Despite having only six films on his resume, writer-director Darren Aronofsky and his work have made a significant dent in Hollywood.
Few working filmmakers today can leave such a unique fingerprint as impressionable as Aronofsky, whose passion project Noah hits theaters Friday.
With all eyes on the Russell Crowe-starring biblical epic this weekend, we rank the movies comprising the director’s short but impressive filmography.
6. The Fountain
Set across several time periods – and lifetimes – this noble misfire from 2006 feels equal parts overstuffed and underwhelming as it struggles to be both metaphysical drama and sci-fi spectacle. That being said, Fountain features an underrated performance from Hugh Jackman, who plays the same soul (but in three different bodies) coming to terms with life, death and whatever’s beyond. Rachel Weiss is incredible as the embodiment of Jackman’s heartache and reason for living – often delivering some of the film’s best moments using nothing more than her eyes.
Like The Fountain, the director seems to find difficulty in finding narrative rewards when faced with big budgets and even bigger story scope. Noah is Aronofsky’s passion project – every director has one. And while this technical impressive achievement contains many great moments, it feels uncomfortable to label it as a great film.
Aronofsky’s first film is a gritty production. Low-budget restrictions aside, what the film lacks in polished production values it more than makes up for with its fascinating and confusing plot centered on a man struggling to evade occultlike mathematicians as he tries to make sense of a code that could unlock all of science’s secrets. If that last bit made your brain cry, then this very heady movie isn’t for you. But attention must be paid to one of the most confidently executed feature debuts in years.
3. Requiem for a Dream
Dark, bleak and holy*%@! crazy are apt descriptions of this 2000 film. Seemingly operating at the height of his unique talent, Aronofsky executes a warts-and-all adaptation of the book of the same name about addicts soul deep in the death throes of their various addictions. It’s a frightening, unflinching look at the cost vice has on a person, and one of the best films of the previous decade.
2. Black Swan
This 2010 film marks the filmmaker’s first legit box office hit, finally giving Aronofsky a chance to mesh his unique sensibilities in a way that sells tickets to mass audiences. Set against a tumultuous production of Swan Lake, Black Swan centers on two ballerinas – Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis – as reality bends and breaks around them en route to opening night. To spoil the film's twist ending here would deny one of the film’s great surprises.
And at Number 1....
1. The Wrestler
It’s like the saddest Bruce Springsteen song came to life and Aronofsky just happened to be there to film it. Hell, the Boss even provided an Oscar-nominated tune for the film, which gave Mickey Rourke a much-deserved comeback in the titular role. To call it “Rocky but with a wrestler” truly does the film a disservice. If you haven’t seen it yet, watch it. Twice. You’re welcome.
What do you think, did we get it right?