Throughout his long career, Jon Bernthal has cemented himself as one of the most popular actors of the last decade, starring in so many iconic roles. Starting his TV career back in 2002 with Law & Order: Criminal Intent, it was his portrayal as Shane in the hit AMC series The Walking Dead that gave him his break in the industry.
As well as continuing in the world of TV with shows such as The Punisher and The Bear, he’s also starred in some of the most iconic films in recent memory. Here are his best films, ranked by Rotten Tomatoes.
12 Fury – 76%
The highest-rated war film in Bernthal’s filmography, Fury focuses on a tank crew in World War II, displaying the gritty, brutal life that these soldiers had to live behind enemy lines. In a mission that’s nothing but deadly, the intensity from start to finish makes it one of the more memorable war films of the 2010s.
The cast of the film is star-studded, with Brad Pitt, Shia Labeouf, and Logan Lerman the three other members of the tank crew. Each actor delivers a unique performance of a World War II tank crew, with Bernthal’s hot-headed performance standing out. The audience score comes in at 84% with over 100,000 reviews.
11 Small Engine Repair – 79%
In one of Bernthal’s more recent films on this list, Small Engine Repair is also one of the most unique. Based on the award-winning play by John Pollono who also stars as Frankie in the film, the black comedic elements paired with the heavy-hitting dramatic tones create a vibe that hasn’t been seen very often.
The film follows three friends who agree to do a favor on behalf of one of the character’s daughter, but events spin out of control. It also carries a deep meaning, exploring the harsh, complex realities of class struggle and toxic masculinity.
10 Sweet Virginia – 79%
Another film with a certified fresh critic score of 79%, Sweet Virginia offers tonnes of expertly crafted intensity in an atmospheric world. The film tells the story of a former rodeo champion who lives in a small, quiet town and builds a friendship with a mysterious stranger who could be the reason for the violence occurring there.
With the tension slowly but surely building scene by scene, it’s the sort of film that you’ll struggle to turn away from. Bernthal’s performance plays a huge part in this, with him being the perfect choice for the lead role in such a gritty, slow burner of a film.
9 The Wolf of Wall Street – 80%
Perhaps the most iconic film that Bernthal has starred in, Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street depicts the complex, chaotic life of the infamous Wall Street stockbroker Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio). Although the film has a three-hour run time, Bernthal doesn’t have a massive amount of screen time. But when he does, he steals the show.
Bernthal plays one of Belfort’s close friends, Brad, who’s also a drug dealer. Whenever he’s on-screen, you can expect chaos along with quite a few laughs. His ability to portray all different types of characters is on display in this film, with Brad being one of his funniest roles in a pretty serious filmography.
8 Me and Earl and the Dying Girl – 81%
In another unique role for Bernthal, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl sees him as Mr. McCarthy, a history teacher for some of the main characters. Adapted from the acclaimed novel by Jesse Andrews of the same title, the film follows Greg (Thomas Mann) who spends most of his time with Earl (RJ Cyler) but gets forced by his mother to befriend a girl named Rachel (Olivia Cooke) who’s recently been diagnosed with Leukemia.
With an 86% audience score alongside the critic’s score, the film’s outstanding characters and the relationship they form make this a film you’ll definitely be thinking about for a few days after you watch it. It’s another film where Bernthal isn’t in a leading role, but more than delivers whenever he is on-screen as the coolest teacher in the school.
7 Wind River – 88%
One of Taylor Sheridan’s outstanding screenplays, Wind River also sees him direct a thrilling crime film, capturing your full attention from the get-go. After wildlife officer Cory (Jeremy Renner) finds the body of an 18-year-old woman on a Native American reservation in Wyoming, he and FBI agent Jane (Elizabeth Olson) find their lives also in danger as they try to solve the mystery of the Native American’s death.
The emotions that the film puts you through make this easily one of Bernthal’s standout movies, with excellent performances from the entire cast. Wind River also displays how good of a storyteller Taylor Sheridan is, with not a dull moment throughout its runtime. If you like the sound of a gritty, thrilling mystery, this film is for you.
6 King Richard – 90%
Another film telling a real-life story, King Richard focuses on the upbringing of Venus and Serena Williams by their father Richard (Will Smith), leading to them becoming two of the most famous and dominant female tennis players of all time. With Oscar wins and nominations, it’s clear as to why this film received such high praise from critics, one of the highest in the sports drama genre.
Bernthal portrays someone who was perhaps one of the most important people in the sister’s tennis journey, that being Rick Macci. Macci was the trainer for them when they were young girls after they moved from Compton to West Palm Beach in 1991. Although he only trained them for four years until their father took over completely, Bernthal does an excellent job yet again in portraying such a vital character in the extraordinary story.
5 Widows – 91%
A film directed by Steve McQueen, Widows features a star-studded ensemble cast in one of the most exciting thrillers on this list. Although the film is categorized as a crime film, it touches on so many different elements through the standout characters who make this film so special.
The film follows a group of widows, as they attempt to steal $5 million from a local politician’s home after their husbands (Bernthal being one of one) are killed in a botched getaway attempt. The crew stole $2 million from a crime boss, who the widows are trying to pay back before they potentially meet the same fate.
4 Sicario – 92%
Keeping in the genre of crime, Sicario takes the genre to another level, exploring the world of Mexican drug cartels, and those trying to bring them down. FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) is recruited by a mysterious government official Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) to join a task force combating the escalating war on drugs, which leads to her going on an intense, action-packed, often disturbing journey across the US-Mexico border.
Coming from one of the best directors in the industry right now, Denis Villeneuve, this film only features Bernthal’s character very briefly, but he still ends up playing one of the most vital characters in the plot. He plays a corrupt officer paid off by the cartels, he also compromises Kate before she realizes who he really is. Even though his role is brief, he still left a big impact on an outstanding film.
3 Baby Driver – 92%
A film that’s already become a classic, Baby Driver was one of the most talked about films back in 2017, the year of its release. Following a massively talented getaway driver known as Baby (Ansel Elgort), it’s clear he doesn’t want to live a life of crime forever, especially after meeting Debora (Lily James) at the diner his Mom used to work at.
We see Bernthal in the first act of the film as one of the members of the first heist the film opens with. He plays Griff, a very antagonistic person who picks on Baby’s deafness for no reason. Although he isn’t in the film all the way to the end, Bernthal shines in a type of role that he tends to perform the best in.
2 Ford v Ferrari – 92%
The highest-rated film based on a true story that Bernthal stars in, Ford v Ferrari tells the intriguing story of Ken Miles (Christian Bale) and Carol Shelby (Matt Damon), as they’re faced with all kinds of adversity on the buildup to Le Mans, the greatest motor race in the world, in 1966. With Shelby certain that he wants Miles to race for Ford after he’s given the awfully ambitious task of winning Le Mans, Ford’s management thinks otherwise.
Bernthal’s character however is easily one of the most likable in the film, as he clearly wants to see Miles succeed for the team as he knows just how good of a driver he is. He plays Lee Iacocca, a Ford executive heavily involved in the GT40 program (the name of the car Shelby was building). Although many other members of the company were against Miles racing for the team, Iacocca’s respect for both Miles and Shelby means we get Bernthal in one of the more refreshing, feel-good roles on this list.
1 The Peanut Butter Falcon – 95%
It feels right for the highest-rated film on this list to be the most heartwarming, feel-good film that Bernthal stars in. The Peanut Butter Falcon is led by Shia Lebeouf as Tyler, an outlaw, and Zack Gottsagen as Zak, a man with Down syndrome who ran away from his nursing home to pursue his dream of becoming a pro wrestler.
As we follow the two characters as they grow such a strong bond throughout the film, the use of comedy and endless heartwarming moments promote a message of friendship and inclusivity like no other film in recent memory has been able to do. This film is definitely one that will stick with you, potentially even altering your perspective on how far kindness can go for the people around us.