Every Rian Johnson Movie Ranked Worst To Best

In less than 20 years, writer-director Rian Johnson has gone from cult indie auteur to blockbuster filmmaking brand. Johnson's breakout debut feature, "Brick" (2005), was a detective noir set in high school, praised for its clever reinvention of both genres. As his career progressed, Johnson continued to use genre as a creative constraint and playground, with each film exhibiting the filmmaker's take on a specific kind of movie, such as a sci-fi or con-man flick. Johnson is also known for frequently collaborating with the same crew and actors, including stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Noah Segan, along with editor Bob Ducsay. Outside of film work, Johnson has also directed television, including some of the most critically acclaimed episodes of "Breaking Bad." 

Johnson also notoriously helmed the "Star Wars" film "The Last Jedi," stirring up a new chapter of fan outrage (his standalone trilogy is allegedly still in the works.) Across all of Johnson's work, whether it's a tentpole franchise or independent film, there is a metatextual love and knowledge of cinema and storytelling. Most recently, Johnson directed the forthcoming sequel to his hugely popular whodunnit "Knives Out" for Netflix, kicking off his first original franchise. Johnson has also created his first original series for Peacock, "Poker Face," which is currently in pre-production. While Johnson is early in his career, his originality as a filmmaker has already impacted Hollywood. Here, we've ranked every Rian Johnson movie from worst to best.

5. The Brothers Bloom

Rian Johnson's second feature is his bubbly, stylish take on the con man movie. 2008's "The Brothers Bloom" is a somewhat surreal and fantastical tale about two brothers, Bloom (Adrien Brody) and Stephen (Mark Ruffalo), who grow up orphaned and rely on small cons to make their way. As they grow up, they hone their craft and become the world's best con men. Bloom is a romantic while Stephen is more cynical, engineering the cons and casting his brother in a variety of roles. While they have an unbreakable bond, Bloom's feelings are also complex as he grows weary of conning and wants to discover who he is away from his brother's perceptions of him. 

True to the conventions of the genre, when Bloom tells Stephen he wants out, Stephen convinces him to do one last great con. Their target is Penelope (Rachel Weisz), an eccentric heiress who Bloom, naturally, begins to fall in love with for real. When Bloom tries to quit for good, he's faced with the ultimate choice between trusting his brother and trusting himself. "The Brothers Bloom" has plenty of flair and panache and is a fun ride, but it lacks Johnson's deeper themes and commentary. However, Ruffalo and Brody give it their all, creating a believably heartbreaking and complicated relationship that anchors the movie.

4. Looper

Rian Johnson's third film, "Looper" (2012), is a science fiction epic of identity and hope. In the year 2047, time travel has not been invented, but in 2074, it has been. When the future mob wants to get rid of someone, they send them to the past where loopers like Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) wait to kill them. Things take a complicated turn, however, when the mob sends Joe's future self (Bruce Willis) back to the past in order for Joe to close his own loop. Older Joe arrives with his own agenda, though. He plans to kill a young boy, Cid (Pierce Gagnon), believing he can prevent his wife from being murdered in the future. 

Determined to stop his future self from killing a child, Young Joe seeks out Cid and his mother, Sara (Emily Blunt) on their farm. As he gets to know Sara and Cid, he learns that the child may be responsible for the dark and terrifying future his older self warned him about, even as he risks that the future isn't set in stone. Most sci-fi films, especially those that deal with time travel, can be bogged down in worldbuilding and explanatory plot. Here, Johnson manages to avoid most of the confusing trappings of the genre, even as he creates an entirely unique vision of the future. Gordon-Levitt and Willis also provide memorable performances opposite a truly remarkable Gagnon and Blunt, leading to an emotionally cathartic and indelible ending.

3. Brick

Rian Johnson's debut feature is a gritty, independent detective noir juxtaposed with a high school teen movie. "Brick" follows Brendan, a highly intelligent and withdrawn teenager investigating the death of his ex-girlfriend, Emily (Emilie de Ravin). At the beginning of the film, Brendan finds Emily's body in a tunnel nearby their school, just two days after he receives a mysterious and alarming phone call from her. Determined to figure out what happened to her, Brendan, along with the help of his nerdy friend, The Brain (Matt O'Leary), sets off on a quest to investigate the cliques of his high school. 

Notably, Johnson takes both of the genres he plays with seriously and doesn't use the noir elements to mock high school or vice versa. Instead, by setting a noir in high school, Johnson acknowledges the darkness and heavy emotions of being a teenager through the lens of a hard-boiled detective protagonist. "Brick" is an impressive debut feature that indicates Johnson's early mastery of genre, a flair for dialogue, and visual style. The film was nominated for the John Cassavetes Award at the Film Independent Spirit Awards and won the Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival for originality of vision.

2. Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi

Perhaps the most controversial of Rian Johnson's features, the eighth installment in the Skywalker Saga and the second in the "Star Wars" sequel trilogy has drawn its fair share of opinions from fans. 2017's "Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi" follows several different plot threads: Rey (Daisy Ridley) is tracking down an angry and sullen Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to help train her in the ways of the force, while the rest of the Rebels have to strategize how to outrun Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and the First Order. Like most of Johnson's work — and "Star Wars" as a whole — "The Last Jedi" is deeply political, making previous implicit themes explicit. 

An extended sequence with Finn (John Boyega) and Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) in a new destination called Canto Bight highlights class divides and shows the further impacts of the multi-generational war between the Rebels and the Empire. "The Last Jedi" also marks Carrie Fisher's final performance as General Leia Organa, who provides a deeply heartfelt and funny emotional core to the film opposite Poe (Oscar Isaac) and Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern). While "The Last Jedi" has its critics and admirers, it's nonetheless a wholly original entry in a massive legacy franchise, and was also nominated for four Academy Awards.

1. Knives Out

Rian Johnson's most recent feature is his take on the whodunnit, 2019's "Knives Out," a sendup and a love letter to the classic Agatha Christie mystery with his trademark original spin. The movie centers on Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) as he solves the murder of a wealthy and esteemed mystery novelist, Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer). Blanc has to contend with Thrombey's eccentric and privileged children, who are at odds with Harlan's Latina nurse, Marta (Ana de Armas), the last person to see him alive. Johnson uses the typical conventions of the whodunnit genre — flashbacks, interviews, and multiple, shifting perspectives — to present a social commentary on race and class in privileged spaces. 

"Knives Out" also shines with an incredible ensemble cast including Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson, Michael Shannon, Toni Collette, LaKeith Stanfield, and Chris Evans. With a genuinely compelling mystery, and Craig's hilarious southern accent, the film became a smash hit that proved original works could succeed in a world of reboots, remakes, and adaptations. "Knives Out" also earned Johnson his first Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay. Additionally, the film garnered three Golden Globe nominations including Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. Netflix has since ordered two sequels centered on Craig's Detective Blanc traveling around the world to solve new mysteries. "Knives Out 2" is set to arrive on Netflix in late 2022.