5. Cinderella Man (2005)
Ron Howard’s partnership with Russell Crowe was a fruitful one in the 2000s. The director, whose career had previously been remembered for largely comedic fare, had turned directly into drama at the turn of the century with A Beautiful Mind (also starring Crowe) and he looked to build on his dramatic chops through a reunion with arguably the most critically acclaimed leading star of the decade on Cinderella Man, a film best remembered for its incredible lead performance but also put together with an astute precision that helped to solidify Howard as an artist. This is perhaps the first true drama, at least in the typical Oscars sense, of this list; an often overlooked boxing movie nominated for 3 Oscars and a BAFTA.
Careful, as from here on out things get serious…
4. Rush (2013)
It’s hard to argue against Rush being the greatest Formula 1 based drama in cinema history. It may even be at the top of many a list regarding greatest ever motorsport movies. Howard simply captured the tension and animosity between two of Formula One’s greatest rivals Niki Lauda (left) and James Hunt (right) with a level of sophistication that didn’t undermine the sport or commercialise the real-life rivalry, but instead focused on the drama of a man (Hunt – played by Hemsworth) struggling to come to terms with himself in much the same way as his polar opposite – his great rival – Niki Lauda was in a completely different way. Rush was tense, engrossing and the epitome of what filmmakers should aim to put to screen when handling such sensitive material; one of the director’s best ever works.
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3. Frost/Nixon (2008)
In 2008/2009, nobody could shut up about Frost/Nixon. Howard’s film had come at a time before the small trend of talk show dramas had begun, possibly even kicking the trend off, and the cleverness through which the script had tackled its subject matter – and the incredibly famous people at the centre of it – was fresh and enticing. Howard was on a role, hitting Frost/Nixon off the back of A Beautiful Mind, Cinderella Man and the hugely successful Da Vinci Code, and it seems that was appreciated at the very highest level of film criticism, with many a review raving about its intricate presentation of tension and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences offering it 5 Oscar nominations, including Howard’s 2nd directing nomination following his win for another film yet to come on this list…