Oddly enough, a filmmaker as accomplished as Rian Johnson isn't nearly as prolific as he might seem, so ranking his movies is no easy feat. In fact, seeing as all of Johnson's movies have been mostly well-received by critics and fans alike, ranking his films is less about following a simple spectrum of "good and bad," and more about adhering to an inevitably biased "Sophie's Choice" approach.
Aside from some shorts and a handful of acclaimed TV episodes, Johnson's only directed four feature films - not including his upcoming murder mystery Knives Out. He's dabbled in film noir and sci-fi, and he's even borrowed some stylistic influence from Wes Anderson, whether intentional or not. Now, despite the line he wrote for Kylo Ren in Star Wars: The Last Jedi about letting the past die, the Force is strong with Johnson's past; and even though he's certainly matured as a filmmaker, his films have been consistently well-crafted with a meticulous attention to detail from the very beginning.
From independent roots to his current studio auteur status, Johnson has confidently let quality surpass quantity over the years. So, to celebrate Johnson's career as he kicks off a new era of post-Skywalker Saga Star Wars, let's take a look at how versatile he's been since his feature debut in 2005.
4. The Brothers Bloom
The Brothers Bloom isn't just a strong sophomore effort, but a strong film in general. With a meticulously twisty plot layered as densely - but also as delicately - as a 20-layer mille-feuille crêpe, The Brothers Bloom is not your run-of-the-mill caper.
It centers around two brothers, Bloom and Stephen (Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo, respectively), whose entire childhood and young adult life is built on a life of con jobs and swindling. When Bloom decides he wants out, however, his brother lures him in for one last job, which tends to be the case with most caper stories. And, like other capers, The Brothers Bloom navigates to parts unknown - not only in terms of its globetrotting story, but with its multi-layered character journeys and twists (of which there are many). The brothers plan to steal a few million dollars from a wealthy heiress (Rachel Weisz), only to let love, hate, and the inevitability of double-crossing get in the way.
As usual, Johnson is at the top of his game here. The cast is more than respectable, with two Academy Award winners (Brody and Weisz), a then-rising star with Rinko Kikuchi, and the Incredible Hulk (Ruffalo); and they're all given plenty of scenery to chew over the course of The Brothers Bloom's tight and complicated runtime.
3. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
For fans, Star Wars is a gold standard in fiction. For its directors, Star Wars is potentially a creative death sentence. Nevertheless, that didn't stop Rian Johnson from climbing aboard and trying his hand at a galaxy far, far away.
From some points of view, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is the dark horse of the franchise, with Johnson making just enough bold choices to add his unique stamp to George Lucas' massive world. From other perspectives, it's not the dark horse, but the black sheep, with most of the criticisms aimed at how much creative liberties Johnson was more than happy to take while running the show. So, whether you're on Team Light Side or Dark, there's no denying that Star Wars: The Last Jedi is the most divisive entry in the franchise. That said, regardless of some strong opinions floating around the internet, it is in the opinion of this ranking that Johnson hasn't just done justice to Lucas' beloved franchise, but elevated it into unexpected territory, minor blemishes notwithstanding.
As a whole, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a successful sum of its inventive parts. Between Luke's (Mark Hamill) turn from reluctant hero to reluctant mentor, subverted expectations with alliances (as well as a few plot setups from Star Wars: The Force Awakens), and Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Kylo Ren's (Adam Driver) budding, but complicated, relationship, Johnson managed to nail the Star Wars tone, while also making it feel completely distinctive (not an easy feat when it comes to handling a franchise so ingrained in pop culture). And, while it may not be a perfect film - especially to the bitter minority still upset it even exists - The Last Jedi is more than worthy of the Star Wars handle.
Page 2 of 2: Rian Johnson's Top 2 Movies
- Knives Out (2019) release date: Nov 27, 2019