Darren Aronofsky is one of the most recognizable faces in independent cinema today.

He is a filmmaker who tackles difficult subjects, dark parts of the human psyche and soul. Often the subjects of his films are considered taboo in society.

In this guide, we’ll introduce a rundown of the best Darren Aronofsky movies, listing them in ranking order of what we believe to be his best.

 

BEST DARREN ARONOFSKY MOVIES

Who Is Darren Aronofsky?

Darren Aronofsky is a film director, writer, and producer. He was born in Brooklyn, New York on February 12th 1969 to an architect father and a social worker mother.

Darren has been nominated for six Academy Awards (Best Director) and has won three of them.

One of his most famous films is Black Swan which starred Natalie Portman as Nina Sayers who falls victim to the all-consuming world of competitive ballet.

 

 

Here are what we consider to be the best Darren Aronofsky movies. The list is in ranking order, but with a filmmaker like Aronofsky, it’s not like we consider any of his films to be ‘poor,’ with the possible exception of Noah.

Best Darren Aronofsky Movies

Let’s jump right in with a modern classic that really put Aronofsky on the map!

Requiem For A Dream (2000)

Drugs. They consume mind, body and soul. Once you’re hooked, you’re hooked. Four lives. Four addicts. Four failures.

Doing their best to succeed in the world, but failing miserably, four people get hooked on various drugs.

Despite their aspirations of greatness, they succumb to their addictions.

Watching the addicts spiral out of control, we bear witness to the dirtiest, ugliest portions of the underworld addicts reside in. It is shocking and eye-opening but demands to be seen by both addicts and non-addicts alike.

Imaginatively evoking the inner landscape of human beings longing to connect, to love, and feel loved, the film is a parable of happiness gloriously found and tragically lost.

“Requiem for a Dream” tells parallel stories that are linked by the relationship between the lonely, widowed Sara Goldfarb and her sweet but aimless son, Harry.

The plump Sara, galvanized by the prospect of appearing on a TV game show, has started on a dangerous diet regimen to beautify herself for a national audience.

Employing shock techniques and sound design in a relentless sensory assault, Requiem for a Dream is about nothing less than the systematic destruction of hope.

Based on the novel by Hubert Selby Jr., and adapted by Selby and director Darren Aronofsky, this is undoubtedly one of the most effective films ever made about the experience of drug addiction (both euphoric and nightmarish).

And few would deny that Aronofsky, in following his breakthrough film Pi, has pushed the medium to a disturbing extreme, thrusting conventional narrative into a panic zone of traumatized psyches and bodies pushed to the furthest boundaries of chemical tolerance.

It’s too easy to call this a cautionary tale; it’s a guided tour through hell, with Aronofsky as our bold and ruthless host.

The film focuses on a quartet of doomed souls, but it’s Ellen Burstyn–in a raw and bravely triumphant performance–who most desperately embodies the downward spiral of drug abuse.

As lonely widow Sara Goldfarb, she invests all of her dreams in an absurd self-help TV game show, jolting her bloodstream with diet pills and coffee while her son Harry (Jared Leto) shoots heroin with his best friend Tyrone (Marlon Wayans) and slumming girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connelly).

They’re careening toward madness at varying speeds, and Aronofsky tracks this gloomy process by endlessly repeating the imagery of their deadly routines.

Tormented by her dietary regime, Sara even imagines a carnivorous refrigerator in one of the film’s most memorable scenes.

And yet… does any of this have a point? Is Aronofsky telling us anything that any sane person doesn’t already know? Requiem for a Dream is a noteworthy film, but watching it twice would qualify as masochistic behavior. –Jeff Shannon

Requiem for a Dream
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly (Actors)
  • Darren Aronofsky (Director) - Hubert Selby Jr. (Writer) - Ben Barenholtz (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Black Swan (2010)

Nina (Natalie Portman) is a ballerina whose passion for dance rules every facet of her life.

When the company’s artistic director decides to replace his prima ballerina for their opening production of “Swan Lake,” Nina is his first choice. She has competition in newcomer Lily (Mila Kunis) however.

While Nina is perfect for the role of the White Swan, Lily personifies the Black Swan. As the rivalry between the two dancers transforms into a twisted friendship, Nina’s dark side begins to emerge.

Feverish worlds such as espionage and warfare have nothing on the hothouse realm of ballet, as director Darren Aronofsky makes clear in Black Swan, his over-the-top delve into a particularly fraught production of Swan Lake.

At the very moment hard-working ballerina Nina (Natalie Portman) lands the plum role of the White Swan, her company director (Vincent Cassel) informs her that she’ll also play the Black Swan–and while Nina’s precise, almost virginal technique will serve her well in the former role, the latter will require a looser, lustier attack.

The strain of reaching within herself for these feelings, along with nattering comments from her mother (Barbara Hershey) and the perceived rivalry from a new dancer (Mila Kunis), are enough to make anybody crack… and tracing out the fault lines of Nina’s breakdown is right in Aronofsky’s wheelhouse.

Those cracks are broad indeed, as Nina’s psychological instability is telegraphed with a blunt-force emphasis in this neurotic roller-coaster ride.

The characters are stick figures – literally, in the case of the dancers, but also as single-note stereotypes in the horror show: witchy bad mommy, sexually intimidating male boss, wacko diva (Winona Ryder, as the prima ballerina Nina is replacing).

Yet the film does work up some crazed momentum (and undeniably earned its share of critical raves), and the final sequence is one juicy curtain-dropper.

A good part of the reason for this is the superbly all-or-nothing performance by Natalie Portman, who packs an enormous amount of ferocity into her small body.

Kudos, too, to Tchaikovsky’s incredibly durable music, which has meshed well with psychological horror at least since being excerpted for the memorably moody opening credits of the 1931 Dracula, another pirouette through the dark side. –Robert Horton

Portman delivers “the performance of her career” (Vanity Fair ) as Nina, a stunningly talented but dangerously unstable ballerina on the verge of stardom.

Pushed to the breaking point by her driven artistic director (Vincent Cassel) and the threat posed by a seductive rival dancer (Mila Kunis), Nina’s tenuous grip on reality starts to slip away – plunging her into a waking nightmare.

The four female characters in the movie “Black Swan” (Aronofsky, 2010) represent Archetypes, carriers of collective psychic energy that help to raise questions about death, sexuality, otherness, control, losses, obsession with perfection, constant achievement, rejection, and the price that we pay for the illusion of belonging.

“Black Swan” can be interpreted in many different ways depending on the Archetype that we select to study. “The All Powerful Mother,” “The Object of Desire,” “The Abject” and “The Repressed” are seen both as victims and monsters, according to the rules of the Horror genre, but as told by Aronofsky, they also stand for a critique of the rules imposed by modern society.

Black Swan
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel, Mila Kunis (Actors)
  • Darren Aronofsky (Director)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

The Wrestler (2008)

Mickey Rourke gives the performance of a lifetime as pro wrestler Randy “The Ram” Robinson, a former superstar now paying the price for twenty years of grueling punishment in and out of the ring.

But he’s about to risk everything to prove he has one more match left in him: a re-staging of his famous Madison Square Garden bout against “The Ayatollah.”

Darren Aronofsky directs a powerful cast in this action-packed saga of guts, glory, and gritty determination that is “as irresistible as a headlock” (New York Post ).

The mystery of Mickey Rourke’s career comes to a grungy apotheosis in The Wrestler the much-battered actor’s triumphant return to the top rope.

He plays Randy “The Ram” Robinson, a heavily scarred and medicated battler who’s twenty years past his best moment in the ring.

But he still schleps to every second-rate fight card he can get to, stringing out the paychecks (more likely a fistful of cash) and nursing what’s left of his pride.

His attempts to adjust to a more normal kind of life form the most absorbing sections in the movie, whether it’s flirting with a stripper (Marisa Tomei is in good form, in every sense), establishing a bond with his understandably angry daughter (Evan Rachel Wood), or working behind the deli counter at a nondescript megastore.

Rourke is commanding in the role; he obviously spent hours in the gym and the tanning salon, and his ease with the semi-documentary style adopted by director Darren

Aronofsky allows him to naturally interact with the colorful real-life wrestlers who crowd the movie’s ultra-believable locations. All of which helps distract from the film’s overall adherence to ancient formula.

You might find yourself waiting for the scene where the risk-taking Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream) pulls the switch and reveals his true motives for pursuing this otherwise sentimental story, but there’s no switch.

The Wrestler is an old-fashioned hoke machine, given grit by an actor who doesn’t seem to be so much performing the role of the ravaged survivor as embodying it. –Robert Horton

The Wrestler
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood (Actors)
  • 20th_century_fox (Director)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

mother! (2017)

Academy award® winners Jennifer Lawrence (silver linings playbook) and Javier Bardem (no country for old men) deliver unforgettable performances in Academy Award nominated Darren Aronofsky’s praised opus. The film shattered audiences and critics around the world.

It’s been called darkly exhilarating (Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times) and Aronofsky’s most daring film yet (Ben Croll, Indiewire).

Experience the visually arresting psychological thriller that will leave your heart pounding and your mind blown!

mother! is the filmmaker’s newest polarizing offering, a psychological horror film with small nods to Roman Polanski, Luis Bunuel, and David Cronenberg, but is wholly Aronofsky’s original vision, a film presented in his singular and arresting style.

This chronicle is a beautiful, dynamic presentation of that sequence, with corresponding screen grabs, behind-the-scenes photography, the script as it pertains to the sequence, and the “maps” of his shot list.

mother! The Making of the Fever Dream also includes a preface from Aronofsky about this shoot, and this book is a record of a film that will have audiences, Aronofsky fans, and film school denizens discussing the movie for years to come.

mother!
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris (Actors)
  • Darren Aronofsky (Director) - Darren Aronofsky (Writer) - Scott Franklin (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

The Fountain (2006)

One man. One love. One destiny. One thousand years.

Hugh Jackman (Van Helsing, X-Men films) anchors acclaimed visionary filmmaker Darren Aronofsky’s (Requiem for a Dream, Pi) epic sci-fi adventure chronicling a man’s thousand-year struggle to save the woman he loves (Academy Award winner Rachel Weisz – The Constant Gardener).

Searching for the secrets of eternal life, he embarks on three parallel quests, in three lives, in three millennia, to unlock the mysteries of life that have consumed him for centuries.

The Fountain (2006)
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz, Ellen McRae (Actors)
  • Darren Aronofsky (Director) - Darren Aronofsky (Writer) - Eric Watson (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Pi (1998)

Pi is a science fiction thriller about the haunting journey into the genius mind of renegade mathematician Maximillian Cohen (Gullette). Max is on the verge of the most important discovery of his life.

For the past ten years, he has been attempting to decode the numerical pattern beneath the ultimate system of ordered chaos, the stock market.

Pursued by an aggressive Wall Street firm set on financial domination and by Jewish Kabbalists intent on unlocking the secrets behind their holy texts, Max races to crack the code, hoping to defy the madness that looms before him.

A phenomenon since it opened in New York in the summer of 1998, and on its way to becoming a cult classic, Pi is a work of dazzling originality-a science fiction thriller about the haunting journey into the genius mind of a renegade visionary.

A brilliant and troubled man, Max Cohen is on the verge of the most important discovery of his life.

For the past ten years, he has been attempting to decode the numerical pattern beneath the ultimate system of the ordered chaos-the stock market. As Max verges on a solution, chaos is swallowing the world around him.

He is pursued by an aggressive Wall Street firm set on financial domination as well as by a Kabbalah sect intent on unlocking the secrets behind its ancient holy texts. Max races to crack the code, hoping to defy the madness that looms before him.

In succeeding, he uncovers a secret everyone is willing to kill for. Also included with the screenplay is a full journal of how Darren Aronofsky made this award-winning film on a minuscule budget of $60,000, providing practical advice and inspiration to film students and offering film buffs rare insight into how an independent film is made.

Pi
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Sean Gullette, Mark Margolis, Ben Shenkman (Actors)
  • Darren Aronofsky (Director) - Darren Aronofsky (Writer) - Eric Watson (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Noah (2014)

Academy Award(R) winner Russell Crowe stars as Noah, a man chosen by God for a great task before an apocalyptic flood destroys the world.

Russell Crowe stars as Noah in the film inspired by the epic story of courage, sacrifice, and hope. Directed by visionary filmmaker Darren Aronofsky.

The film is inspired by the story of Noah. While artistic license has been taken, we believe that this film is true to the essence, values, and integrity of a story that is a cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide. The biblical story of Noah can be found in the book of Genesis.

From acclaimed filmmaker Darren Aronofsky (Black SwanThe Wrestler) and artist Niko Henrichon (Pride of Baghdad), Noah is a fresh take on the biblical epic for the 21st Century.

A fantastical world is about to be destroyed and one man is chosen to start a new one. As wicked forces try to take his Ark, Noah must hold his family together while they watch the annihilation of all they know.

Intermixing fantasy and sci-fi with GenesisNoah both reinvents the elements of the Flood story everyone knows and simultaneously takes the reader beyond them and into the unexpected.

The film has proved to be of great interest to scholars working on the interface between the Bible and popular culture.

Not only because it was heralded as the first of a new generation of biblical blockbusters, but also because of its bold, provocative, and yet unusually nuanced approach to the interpretation and use of the Noah tradition, in both its biblical and extra-biblical forms.

The book’s chapters, written by both well-established and up-and-coming scholars, engage with and analyze a broad range of issues raised by the film, including:

  • its employment and interpretation of the ancient Noah traditions;
  • its engagement with contemporary environmental themes and representation of non-human animals;
  • its place within the history of cinematic depictions of the flood, status as an ‘epic’, and associated relationship to spectacle;
  • the theological implications of its representation of a hidden and silent Creator and responses to perceived revelation;
  • the controversies surrounding its reception among religious audiences, especially in the Muslim world; and
  • the nature and implications of its convoluted racial and gender politics.

Noah as Antihero will be of considerable interest to scholars conducting research in the areas of religion and film, contemporary hermeneutics, reception history, religion and popular culture, feminist criticism, and ecological ethics.

Noah
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winstone (Actors)
  • Darren Aronofsky (Director) - Darren Aronofsky (Writer) - Scott Franklin (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)