Aaron Sorkin was probably born in the wrong era. His characters operate under an impossibly witty and clever language, engaging in exchanges only experienced in the movies of Howard Hawks or Frank Capra. With the upcoming release of "Molly’s Game," Sorkin’s directorial debut, we ranked every film the man has penned over the last three decades.
8. “Malice” (1993)
Sorkin’s shoddiest screenplay is also his most dated. Nicole Kidman plays a happily married woman who wants to start a family. She finds herself under the care of Jed (Alec Baldwin), who's some kind of malevolent figure in Sorkin's clumsy script. “You ask me if I have a God complex?” asks Baldwin, before continuing. “Let me tell you something: I am God.” Yikes.
7. “Molly’s Game” (2017)
Sorkin is a writer first and everything else second. That includes the role of director. Sorkin’s prose sings under the direction of David Fincher or Mike Nichols, assured talents whose visions are inimitable. Here Sorkin -- adapting Molly Bloom’s book -- has difficulty pulling off double-duty. The language is still sharp and cutting, but the bite isn’t there. Surprisingly, Molly packs little punch.
6. “Steve Jobs” (2015)
This unorthodox imagining of Steve Jobs’ life should work better than it does. Under director Danny Boyle, there are moments of power. The heated exchanges between Michael Fassbender and Seth Rogen; the even more heated exchanges between Fassbender and Jeff Daniels. Sorkin does anger perfectly. Fragmenting Jobs’ varied career into a triptych structure ends up undoing some of its narrative impact.
5. “A Few Good Men” (1992)
Movies like “A Few Good Men” with monumentally popular lines of dialogue become mythologized. We gravitate to what we can easily recall, like the goodbye in “Casablanca” or Marlon Brandon’s tragic lamenting in “On the Waterfront." Moving past Jack Nicholson’s "You can’t handle the truth” throw-down, Rob Reiner's courtroom drama is more subtle than we remember. It derives strength from its performances (namely Tom Cruise and Demi Moore), who use Sorkin’s words to great effect.
4. “Charlie Wilson’s War” (2007)
This one is just fun. Re-watching director Mike Nichols’ biopic of the Texas congressmen (Tom Hanks), it’s clear Sorkin’s work plays better if it's, well, playful. The less serious the project takes itself, the stronger it ends up being. “Charlie Wilson” shines when it narrows its focus on the complex (sometimes romantic) dynamic between Hanks and Julia Roberts. Sorkin seems interested in exploring relationships that oscillate from person to professional. The lines are blurred, and that’s when characters become interesting.
3. “Moneyball” (2011)
Sorkin is best when adapting events that (on the page) don’t appear inherently cinematic. “Moneyball” is a film about number-crunching statisticians obsessed with a calculable solution to sport. Like most of Sorkin’s work, it benefits from two factors: Bennett Miller direction and star Brad Pitt. Oh, and then there’s Robin Wright, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jonah Hill. Michael Lewis’ book may have discovered the story of the Oakland A’s, but it’s Sorkin who unearths the heart.
2. “The American President” (1995)
Pure joy. “The American President” is not based on a true story. It’s not adapting an acclaimed New York Times best-seller. Sorkin’s script is simply an amalgamation of his desires: politics, sex, and power (note: not always in that order). Starring Michael Douglas and Annette Bening, every frame feels like an anomaly today -- and it’s not just because of Douglas’ irresistibly charming Commander-in-Chief. It’s a drama that’s not Oscar-bait (although it did receive one nomination for original score) or contrived, with no intentions of spinoffs or sequels. It’s about two people abating loneliness through love, and how that is made a bit more challenging when one person is running the free world.
1. "The Social Network" (2010)
Sorkin’s filmic output can’t compare to his work on television. But “The Social Network” is Sorkin’s crowning achievement. The actors -- especially Jesse Eisenberg as infamous Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg -- understand Sorkin’s intent. They lean into the nastiness when the script asks for it, and replicate the epigrammatic wit that Sorkin has been chasing since the early '90s. Neither effusive nor dry, the film is unafraid of vulnerability. Egotism gone awry, youthful creativity turned into commerce, friendship jettisoned for, well, greener pastures. It’s a true masterpiece.