The Ten Best Films From Ron Howard

The Ten Best Films From Ron Howard

Ron Howard sure has come a long way from Opie Taylor on The Andy Griffith Show. He has even come a very long way from Richie Cunningham on Happy Days. After years and years of being a spritely ginger on those classic television shows, Ron Howard has become one of Hollywood’s most respected and versatile directors. He has a pair of Oscars under his belt, for directing and producing A Beautiful Mind. However, he has always been in the awards discussion for many of his films. Recently, Disney looked to him to save their Solo: A Star Wars Story after they fired Lord & Miller. Ron Howard has always been reliable to deliver a competent, if not extraordinary film. Recently, Howard has been doing more commercial films, with Solo and the Robert Langdon series. But, he has several gems among his filmography that spans nearly 40 years. Here are Ron Howard’s 10 best movies.

A Beautiful Mind (2001)

Hot off Russell Crowe’s success in Gladiator, Ron Howard quickly swiped him up. Soon thereafter, he made one of the most finely polished films of his career in A Beautiful Mind. In another Oscar worthy role, Russell Crowe portrays economist John Nash. It follows his life from his days at Princeton to his acceptance of the Nobel Prize.  However, the film simultaneously plays like an espionage thriller, a family drama, and a poignant meditation on mental health. John Nash had severe mental problems. Throughout his life, he saw people who weren’t there and had vast paranoia issues. To watch Howard’s exhibition of Nash’s living nightmare is amazingly effective. The audience knows Nash’s story, so they know he struggles sometimes to differentiate fantasy from reality. However, that doesn’t stop the viewer from flipping between excitement and pity as Nash’s fantasies unfold. A Beautiful Mind is a worthy movie to have provided Howard with his Oscar gold.

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Splash (1984)

The 2017 Best Picture Oscar went to Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water. However, before it was cool to tell a sexualized, piscine love story, Ron Howard did it way back in 1984. Tom Hanks was a heartbroken man who falls in love with a beautiful mermaid (Daryl Hannah). He doesn’t know Madison is a mythical creature, but the hijinks that occur while she tries to hide what she is. Splash is just a great, light-hearted farce with a lot of good romantic feels in it. The chemistry between Hanks and Hannah is wonderful. Also, it may contain the funniest roles that John Candy and Eugene Levy have ever had. A young, amateur Ron Howard really shows a lot of flair. Whether it be the beautiful sepia flashback opening or the glorious underwater photography, the film looks great.  

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Rush (2013)

Ron Howard has a knack of diving into his projects with a passion and attention to detail that elevates the finished project far beyond what anyone would expect. Rush is the story of the famous 1970s rivalry between Formula 1 racers James Hunt & Niki Lauda. Howard injected such vitality into the story and Peter Morgan’s script, that everyone perked up and took notice. First of all, the film currently sits at #202 on the IMDB Top 250 films of all time. Secondly, Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl give career-best performances as Hunt and Lauda, respectively. Thirdly, the in-car footage and action sequences provide one of the greatest racing films of all time. A lesser director would have made this a simple, black & white, good vs. bad racing rivalry movie. Howard, Morgan, Hemsworth, and Bruhl made Rush a complicated, riveting, ambiguous film that is astonishing.

Backdraft (1991)

Just as with Apollo 13, what Ron Howard was able to do through his clever direction and production design is extraordinary. Backdraft makes its way on to this list simply through its frightening depiction of what firefighters go through on a daily basis. The cast is fantastic, with Kurt Russell, William Baldwin, Scott Glenn, Donald Sutherland, and Robert DeNiro. However, the star of the film is the fires. All the story beats are conventional but when the firefighting kicks into gear, the film is amazing. Watching Backdraft from the comfort of a theater of a living room does not feel safe. You feel the heat, smell the smoke, and taste the sweat. To watch the flames climb walls, spout around corners, and pump smoke out of windows is seductive in its believability. Not only all of that, but it is all so dangerously real, that you will come away from the film with a whole new respect for firefighters.

Frost/Nixon (2008)

By 2008, Ron Howard had perfected his craft to the point that he could make an entire film about a one-on-one interview. Frost/Nixon was one of the most riveting films of the year when it was released. It really had a chance to get Howard another pair of Oscars for directing and producing. It just didn’t have the strength to overcome the momentum of Slumdog Millionaire. Michael Sheen plays David Frost and Frank Langella masterfully portrays Richard Nixon. Years after Nixon resigned from office due to the Watergate scandal, he was paid $600K to agree to an interview from Frost. What happened during that interview was an incredible battle of wits. None of Frost’s colleagues thought he had the courage to stand up to the powerfully stoic ex-president. Nixon was drunk on his own power and intelligence. When these two intellectual behemoths finally come to a head, it was as exciting and any action film released in 2008.

Far & Away (1992)

Many people forget about Far & Away when they talk about Ron Howard. It is a shame because this film is essentially Ron Howard’s Lawrence of Arabia. Filmed in the uniquely glorious Super 65mm format, the film is truly a work of art. The story is a bit convoluted, about a couple fleeing Ireland to participate in the Oklahoma Land Rush in 1893. Joseph and Shannon go through all sorts of trials and tribulations on their journey toward owning their own personal paradise. However, Far and Away is the kind of old-fashioned film making that we just don’t see anymore.  Ron Howard’s epic vision alongside the height of Cruise/Kidman chemistry makes the film a heartfelt, larger than life, adventure.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

The 1966 Boris Karloff version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a holiday classic. It only ran at 26 minutes but was a perennial staple for over 30 years. That was when Ron Howard and Jim Carrey decided to adapt the famous Dr. Seuss tale. The results are astonishing. Outrageous production design, grotesque makeup, and Carrey dialed up to 11 actually provides a wonderful holiday film. Ron Howard tapped into the height of Jim Carrey’s stardom and went off the creative deep end and pulled it off. As outlandish as everything is throughout How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the film still somehow succeeds at being totally Seuss and totally Christmas.

Cinderella Man (2005)

Some of the greatest, most beloved movies of all time are boxing films. Raging Bull, Rocky, Million Dollar Baby; they are all amazing. However, when discussing the greatest boxing films of all time, Cinderella Man should be in the conversation. It is this role of Jim Braddock that Russell Crowe should have won his Oscar, or at least another one. Crowe is just phenomenal about the washed-up boxer that is struggling to make ends meet during the depression. His manager, Joe Gould — played equally as well by Paul Giamatti — gets him a fight. It is a fight he is supposed to lose. Not take a fall, mind you, just Braddock is way out of his league. But the thoughts of his kids hungry and in the cold sparks a fire in his belly, and he begins an impossible pursuit of the heavyweight title. Sure, the film hits most of the boxing film tropes, but the film is so gorgeously saturated and wonderfully acted, you hardly notice. 

Parenthood (1989)

Without fear of hyperbole, Parenthood is a perfect film. Not only is it pinnacle Steve Martin, but it is one of the best-balanced dramedy about family ever made. Ron Howard really showed his creativity, maturity, and ability to handle wonderful acting in a way that no one saw coming. You will laugh your butt off while Steve Martin does his thing, as during his kid’s birthday party. However, you will also cry your eyes out as you watch Dianne Weist try and keep her sanity. Being a parent has its ups and downs (there is a wonderful analogy for this by the Grandma). Parenthood so brilliantly touches upon each parent-child dynamic you can think of, across four generations. Martin and Mary Steenburgen have three kids, each with their own quirks. Weist is a divorcee who is in way in over her head raising her rebellious daughter (Martha Plimpton) and her introverted son (Joaquin Phoenix). Jason Robards, the patriarch of the family, is a cantankerous man who only gives slack to his black sheep son, Gary (Tom Hulce). Finally, Rick Moranis and Harley Jane Kozack are trying to raise their daughter as the next Einstein. Howard tells all these stories thoroughly and fluently, and it results in a beautiful reflection on the joys of having children, as well as the heartaches.

Apollo 13 (1995)

Apollo 13 has been, and still remains, Ron Howard’s Masterpiece. Never before had a movie so convinced its audience that its stars were actually in outer space. The reason for this? The filmmakers and the actors actually went through hours of parabolic flights to actually simulate zero gravity. Even by today’s standards, Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, and Bill Paxton are absolutely en route to the moon. The amazing effort Ron Howard put forth to make one of the greatest space exploration films of all time is nothing less than extraordinary.. Filmmakers who use practical effects blended perfectly with digital almost always create something special. Apollo 13 is still one of the greats, and it forever solidified Ron Howard as an A-list director. 

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