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11 Movies Ron Howard Directed That Prove His Greatness

Tom Hanks, Michael Keaton, Russell Crowe
Universal Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Universal Pictures

If his past efforts are any indication, Ron Howard‘s visit to a galaxy far, far away will go off very well: The one-time Happy Days star-turned-Oscar winning director will helm the highly-anticipated Han Solo spinoff film, according to The Hollywood Reporter

Is Howard up to the task? One look at his work says fans could do worse — a lot worse. Sure, he’s had a few misses (Far and Away, The Dilemma), but when you glance at some of the monster films he’s directed over the years, a few things become clear: One, he has a penchant for brilliantly handling top-notch talent and, two, he has an uncanny ability to work on projects that not only make money, but meet critical acclaim. And that’s a formula for a blockbuster, which should put all Star Wars fans at ease.

Take a look at some of the notable films Howard has directed over the years to see what he can do.

Night Shift (1982)

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In the early ’80s, Howard still grappled with the perception he was Richie Cunningham, but he shattered that illusion with a series of successful movies that began with this comedy about a brothel run out of a morgue. Howard recruited Happy Days co-star Henry Winkler (better known as Fonzie) for the comedy, which made Hollywood take notice of Howard’s skills behind the camera. While Winkler went against what was then his type as a quiet working stiff, the film also featured a star-making turn from Michael Keaton as frenetic idea man Bill Blazejowski. It’s also worth nothing that Keaton would later win an Oscar, beginning a trend of actors who, when not getting nominated for working with Howard, would go on to get nominated in future films.

Splash (1984)

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This comedy about a man who falls for a mermaid featured Tom Hanks, a star who, like Keaton, would later shed the image that he could only do comedy and win an Oscar. It was an enormous success and continued Howard on the path toward A-list director. Funny and sweet, Splash helped Hanks veer away from TV, made him a bona fide movie star and established John Candy as a lovably funny sidekick while cementing Daryl Hannah as an ’80s sex symbol.

Cocoon (1985)

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The premise sounds absurd: a bunch of senior citizens accidentally stumble onto a fountain of youth in the form of pods aliens are trying to return back to their home planet. The film, however, worked and even spawned a sequel. Through Cocoon, Howard deftly straddled the line between humor and drama, and Don Ameche wound up winning a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. Oh, and the film featured Steve Guttenberg. You can never have enough Gutts, right?

Gung Ho (1986)

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This comedy about the culture clashing between a Japanese car company and a small-town American factory reunited Howard with Michael Keaton, who once again shined. This time, Keaton played a man tasked with bringing the two sides together.

Backdraft (1991)

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An all-star cast — namely, Robert De Niro, Kurt Russell and Donald Sutherland — and exceptional special effects (it snagged a trio of Academy Award nominations in technical categories) carried this drama about firefighting brothers. It’s not Howard’s best film, but it’s proof that by this time in his career he could land just about any A-lister.

Apollo 13 (1995)

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Howard and Hanks circled back together again for this fascinating story about the real-life drama that surrounded efforts to return Apollo 13 to earth in 1970. The movie, which turned the catch phrase “Houston, we have a problem” into a phenomenon still uttered today, picked up nine Oscar nods, including Best Picture and acting nominations for Ed Harris and Kathleen Quinlan.

Ransom (1996)

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This searing and heart-stopping drama about a couple whose son is kidnapped featured a rising Rene Russo and Mel Gibson, a year after his own Oscar-winning directorial turn in Braveheart.

Edtv (1999)

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The silly comedy starred Matthew McConaughey (who, yes, would later win his own Best Actor Academy Award) as a regular guy whose life is recorded by a film crew. It isn’t Howard’s most exceptional movie, but, combined with the more well-received Truman Show, foreshadowed the rise of the reality TV craze that has permeated our culture.

A Beautiful Mind (2001)

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This is probably Howard’s signature film, winning Best Picture and garnering him a Best Director Academy Award. Jennifer Connelly would also go on to win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress while Russell Crowe earned a nomination for Best Actor. This true story about a genius’ struggle with paranoid schizophrenia represents the zenith of Howard’s storytelling ability.

Cinderella Man (2005)

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Like A Beautiful Mind, this drama, which also starred Crowe, is a real-life period piece centered on boxer James Braddock’s rise to stardom in the ring during the Great Depression. It also landed Paul Giamatti a Best Supporting Oscar nomination.

Frost/Nixon (2008)

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Sensing a pattern here? Based on a true story set in the past, this film nabbed multiple Academy Awards nominations and took audiences back to the interviews between Britain’s David Frost and Richard Nixon after Watergate. It was nominated for Best Picture, while Howard was recognized with a Best Director nod. Finally, Frank Langella, who portrayed Nixon, received a Best Actor nomination.

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