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!
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.