7 Top Mahershala Ali Performances in Movies & TV Shows

7 Top Mahershala Ali Performances in Movies & TV Shows

A sword-wielding vampire hunter straight out a Marvel comic book? A drug dealer that finds himself assuming the role of father figure? A runaway slave who befriends and defends a runaway Confederate soldier? Few modern actors can match the sheer versatility and range possessed by Mahershala Ali.

Whether you’ve seen every title Ali has played a role in or you’re just diving into his body of work, we put together this guide to our top Mahershala Ali movies and TV shows. 


Keep reading for more information on how to watch Mahershala Ali’s top performances.

‘MOONLIGHT’ (2016) 


Mahershala Ali stepped into the role of Juan in Moonlight, earning him the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Moonlight tells the coming-of-age story of Chiron (Trevante Rhodes), as he adjusts to his homosexuality and navigates the struggles of growing up as a gay Black man from a troubled family. Juan befriends Chiron as a young child, offering him shelter against bullies and his drug-addicted mother. Juan becomes a father figure to Chiron, teaching him the basics of life and helping him adjust to his emotional and romantic feelings.

Ali beautifully captures the raw, unfiltered emotions Juan feels as he deals with his profession as a drug dealer while simultaneously acting as a father figure. In his finest hour, Ali’s portrayal of Juan formed the base for the heart-warming and poignant tale of Moonlight.

‘GREEN BOOK’ (2018) 


Loosely based on real-life events, Green Book follows Ali’s character, Don Shirley, an acclaimed African American pianist, as he is driven across the Jim Crow states by Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen), an Italian American bouncer. Despite Don’s success and stature, he suffers discriminatory treatment throughout his journey from his hosts and the public when he isn’t performing. Tony is appalled by this, and the pair develop a strong friendship over their journey.

Ali’s performance is magnificent as he shifts seamlessly through the range of emotions which Don feels – the loneliness, the rejection due to his race, and the warmth of his friendship with Tony.

A heart-warming retelling of their stories, Green Book is a simple yet masterful piece of storytelling. It’s a must watch, in our book. 

‘BLADE’ (2025) 

Ali certainly shines in his many drama roles, and now we’ll see his acting prowess cross into another popular genre: action. Ali is set to join the ranks of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s robust and growing cast of stars turned superhero (or villain) as day-walking vampire hunter Blade. Ali’s portrayal of the character, made famous in the 1990s by a series of movies starring Wesley Snipes, will be his second foray into a Marvel title after playing Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes in Netflix’s Luke Cage. Ali’s portrayal of that character was among the series’ most well-received characters.  

Blade, which hits theaters in 2025, is expected to be a violent, fast-paced and action-packed story focused on Blade’s origin story and character development. Ali was introduced as Blade to viewers at the end of Eternals (2021), as an unseen character presenting Dane Whitman (Kit Harrington) with the Ebony Blade. Ali’s addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has fans excited over the expected joining of forces between Ali’s Blade and Deadpool, played by Ryan Reynolds, and Blade’s interactions with the Avengers

While you wait for the new Blade, you can watch the original now on DIRECTV! 

‘SWAN SONG’ (2021) 


Swan Song is the story of a loving husband and father, Cameron, as he is diagnosed with a terminal illness and presented with an option that potentially gives him a second chance at life at a steep cost: cloning himself to produce an identical version, a Cameron 2.0, in his place.

Cameron 2.0 would have all of Cameron’s memories, and no one aside from Cameron and Dr. Scott (Glenn Close) would know the truth. The catch? Cameron cannot share his diagnosis with his pregnant wife, Poppy (Naomie Harris) or anyone else, and he must spend the rest of his life alone at the cloning facility waiting to die.  

Ali puts on an emotionally gripping performance, driving home the gravity of the choice he needs to make to the viewer. A romantic masterpiece, Ali is once again at his finest here. Swan Song is both a tear-jerker and a heartwarming ode to love. 



A psychological thriller that’ll have you both biting your nails and rooting for the protagonists, Leave the World Behind tells the story of a world that is on the brink of collapse. Mahershala Ali portrays the role of G.H. Scott (“G.H.”), the owner of a vacation rental home rented by Amanda Sandford (Julia Roberts) for the weekend. All seems well initially, but as numerous electronic devices begin to fail, the protagonists realize that the entire global system of communications and technology is on the point of cataclysmic failure.  

As they navigate a nationwide collapse of all electronic infrastructure, they must also brace themselves for the worst-case scenario: the collapse of the United States of America. Ali’s portrayal of G.H. instills the fear underpinning every scene in the movie in the viewer. Leave the World Behind is among Ali’s most harrowing and spine-tingling features.  

Loved Leave the World Behind? Try Us on DIRECTV next!



Playing lead detective Wayne Hays in the third season of True Detective, Ali is a brilliant addition to the series. The season is set in three different time periods, 1980, 1990, and 2015, which adds a unique perspective to the story by allowing it to focus on different periods of the characters’ lives. Following the disappearance of siblings Will and Julie Purcell in 1980, detective Wayne Hays and his partner, Roland West (Stephen Dorff), are assigned to the case.

As they begin to probe the disappearances, they discover Will’s body, while Julie remains missing. The case goes cold in 1980 due to lack of evidence, and is re-opened in 1990, meeting the same fate. In 2015, Hays, suffering from progressive dementia, is interviewed about the case for a TV show, and sets out for a third time to solve it once and for all. 



Free State of Jones is set during the American Civil War and tells the story of a disillusioned Confederate soldier, Newton Knight (Matthew McConaughey), who leaves the confederacy after seeing the unmitigated damage caused by the troops. In his escape, he comes under the protection of a runaway slave, Moses Washington (Mahershala Ali).  

In their fight against the Confederacy, Knight and Washington confront racial inequality and defend their territory from the Confederate troops. A powerful retelling of the horrors faced by slaves during the Civil War, Ali as Washington serves as a symbol of hope in the movie and is a reminder that oppression can be defeated by those of strong will.

Watch Mahershala Ali Top Movies and TV Shows

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