The Best (and Worst) of Jon Favreau: His Films Ranked

Jon Favreau has been a writer, an actor, and — in the last fifteen years — a director of some of the most popular films to hit theaters during the 2000s. However, this year’s live-action take on The Jungle Book marks perhaps his most ambitious directorial project yet. As the release of the Disney epic draws near, we look back at Favreau’s directorial career to date.

7. Cowboys & Aliens (2011)

Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig in Cowboys and Aliens

Source: Universal Pictures

On paper, this film’s mashup of sci-fi and Western elements had such strong potential to be great. After all, it worked for the short-lived but beloved TV series Firefly. However, despite the involvement of such big names as Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig, the film — based on the graphic novel by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg — failed to connect with audiences or critics, delivering a film that somehow didn’t capitalize on its built-in mass appeal.

6. Made (2001)

Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau in Made

Source: Artisan Entertainment

After the pair starred in cult hit Swingers, it was inevitable that Favreau and Vince Vaughn would re-team at some point. In Made, the two actors play aspiring boxers who get embroiled in a money laundering scheme involving organized crime. Although the film largely pales in comparison to Favreau and Vaughn’s first collaboration, it served as the former’s directorial debut, beginning a career that has only flourished in the years since its release.

5. Iron Man 2 (2010)

Robert Downey Jr. and Don Cheadle in Iron Man 2

Source: Marvel Studios

In many respects, Iron Man 2 is one of the most criticized films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After all, the film was the first to shoehorn in larger elements of the franchise, but despite its muddled plot, it isn’t without its merits. Robert Downey Jr. shines once again as Tony Stark, and the visual effects provide some standout sequences, such as our hero’s showdown with Ivan Vanko at the Monaco Historic Grand Prix. Moreover, the film introduced viewers to Scarlett Johansson’s fan-favorite take on Black Widow.

4. Zathura (2005)

The cast of Zathura

Source: Columbia Pictures

Based on Chris Van Allsburg’s book, this film is a spiritual sequel to 1995 adventure Jumanji (also based on a Van Allsburg story) and stars Kristen Stewart, Josh Hutcherson, and Jonah Bobo as three siblings whose home is launched into outer space when they begin playing the titular board game. The film may lack the novelty of its predecessor, but it was here that Favreau first demonstrated his knack for effects-driven films.

3. Chef (2014)

Emjay Anthony and Jon Favreau in Chef

Source: Universal Studios

After the disappointing performance of Cowboys & Aliens, Favreau went back to his character-driven comedy roots. Here he stars as a professional chef who starts a new chapter in his life when he decides to open a food truck. Charming and thematically rich, the film often plays like an allegory for the director/star’s relationship with Hollywood, and it just so happens to feature his best performance in years. Well worth a look for those who missed it.

2. Elf (2003)

Will Ferrell in Elf

Source: New Line Cinema

Will Ferrell may be best known for his roles as buffoonish man-children like Ron Burgundy and Ricky Bobby, but this Christmas comedy still stands as one of his most beloved big-screen works. Blending the old-school sensibility of Rankin/Bass stop-motion holiday specials with a more cynical, modern perspective on the holiday season, the film centers on an elf who seeks out his biological father in New York City and has rightfully become a modern classic.

1. Iron Man (2008)

Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man

Source: Marvel Studios

The Marvel Cinematic Universe starts here. Without Favreau’s guiding hand, there’s no telling if Iron Man would have been the phenomenon it was. Without the whiz-bang foundation of this initial adventure (and the brilliant casting of Robert Downey Jr. in the lead role), The Avengers couldn’t have happened, and the film’s decision to keep its focus solely on Tony Stark’s character arc made his evolution from selfish industrialist to the title hero one of the most memorable superhero origin stories ever told.

Follow Robert Yaniz Jr. on Twitter @CrookedTable

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