The Star Wars universe flew into a PR asteroid field recently, with the sudden departure of Phil Lord and Chris Miller from the untitled Han Solo spinoff movie. The split came about due to “creative differences”– presumably those between the directors and Lucasfilm head honcho Kathleen Kennedy, as well as with screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan.
Whatever we know about what transpired on the Han Solo set under Lord and Miller’s watch, it’s almost entirely based on information from anonymous insiders. However, there’s one thing we do know: Ron Howard is the new man in charge.
If you don’t know Ron Howard, you probably at least know of his work. Though he’s roped in several Oscar nominations (and two wins), Howard doesn’t always get the credit he’s due. Though hopefully this will change when he’s turned in the final cut of this Han Solo movie.
However, as it stands, his profile is already as wide and varied as that of Steven Spielberg, and includes films of every genre imaginable. From comedy to sci-fi to historical drama, there’s little Ron Howard can’t do.
If you’re still drawing a blank when it comes to Howard’s work, or you want to look back on some of his best works, here are the 15 Ron Howard Movies To Watch If You’re Worried About Han Solo.
15. Apollo 13
“Houston, we have a problem” is a line of dialogue that reverberates in the ears of movie buffs everywhere. It was none other than Ron Howard— along with screenwriters William Broyles Jr. and Al Reinert — who brought it into being.
Apollo 13 was a massive hit at the time of its release, and went on to win two Oscars and get nominated for seven more. Miraculously, none of those were for Howard, who masterfully directed this timeless classic.
The movie is based on the incredible true story of three men who attempted to land on the moon. “Attempted” is the optimal word here, since, on the way to the moon, the three astronauts (played by Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, and Kevin Bacon) encounter internal damage on their ship.
If they want to survive, they’ll have to forfeit the mission and chart a return trip to Earth. Apollo 13 is as revered today as it was upon its theatrical run. You can see its influence at play in recent movies, such as The Martian.
When he heard Howard signed on as the new Han Solo director, George Lucas gave his old friend a stamp of approval, and why wouldn’t he? Lucas and Howard have been associates since American Graffiti, an early Lucas film that Howard starred in.
Howard was at one point in consideration for directing The Phantom Menace (cue wistful sighs for what could have been). The two collaborated again— this time with Howard in the director’s chair — in a late ’80s on a film based on a story by Lucas: Willow.
Starring Warrick Davis — a frequent player in Star Wars and Harry Potter movies — Willow spins a fantastical tale about a dwarf tasked with protecting a baby from a horrible queen. The movie also starred Val Kilmer.
Willow didn’t discover any critical fanfare, nor does it have a notably cult following to its name. However, you should check out Willow anyways, because it signifies Ron Howard’s connection to George Lucas, without whom there wouldn’t even be a Han Solo character, let alone a movie.
Of Howard’s many great qualities, one of his most refined is an ability to pinpoint real life stories that seem destined for the big screen. This was true for Apollo 13, and it’s also true for Howard’s underrated sports drama Rush.
Bringing together the acting talents of Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl, Rush centered on the legendary rivalry between two race car drivers, James Hunt and Niki Lauda. The two competed against each other throughout the 1970s in the high stakes arena of Formula One racing.
Rush has the distinction of being one of Howard’s most sorely overlooked works. However, it at least received a Brühl a Golden Globe nomination, and began a working relationship between Howard and Chris Hemsworth.
Frost/Nixon is another Ron Howard movie about a memorable rivalry, albeit an ephemeral one far more unusual that the feud between Hunt and Lauda. Based on a play by Pete Morgan, Frost/Nixon recounts the unlikely story of how variety show host David Frost came to interview Richard Nixon. Though nobody expected much from the interview, Frost famously got Nixon to say, on camera, that, when the president does something, this means it’s not illegal.
If not a big box office earner, Frost/Nixon can certainly claim to be one of Howard’s biggest critical successes. The movie received five Oscar nominations, including one for Frank Langella’s riveting portrayal of Nixon.
The movie walked away from Oscar night empty-handed, but at least Howard got to add another best director nomination to his illustrious career. He also proved that he had a deft hand for suspense, something that might come in handy for what is now, allegedly, a comedy-heavy, in-production Han Solo movie.
Looking at Ron Howard’s IMDb page, one might get tonal whiplash from keeping track of the many genre’s the director has jumped between over the years. Coming off of a fantasy epic, a sci-fi drama, and an aquatic adjacent romantic comedy, Howard made the choice to direct an ensemble family movie. Parenthood assembled the venerable talents of Steve Martin, Dianne Weist, Rick Moranis, Keanu Reeves, and even a young Joaquin Phoenix slipped in.
The comedy-drama hybrid highlighted the life of the Buckman family. There’s not much plot here, just three offspring of a grouchy patriarch (played by Jason Robards) going about their day-to-day lives, navigating work, romance, and, of course, parenthood.
The film managed to inspire a successful TV show (produced by Ron Howard) that lasted for six seasons on NBC. Hopefully Howard’s penchant for crafting relatable characters leaps over into the Star Wars universe.
In a year where an iconic, time-traveling extravaganza swept the nation (Back to the Future, in case that was unclear), it was hard for other sci-fi blockbusters to stand out. It was particularly hard for a sci-fi movie with a predominantly elderly ensemble cast.
Cocoon didn’t fare all to poorly, though, claiming an Academy Award win for Don Ameche in Best Actor in a Supporting Role. To this day, it remains as a particularly magical addition to Ron Howard’s career. It even spawned, for whatever illogical reason, a Ron Howard-less sequel a few years later.
When the members of an old folks home discover an extraterrestrial fountain of youth– in the form of a normal-seeming swimming pool filled with strange cocoons —the life of each community member finds a newfound rejuvenation.
Unfortunately, things go awry when the alien owners of the cocoons grow ill as a result of the senior citizens. Cocoon leans closer to sentimental fans’ tastes, but ultimately serves as a good example of Howard’s ability to tug at heartstrings.
9. A Beautiful Mind
Though heavily lauded when it first came out, A Beautiful Mind has lost some its luster over the years. It’s one of the less frequently talked about Best Picture winners. Some take issue with its questionable representation of schizophrenia, its incorrect explanation of John Nash’s theories, and its glossing over of the less admirable moments isn Nash’s personal life.
Still, A Beautiful Mind performs well as far as Oscar-bait goes, buoyed by stellar performances from Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly, and it’s nice to know the movie landed a golden statue in Ron Howard’s hands.
John Nash, the film’s subject, was a famous economist who faced great struggles at the hand of mental illness. In the film, Nash encounters hallucinations that are so believable he begins to think that he’s not only an MIT professor, but also working for the US government to crack Soviet codes.
Parenthood and Froxt/Nixon aside, it’s possible that Backdraft contains the greatest ensemble cast Ron Howard has ever worked with. Few directors get the chance to work with stars like Robert De Niro, Kurt Russell, Donald Sutherland, Scott Glenn, and Jennifer Jason Leigh altogether in one place.
Backdraft might just be the premier firefighter movie of all time. Granted, this is a narrow sub-genre, but it doesn’t stop Howard’s film from being wildly entertaining— if perhaps a bit over-dramatic at the same time.
The movie stars Russell and William Baldwin as two brothers, both firemen. When they were kids their father died in a fire, and ever since the two haven’t been too close. However, after Baldwin’s character joins the department, the brothers are forced to work together when an arsonist runs rampant throughout Chicago.
Backdraft is remembered primarily for its astounding stunt work. Thus Star Wars fans can expect some nicely orchestrated action scenes in the Han Solo feature. That is, if there are any remaining sequences that require Howard’s attention.
7. Cinderella Man
Though Crowe, teaming once more with Howard, was the star of Cinderella Man, the Depression-ear boxing pic deserves more credit for landing the universally loved Paul Giamatti an Oscar nomination.
Giamatti was previously robbed of an Oscar nomination for his fantastic leading turn in Sideways, but Cinderella Man remedied Giamatti’s lack of recognition. Giamatti didn’t go home with a trophy sadly, but he deserves endless applause for his vigorous performance here, as does Howard for summoning that performance out of him.
Cinderella Man dictates the inspiring true story of James Braddock, a down and out boxer who mounted a surprising comeback in the 1930s. Braddock roused the spirits of many who were down on their luck, which, back then, was an alarming portion of the country.
The movie doesn’t break new ground as far as boxing films go, but sticks out thanks to a vivid sense of time period and some thrilling fight scenes. It also proves Howard’s ability to get actors Oscars, which leads one to believe that he can correct the course of an allegedly unsatisfying performance from Han Solo star Alden Ehrenreich.
Long before Spielberg began his working relationship with Tom Hanks, Howard had already tapped the actor’s pronounced abilities. In fact, Howard appreciated Hanks while he was still in the largely comedic phase of his acting career.
It wasn’t until four years later that Hanks would get his first Oscar nomination for Big. Howard realized how special Hanks was early on, and made the smart decision to cast him in this supernatural rom-com.
In Splash, Hanks stars as an average, love-lorn man who falls in love with a mermaid played by Daryl Hannah. Yup, a mermaid. Splash remains funny and sweet to this day, and acts as a better date movie than most recently-made romantic comedies.
Why is this relevant to the Han Solo movie? Like Parenthood, Splash displays Howard’s knack for presenting relatable characters. Also, if Han Solo enters a romantic relationship with Emilia Clarke’s as-of-yet unnamed character, then Howard’s assistance would be particularly helpful.
Guess who’s in EDtv? Woody Harrelson, and guess who’s in the Han Solo? Also Woody Harrelson, and who is the director of both (or, at least partially, for the latter)? Ron Howard.
All this is to say that Han Solo will mark the second collaboration between Howard and Harrelson, providing the fact that Harrelson’s part needs filming in the next three weeks or in the reshoots later on. All of this aside, let’s talk about the first time Howard and Harrelson crossed paths: EDtv.
Matthew McConaughey stars as Ed, a video store clerk who gets selected as the subject of a reality TV show. EDtv was yet another movie where Ron Howard was given a wide range of talent to work with, in this case from all different ends of the entertainment spectrum.
Jenna Elfman, Martin Landeu, Ellen DeGeneres, Rob Reiner, and Dennis Hopper all show up in the film. The Han Solo film offers Howard yet another great cast he can work with, including Donald Glover, Michael Kenneth Williams, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge, to name a few.
Ron Howard movies don’t often get too dark, but Ransom is the profound exception. When you pit Mel Gibson against Gary Sinise, things are bound to get intense. Howard was able to take the two hyper-emotional personas and make them work in the same movie, and the results were more than favorable.
Ransom went on to be well liked by critics, and ended up being the fifth biggest box office success of 1996. The thriller demonstrates both Howard’s skills as a filmmaker and as a blockbuster machine.
Gibson plays a multi-millionaire. He and his wife are living a luxurious life with their son, until one day their son is kidnapped. When the abductors demand ransom from the Gibson’s character, he chooses instead to take the money on live-television and offer it up as a reward for whoever decides to rescue his son. Ransom ventures into dark places you might not expect the director of Parenthood and Splash to find himself in. However, let it never be said that Ron Howard doesn’t have range.
3. In The Heart of the Sea
In The Heart of the Sea didn’t find as much love as those anticipating it might have hoped for. Many were immediately intrigued at the thought of Howard directing a movie about the real life disaster that influenced Moby Dick.
The trailers continued the hype, boasting a great senses of scale elevated by great special effects. Unfortunately, the response was ultimately underwhelming, both critically and financially. Still, In The Heart of the Sea delivers on the visual front, and keeps the momentum flowing throughout.
The film chronicles the true story of the Essex, a whaling ship that sank in 1820. The crew of the Essex came under attack from a whale that proved almost supernatural in its powers of destruction.
In The Heart of the Sea gets credit for some exhilarating whaling scenes and material more immersive than what some were used to from Howard. The film also signals Howard’s ability to cultivate positive relationships with actors, as this was his second effort with Chris Hemsworth.
2. The Missing
The Missing is another darker volume of Ron Howard’s library, one that’s also about a child’s kidnapping. For The Missing, Howard called on the acting talents of two masters in their craft: Cate Blanchett and Tommy Lee Jones.
Jones had won an Oscar at this point for his work in The Fugitive, and Blanchett was a few years away from a win for The Aviator. Howard managed to get them onscreen together in a movie that many would consider a forgotten masterpiece from the famous director.
Blanchett plays a woman on the frontier in 1885 New Mexico. When her daughter (played here by a young Evan Rachel Wood) gets kidnapped. She then reopens a troubled relationship with her father (Jones), who had abandoned her and her mother many years ago.
1. Night Shift
On paper, the premise for Night Shift sounds absolutely ridiculous. After a deceased pimp winds up in his wheelhouse, a morgue attendant is coaxed into starting a prostitution business out of the morgue he works at.
Henry Winkler (Howard’s co-star on Happy Days) stars as the morgue attendant in question, while Michael Keaton plays the co-worker that convinces him to start dealing in prostitution. The movie, one of Howard’s earlier outings, received largely positive reviews and remains a cult-comedy to this day.
Night Shift warrants examination for a few reasons. First, it displays Howard’s penchant for keeping his friends close. He reunited with Winkler here— this time directing him rather than starring alongside him.
The two would work together again on Arrested Development, a show which Howard produced and narrated, and featured Winkler as a recurring character. Howard also appreciated Michael Keaton before anyone else, giving him a boost that would land him roles in Beetlejuice and Batman.
The Han Solo spinoff movie will hit theaters in 2018.
Can you think of any other Ron Howard movies which will remind us that Han Solo is in safe hands? Let us hear about it in the comments!
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