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All 7 Darren Aronofsky Movies Ranked From Worst To Best

01 May 2017 | Features, Film Lists | by Justin Gunterman

Darren Aronofsky’s filmography may be small, but it’s also consistently solid. Even at his worst, Aronofsky still manages to create films with profound messages. His ability to experiment with different genres and filmmaking techniques is admirable. More importantly, his knack for capturing the darker side of life is almost unprecedented. Whether he’s making a movie about ballet or mathematics, Aronofsky always finds a way to deliver a melancholy story filled to the brim with depth.

Before the release of his upcoming horror-drama film mother!, it’s worth looking back at his tremendous filmography to evaluate which of his six movies is the strongest. Let it be known that each movie is worth a watch. The goal is to figure out which one is most worthy of attention. Not everything is created equal. Not even Aronofsky movies.

 

7. Noah

Noah (2014)

The response to Aronofsky’s last film has been polarizing to say the least, and it’s easy to see why. His first crack at the blockbuster genre did reasonably well critically, but the general public didn’t treat it quite as kindly.

The movie was accused of whitewashing a multicultural story, and the creative choices made by Aronofsky were also somewhat controversial. Even with the positive critical reception, it still failed to earn the same type of acclaim as his previous two films. Financial success aside, it definitely felt like a step in the wrong direction after the release of two critical darlings.

The controversy isn’t the only thing bringing Noah down in terms of quality. The movie is ultimately too ambitious for its own good. The tone is uneven, the characters are bland, and the big budget fails to mask the fact that the movie lacks thought-provoking ideas. Russell Crowe is a force to be reckoned with, but not even he can save the movie from a flawed narrative. His latest movie isn’t an unmitigated disaster, but it’s certainly a disappointment.

Fans of Aronofsky should still give Noah a look as long as they keep their expectations in check. The beautiful visuals and top-notch cast help distract from some of the more frustrating moments. These frustrating moments remain difficult to ignore, but they’re slightly more forgivable as a result of the more positive aspects. It’s a shame that Noah had to follow two of Aronofsky’s most memorable films, but certain viewers should be able to find value despite the evident flaws.

 

6. The Fountain

Hugh Jackman in The Fountain

Aronofsky’s worst reviewed film is, to some degree, an underrated gem. It’s definitely less intelligence than it probably thinks, but it’s a fascinating ride nonetheless. It’s probably Aronofsky’s most ambitious film to this very day, so the fact that it occasionally stumbles isn’t entirely mind-blowing.

From the multi-layered narrative to the visuals littered with symbolism, The Fountain has a tendency to bite off more than it can chew. The tonal shifts are distracting, the story is muddled, and editing is hit-or-miss. However, when the movie is at its best, it’s a dazzling tale about mortality and humanity.

The multi-layered narrative consists of three stories taking place in the past, present, and future. Each of these stories has to do with immortality and grief. The interwoven themes are what drive the narrative forward. It’s a novel idea, but it’s also a risky one. For the most part, the risk luckily pays off.

The stories are so different that the constant tonal shifts ultimately damper the quality of the film. Ignoring the inconsistent tone, The Fountain uses its three stories to convey intelligent ideas. Aronofsky has a lot on his mind, and he does his best to shove it all into this strange fantasy adventure.

Originally, Aronofsky envisioned a much bigger movie featuring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. Instead, he had to settle for a smaller budget with a different cast. The good news is that Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz do a marvelous job in their roles. Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of the grieving husband is crushing, and Rachel Weisz never ceases to surprise the viewer.

In terms of the visuals, the smaller budget never seems to take away from the unique effects. The smaller scale is only noticeable when you look at the length of the film. Though Aronofsky intended for the film to be something of an epic, the 96 minute runtime hardly feels epic. Instead, it often feels rushed. It seems as if everybody is trying to jam in as much content as possible. It’s a shame that Aronofsky never got to release a proper director’s cut.

If anything, The Fountain is an inconsistent work of art. It represents what people have come to expect for Aronofsky. It’s a little messy, but it has big ideas that are presented to viewers in unique ways. If Aronofsky were given the creative freedom he sought, would this be his greatest achievement? It’s hard to tell. Regardless, it’s still an interesting experiment.

 

5. Pi

pi 1998

Aronofsky hasn’t always been able to make his surreal movies approachable for mainstream audiences. His directorial debut is as strange as it is thought provoking, but its appeal is limited. If the grainy black and white cinematography doesn’t drive casual moviegoers away, then the chaotic math centered story can easily get the job done. Unlike Black Swan, Pi is unable to present complex ideas while simultaneously telling an accessible story. Basically, the movie is too damn weird.

Luckily, a movie’s quality is not determined by whether or not it can reach a wide audience. If that were the case, then The Tree of Life wouldn’t have been able to earn a Best Picture nomination. Pi may not be the best movie for a first date, but it’s more than capable of appealing to its target audience. People looking for an unconventional surrealist thriller will find a lot to love in this tiny package.

Aronofsky uses his bizarre story to make statements about religion, obsession, and the quest for perfection. Each subsequent viewing reveals a little more about what the film is attempting to tell the audience. The movie is undoubtedly tied to the subject of mathematics, but that particular subject exists only to further strengthen the underlying themes. This kind of philosophical depth is precisely what makes the movie such an artistic achievement.

Pi fails to reach the upper-half of the list if only because it has a tendency to feel slightly amateurish. Given the fact that it’s Aronofsky’s first movie, that shouldn’t be too surprising. The forgettable performances and clumsy editing can definitely bring down the overall experience, especially when you compare the movie to something like Black Swan. When viewed as a directorial debut, it’s unfair to put too much emphasis on the more technical aspects. The movie may lack polish, but it’s never short on interesting ideas.

 

4. mother!

Mother!

mother! is, without a doubt, Aronofsky’s most polarizing movie to date. Considering just how surreal his filmography is, that’s quite an achievement. The main issue with the film is that it was advertised as a horror movie when in reality it’s a far more psychological affair. Fans of Aronofsky should have known he wouldn’t release a straightforward horror movie, but the symbolism is pretty heavy-handed even for him. Basically, the studio decided to give an arthouse movie a wide release and people looking for an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride were disappointed. This is likely why the film earned an F Cinemascore while critical reviews were far more favorable.

Those willing to come in with an open mind, and those willing to ignore basically every trailer and plot synopsis, will have a much better time than viewers who come in expecting what was shown in the trailers. The marketing for mother! was disastrous, but it’s actually a thought-provoking thriller that’s both introspective and totally bonkers. It’s not scary by any means, but that’s because it’s not supposed to be. It’s a long, gleefully entertaining extended metaphor that’s a treat for people willing to put up with Aronofsky’s lunacy.

This isn’t to say that people who don’t end up enjoying the movie don’t understand the underlying themes. Actually, those who felt misled by the promotional material are more likely to be disappointed than those who just don’t get it. To be fair, the viewers who didn’t get the movie they expected have every right to be disappointed. mother! only vaguely resembles the movie it seemed to be, but it has certain aspects that can be appreciated regardless of one’s thoughts on the plot and genre. The cast is phenomenal, the production design is beautiful, and some of the more intense scenes are jaw dropping. In other words, it’s hardly the failure it appears to be regardless of the questionable marketing.

There are plenty of people who hate mother!, and that’s perfectly fine, but there are just as many people who find it to be a borderline masterpiece. This particular author falls within the latter category. The symbolism may be in-your-face and the lack of actual thrills may be disappointing, but the film remains a memorable experience. Only Aronofsky’s twisted mind could come up with something so strange and enjoyable.

 

 

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  • Icanwalkonsand

    6. Pi
    5.RFAD
    4.The Fountain
    3. Noah
    2.Black Swan
    1. The Wrestler

  • John Carvalho

    1. The Wrestler
    2. Requiem for a Dream
    3. Black Swan
    4. Pi
    5. Noah
    6. The Fountain

    • Agreed, Wrestler is his best flick. Time has exposed Requiem for not being as outstanding as originally believed.
      Pi suffers from production quality, but is a great film.

  • shane scott-travis

    Requiem for a Dream isn’t THAT good, people. It’s certainly not as visionary or as inspired as The Fountain or Black Swan.
    And yes, Noah is rubbish.

    • Gilles Ello

      I agree that The Fountain is a remarkable film.

  • Gilles Ello

    1. The Fountain
    2. Black Swan
    3. The Wrestler
    4. Requiem for a Dream
    5. Pi
    6. Noah

  • For me,

    1. The Wrestler
    2. Requiem for a Dream
    3. Black Swan
    4. Pi
    5. Noah
    6. The Fountain

    • Gilles Ello

      Boo!

  • colonelkurtz

    Requiem is overrated. It’s just too obvious, in a way, and it pounds its themes constantly. Black Swan I found much more interesting, and Wrestler was like the masculine version of Black Swan, but still more nuanced than Requiem (still a good film, but just not that good).

  • AmazingAmy

    Black Swan and Wrestler are top choices edpecially Black Swan… it’s really made me sick when i watched it first time

    Noah certainly worst but still better than many bad films. Fountain is most underapreciated. And Rourke should won his oscar but hard to argue when Sean Penn also delivered one of best performances that year like Rourke.

  • etc

    Fountain should be #1. I am confident that in the long run it will take its place besides 2001 A space odyssey, Apocalypse Now, etc. A tragically underrated film, with critics too bored, or simply not clever enough, to really understand and appreciate it.

    • stavrosperi

      I couldn’t agree more with you.In my opinion, everything in this film, directing,visuals,soundtrack,acting,philosophical questions raised is superb.The best Aronofsky movie and one of the best movies ever made.Pure poetry.

    • Lore

      I posted that I felt the Fountain should be 1 above… before I saw this, seriously- It’s tied as my just- favorite movie with Children of Men- thing is, with The Fountain- it was something I used to see how I was feeling about a close death in the family… a case where I had been trying to get him a transplant, was applying to places, learning what criteria was as we went- every time I was in the hospital with him I thought “I could be saving him now”, (So not even being fully present for many visits) every time I was working on getting copies made, filling and sending out applications, researching best bets- I would think “He’s alone, and may die alone”… And then he did end up dying alone (though in the middle of the night), and a week later I got a call approving him for a transplant.

      Sooooo- that’s definitely part of why I connect fairly strongly to the movie in general…

      But depending on my mindset, it changed how I saw the story- there’s like, 6 distinct different ways of looking at the story from my own views that change here and there, and my friends’- and you can combine a bunch of ideas together.

      If you look around you can get an idea of what Aronofsky aimed for, and how Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weiz felt about it (they did an interview together when he was in a makeup chair, where they both admitted publicly they would say it was about love, but really talked about the movie as a whole)- but sometimes what the creators felt when they wrote and made something, can be different than the take away.

      I can’t like Black Swan or The Wrestler more (I’m not saying they’re bad, I loved them too)- because I feel he felt he needed to make it more obvious after The Fountain canned… and I think that’s a shame.

  • George Eskiadis

    1.Requiem
    2.Wrestler
    3.BlackSwan
    4.Fountain
    5.Pi
    6.Noah

  • Gandalf leWhite

    one thing Darren cant do big budget films

  • Nelsonoca Galvis

    Top really hard, for me the first three could be tied, many accuse Black Swan of copying to Perfect blue, but it seems to me that it is not well to discredit it, because although both appear in several aspects are also very different in others and their Conclusions and resolutions are very different

  • I love Requiem, but Black Swan deserves #1

  • 1. The Fountain (Probably the best but most underrated) Great if only for the Jackman Burstyn master class in a two handed acting scene.
    2. Pi
    3. Black Swan
    4. Wrestler
    5. Requiem For A Dream
    6. Noah

  • glebsky

    does watching Aronofsky’s oovrah make you feel like, deep?

  • Ramiro Touceda

    PI deserves a better postion.

  • Lore

    Totally disagree about The Fountain- depending on where you personally stand on death of loved ones and such- you can find it inspiring or depressing- based on my mind set I’ve seen it 3 different ways, and I’ve had other friends see it an additional 3 other ways too… and the ways can be combined.

    It’s also more open to debate than others, and I do think he decided to play it safer and be more obvious in his messages after it canned.

    Personally I think it’s the best of his movies, hands down- in every way…