Aaron Sorkin is a man of extraordinary talent. Armed with an ear for witty, spitfire dialogue, The West Wing‘s creator can make mundane situations like court hearings and office chats feel like intense action sequences. Had Charlie Wilson’s War been written by any other screenwriter, it’s likely I wouldn’t have watched it. However, I did because I knew Sorkin could make the movie kinetic and pulse-pounding – and without explosions and superpowers to achieve it.
In light of his most recent work, Being the Ricardos, a biopic recently released on Amazon Prime, let’s rank Aaron Sorkin’s movies from best to worst (as of December 2021). And maybe, just maybe we’ll find a truth we’ll be able to handle…
10) Malice (1993)
Malice is generally considered the weakest of Aaron Sorkin’s work. And the funny thing is, Sorkin himself would be inclined to agree with those critics. In a 2017 interview promoting Molly’s Game, Sorkin described Malice as “a movie I’m not proud of at all, it just turned into a mess”. And a mess it is, with a predictable serial killer plot and some seemingly subdued performances from leads Nicole Kidman and Bill Pullman.
Alec Baldwin at least redeems this movie somewhat as the quirky, charismatic Dr. Jed Hill. Baldwin even appears to be having fun himself despite Pullman’s professor being perpetually bored. However, Hill is as unbelievable as the plot itself. Sorkin was pressured into writing a sex scene between Baldwin and Kidman but adamantly refused. Alas, the sex scene was shot without Sorkin’s approval, which only left a bitterer taste in the screenwriter’s mouth. You can safely skip this film.
9) Charlie Wilson’s War (2007)
Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts star in this political flick about a US Congressman creating a program to organize and support the Afghan mujahideen during the Soviet-Afghan War. Hanks is incredibly charming as Congressman Charlie Wilson while Julia Roberts is intelligent and amorous as American businesswoman Joanne Herring. And it’s great to see this pair tackle a Sorkin script.
However, it isn’t the West Wing creator’s best work. It is packed full of intense political content that might not be relevant for everybody. And the happy ending appears inappropriate given the historical events that would follow. However, Tom Hanks allegedly didn’t want to end the film with the 9/11 terror attacks and wanted to end on a high note.
8) Being the Ricardos (2021)
An Amazon Prime original, Being the Ricardos is a biopic focusing on Lucille Ball, the comedienne famous for I Love Lucy. The film’s central narrative follows her struggle to get the groundbreaking pregnancy scene greenlit as well as her complicated relationship with her husband. Once again, Sorko directs.
This is Nicole Kidman’s second time working off an Aaron Sorkin script, and it’s a joy to watch her deliver his spitfire lines since Malice didn’t do her justice. As Lucille Ball, Kidman is vivacious and witty to the bone, nailing the real-life counterpart down to a tee. However, Sorkin fails to hook us with his interweaving of Past, Present and Future narratives. Somewhere along the way, the point of the movie is lost and we are left asking what it is. By no means is it Aaron Sorkin’s worst movie. However, it isn’t his best, either.
7) Molly’s Game (2017)
Molly’s Game is notable for being Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut. And as far as first-timers go, he does an admirable job. The film portrays Molly Bloom as the intelligent, badass woman she is in reality, with Chastain winning big in her intense, measured performance across from Idris Elba.
Again, a film about underground poker matches isn’t exactly an exciting premise. But the film wins by utilizing Bloom’s narration to explain her methodical approach to the business. Meanwhile, the movie isn’t afraid to explore the dark underworld of gambling in a vivid, gritty manner. It’s not amongst Sorkin’s best work, but it’s certainly worth your time.
6) Moneyball (2011)
Now, Sorkin isn’t the sole author of the Moneyball screenplay. In fact, he was only hired after the first draft had been written by Steven Soderbergh (who left the project due to creative differences). While Soderbergh is still credited on the movie, one can only assume Sorkin really redrafted the script and then some. It has Sorkinese magic all over it.
Brad Pitt, as a result, becomes the typical Sorkinese cocky know-it-all who sees the potential his peers just can’t see. But this is Brad Pitt we’re talking about so it works beautifully. In addition, he possesses unexpected chemistry with Jonah Hill’s nerdy statistician sidekick. The melodic dialogue makes boardroom arguments into theatrical tour-de-force and the film’s ending even more inspiring than if it would’ve been in the hands of another writer.
5) The American President (1995)
Aaron Sorkin’s first foray into the world of romcoms is actually something of a backdoor pilot for The West Wing. Yes, yes, it’s set in a different universe and Michael Douglas is the President. However, some of the elements of Sorkin’s hit show are on full display here. From walking down halls to an omnipotent president to its unshakeable optimism, it’s incredibly close in terms of tone.
That said, it isn’t just Sorkin’s writing that creates the magic here. Michael Douglas is top-notch as President Shepherd and Annette Benning thrives as no-nonsense journo Sydney Wade. The pair have underrated chemistry and, though at times the plot is a bit cheesy, it has that nostalgic charm only 90’s romcoms can create. If you’re willing to suspend your disbelief and get swept along with the fantasy, you’ll have a great time.
4) Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020)
This dramatization of the real-life court hearings of anti-Vietnam War protestors proves to be right up Aaron Sorkin’s alley. After all, this is the same guy who wrote A Few Good Men so it’s natural he’d have courtroom dramas down to a tee. Luckily, with the likes of Sacha Baron Cohen and Eddie Redmayne leading the cast, he had good actors to deliver his heart-throbbing material.
However, big props must go to Frank Langella who plays Federal District Judge Julius Hoffman. In real life, the judge wasn’t well-liked, with 78% of Chicago lawyers possessing an unfavorable opinion of him. And when Langella plays him, you can see why. When an actor is convincing enough to make you hate their character, you know they’re doing a good job.
3) Steve Jobs (2015)
This is the Steve Jobs movie without Ashton Kutcher. However, if the film’s title was honest, it’d be Steve Jobs Walking Down Corridors. The film follows Jobs through three different eras of his life – 1984, 1988 and 1998. And like The Social Network, Sorkin really nails the narcissistic genius character.
While Ashton Kutcher’s Jobs tried to be an inspirational story of how weird outcasts too can change the world, Sorkin takes a different tack. His entire script is a complex three-dimensional examination of a flawed genius, amplified by Fassbender’s brilliant performance. This film will have you thinking about Jobs and his ego long after the credits roll.
2) A Few Good Men (1992)
The Sorkmeister claims to have written A Few Good Men on dinner napkins while working as a bartender at the Palace Theater, Broadway in the 80’s. It eventually became a play – and, a little later on, a movie. Sorkin adapted his play into a movie script that brought his work to a larger audience than ever before. A Hollywood legend was brewing.
A Few Good Men is iconic – and not merely because of that classic “You can’t handle the truth!” line we all know and love. Its brilliance is also down to great performances from Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson. Cruise thrives in his role as a young, cocky military lawyer while Nicholson’s villain is deliciously snarky. It’s hard to pin down why A Few Good Men is one of Aaron Sorkin’s best movies – but once you’ve watched it, you get the picture.
1) The Social Network (2010)
Directed by David Fincher (of Seven and Fight Club fame), The Social Network chronicles a young Mark Zuckerberg’s journey from an anonymous college kid to the Facebook superstar we know him to be. As Sorkin mentions in his career breakdown video, Sorkin was fascinated by the irony that the most unsociable kid could build the world’s biggest social network. And with this premise in mind, Aaron Sorkin wrote his best movie.
Why is it his best movie, though? Well, there are a few reasons. Firstly, Sorkin’s motormouth dialogue is perfectly married to Jesse Eisenberg’s arrogant, narcissistic depiction of the Facebook CEO. Regardless of whether the depiction is reality-accurate, the screenwriter’s kinetic words and Eisenberg’s fast-paced delivery depict a self-centered, stuck-up nerd. In addition, Sorkin is always ace at writing confident, cocky, and self-assured characters – Justin Timberlake’s Sean Parker is the best example of this. This tale of ambition, betrayal, and ownership hooks you from start to finish.
But alas, that’s just our take. What do you think are Aaron Sorkin’s best movies?