Rian Johnson is one of the top directors working in Hollywood today, although many people don’t like him due to his work in the Star Wars world.
Johnson tried to bring something new and fresh to the Star Wars franchise and turned off many older fans who have a strict outlook on what the Star Wars world should look like in their mind.
However, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is many fans’ favorite movie of the new trilogy, showing how polarizing that particular franchise is and showing how talented Johnson is when crafting a film.
Johnson had a great career before ever going to a land far, far away to tell a story there, and it is often overlooked due to his work with Star Wars.
Here is a look at Johnson’s entire career, from his television directing to his feature films, ranked.
9. Terriers – Manifest Destiny (2010)
In 2010, Rian Johnson directed an episode of the FX television series Terriers titled Manifest Destiny.
Manifest Destiny was the fifth episode of the first season of the series.
For those who have not seen the show, Terriers is a crime drama-comedy series by Ted Griffin about a former cop and recovering alcoholic (Donal Logue’s Hank) who starts an unlicensed PI agency with his best friend, a former criminal (Michael Raymond-James’ Britt).
In Manifest Destiny, Hank and Britt discover more about the Lindus conspiracy from the first episode, as they attempt to avoid taking the fall for a murder they didn’t commit.
8. Breaking Bad – Fly (2010)
Outside of his film career, Rian Johnson also worked on the critically acclaimed AMC television series Breaking Bad and directed three episodes, including two of its greatest.
Interestingly, the third episode is polarizing, considered one of the most hated episodes in Breaking Bad history, Fly.
Fly was the 10th episode of Season 3, and it is the viewers who hated the episode, while critics praised it. That makes this sound like Breaking Bad’s version of The Last Jedi.
The reason many fans hated it was because of its unconventional direction and artsy filming style. There are also complaints that nothing happens in this episode, although it has been rated as one of the best “bottle episodes” in Breaking Bad history.
What made the episode brilliant was that Walter White, a man normally seen as brilliant, is irrational and angry as he suffers from insomnia and tries to catch a fly that is disturbing his attempts at sleep.
7. The Brothers Bloom (2008)
The lowest-ranked Rian Johnson movie is The Brothers Bloom, which proves how great his career has been.
The movie was released in 2008, a comedy film that starred Mark Ruffalo (The Avengers) and Oscar-winner Adrien Brody as the Brothers Bloom, former orphans who worked as con-artists to make it in life.
Bloom Bloom (Brody) is tired of being part of Stephen’s (Ruffalo) schemes and quits, moving away. However, Stephen finds him three months later and convinces him to do one last con involving a wealthy heiress (Rachel Weisz).
The movie went almost unnoticed, as it received only a limited release in theaters. It also received only average reviews, sitting at 69-percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
6. Looper (2012)
In 2012, Rian Johnson directed the creative sci-fi time-travel movie, Looper.
The movie stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Joe, a Looper, a hitman who kills people for a crime syndicate and then disposes of the body using a time travel machine, so they are never caught.
However, in this world, the Looper has to kill his future self as his final hit. One day, Joe goes to kill his next target, and when he takes off the mask, he sees his older self (Bruce Willis).
However, his older self escapes and Joe has to give chase, and the two have to figure out if younger Joe will fulfill his task or if he will team with his older self to change the future.
Looper has a 93-percent ranking at Rotten Tomatoes and ended up on several Top 10 lists for the year.
5. Breaking Bad – Fifty-One (2012)
The second of three Breaking Bad episodes rank next on the list.
This is “Fifty-One,” the fourth episode of the fifth season and the series’s overall 50th episode. It was written by Preacher showrunner Sam Catlin and directed by Rian Johnson.
The episode’s title refers to the fact that Walter White celebrates his 51st birthday in this episode. He chooses to return to the drug business, which sends Skyler into depression.
The episode received critical acclaim concerning the characterization of Walter and Skyler White, with the pool scene itself called “unnerving” and “heart-wrenching.”
Rian Johnson won the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing – Drama Series for this episode. Anna Gunn won an Emmy for Best Supporting Actress for her performance as Skyler in this episode.
4. Brick (2005)
Rian Johnson made his directorial debut with the 2005 neo-noir mystery Brick.
The movie stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a high school student whose girlfriend was found dead in a ravine, and he sets out to figure out who killed her.
The film is quirky, as all characters talk like characters in Noir novels, using slang made popular by Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett.
The students are also the character-types from those Noir movies and novels, with a rich kid serving as a sort of kingpin and a smart kid as a tech-savvy informant.
The film has an 80-percent fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes and won the Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival for Originality of Vision.
3. Knives Out (2019)
After taking a beating from a sector of Star Wars fans for directing Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Johnson returned in 2019 to direct Knives Out, his most successful original movie.
Knives Out starred Daniel Craig as a world-famous private investigator named Benoit Blanc, a clear homage to Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot.
He is called to the home of a wealthy and popular novelist who was found dead in a locked room.
Benoit shows up and starts to question the family members and the novelist’s private nurse, as he tries to get to the bottom of the mystery and figure out who killed the man.
The cast was spectacular. Christopher Plummer stars as the dead novelist, while the suspects include characters portrayed by Jamie Lee Curtis, Ana de Armas, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Katherine Langford, and Jaeden Martell.
The movie grossed over $300 million worldwide and has a 97-percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. A sequel is already in the works.
2. Breaking Bad – Ozymandias (2013)
The best episode of Breaking Bad that Rian Johnson directed was 2013’s Ozymandias.
This was the 14th episode of Season 5. In this episode, Walter White goes on the run, and Jesse is taken as hostage. This was the third-to-last episode of the entire series, and things were getting tense by this time.
This episode is often referred to as one of the greatest episodes of Breaking Bad of all-time.
The episode won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for Moira Walley-Beckett, and both Bryan Cranston (White) and Anna Gunn (Skyler) won Emmys for their performances in this episode.
This is where things break down, with Hank’s death and Walter admitting to everything in a tapped phone call to clear Skyler of any involvement in his crimes. The beginning of the end really kicks into high gear here.
1. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)
In 2017, Rian Johnson directed a Star Wars movie, and it ended up as one of the most polarizing movies in the entire franchise history.
Johnson did something that angered a sector of Star Wars fans by expanding on what the Force is, offering the idea that anyone, even people considered insignificant to the Empire, could have the Force in them.
Johnson also worked hard to make sure that the movie was more in the spirit of George Lucas’s original vision of the Rebel Alliance as open to all and not just a select group of elites. However, in today’s world, fans saw inclusivity for inclusivity purposes and rejected the film outright.
Despite those fans’ complaints, this was the best film in the entire new trilogy. It dared to move the story forward and took it somewhere new, which also angered fans who want to see the same thing over and over again in the movies.
At the end of the day, Rian Johnson did an amazing job on Star Wars: The Last Jedi and created what might be the best film in the franchise outside of The Empire Strikes Back.