When it works, there is a pleasant frivolousness about Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo as the thieving brother who wine and dine Rachel Weisz, their daffy but wealthy mark, in the movie’s better moments. Together, they travel by steamship, train, and just about every other antiquated mode of transportation from the days of Preston Sturges. It doesn’t make a lot of sense in the film’s modern setting, but it plays better than when the movie awkwardly pivots toward heists and double dealing confidence games. Perhaps Brody and Ruffalo should’ve traded parts? There’s still a fizzy fun hidden inside, but the Brothers Bloom too often rely on bromides. – David Crow
5. Brick (2005)
To call Brick the “detective noir set in a high school” is accurate. But it also does it a disservice. Yes, Brick is as quirky as that high concept phrase implies it would be, committing to its bit with abandon even as it hisses anachronistic dialogue through the gritted teeth of its young cast. The broadest strokes of Brick, involving drug dealing and other youthful indiscretions, could be the basis of a far more “straight” telling, but even this early in his career, Johnson displays his knack for casting and an ear for dialogue, even if/especially when it’s dialogue that is about 60 years removed from its setting.
Brick could have been a novelty act. But instead of just leaning on the admittedly funny beats that watching modern high-schooler spout hard-boiled lingo bring about, the film invites you into a secret world all its own with intricate rules and details that imply these “adult” performances are really what’s happening whenever parents aren’t looking. And it’s all wrapped up with an ending that’s every bit as bitter and ambiguous as the genre could hope for. And we have to ask: Is the film’s “hero” Brendan Frye, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s greatest performance? Could be… – Mike Cecchini
4. Glass Onion (2022)
Few would accuse Glass Onion, the second entry in Rian Johnson’s series of Benoit Blanc whodunnits, of holding back. This 2022 Netflix film loudly and proudly tears down the celebrity influencer industrial complex with all the subtlety of an atom bomb when Southern dandy detective Benoit Blanc heads to a remote tech billionaire’s island to solve another “moooiiurder.” The truth is, however, we live in unsubtle times, and every now and then a filmmaker needs to step up and declare, “Doesn’t anyone else notice this? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!” Mugatu-style.
In addition to its satisfyingly bloodthirsty social commentary, Glass Onion is once again a finely crafted murder mystery. Like Knives Out before it, the real crime at the center of Glass Onion isn’t revealed until the movie’s second act. By that point, viewers have already bought into the world thanks to capable performances from an all-star cast, including Kate Hudson, Leslie Odom Jr., Dave Bautista, Kathryn Hahn, and the wonderful Janelle Monáe. That’s not even to mention Edward Norton’s timely turn as dimwitted tech bro Miles Bron. And of course, none of it would work without Daniel Craig embodying the increasingly iconic gumshoe Benoit Blanc. – Aleec Bojalad
3. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)
This is the movie that broke Star Wars fandom—or at least revealed its Dark Side while offering a luminous new path into the light. After J.J. Abrams’ admirable but cautious relaunch of Star Wars via The Force Awakens (2015), a cozy and overly familiar retread of the franchise’s greatest hits, Johnson came to bat and startled fans with a movie that sidestepped formula in favor of a larger, more nuanced palette from which the Skywalker Saga could draw.
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Rian Johnson Movies Ranked from Worst to Best
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