Movies

Every Movie Directed By Ben Affleck, Ranked

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It’s interesting to think about Ben Affleck‘s career in Hollywood. From being the youngest person to ever win an Academy Award for Best Screenplay (with his good pal, Matt Damon), to playing Daredevil AND Batman, to also directing movies…I mean come on now. What hasn’t this man accomplished? 

We’ve already ranked Ben Affleck’s best movies, but this time, we want to focus solely on his directorial efforts.    

With Ben Affleck’s 2023 movie, Air, which we called “solid, but very traditional” in our review, he has now made five feature-length films. So, of course, we’re going to rank them!    

Some of the cast in Live by Night

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

5. Live By Night (2016) 

Ben Affleck dipped into Dennis Lehane’s material before when he adapted the novel, Gone, Baby, Gone, to great effect. So, it seemed like another slam dunk when he adapted another one of Lehane’s novels, Live by Night, which is a Prohibition-era crime drama, but it just didn’t come together this time. 

Now, it’s not that the movie is bad, per se, as the cast, which features Zoe Saldaña, Elle Fanning, Chris Cooper, Brendan Gleeson, and Affleck in the starring role, does a lot of the heavy lifting. But, the movie around them just feels so bland, and it’s nowhere near as interesting as other Prohibition-era films, like Road to Perdition, The Untouchables, or one of Sergio Leone’s best movies, Once Upon a Time in America

So, yes. I know it’s unfair to judge Live by Night against other films in a similar time period, but those better films do exist, and Affleck has shown that he is perfectly capable of making phenomenal movies. This just isn’t one of them.  

Ben Affleck with his arms up in Air

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

4. Air (2023) 

If you want any proof that Affleck is a super talented director, then look no further than Air, which features a fact-based premise about whether or not Michael Jordan will partner up with Nike, even though we already know the outcome. (Fun fact: He does!)

Once again, he stars in his own movie, this time with his old friend, Matt Damon, with Affleck filling in the role of Nike CEO Phil Knight, and Damon playing talent scout Sonny Vaccaro, respectively. The film gets into the nitty gritty of how the Air Jordan brand came to be, and it’s all fascinating stuff, especially with Viola Davis in the role of Jordan’s mother.

Overall, the film is enjoyable and engaging if you’re really into learning about the inner workings of a shoe company, and Affleck definitely nails the time period. But, the film feels slightly hampered since the elephant (or rather, the Bull) in the room, isn’t present, as Jordan’s character isn’t in the movie (he was, of course, intentionally left out). That said, this is a minor quibble, and Air as a whole works on many different levels as a story of how Air Jordan came to be as a brand.    

Ben Affleck in The Town

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

3. The Town (2010) 

Adapted from the Chuck Hogan novel, Prince of Thieves, if you just watched the trailer, The Town probably seems like a less interesting version of Point Break, as it concerns bank robbers wearing cool-looking masks. But once you actually get into the film, you find that it’s a taut drama concerning the inner turmoil of some lifelong thieves, as one of them (played by Affleck himself) falls in love with one of his captives during a heist. 

What really sells this film, though, is the directing itself, as all of the characters (especially Jeremy Renner’s, and Blake Lively‘s) feel fully realized, with their own inner worlds and motives. The film is also a true love letter to Boston, which feels like a character in its own right. However, if I have one complaint, it’s that it feels a little predictable. 

That said, when the rest of the product is this good, that’s easy to overlook. 

Ed Harris in Gone Baby Gone

(Image credit: Miramax Films)

2. Gone Baby Gone (2007) 

The other story Affleck adapted from Dennis Lehane, Gone, Baby, Gone, may not be one of the greatest Morgan Freeman movies of all time, but that’s probably because it’s more of a showcase for the director’s younger brother, Casey.   

The story concerns two private investigators, played by Affleck and Michelle Monaghan, who are on the hunt for a missing little girl, but the plot thickens when we find out that there may be foul play involved with the local police. Ed Harris is particularly noteworthy as a terrifying detective sergeant. 

What makes this movie work, though, is the pacing. At times, it feels like Mystic River-lite (which makes sense, since it’s by the same author), but the twists and turns here are so masterfully done that it’s hard to believe that this is Affleck’s directorial debut. 

Not too long ago, I went through a period where I was watching a lot of Alfred Hitchcock movies. And, even though this film feels nothing like a Hitchcock film, I will say that I consider it to be just as good as some of the master’s all-time greats. It’s that amazing!   

Ben Affleck in Argo

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

1. Argo (2012) 

Even though he has directed multiple films about criminals, if you want to know what’s really criminal, it’s the fact that Affleck wasn’t even nominated for Best Director in 2013, even though Argo won Best Picture. Now that’s just ridiculous. 

The film (which has no connection whatsoever to Argo 2) is Affleck’s other “based on a true story” movie, though unlike with Air, Argo seems to play a lot more loosey goosey with the facts.  

The film centers around the actual events of when the U.S. government hired an extractor (played by Affleck) to get hostages out of Iran. And, get this, his plan was to make a pretend sci-fi movie with the hostages as part of the cast. The film, of course, is a masterpiece, and definitely one of the best movies to win Best Picture in the 2010’s, but what makes it so great is its breezy approach.     

Yes, the film is tense when it needs to be tense, but it’s also funny when it needs to relieve some of that tension, and it is just a joy to watch, from minute to minute. Honestly, Argo is one of the greatest historical dramas ever made…even if what it portrays isn’t entirely accurate.    

Honestly, his next directorial project, Ghost Army (whenever that’s coming out) can’t get here soon enough! For more news on all things Ben Affleck-related, be sure to swing by here often!     

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