46 year old Brooklyn native Darren Aronofsky was playfully described by legendary director Martin Scorsese as “disturbing” upon the release of his initial picture Pi in 1998. Since then, Aronofsky’s library has expanded into 6 films, from which he has won one academy award and one director’s guild award for his “achievement in directing”. The director whose films are said to be “connected by destructive dreamers” are often interpreted as being representative of the less glamorous side of the American dream. Always artistic and often critically praised for their pacing, Aronofsky’s movies are arguably some of the best independent films that the US has produced since the turn of the century and it’s my task to rank each of them in this article. As always, my list will descend from worst to best and I encourage each of you to join in the conversation by leaving comments below this article, tweeting the website’s official Twitter account, or tweeting me directly.
Here we go…
Darren Aronofsky’s imagining of the biblical epic of Noah’s Ark was always going to ruffle a few feathers, but nobody could have anticipated quite how much of a universal bomb this 2014 picture was going to be. It ended up regaining its losses in the domestic market overseas at the box office, but it was also critically maligned, which was a real shame when you consider the potential of how great an Aronofsky directed biblical epic could be. Even with the likes of Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson and Anthony Hopkins, this picture failed to take off and is therefore the undisputed worst of the bunch.
Aronofsky’s now timeless stamp on his pictures was first illustrated in his debut feature Pi, in 1998. Choosing to shoot the movie in black and white gave the film a classic noir feel, lending itself to the tense nature of the script and the thriller genre it categorised itself as. Perhaps the most accurate illustration of Aronofsky as an artist due to its incredibly low budget and independent production, Pi is a must see for any fan of Aronofsky’s work. While it may not be the most popular, or indeed the best, Pi is still steps above Noah and a very close number 5 in this list.
4. The Fountain
The Fountain is a sleeper of a movie. By “sleeper” I mean two things. The first is that it’s a sleeper because everybody enjoys The Fountain, but nobody deems it their favourite film. The second is because it takes a while to get in to. The thing is, The Fountain is a really good movie that once you get into can really explore the parts in all of us that long for answers, exploration, love, and so on. Furthermore, it’s the first on this list that can base a lot of its success on the now famed trope of all Aronofsky films: Pacing. Like a Johnny Cash song, Aronofsky’s films play asif a train hurtling down a hill with no brakes, increasing in speed all the while. The Fountain then fantastically portrays this within a story of belief, fantasy, science and love, to earn it a spot ahead of Pi at number four in this list.
3. The Wrestler
Perhaps the most heart-wrenching film of the lot, The Wrestler is a story of a bad man come good in a world where everything outside of the ropes hurts a whole lot more than what happens inside of them. Mickey Rourke’s performance is a standout piece of Aronofsky’s puzzle no doubt, but the director’s success at using different techniques to his usual repertoire to make The Wrestler feel like a film about hard-hits and a character who ws physically and emotionally laid bare, was evidence of his talents, making The Wrestler a deserved 3rd place in this list.
2. Black Swan
Aronofsky’s 2010 picture The Black Swan, starring Natalie Portman, illustrated the mastery of Aronofsky as a writer and director as it illustrated so much more of Aronofsky’s talents than The Wrestler did while still having the somewhat trademarked cynicism that his other work possessed. The Black Swan was another exploration of the darker sides of the human condition and became an illustration of the search for perfection, winning the director his first Academy Award and making this film the very close runner up in this week’s Ranked.
1. Requiem For A Dream
If you ask most people to name a Darren Aronofsky film, they’ll tell you Requiem For A Dream. The director’s second feature length, released in 2000, was a dark tale of addiction and the less glamorous side of drugs (among other things). Throughout the 102 minute run-time, Aronofsky presents some of the most vulgar acts imaginable while not shifting from his honest portrayals of the human condition, making for a hard watch that you just can’t take your eyes away from. Perhaps the movie with the best pacing of the lot, Requiem For A Dream is presented as if a drug is hitting you all so slightly before consuming you all at once. In many circles, mine included, this picture can be considered among the very best to come out in the West since the turn of the millennium and is undoubtedly the greatest ever Darren Aronofsky film.
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