Ben Affleck has long been a filmmaker scrutinised in front of the camera, behind the camera and in his personal life, making the very idea of Affleck as a celebrity perhaps even more powerful than the idea of Affleck as an artist. Even so, he can proudly boast the titles of actor, screenwriter, producer and director across his topsy-turvy twenty plus year career, and even has a few BAFTAs and Oscars to show for it.
Recently, the public perception of Affleck has changed once again from a renaissance man on the cusp of a great directorial career courtesy of back to back critical successes, to a man once again entangled with his own vices and a directorial career in question following a huge financial flop and his ousting from the directors chair for Warner Bros’ hotly anticipated The Batman.
In this edition of Ranked, we’re looking at the four Ben Affleck directorial efforts released thus far in his career and ranking them from worst to best based on artistic merit, critical reception and public perception, for this: Ben Affleck Movies Ranked
4. Live By Night (2017)
The biggest financial flop of Affleck’s directorial career, Live By Night was so damned by audiences that it ultimately lost Affleck his place in the director’s chair for his own Batman movie. The crime drama, centred around New York and Florida gangs during the prohibition era, starred Affleck in the lead role alongside a plethora of talented names including Brendan Gleeson, Elle Fanning, Zoe Saldana and Chris Messina, the latter of whom believed so much in the project that he gained 40 pounds to play his character Dion Bartolo. The stacked cast – a feature of each of Affleck’s directorial pieces to date – wasn’t enough to bring in audiences, and the expected awards season push didn’t come, leaving many prominent voices to exclaim that the film was “like a ghost of a sensational movie” and “the worst of his excellent filmography to date”.
Live By Night is far from a bad film, but given its subject matter and the lack of popularity for gangster films in the modern era, it had to be nigh-on impossibly great to be greeted with open arms by audiences and critics, and it simply wasn’t that. It is, as of this date, Affleck’s worst directed feature, though that is far from the criticism it may be in other editions of Ranked; a fact that pays testament to Affleck’s overall quality of work in the director’s chair.
3. Gone Baby Gone (2007)
Affleck’s 2007 release, starring brother Casey Affleck and big-screen legends Ed Harris and Morgan Freeman, marked the writer-director’s first writing work (aside from a brief stint on the team that brought Push, Nevada to the small screen) since his Oscar winning story for 1997’s Good Will Hunting.
The drama-thriller, set against the backdrop of the director’s home town of Boston, marked the first of his entanglements with the morality of crime and the policing of it, as Casey Affleck’s Patrick Kenzie volunteered himself and his partner (Michelle Monaghan) to track down a young girl who had been kidnapped, inevitably getting caught under the strain of the task he had set upon his family. The movie, which features some powerful acting and a plot twist worthy of some of Affleck’s most respected peers, won critical praise across the board for its brooding and challenging material that honestly explored the limits of humanity in a way that seemed reminiscent of his first major success on Good Will Hunting.
Ranking in third place courtesy only of the quality of his other two pictures, Gone Baby Gone is a very good watch for anyone interested in seeing the potential of Affleck’s work and surely must be considered the turning point in his career; the first of his major artistic contributions to cinema.