Jon Favreau has made his mark as one of the most exciting blockbuster directors working today. Not only is he reverent of some of our greatest of years past, but his interest and passion to follow in their footsteps and push the limits of technology are unlike any other creator working today.
While he began as an actor, he is quickly becoming known first and foremost for his films. With nine films under his belt, the filmmaker has explored genres, with films smaller than most indies as well as some of the biggest films ever made.
11 Honorable Mention: The Mandalorian
Before hopping into ranking his feature films, we had to at least give respect to the impact that his new series The Mandalorian has made to both TV and Star Wars. Though he hasn’t directed any episodes thus far, Favreau is the lead creative showrunner and producer on the project.
The Mandalorian, being the first live-action Star Wars series, is pushing the boundaries of both the franchise and the medium. The scope is unlike anything on TV, and the adventures are some of the most exciting we’ve seen in the franchise so far.
10 Honorable Mention: Swingers
Though not directed by Favreau, Swingers remains potentially the most significant movie of his career. It was written and co-produced by him and he also starred in the lead role, catapulting him, his co-star Vince Vaughn, and director/cinematographer Doug Liman into bankable fame.
The movie follows Favreau’s struggling actor and comedian as they struggle to adjust to life in Los Angeles after moving there from New York and it’s clearly a very personal story that struck movie fans thanks to its true-to-life sense of humor and endurably quotable dialogue.
9 Cowboys & Aliens
Based on the graphic novel, Cowboys & Aliens comes in at the bottom of Favreau’s films in terms of overall quality. On paper, the premise feels tailor-made for someone like Favreau, and perhaps if he was to tackle it today it would have suited him better. But the movie ended up messy for many movie fans.
Tonally the film is all over the place, with its ridiculous premise never combated by its self-serious take. Daniel Craig is a great solitary gunslinger, but the rest of the cast feels like they’re underperforming. The last thing movie fans want in ytheir sci-fi Western is Harrison Ford faking it.
8 The Lion King
After the huge success of The Jungle Book, Disney and Favreau decided to double down and bring his revolutionary technology to their other biggest animal-themed property with The Lion King.
The movie just trudges along as a lesser version of the original, losing nearly all the charm in the process. While the effects are perhaps the best use of CGI ever and the duo performance of Timon and Pumbaa by Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner is infectious, the rest of the film feels hollow and beyond unnecessary.
Made stands as Jon Favreau’s directorial debut, reteaming alongside his Swingers co-star Vince Vaughn to lead. The movie is actually a solid little action-comedy, but that’s about it. In terms of directorial debuts, there have been worse, but there have also been much better.
The movie is absolutely fine, and in terms of size, it is the perfect first outing for a brand new director. The film just isn’t all that memorable, and Vaughn walks the line of being far too obnoxious for his own good.
6 Iron Man 2
Jon Favreau changed superhero movies forever with the first Iron Man movie in 2008. When it came to the sequel, instead of innovating, Favreau doubled down and did more of the same (except a little bit worse). There’s a lot to like about this movie though, and it remains an enjoyable watch.
The exploration between Tony and his father is really powerful stuff that reverberates all the way through to Endgame. The cast change of Don Cheadle as Rhodey is an excellent pick that changed the MCU only for the better. Also, Sam Rockwell is hilarious as Justin Hammer. The film has a lot going for it, but sadly it is only here to play set up for the future team-up in Avengers.
5 Zathura: A Space Adventure
When people think of killer board games, they normally think of the beloved Jumanji or the far less enjoyed Ouji franchise. One that has remained an underrated outlier is Zathura. This film is just a ton of fun and was based on the book of the same name by the creator of Jumanji.
The entire thing is an excellent children’s fantasy adventure, featuring fun effects and set pieces that just aren’t seen in many modern kid’s movies. It’s not perfect, and it’s not revolutionary, but in terms of a space adventure for all ages, it toes the line of fun and scary perfectly.
Chef is perhaps the simplest film that Favreau has ever made, but that makes it one of his best. The film felt like a recentering of Favreau as a filmmaker, with him playing the lead role of Carl Casper, an acclaimed chef who calls it quits at his famous restaurant to pursue the simple creative beauty of a food truck.
The film is full of heart, humor, and tons of shots of good food that will leave fans’ mouths watering. They’ll want to have Postmates ready to go while watching because the way Favreau captures the sheer joy and hunger to create good food here is nearly unmatched. It was a return to basics that reminded fans why they love Favreau.
For many, Elf is their favorite Christmas movie ever. We don’t blame them, because the movie is full of heart and Christmas spirit. but, that’s not why it succeeds. The movie is a genuinely funny comedy and served up arguably Will Ferrell’s greatest performance.
But the movie is just a solid homage to great Christmas movies in general. The attention to detail, with Favreau recreating the classic stop motion animation of old, is unreal. It’s not just a fantastic Christmas movie, or a hilarious comedy, but just a really great film.
2 Iron Man
Before Iron Man, comic book movies were far more likely to be disappointments. This movie, along with The Dark Knight changed it all. This movie, in particular, has made far more of an impact on the world of film and pop culture than probably anything else in recent memory.
Iron Man took an obscure comic book character and made him more of a household name than Spider-Man or The Hulk. Robert Downey Jr. was turned into a global superstar, and it secured Favreau as one of the most exciting blockbuster directors of the modern era.
1 The Jungle Book
Iron Man changed the way we look at superhero movies, but The Jungle Book changed the way we look at movies. The film’s narrative is fairly basic and is an honorable and fun interpretation of a Disney classic. But, the visual effects work accomplished was unlike anything before it.
The CGI environments and characters took up nearly all of the film, with the lead performer Neel Sethi being the only live-action player. The technology has only improved with The Lion King and The Mandalorian, but this is the film that proved the technological innovator that Favreau strives to be. It had all the heart and humor that makes him a great storyteller and all the technology that makes him a director to look out for.
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