American filmmaker Cameron Crowe has made a career out of bringing off-beat stories to the big screen, often working against the conventions of promotable American studio cinema to offer films so bound to his quirky and effervescent stylistic signature that he has forged a unique and contemporary catalogue of films. Having only released 10 pictures across a near 30 year career, Crowe is perhaps best remembered for the period between his debut film Say Anything in 1989 and Vanilla Sky in 2001, an era in which he was the lead creative mind behind Singles, Jerry Maguire and Almost Famous. In this edition of Ranked, we have taken it upon ourselves to rank all of the filmmaker’s feature-length directorial outings from worst to best. As always, we encourage you to leave your thoughts in the comments below!
10. Aloha (2015)
Perhaps the only oversized misstep of Crowe’s career, Aloha was released in the midst of the surge in popularity for both Bradley Cooper and Emma Stone, and co-starred rising Hollywood talent Rachel McAdams, yet failed to deliver on the promise of its cast courtesy of a screenplay lacking the guts to step away from its own whimsy in order to earn the happiness of the characters or indeed its audiences. Some reviews labelled it unintelligible and others boring, but they all agreed that Aloha should be considered the worst release of Crowe’s career, and so do we.
9. Elizabethtown (2005)
Crowe’s final cut of Elizabethtown may have been better reviewed than the initial festival release version that was cut by over 18 minutes, but it remains one of the less beloved of the director’s ouevre nonetheless. It’s probably because of the poor performance from Orlando Bloom, at the time a major rising Hollywood star who was quickly being found out for his distinctive lack of depth as an actor, but a 4.7 average rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes remains somewhat of an injustice for a film that was filled with the same Croweisms that had solidified the screenwriter-director as a major player in the past. This film is hardly as bad as Aloha despite being so close to it in this list, but we imagine you’ll agree that it’s hardly as good as what’s to come.
8. The Union (2011)
This is such a fantastically well put together film that it seems unfitting of its quality to push it so far down this list, but we do so in the opinion that music documentaries – especially ones so self-congratulatory and specific to the tastes of its rather niche audience – are simply less able to tap into the zeitgeist as dramas and romances, and as such we cannot in good conscience place it above some of the pictures still to come. Even so, check this out if you’re an avid music fan or have a degree of appreciation for either of the men involved; it’s interesting and strangely uplifting.
7. Pearl Jam Twenty (2011)
Pearl Jam Twenty can be categorised in much the same way as the above listed The Union, and as such places higher on the list simply because of how Crowe manages to make the twenty years of Pearl Jam releasing music seem more universally impactful than the work in his Elton John piece. This is a film that’s better for fans than non-fans, and the film does contain the stench of a filmmaker doing something just to be considered a “cool middle-aged man”, but there is a lot to be learned and enjoyed in Twenty that makes overlooking this somewhat easier.
6. We Bought A Zoo (2011)
Based on the very true British story of a zoo opening against all the odds to universal appraisal, We Bought A Zoo is a very American tale about working hard to make something of yourself, yet it does a good enough job of steering clear of its truly cringe-worthy Americanisms to offer an uplifting film worthy of our times; a picture so solidly knitted to a pre-9/11 positivity that it was perhaps less well received than it may have been in another time or place, but was solid nonetheless.