Brooklyn native Darren Aronofksy was playfully described by legendary film director Martin Scorsese as “disturbing” upon the release of his debut feature Pi in 1998, the would-be champion of anti-establishment independents slamming home his unique and often off-putting sensibilities from the off, making a name for himself as a standout filmmaker for the decades to come even at a time when the likes of Quentin Tarantino, Christopher Nolan, Kevin Smith and Guillermo Del Toro were bursting onto the scene. Over the twenty-plus years since, Aronofsky has continued to shock and awe audiences in every one of his six further projects, making a name for himself as one of the most challenging auteurs in contemporary American cinema, his every release becoming an event in of itself as he continues to establish one of the great directorial catalogues of the home video era.
The director’s films are said to be “connected by destructive dreamers” and are often interpreted as being representative of the less glamourous side of the American Dream, and though their challenging contents have never been far from controversy or divisiveness, they have also more often than not been received with immense praise from critics and film industry professionals, Aronofksy now being a BAFTa, César and Oscar nominated director.
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. In this edition of Ranked, we’re taking a look at all seven of them and judging each on their artistic merits and cultural significance to bring you every Darren Aronofsky directed movie in order from worst to best.
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7. Noah (2014)
In perhaps the only major misstep of his directorial career thus far, Darren Aronofsky moved away from his psychological ruminations and explorations regarding the pursuit of the American Dream to tell his imagining of the bible’s Noah’s Ark story.
Any take on the bible is always going to ruffle a few feathers, but when this project was announced in the immediate aftermath of the director’s double Oscar-pushes with Black Swan and The Wrestler, few could have anticipated how much of a universal bomb this 2014 film was going to be.
Noah ended up regaining its losses in the domestic market at the international box office, but it was critically maligned as boring and with a message much less clear and intricate than any of the director’s previous work.
Perhaps Aronofsky saw the old testament tale as intrinsic to the American way and sought to unravel that connection, or perhaps this was just a first step into confronting religious material and his own connection to it (with Mother! yet to come), but the potential of this project far exceeded what was actually put to screen, Aronofsky’s all-star cast of Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, Ray Winstone and Anthony Hopkins buried under the weight of expectation and Aronofsky’s first truly self-involved cinematic offering.
6. Pi (1998)
Aronofsky’s now timeless stamp on the film industry was first illustrated in his debut feature Pi, in 1998.
Choosing to shoot the movie in black and white gave the film a timeless feel in a literal sense, but also lent itself to the sensibilities of Film Noir and thus emphasised the tense nature of the script, making for as unique of a thriller as the 90s could offer and becoming another piece from the American independents to proudly adopt the styles of foreign filmmakers from previous generations.
Perhaps the most accurate illustration of Aronofsky as an artist due to its low budget and truly independent production, Pi is a must see for any fan of Aronofsky’s work and absolutely astonishing in comparison to Noah. While it may not be the most popular or indeed the best of Darren Aronofsky’s career, Pi is still a noteworthy and much adored entry in the director’s filmography; as great of a number six as you’ll find in any Ranked list.