (2019). Total score: 62.375%. IMDb users: 7.6. Metacritic: 57. Rotten Tomatoes: 6. Rotten Tomatoes users: (n/a).

Directed by: Robert Rodriguez. Starring: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali.

Plot summary: A deactivated female cyborg is revived, but cannot remember anything of her past life and goes on a quest to find out who she is.

What the critics said: "The commingling of writer-producer James Cameron's monster-budget technowizardry and director Robert Rodriguez's B-movie sensibilities doesn't amount to a heck of a lot." John Semley, Globe and Mail.

04 The Hunger Games- Mockingjay - Part 1

14. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 (2014). Total score: 65.5%. IMDb users: 6.7. Metacritic: 64. Rotten Tomatoes: 6.3. Rotten Tomatoes users: 3.8.

Directed by: Francis Lawrence. Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Sam Claflin, Elizabeth Banks, Mahershala Ali, Jena Malone, Stanley Tucci.

Plot summary: Katniss Everdeen is in District 13 after she shatters the games forever. Under the leadership of President Coin and the advice of her trusted friends, Katniss spreads her wings as she fights to save Peeta and a nation moved by her courage.

What the critics said: "Might it have been better if they'd squeezed the whole book into one movie? Probably. Nonetheless, Mockingjay Part 1 is a fine entertainment, shot through with moments of surprising emotional impact." Christopher Orr, The Atlantic.

05 The Hunger Games- Mockingjay - Part 2

13. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 (2015). Total score: 66%. IMDb users: 6.6. Metacritic: 65. Rotten Tomatoes: 6.5. Rotten Tomatoes users: 3.6.

Directed by: Francis Lawrence. Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Sam Claflin, Elizabeth Banks, Mahershala Ali, Jena Malone, Stanley Tucci.

Plot summary: Katniss and a team of rebels from District 13 prepare for the final battle that will decide the future of Panem.

What the critics said: "Katniss has remained, in Jennifer Lawrence's portrayal, a vividly vulnerable creature of flesh and blood surrounded by sci-fi extravagance of variable quality." Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal.

06 Roxanne Roxanne

12. Roxanne Roxanne (2017). Total score: 67%. IMDb users: 6.2. Metacritic: 74. Rotten Tomatoes: 6. Rotten Tomatoes users: 3.6.

Directed by: Michael Larnell. Starring: Chanté Adams, Nia Long, Mahershala Ali.

Plot summary: At the age of 14, Lolita "Roxanne Shanté" Gooden was well on her way to becoming a hip-hop legend as she hustled to provide for her family while defending herself from the dangers of the streets of the Queensbridge Projects in NYC.

What the critics said: "Don't worry: There will be rap battles and concert scenes and they do not disappoint. But they are the bass line beat. The drama of ordinary life is what makes this story stick in your head." Jason Zinoman, New York Times.

07 Kicks
Focus World

11. Kicks (2016). Total score: 68.5%. IMDb users: 6.3. Metacritic: 69. Rotten Tomatoes: 6.8. Rotten Tomatoes users: 3.7.

Directed by: Justin Tipping. Starring: Jahking Guillory, Christopher Jordan Wallace, Christopher Meyer, Mahershala Ali.

Plot summary: Brandon is a 15-year-old whose dream is a pair of fresh Air Jordans. Soon after he gets his hands on them, they're stolen by a local hood, causing Brandon and his two friends to go on a dangerous mission through Oakland to retrieve them.

What the critics said: "Getting the sneakers back takes them to many wild and unfamiliar places (namely, Oakland), where the boys meet up with Brandon's terrifying and yet wise ex-con Uncle Marlon (Mahershala Ali, in a brilliant Mariana-Trench-deep performance)." Sheila O'Malley,

08 The Place Beyond the Pines
Focus Features

10. The Place Beyond the Pines (2012). Total score: 71.5%. IMDb users: 7.3. Metacritic: 68. Rotten Tomatoes: 7.3. Rotten Tomatoes users: 3.8.

Directed by: Derek Cianfrance. Starring: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Mahershala Ali.

Plot summary: A motorcycle stunt rider turns to robbing banks as a way to provide for his lover and their newborn child, a decision that puts him on a collision course with an ambitious rookie cop navigating a department ruled by a corrupt detective.

What the critics said: "Although The Place Beyond the Pines is not an unqualified success, when Cianfrance stumbles, it's because he's reaching for greatness—a quality infinitely preferable than the opposite, which is where far too many motion pictures become mired." James Berardinelli, ReelViews.

09 Benjamin Button
Paramount Pictures

9. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008). Total score: 71.875%. IMDb users: 7.8. Metacritic: 70. Rotten Tomatoes: 7.1. Rotten Tomatoes users: 3.7.

Directed by: David Fincher. Starring: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton, Julia Ormond, Taraji P. Henson, Mahershalalhashbaz Ali, Elle Fanning.

Plot summary: Tells the story of Benjamin Button, a man who starts aging backward with bizarre consequences.

What the critics said: "Director David Fincher has turned out an overlong, Forrest Gumpian exercise in mannered whimsy. It's sentimental; it's episodic; it dawdles. Brad Pitt spends a good length of screen time drinking tea with Tilda Swinton. But it's also bewitching." Amy Biancolli, Houston Chronicle.

10 Green Book
Universal Pictures

8. Green Book (2018). Total score: 74.625%. IMDb users: 8.3. Metacritic: 69. Rotten Tomatoes: 7.3. Rotten Tomatoes users: 4.4.

Directed by: Peter Farrelly. Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali, Linda Cardellini.

Plot summary: A working-class Italian-American bouncer becomes the driver of an African-American classical pianist on a tour of venues through the 1960s American South.

What the critics said: "Thanks in large part to the winning chemistry between Ali and Mortensen, and a pretty darn inspirational true-life story as its foundation, this was one of the best times I've had at the movies this year." Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times.

11  True Detective 2
Home Box Office (HBO)

7. True Detective (2019) TV series. Total score: 75.375%. IMDb users: 8.8. Metacritic: 71. Rotten Tomatoes: 7.2. Rotten Tomatoes users: 4.3.

Directed by: Daniel Sackheim, Nic Pizzolatto, Jeremy Saulnier. Starring: Mahershala Ali, Carmen Ejogo, Stephen Dorff, Ray Fisher.

Plot summary: Seasonal anthology series in which police investigations unearth the personal and professional secrets of those involved, both within and outside the law.

What the critics said: "What elevates it are the brooding atmosphere and Ali's magnetic performance, from his dogged pursuit of the facts in his younger days to his convincing vulnerability in his elderly ones." Brian Lowry, CNN.

12 The 4400
USA Network

6. The 4400 (2004-2007) TV series. Total score: 75.5%. IMDb users: 7.4. Metacritic: 72. Rotten Tomatoes: 8. Rotten Tomatoes users: 3.7.

Directed by: René Echevarria, Scott Peters. Starring: Jacqueline McKenzie, Joel Gretsch, Patrick John Flueger, Mahershalalhashbaz Ali.

Plot summary: As the reappearance of 4,400 missing persons on a single day confounds the global community, federal agents on the case slowly discover the ways in which the victims have been changed.

What the critics said: "The 4400 succeeds where shows like Heroes, No Ordinary Family, and Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. have failed. It puts a human face to superpowers. Christian Cintron,

13 Hidden Figures
Twentieth Century Fox

5. Hidden Figures (2016). Total score: 77%. IMDb users: 7.8. Metacritic: 74. Rotten Tomatoes: 7.6. Rotten Tomatoes users: 4.4.

Directed by: Theodore Melfi. Starring: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons, Mahershala Ali, Aldis Hodge.

Plot summary: The story of a team of female African-American mathematicians who served a vital role in NASA during the early years of the U.S. space program.

What the critics said: "This untold story of African-American females who helped NASA conquer the cosmos features three incredible performances. Corny at times, sure, but you'll still want to stand up and cheer." Peter Travers, Rolling Stone.

14 House of Cards

4. House of Cards (2013-2016) TV series. Total score: 79.5%. IMDb users: 8.8. Metacritic: 77. Rotten Tomatoes: 7.7. Rotten Tomatoes users: 4.3.

Created by: Beau Willimon. Starring: Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright, Michael Kelly, Kate Mara, Derek Cecil, Jayne Atkinson, Mahershala Ali, Corey Stoll, Molly Parker.

Plot summary: A Congressman works with his equally conniving wife to exact revenge on the people who betrayed him.

What the critics said: "Screw you, Mr. President, for messing with my job. How so? Because he, Francis Underwood, and it, House of Cards, are so damn good they've changed the way we watch TV." Sam Wollaston, The Guardian.

15 Luke Cage

3. Marvel's Luke Cage (2016) TV series. Total score: 79.625%. IMDb users: 8.2. Metacritic: 79. Rotten Tomatoes: 8. Rotten Tomatoes users: 3.9.

Created by: Cheo Hodari Coker. Starring: Mike Colter, Simone Missick, Theo Rossi, Alfre Woodard, Sean Ringgold, Rosario Dawson, Mahershala Ali.

Plot summary: When a sabotaged experiment gives him super strength and unbreakable skin, Luke Cage becomes a fugitive attempting to rebuild his life in Harlem and must soon confront his past and fight a battle for the heart of his city.

What the critics said: "The show is fiercely determined to make it clear that Luke's powers make him super, but it's the fact that he is black, proud and willing to stand up for what's right that makes him a hero. His race is a fundamental part of that heroism." Liz Shannon Miller, indieWire.

16 Treme
Home Box Office (HBO)

2. Treme (2010-2013) TV series. Total score: 87.875%. IMDb users: 8.2. Metacritic: 88. Rotten Tomatoes: 8.9. Rotten Tomatoes users: 4.5.

Created by: Eric Ellis Overmyer, David Simon. Starring: Khandi Alexander, Rob Brown, Kim Dickens, Melissa Leo, Clarke Peters, Steve Zahn, David Morse, John Goodman, Danai Gurira, Mahershalalhashbaz Ali.

Plot summary: Life after Hurricane Katrina as the residents of New Orleans try to rebuild their lives, their homes, and their unique culture in the aftermath of one of the worst natural disasters in the USA.

What the critics said: "This is the kind of TV that viewers ask for but rarely get, driven by characters who are more than the sum of one or two qualities and who harbor depths that are revealed slowly, subtly, and authentically." Matthew Gilbert, Boston Globe.

17 Moonlight

1. Moonlight (2016). Total score: 90.125%. IMDb users: 7.4. Metacritic: 99. Rotten Tomatoes: 9. Rotten Tomatoes users: 4.

Directed by: Barry Jenkins. Starring: Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Trevante Rhodes, Ashton Sanders, André Holland.

Plot summary: A chronicle of the childhood, adolescence and burgeoning adulthood of a young, African-American, gay man growing up in a rough neighborhood of Miami.

What the critics said: "Moonlight is both a disarmingly, at times almost unbearably personal film and an urgent social document, a hard look at American reality and a poem written in light, music and vivid human faces." A.O. Scott, New York Times.

"Barry Jenkins' game-changer about growing up black, gay and alienated in the Miami projects is both intimate and epic. It gets inside your head, makes you see the world with new eyes—and then it owns you." Pete Travers, Rolling Stone.