With the release of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, writer/director Ryan Coogler is once again being praised as one of the best directors working today, with many calling the sequel an ambitious tribute with exhilarating action. It’s another “fresh” movie for Coogler, but the filmmaker has never directed a bad film.
Between writing, directing, and producing, Coogler has eight movies in his filmography, and almost every one of them except for one glaring exception has been universally praised, which has to be some kind of record. Between a couple of hard-hitting boxing films, the gold standard of Marvel movies, and the best drama of the 2010s, Coogler has a small but strong filmography.
8/8 Space Jam: A New Legacy (2021) – 26%
Space Jam: A New Legacy is the only “rotten” movie in Coogler’s filmography, which is impressive. However, viewers think Space Jam 2 is a blatantly manufactured corporate film, as it essentially exists to promote HBO Max and display Warner Bros.’s rich catalog of films that are available to watch on the platform.
Coogler’s specific involvement in producing the film hasn’t been totally revealed, as producing a movie can come with an array of different duties, or producers can simply sit back and let the director do their thing. However, according to Entertainment Weekly, the producer was instrumental in casting Zendaya as Lola Bunny. The actor signed on to the film because she admired Coogler’s work, noting, “When he called, I was like, ‘I’m probably going to say yes to whatever you tell me.'”
7/8 Creed II (2018) – 83%
Though he directed the first Creed to critical acclaim and many even believe is better than the original Rocky, Coogler didn’t return to the director’s chair for round two. The filmmaker was originally attached to directing the film, but he had to drop out due to his commitment to finishing Black Panther (via Variety). Without Coogler behind the camera, the sequel still turned out incredibly well, and though it might have been less emotional, it was just as entertaining.
Creed II might be a typical sequel in some aspects, such as being bigger and louder than its predecessor, but there’s more at stake too, and the characters still stay true to themselves. And just as he did for Creed II, Coogler has served as a producer for the upcoming Creed III too, which was directed by none other than Michael B. Jordan.
6/8 Homeroom (2021) – 85%
While Coogler’s name is tied to the MCU, and he is now well-established as a blockbuster director, he still has a hand in bringing small-budget passion projects to the screen. One of those is 2021’s Homeroom, which is a documentary about a class of Oakland High School students who struggle with their final year following budget cuts, COVID-19, and the murder of George Floyd.
Directed by Peter Nicks, the documentary is typically hard-hitting, and it’s an emotional eye-opening case study of Oakland. The movie is the third entry of Nicks’ Oakland trilogy, which follows 2013’s The Waiting Room and 2017’s The Force.
5/8 Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022) – 85%
While it might not be his highest-rated movie on Rotten Tomatoes, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever might be Coogler’s most impressive film from a directing standpoint. There’s so much going on in the new superhero film, whether it’s introducing a new Black Panther, paying tribute to Chadwick Boseman, or making sure it fits into the larger picture of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Wakanda Forever is essentially both an origins story and a sequel at the same time, and Coogler expertly pulled it off. The movie changed drastically during its development, and Coogler almost retired before filming, noting, “I was at a point when I was like, ‘I’m walking away from this business,’ I didn’t know if I could make another movie period.” But, thankfully, it all paid off, and the result is an ambitious, respectful, and rewarding superhero film.
4/8 Fruitvale Station (2013) – 94%
Fruitvale Station The 2013 release is by far the director’s most grounded movie, as it’s based on the death of Oscar Grant, who was killed by a police officer in 2009. Coogler’s directorial debut, and it’s such an accomplished movie not only for a first-time director but for a budget of less than $1 million (via Deadline).
The film should be an influence on any film student, as Coogler rounded up a bunch of young, unknown creatives, of which actor Michael B. Jordan and Academy Award-winning composer Ludwig Göransson were among them, and worked together to make the best film they could. The movie launched the careers of so many creatives, and even though they’ve all gone on to do great things, few of their projects are as emotional or as well-acted as the 2013 drama.
3/8 Creed (2015) – 95%
While it might not have quite reached the classic status that Rocky has, Creed’s Rotten Tomatoes score is actually higher than the 1976 film by 4%. 95% is a phenomenal score for the boxing movie, but it’s hardly surprising, as it’s one of the best-ever legacy sequels and has a satisfying amount of fan service without going overboard.
Though Sylvester Stallone isn’t returning for Creed III, seeing him on screen as Rocky again and watching him train his former opponent’s son is what dreams are made of. The film perfectly showcases how Coogler can apply his dramatic writing to major studio movies too.
2/8 Black Panther (2018) – 96%
Just as Marvel Studios is known to do, Kevin Feige and co. hired Coogler as soon as they saw what he could do, and they haven’t looked back. Coogler directed a superhero movie that grossed $1.3 billion, which is way more than any debut solo movie, and that isn’t simply because the MCU had long been established, but because Black Panther was such a huge achievement in every department. Be it costume design, set design, acting, screenplay, or anything else, Black Panther excelled more than any other MCU solo release.
What makes the film most thrilling is that Killmonger has a personal vendetta against the hero, and that theme is something that Coogler has always been so great at, as personal vendettas have been prevalent in almost all of his movies. And what makes it even better is that he’s an actor’s director, as Coogler works so well with actors and can get exactly what he wants out of his cast, especially when his two main actors are Jordan and Boseman.
1/8 Judas And The Black Messiah (2021) – 97%
Though he didn’t direct the movie, Coogler produced the Shaka King-directed drama thriller Judas and the Black Messiah. The movie is based on the real-life Black Panther Party leader, Fred Hampton, and how he was double-crossed by FBI informant William O’Neal. In this position of producer, it seems as if Coogler was absolutely instrumental in getting the film made.
The story was written by Kenny and Keith Lucas, who noted that Coogler’s name attached to the project is what helped the film get backing from a studio. The writers noted that they went to market with “a great script, two amazing actors and Shaka, a visionary filmmaker, and the clout that Ryan Coogler brought.”
Read More: Ryan Coogler’s 10 Best Movies, According To Rotten Tomatoes