Although it’s not quite as acclaimed as some of Martin Scorsese’s masterpieces, like Taxi Driver and Goodfellas, The Departed is the movie that finally won the beloved filmmaker an Academy Award for Best Director. Some commentators called it a lifetime achievement award, with the Academy awarding Scorsese’s wider body of work after snubbing him so many times as opposed to awarding the actual movie.

But there’s a lot to love in The Departed. Scorsese joked that it was his first movie with a plot. It’s a complex cat-and-mouse thriller with a star-studded cast. So, here are all the major performances in The Departed, ranked.

8 Ray Winstone As Arnold French

Although he brought a pitch-black comic sensibility to Sexy Beast and gave a humanized performance in The Proposition, Ray Winstone gives the worst performance in The Departed.

His tough-guy persona goes over the top and his Cockney accent overpowers his attempt at a Boston accent, giving him the most distracting accent in the movie.

7 Alec Baldwin As Capt. George Ellerby

Alec Baldwin’s Boston accent is pretty convincing, but that’s the only memorable trait from his character.

Granted, Captain Ellerby doesn’t appear in nearly as many scenes as some of the other characters, but Baldwin doesn’t do much to stand out.


6 Martin Sheen As Capt. Oliver Queenan

Poor Captain Queenan. He’s one of the only truly good guys in the movie and his drive to do the right thing becomes his undoing. He allows himself to be thrown off a rooftop in order to protect Billy Costigan’s identity.

See also  10 Inspirational Movies That Are Based On True Events

If it wasn’t for Martin Sheen playing Queenan as the kindest, gentlest man you’ll ever meet, this death scene wouldn’t have anywhere near as much emotional impact.

5 Matt Damon As Colin Sullivan

Out of the central trio at the heart of The Departed, Matt Damon gives the weakest performance. He goes a great job of making Colin Sullivan a slimy guy, buried under the immense pressure that goes along with being a dirty cop.

Ultimately, he finds himself in over his head. Damon has given more emotionally resonant performances in Good Will Hunting and The Martian, but he still nails plenty of his scenes in The Departed.

4 Vera Farmiga As Dr. Madolyn Madden

It’s no secret that the female characters in Martin Scorsese’s movies get the short end of the stick. Dr. Madolyn Madden is one of the most substantial female characters in the director’s filmography.

Vera Farmiga didn’t watch Infernal Affairs, of which The Departed is a remake, before shooting this movie, in order to avoid emulating the other actors’ performances. As a result, Farmiga’s performance is entirely her own.

3 Mark Wahlberg As Sgt. Sean Dignam

A few years ago, there was talk of a sequel to The Departed with Mark Wahlberg reprising his role as Sgt. Dignam alongside Robert De Niro as a U.S. Senator. It’s a shame that the sequel never came together, but Wahlberg’s performance as Dignam was one of the most memorable in the movie. He brought plenty of humor to the character, and was also pretty noble. Dignam didn’t know Costigan, but he knew that he was a good cop, and that’s why he stuck up for him and, ultimately, avenged him.

See also  Meet Snowflake, Marvel's First Non-Binary Superhero

Wahlberg based his portrayal of Dignam on the cops that arrested him during his misspent youth in Boston, which brought a layer of authenticity and realism to his performance. Rather than coming off as an actor playing a cop, Wahlberg comes off as a cop, plain and simple – and disappearing into a role like that is tough to pull off when you’re as recognizable as Wahlberg.

2 Jack Nicholson As Frank Costello

The Irish mob boss character Frank Costello is an original character, but he was heavily inspired by real-life crime lord Whitey Bulger, particularly in the way that he gets away with murder and organized crime by ratting out his cohorts to the FBI.

But Jack Nicholson brought his own quirks to the character. It was his idea for Costello to throw cocaine on hookers and pull out a fake penis in the porno theater. Nicholson accepted the part because he wanted to play a bad guy – like a really reprehensible, evil bad guy – and he relished the opportunity to play Costello’s villainy in every scene.

1 Leonardo DiCaprio As Billy Costigan

In most of Martin Scorsese’s collaborations with Leonardo DiCaprio – as with his previous collaborations with Robert De Niro – the director makes him undeniably the star. In biopics like The Aviator and The Wolf of Wall Street, DiCaprio is the star. The Departed is sort of the Goodfellas of the Scorsese/DiCaprio oeuvre. In Goodfellas, Scorsese gave De Niro a supporting role and he stole the show anyway.

In The Departed, DiCaprio does the same thing while sharing the spotlight with Matt Damon and Jack Nicholson. Billy Costigan is an undercover cop trying to bring down a local crime syndicate. He’s one of the few “good guys” in the movie’s rogue’s gallery. Thanks to DiCaprio’s charisma and likability, Costigan is a hero you can root for in a cruel world that doesn’t reward his efforts.

Next10 Best Movie Characters That Went From Friend To Villain

About The Author