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Every Rian Johnson movie, ranked
As the sixth Rian Johnson film hits theaters, we take a look back at his filmography.
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery arrives in theaters today, marking the debut of the sixth feature film from writer/director Rian Johnson. In the years since his debut feature, Brick, Johnson has risen to become one of the most celebrated filmmakers of his generation, a creator adept at both writing and directing, and a versatile storyteller who can work in several different genres, sometimes all at once. With Glass Onion, he once again proves his prowess with another handmade whodunit featuring an unforgettable cast and a mystery worth savoring.
But how does Glass Onion stack up against Johnson's other feature films, including his original Benoit Blanc mystery movie, Knives Out? Well, that's what we're here to find out today. From his first movie to his most recent, this is every Rian Johnson film, ranked worst to best.
RELATED: The plot thickens! Rian Johnson & Daniel Craig down for more 'Knives Out' movies after 'Glass Onion'
6. The Brothers Bloom (2008)
To be clear, Rian Johnson has yet to make a bad movie. Every feature film he's produced has its own charms and sense of originality, but something had to go at the bottom, and his second effort as writer/director lands in that spot. The story of two con-men brothers (Mark Ruffalo and Adrien Brody) and their scheme to hook a wealthy heiress (Rachel Weisz) into a trip across Europe, The Brothers Bloom features many of the caper hallmarks Johnson would later deploy in the Knives Out films, and features the same deft blend of new and old filmmaking styles he brought to Brick. It's never quite as slick and brilliant as its ambitions would suggest it wants to be, but that doesn't stop the film from being a fun, breezy ride with a winning cast.
5. Brick (2005)
Johnson's debut feature film announced a bright new voice in the world of crime cinema, and established Johnson's fondness for old school noir and crime filmmaking with a fresh twist. Brick plays out like a classic murder mystery story that could have been filmed decades earlier, but with the added twist of taking place in a contemporary high school with contemporary wardrobes. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is great as a grieving teenager who decides to play detective, and everyone rises to meet the highwire act that is the script, which seems to walk in two worlds while never tripping too far into one or the other. Brick is a gem of a debut, and proves that Johnson has always been a filmmaker worth watching.
4. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (2022)
After cutting his teeth on his first two features, something shifted in Johnson's output, and since then every film he's made has been great in its own way. That includes Glass Onion, the second Benoit Blanc mystery and Johnson's latest effort in pure whodunit territory. Set on a gleaming private island with a cast of uber-rich characters who all seem to be keeping one secret or another, Glass Onion is, like its predecessor, both timely and timeless, a film that reveals deep character moments while never losing sight of a deeply fun, beautifully paced mystery. It's another genre masterwork in a career that's increasingly full of them.
3. Looper (2012)
In 2012, Johnson married his love of crime cinema with his love of science fiction and gave us the time travel gem Looper, the story of a hitman (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who must confront his own future self (Bruce Willis) and in the process try and stop his entire world from crumbling around him. Set in an impeccably designed dirty near-future world and featuring one of the best performances Willis ever gave, Looper is still one of the finest sci-fi films of the 21st century a full 10 years after its debut. It's proof that Johnson can straddle genres without losing a step, something that would come in handy for his lone exploration of someone else's franchise (more on that in a moment).
2. Knives Out (2019)
After years of working in crime cinema, and indeed launching his career with it, Johnson took on the cozy whodunit with Knives Out, and reminded us what a special filmmaker he is. Built on a script that's as precise as a Swiss watch, an ensemble cast full of legends, and a production design that you want to step into and live in, Knives Out is a masterclass in delivering the genre goods and sidestepping expectations at the same time. It's easily one of the most pleasant experiences I've had in a movie theater in the last decade, and it keeps getting better every time I watch it.
1. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)
I know this will be a controversial choice for some, because people are still mad on the internet about the supposed sins of The Last Jedi, five years after its release. But I don't care, because in my eyes Johnson's take on a galaxy far, far away is the best Star Wars film since 1980, and maybe the best Star Wars film ever. Built on a bedrock of deep love for the franchise, and transformed by Johnson's own knack for unexpected, deeply compelling turns in the story, it's an impeccable exploration of how Star Wars became what it is now, what that means for the people who love it, and how the story goes on. The fact that we're still arguing about it today is a testament to its greatness, and I do mean greatness. In a career that has not yet produced a single bad moviegoing experience, The Last Jedi remains an all-out masterpiece.
Looking for more gumshoe work? All seasons of Columbo and Murder She Wrote are now streaming on Peacock.