1. Apollo 13 (1995)

IMDB: 7.6/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 96%

Storyline:

Apollo 13, directed by Ron Howard, is a dramatic reenactment of the 1970 Apollo 13 lunar mission. The action begins when an oxygen tank aboard the spacecraft explodes, cutting the mission short and threatening the lives of three astronauts, Jim Lovell, Fred Haise, and Jack Swigert. The film is a nail-biting account of the massive efforts by NASA to bring the brave astronauts home safely.

This film played a major role in Howard’s career for its exceptional realism and storytelling. By blending factual narrative and human drama, Howard creates a highly engaging film shot like a documentary, which gives the audience frontline seats to one of the most dramatic everts in NASA’s history. This is a true story told in a way that maintains historical accuracy while exploring the human spirit’s durability and heroism.

Howard’s realistic and user-friendly approach to creating the sense of danger and urgency helped the film to be a box office hit, grossing over $355 million. Apollo 13 also highlights Howard’s ability to simultaneously handle technical details and human elements of storytelling, contributing to its receiving nine Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director.

2. A Beautiful Mind (2001)

IMDB: 8.2/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 74%

Storyline:

A Beautiful Mind, directed by Ron Howard, is the fictionalized story of the famous mathematician John Nash. It starts with his days at Princeton as a bright, if socially awkward, graduate student and follows him as he develops symptoms of schizophrenia. The film is just as much about his struggle to maintain a semblance of normality in spite of his disease as it is about his mathematical genius.

The movie is a significant piece in Howard’s filmography as it tested his prowess in portraying the complexity of mental illness on the screen. He courageously deviates from the falsely romanticized image of the mad genius and provides a more realistic representation of schizophrenia, which makes the story more tragic and compelling.

A Beautiful Mind further cements Howard’s iconic status as it won him the Academy Award for Best Director. It also showcases his knack for dealing with intense human drama, drawing the audience into Nash’s world and making them feel the pain, miseries, struggles, and eventually, the triumph. The movie also shines a light on Howard’s ability to blend truth with fiction to create a riveting narrative that touches the viewers on numerous levels.

3. Cinderella Man (2005)

IMDB: 8/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 80%

Storyline:

This sports drama directed by Howard tells the true story of James J. Braddock, a washed-up boxer who becomes an unexpected hero during the Great Depression. By winning something as menial as a boxing match, Braddock instills hope and solidarity among the desperate population, proving that anyone can pick themselves up, even when the odds are stacked against them.

In Cinderella Man, Howard successfully brings his expertise in historical dramas to bear, creating a period piece that’s honest, emotional, and inspirational. The film vividly captures the essence of the era, thanks to Howard’s astute attention to detail and expressive storytelling.

Through not only examining Braddock’s rise from the ashes but also his heartwarming family dynamic and the socio-economic desperation of the time, Cinderella Man became a major depiction of resilience against adversity. This resulted in three Oscar nominations, confirming Howard’s status as an exceptional filmmaker capable of capturing the pivotal moments of individuals and society in an engaging manner.

4. Frost/Nixon (2008)

IMDB: 7.7/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 93%

Storyline:

Frost/Nixon recounts the infamous series of interviews between British talk-show host David Frost and disgraced American President Richard Nixon, three years after the Watergate scandal. The interviews, which Nixon hoped would salvage his reputation, turned into an intense verbal battle, making the film a gripping and unique political drama.

Howard’s skill at weaving true stories into compelling cinema shines in Frost/Nixon. Using minimal set pieces and relying almost entirely on character interactions, Howard explores the complex dynamics of power, accountability, and redemption.

Frost/Nixon is a notable film in Howard’s career as it demonstrates his ability to handle political drama exceptionally well. It earned five Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director, further validating Howard’s finesse in diverse movie genres and contributing significantly to his standing as an accomplished filmmaker.

5. The Da Vinci Code (2006)

IMDB: 6.6/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 26%

Storyline:

The Da Vinci Code, directed by Howard, is a gripping thriller based on Dan Brown’s best-selling novel. The film follows Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon as he uncovers controversial secrets concealed within the works of Leonardo Da Vinci, leading him on a labyrinthine adventure through European history.

Despite its low ratings and critical backlash, The Da Vinci Code remains an important film in Howard’s career. It was a massive commercial success, grossing more than $758 million worldwide. This was largely due to Howard’s astute translation of Brown’s complex narrative into an engaging piece of cinematic art.

Moreover, Howard’s ambition in tackling religious conspiracy theories distinguished The Da Vinci Code from previous conservative adventure narratives. The film’s exploration of symbology, theology, and conspiracy, combined with Howard’s deft conflict handling, gave audiences something different, establishing Howard’s aptitude for ambitious storytelling and narrative complexity.

6. Rush (2013)

IMDB: 8.1/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 88%

Storyline:

Rush provides a fascinating insight into the high-octane world of Formula-1 racing. It revolves around the intense rivalry between charismatic playboy James Hunt and the methodical Niki Lauda during the 1976 championship. Howard brilliantly captures the thrill, danger, and glamour of motorsport, spicing it up with personal enmity, ego clashes, and life-risking determination.

In Rush, Howard once again exhibits his prowess in converting a real-life event into a gripping cinematic narrative. The element of rivalry in the movie brings out the passion, obsession and determination of the characters providing an edge-of-the-seat experience.

Rush is a major leap in Howard’s directorial career as it combines high-voltage action with an emotionally complex plot. It received widespread critical acclaim for its narratives, performances and usage of special effects to bring the 70s era of Formula-1 alive. This motorsport drama further solidifies Howard’s reputation as a diverse and versatile filmmaker.

7. Splash (1984)

IMDB: 6.3/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 92%

Storyline:

Splash is a romantic comedy that tells the story of a man (Tom Hanks) who falls in love with a beautiful woman (Daryl Hannah), whose big secret is that she’s actually a mermaid. In this unique love story, Howard effortlessly intertwines fantasy, romance, and humor to create a thoroughly entertaining film.

The significance of Splash in Howard’s career lies in that it’s his breakout movie as a director. Howard flawlessly utilizes the diverse talents of his lead actors to create a delightful blend of comedy, romance, and fantasy which caters to all ages and tastes.

Splash signifies that Howard can indeed successfully handle nuanced human interaction and comedy. Receiving critical and commercial success, it helped establish Howard as a capable filmmaker who can explore, mix, and balance different genres. It’s an early example of the broad range of Howard’s directorial capabilities that would be more fully explored in his later films.

8. The Paper (1994)

IMDB: 6.6/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 88%

Storyline:

In The Paper, Howard likens the fast-paced, high-stress journalistic world to an action movie. A day in the life of New York City newspaper editor Henry Hackett unravels through continuous quips and nervous energy, depicting the grittier subset of the journalism industry and the balancing act imposed on journalists.

The Paper is a benchmark in Howard’s career because of its successful depiction of a hectic workplace and the individuals operating within it. By emphasizing the characters’ varied agendas, Howard draws attention to the all-encompassing chaos and vitality of a newspaper office.

Howard’s innate ability to shift tones seamlessly from comedy to more serious matters without compromising the story’s gravity is well on display in The Paper. The film reveled in the high-pressure world of journalism, its ethical conundrums, and the sometimes brittle relationships those conditions can spawn. It forms a distinctive part of Howard’s repertory with its vibrant narrative, quirky script, and stellar ensemble cast.