Rebuilding Paradise, a new documentary film by Ron Howard, is now available on VOD and in limited screenings. It is my favorite film of the year so far, a powerful exploration of the fire that devastated the small town of Paradise, California, and the year following. Howard is a great filmmaker, and he captures the story and emotional journey of Paradise in a powerful way.
That got me thinking about Howard and some of my favorite films he’s done. So, for this week’s Binge Watch I’m looking at eight of his films I’ve always enjoyed, in ascending order to my favorite. So even if you can’t yet find Rebuilding Paradise, you can enjoy some classic Ron Howard.
But, seriously, find Rebuilding Paradise. And, as always, agree, disagree, have different favorites? Post in the comments or hit me on Twitter and get the discussion started.
A Beautiful Mind (2001)
About: This was Howard’s greatest critical success and a film that earned him an Academy Award as best director. It’s a solid drama about mathematician John Nash (Russell Crowe) and his wife, Alicia (Jennifer Connelly). Despite his brilliance, Nash struggled with demons, and this film is an exploration of that and the love that led his wife to remain by his side. It features some great performances, and it won Best Picture among its four Oscars. It’s worth checking out.
Rating: PG-13 for intense thematic material, sexual content, and a scene of violence.
Angels & Demons (2009)
About: This is the second of third movies Howard directed based on the Dan Brown novels. They all star Tom Hanks, and the biggest name recognition is The Da Vinci Code. That movie was just OK, but the follow-up, which is based on the novel that preceded Da Vinci, is pretty good. I liked the story and the way it was put together, and as a Christian, I appreciated some of the heart of what this movie had to say about faith. There is one clip with Hanks and Ewan McGreggor that always gets to me when Professor Langdon is asked about his own personal faith.
Rating: PG-13 for sequences of violence, disturbing images, and thematic material.
About: This is one of the older films on the list and one that often gets overlooked. It was nominated for three Academy Awards (all in technical categories) and has a pretty fascinating and action-packed story. It centers on firefighters and is led by Kurt Russell, William Baldwin, Robert de Niro, and Scott Glenn, and has some impressive action sequences. This is one I come back to for entertainment value time and again.
Rating: R for language and a scene of sensuality
About: This racing film focused on the Formula One rivalry between James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl). It’s an under-rated film that got a couple Golden Globe nominations but was left off the shortlist for the Academy Awards. I thought the performances were solid and the racing scenes worked well, too. Howard does a nice job putting this one together. This was a film that seemed to go under-the-radar a bit the year it was released, but it’s well worth seeking out.
Rating: R for sexual content, nudity, language, some disturbing images, and brief drug use.
About: This one, based on the play from Peter Morgan and working from his script, centers on the relationship between former President Richard Nixon (Frank Langella) and British talk show host David Frost (Michael Sheen). It was nominated for five Academy Awards—including Best Director—but didn’t win a single award. Despite that, it’s some of Howard’s best work and was one of my favorite films the year it was released.
Rating: R for some language.
About: What can I say, I love a good adventure story. This one focuses on a disgraced fighter on the run (Val Kilmer), a simple farmer trying to do right (Warwick Davis) and the baby that leads them on an adventure with huge stakes. This one came from a story by George Lucas and is a fun adventure that really holds up. If you haven’t seen it, it’s on Disney+ and worth checking out.
Apollo 13 (1995)
About: This one stars Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, Kevin Bacon, Gary Sinise, and Ed Harris, among others, and tackles the story of this doomed space mission. It was nominated for nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture, but ended up winning just a couple technical awards. This is one of Howard’s most memorable films, and one of this best. Hanks was great in the lead and had he not won the Academy Award the two prior years, he might have been considered here, too. This is a must-see film.
Rating: PG for language and emotional intensity.
The Paper (1994)
About: This is a Ron Howard movie with little fanfare. You might not have even heard of it. But it’s my favorite of his films, and one of my favorite films of all time. It also changed the course of my life. I was in middle school when I saw this one, and it solidified my desire to be a journalist. I went to school for journalism and worked for a newspaper for many years out of college. I love the idea of telling important stories and fighting for the truth, which is a bedrock of this film about a day in the life of the Metro Editor (Michael Keaton) for a New York Newspaper. The cast includes Glen Close, Robert Duvall, Marissa Tomei, and Randy Quaid, among others, and it is fantastic. If you haven’t seen this film, make a point to go and find it.
Rating: R for strong language.
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.