5 best and worst Ron Howard-directed movies, according to Rotten Tomatoes

Not every movie can be a hit — but some of them sure can!

Image: The Everett Collection

While we know little Ronny Howard around here as the adorable Opie from The Andy Griffith Show, it's not exactly a secret that the former child star has made just as much — if not more — impact behind the camera than in front of it. He's directed holiday classics, hard-hitting biopics, and sci-fi epics during his career.

Today we thought we'd take a look at his five (well, six... we'll explain) best and five worst movies, according to the website Rotten Tomatoes, which collects reviews from a variety of respected critical sources to give each film a percentage. 

Movies that couldn't get a percentage don't count, and we're only looking at the movies that Howard directed. So let's take a look at the highs and lows of his incredible career!

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Tied for fourth best — Rebuilding Paradise

What? What about fifth? Well, the fourth highest-rated movies in Howard's direction all claimed an impressive 93%. In lieu of trying to pick and choose, we're just listing them as a tie and giving Howard an extra best movie slot — he's earned it.

This 2020 documentary directed and produced by Howard follows the town of Paradise, California attempting to rebuild after the devastating California wildfires in 2018. Specifically, the Camp Fire, known as the most destructive wildfire in California history. Howard's story of a community pulling together in the face of losing everything gathered a 93% rating and a "Certified Fresh" label.

Fifth worst — Grand Theft Auto

Unrelated to the video game franchise, this was Howard's directorial debut on a feature film. The story about a young couple on a road trip/car chase trying to elope didn't quite charm the critics, getting only a 29%. However, the movie more than made back its budget, just over $600k, when it raked in over $15 million at the box office. Howard had proved that he could bring in the bank.

Tied for fourth best — Night Shift

Another early Ron Howard-directed movie, this one cast his Happy Days co-star Henry Winkler alongside Michael Keaton in his first starring role. Playing the tight-laced staight man was a break from character for Winkler, who had previously played cool, tough guys like The Fonz. Winkler chose to step out of his comfort zone, and what resulted got a 93% and established Howard as a director to watch out for.

Fourth worst — Hillbilly Elegy

Now here's proof that a low critic score doesn't mean that a movie is disliked. While Howard's 2020 film only scraped up a 25% rating, the audience score sits at a not-too-shabby 83%. Critics called it a "bland melodrama", but praised Glenn Close and Amy Adams for their performances. Close even picked up a Best Supporting Oscar nomination for the film.

Tied for fourth best — Frost/Nixon

We're down to the last of the 93% tied contenders. This 2008 historical drama was based on a play and even brought back the two original actors from the play's Broadway run, Michael Sheen and Frank Langella. While it didn't do so well financially, only getting its budget back by a thin margin, the film picked up five Oscar nominations — including Best Director for Howard.

Third worst — The Da Vinci Code

Critics couldn't make head or tail of this Tom Hanks mystery thriller. Perhaps it's more famous for the controversy that followed its release, much like the book it was based on. Despite only gaining a 25% rating, the film obliterated the box office, becoming the second-highest grossing movie of 2006, and Howard's highest-grossing movie to date. 

Third best — The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years

This 2016 documentary followed The Beatles from 1962 to 1966, their touring years. From their early performances in Liverpool to their final concert in San Francisco, this documentary boasts "unearthed fan footage and gorgeously restored concert clips". Howard had the cooperation of the surviving Beatles, Paul and Ringo, as well as the widows and family of John and George. This treat for any classic music fan earned a whopping 96%.

Second worst — The Dilemma

The Guardian declared this 2011 movie "rather less fun than a badly executed coronary bypass." Starring Vince Vaughn and Kevin James, this movie about a man discovering his best friend's wife's affair and struggling with if he should tell his friend or not is billed as a dark comedy. Consensus seems to be that it either wasn't dark enough, or comedic enough, but instead lingered in an uncomfortable area in-between. It only garnered 24%.

Second best — Apollo 13

What is there to say about this movie that hasn't already been said? Some consider this Howard's best work to date. The based-on-a-true-story 1995 film starring Tom Hanks and Kevin Bacon held number one at the box office for four weeks and was the third-highest grossing movie of the year. It was nominated for nine Oscars, including Best Picture, and walked away with two. At a 96% rating, it's hard to get much better.

Worst — Inferno

This movie closed out the trilogy started with Howard's The Da Vinci Code, and didn't fare much better than the original as far as the Rotten Tomatoes score (interestingly, the middle movie, Angels & Demons, was better received at 37%). Critics called it overly convoluted and underwhelming. It currently sits at the lowest score of movies that Howard has directed — 23%. However, for someone as prolific as Ron Howard, it's impressive that his lowest score is still... not really all that low. 

Best — We Feed People

Is this one unfamiliar to you? It won't be for long. This 2022 documentary follows chef José Andrés and his nonprofit, World Central Kitchen, as they go from a bunch of wide-eyed volunteers to one of the most highly-regarded humanitarian aid organizations in disaster relief. Critics hailed the documentary as stirring, motivating and evidence that one person can still make a difference in the world. "It’s easy to give in to despair," the Los Angeles Times noted. "What 'We Feed People' makes clear is that you can help with a simple, small act of empathy." Currently, We Feed People has the rare distinction of a perfect 100% score. 

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boobs 10 hours ago
Where is In The Heart Of The Sea?! Outstanding effort
bagandwallyfan52 1 day ago
Richie and Fonzie try to catch
The Kissing Bandit!!
bagandwallyfan52 1 day ago
Who the heck is Ed PECK?
Ed Peck played Officer Kirk on Happy Days and Officer Kirk
tried to run Fonzie out of town!!
BrianMoore 7 days ago
To be fair, no one could make those Dan Brown books enjoyable.
Anthonyk 7 days ago
Going off of rotten tomatoes only?
Sdgrisetti 7 days ago
Not even a mention of "A Beautiful Mind", 2001's Best Picture winner?!!
madmark1 7 days ago
I can’t believe they didn’t list Cocoon as one of the best that was probably one of Ron Howard’s best movies and I cannot believe it was not even listed
Onfireformetv 8 days ago
I’ve never even heard of We Feed People. I’ll have to check that out.
lynngdance 9 days ago
Well, since this article vaguely mentioned the Beatles......it’s time for an off-topic Beatles post!!!

Here are some quite obscure Beatles songs, that are AWESOME, but are not even on one of their original albums (Except for the later-released Anthology and Live At The BBC)


(Sorry, came across these a few years ago, but was listening to them recently and couldn’t help but post 😄)
F5Twitster 9 days ago
"Perhaps it's more famous for the controversy that followed its release, much like the book it was based off of."

You mean the book it was based ON or, if you prefer, from which it was adapted. You do this twice. STOP IT.
HockeyMike 9 days ago
"Night Shift" is really funny. Michael Keaton is hysterical. Funny movie...and, during the end credits, Rod Stewart sings the original "That`s What Friends Are For"...before Dionne Warwick, Elton, Gladys & Stevie did their version. Too bad Ron Howard turned out to be an a_s, like Rob Reiner. Howard had a Happy Days reunion but wouldn`t let Scott Baio "Chachi" attend because he didn`t support the Dems.
Mike 9 days ago
I dont care what anyone says but every Christmas I have to watch “Dr Suess How the Grinch Stole Christmas” That to me is his best film as its become a tradition for me and my family.
Michael Mike 8 days ago
I've been watching it since 1966. The animation andsongs are wonderful.

There was never a need to remake it.
lefty418 9 days ago
Where does Cocoon stand in the ratings - one of my all time favorites!
Michael lefty418 9 days ago
Coccoon and Splash and others. There were "good" films on this list I never heard of.
PernellDH Michael 7 days ago
Ron Howard also directed, Backdraft, Apollo 13, and The Paper.
Michael PernellDH 4 days ago
A cavalcade of movies!
kkvegas PernellDH 2 days ago
The Paper is one of my favorite movies, but I don't think a lot people saw it.
SteveAcra 9 days ago
This proves that Rotten Tomatoes is a useless guide to films.
MarshaStapleton 9 days ago
Excuse me -- what happened to "Cocoon"?
My thoughts exactly!
As I recall the old people went with the aliens. And then they return in the sequel.

It's always weird to see Wilfrid Brimley clean shaven. He loojs much younger.
Zip 10 days ago
I've said it before and I'll say it again...
Cotton Candy.
And it didn't even make the worst list. How?!
cperrynaples Zip 9 days ago
Well, most people forget TV movies from the '70's UNLESS it's a classic like Trilogy Of Terror!
MarkSpeck cperrynaples 9 days ago
Not to mention Bad Ronald, That Certain Summer, Brian's Song, The Execution of Private Slovik, etc.
cperrynaples MarkSpeck 9 days ago
Well , I disagree on Bad Ronald but yes a lot of great movies! Sadly, most TV movies fell out of copyright, so they're lost! One great movie I just remembered: The Girl Most Likely To written by Joan Rivers and starring a young Stockard Channing! A great dark comedy about revenge that deserves a remake!
MrsPhilHarris 10 days ago
Apollo 13 is the Ron Howard movie I can watch over and over again.
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Yes, all those things and the music, too. They did a really good job making it seem authentic.
I am glad you mentioned that. I will be showing Apollo 13 to the group either Tuesday's extra movie, Friday or Saturday bonus movie.
CaptainDunsel daDoctah 7 days ago
I'm not arguing that with you.
MrsPhilHarris Jaxter14 6 days ago
I ‘ve heard of it but never saw it. It seems to me I remember hearing about some crazy Jello-type recipes on the show.
327053 10 days ago
Out of all these I’ve only seen Apollo 13
I would like to see the one with the Fonz. Aayyyy!!!
TheDavBow3 10 days ago
I thought Night Shift was really funny. Michael Keaton was great. I love The Beatles. Apollo 13 was great! The rest either are or kinda seem boring.
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