Ranking Curtis Hanson’s Best Five Hollywood Movies

Curtis Hanson
Curtis Hanson with co-writer Brian Hageland

With the recent passing of Curtis Hanson, it seems appropriate to view the late director’s body of work. Over a 45-year career, he tackled dramas, comedies, crime, and psychological thrillers. Due to his battle with Alzheimers’ disease, Hanson dropped out of the public eye in recent years. His last movies were Too Big To Fail and Chasing Mavericks. What follows is a ranking of Hanson’s five best Hollywood films.

5) The Hand That Rocks The Cradle

Curtis Hanson The Hand That Rocks The Cradle
Hanson’s first thriller is a pretty good movie

The Hand That Rocks The Cradle is an unnerving psychological thriller. It concerns a young mother who ends up being the subject of a psychotic stalker who seeks to destroy her family. Rebecca Mornay’s performance as the vengeful Mrs. Mott is the film’s biggest highlight.

4) The River Wild

Curtis Hanson River Wild

The River Wild is another of Hanson’s best thrillers. Meryl Streep plays a former river guide who takes her family on a rafting trip. Along the way, they fall afoul of two violent criminals. As a leading lady, Streep holds her own opposite Kevin Bacon’s sinister villain. Hanson’s flick is tightly-paced with high stakes and gripping sequences.

3) 8 Mile

Curtis Hanson 8 Mile
8 Mile is one of Curtis Hanson’s most engaging movies










8 Mile is an interesting gem for cinephiles, because it succeeds in focusing on the world of hip-hop. In a dramatic performance, Eminem delivers a solid turn as a young white man in the 1990s who aspires to be a rapper. The movie won Best Original Song for “Lose Yourself” at the 2002 Academy Awards.

2) Wonder Boys

Curtis Hanson Wonder Boys
Underrated and ignored, Wonder Boys is one of Hanson’s best works

Wonder Boys is an underrated moment in Hanson’s career. Based on Michael Chabon’s novel, the plot concerns a frustrated writer as he tries to finish his fourth book. Hanson’s cast includes Michael Douglas, Tobey Maguire, and Robert Downey Junior. Due to poor marketing, the movie did not do well at the box office, but it is seen as one of Hanson’s finest works. According to Emmanuel Levy, “Wonder Boys is spiked with fresh, perverse humour that flows naturally from the straight-faced playing.”

1) LA Confidential

LA Confidential Curtis Hanson
Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce star in Curtis Hanson’s LA Confidential

LA Confidential is regarded as one of 1997’s best motion pictures. Hanson manages to adapt James Ellroy’s massive novel into a tight-paced thriller. The film features an all-star cast with Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, Kevin Spacey and Kim Basinger. Although Titanic swept the Oscars, Hanson won Best Adapted Screenplay, and Basinger won for Best Supporting Actress. As of 2016, it still holds up

Jonathan Bruce
Jonathan Bruce
I am an English teacher by day and a freelance writer at night. Specialities include news, reviews, opinion and commentary articles. When I'm not teaching, I participate in theatre, building sets and working stage crew as a hobby. I also enjoy reading and having an occasional glass of Scotch.