Rian Johnson Is More Than ‘Knives Out’ – Here’s Every One of His Movies, Ranked Worst to Best
Rian Johnson has been around as an American filmmaker, but the success of two of his recent films has shot him to fresh fame, Knives Out and Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. The latter received two nominations at the 80th Golden Globes and could still follow in Knives Out‘s footsteps and nab an Academy Award nomination, too. Meanwhile, Johnson has already begun discussing and teasing a Knives Out 3, which, due to the Netflix deal, is almost sure to become a reality in the future.
While the Knives Out franchise has gained Johnson international fame, it is far from his only directing and writing credit in Hollywood. Johnson, fittingly, kicked off his career in 2005 with the release of the neo-noir mystery film Brick. The film marked his debut feature-length film, as well as his first foray into the mystery genre. He soon followed up with the comedy-drama The Brothers Bloom and the science fiction thriller Looper. Following Looper, he formulated his initial plans for Knives Out but put the project on pause after being chosen to direct Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Following his stint as a writer and director in the Star Wars franchise, he finally introduced his Knives Out franchise in 2019. Over the years, Johnson has shown that he has a knack for mystery, comedy, and sci-fi, and functions best when he meshes the genres together. All of his films have received relatively positive reception and multiple accolades. However, a few of his films have definitely stood out more than others. Here is every film that Johnson has written and directed, ranked from worst to best.
6. The Brothers Bloom
The Brothers Bloom was Johnson’s second film and premiered on May 15, 2009. While The Brothers Bloom received relatively positive reviews, it failed to live up to its predecessor or successors and was also a box office flop. The film stars Mark Ruffalo and Adrien Brody as brothers Stephen Bloom and Bloom Bloom respectively. The pair were orphaned as young boys and made a living as con men. As adults, Bloom wants out of the business but agrees to try to pull off one final “perfect con” at Stephen’s behest.
The Brothers Bloom isn’t a bad film, but it is not a superb one either. The performances are compelling, the comedy is on point, and there is a healthy dose of eccentricity and humor. Ruffalo, Brody, and Rachel Weisz make up the perfect trio with their comedic skills and charisma. However, the film just falls a bit flat. It has an interesting premise and the potential to go deeper but ultimately opts to make its major appeal entertainment and laughs.
Brick marked Johnson’s first film and foray into the mystery genre in 2005. While both Brick and both Knives Out films are mysteries, Brick vastly differs from Knives Out‘s comedic and eccentric, ‘whodunnit’ take on the genre. Brick is a neo-noir film, a thought-provoking but ultimately rather dark and cynical, mystery case. The film is a homage to the noir age of films within a high school setting, as it follows high school outcast Brendan Frye (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) as he attempts to solve the mystery of his ex-girlfriend’s death.
Brick showcased Johnson’s talent as a filmmaker well. Although it featured a rather unexpected premise of a high school filled with typical high school drama, it also tackled mature themes of violence and drugs, holding them up against a cynical premise with a cryptic storyline. The only problem with Brick is that Johnson very much went for a niche market of cinephiles who will appreciate the noir genre tribute. For those non-noir thriller fans, the film’s ingenuity and brilliance are bound to be missed. Meanwhile, some noir fans will appreciate the technical aspects of the film but might be turned off by the high school premise. As a result, Brick was a well-made film that struggled to find its audience.
4. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Johnson had three strong films under his belt by the time he met with Lucasfilm’s president, Kathleen Kennedy. However, none of these films were even close in scale to making a big blockbuster film for an enormous pre-established franchise. When offered the gig, though, Johnson stepped up to the challenge , writing and directing Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Premiering in December 2017, the film was the sequel to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It sees the Resistance struggle to defend the galaxy against the assaults of Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), resulting in Rey (Daisy Ridley) seeking the help of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill).
While critics gave The Last Jedi exceedingly positive reviews, audiences gave it mixed-to-negative reviews. Critics praised the film’s performances, visuals, musical score, directing, plot twists, and emotional depth. However, audiences criticized it for being a stark departure from the Star Wars franchise and for allegedly being poorly executed with bad humor, plot holes, and inconsistencies. The truth is that The Last Jedi falls somewhere between critics’ and audiences’ perceptions. It was a high-quality film that was as good and ambitious as possible from a pre-established franchise. However, it did struggle with some ill-fitting dialogue and humor, plus failed to be tonally and canonically consistent with the franchise.
Looper premiered in 2012 and was Johnson’s first film to achieve critical acclaim. The sci-fi thriller is set in the year 2044, where individuals like Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) can be hired as loopers to kill targets sent back in time from 2074 by those in the future wishing to cover up their tracks. However, when a looper lives until 2074, they must be sent back and killed by their younger selves to cover their tracks further. Things get complicated when Joe comes face-to-face with his older self (Liam Neeson) and is expected to kill him.
Looper is a sci-fi thriller that is seeping with originality and a unique premise. It boasts a twisty and ambitious time travel premise that actually works alongside incredibly strong performances, a fast pace, and well-conveyed drama. Most critics agreed that the film was creative and exceedingly intelligent. At times it could be overly complicated, its cheap budget showed through the screen, and its pacing could use some touching up. While, it’s not a perfect film but for its period and budget, it far exceeded expectations.
2. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is Johnson’s latest film and the long-awaited sequel to the 2019 Knives Out. The film arose when Netflix purchased the rights to two Knives Out sequels for $469 million. The film premiered on the platform on December 23 and saw the return of detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig). Blanc was the sole major Knives Out character to return as he probed the mystery of an unexpected homicide at the residence of billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton), where Bron’s friends had gathered to celebrate his birthday.
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery received stellar reviews from critics. It was a clever, humorous film with a layered mystery, a compelling gentleman sleuth, an eccentric cast of characters, and standout performances across the board. The film is both simplistic and a riotous good time, as well as a cutting social commentary on the wealthy and all that is wrong with society. If it were the only competitor in the Knives Out franchise, it would easily be Johnson’s best film. However, due to its predecessor, Glass Onion is left feeling just a tad bit predictable with a less spectacular mystery and ending than it could have had.
1. Knives Out
Knives Out premiered in 2019 and brought Johnson to the center of international recognition and huge movie deals. The film follows renowned detective Blanc as he probes the mystery of the death of Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer). Harlan is a wealthy novelist who died under mysterious circumstances on his 85th birthday. Due to his exceedingly greedy relatives, nearly every single member of his family is a suspect as they lust after his inheritance.
Knives Out became Johnson’s most critically acclaimed film to date for several reasons. For one, it was a complex mystery with an exceedingly simple, yet unpredictable conclusion. Next, it boasted a star-studded cast with solid performances across the board. Plus, it was filled with eccentricity, a whodunnit spirit, and an infectious, clever, and pure sense of fun. It runs a bit on the long side, but Knives Out breathes new life into Agatha Christie’s whodunnit style, and viewers can’t help but be impressed with its brilliance, humor, and impeccable craftsmanship.
(featured image: Netflix)
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