On 26th December, director Ron Howard presents his latest gripping epic: In the Heart of the Sea. This dramatic and terrifying true story of the sinking of 19th century vessel the Essex by a giant whale is set to be one of the year's biggest spectacles. So prepare for the movie with our in-depth, behind the scenes look at the illustrious movies from Howard's career.
The year: 1984
Why we love it: One of Howard's earliest films is also one of his frothiest and most charming, as mermaid Daryl Hannah comes onto land and promptly falls in love with everyman Tom Hanks. With delightful chemistry between its leads, this fish-out-of-water story (literally) shows that Howard is as adept with comedy as he is with high drama.
The year: 1985
Why we love it: Howard announced himself as a director of repute with this emotional and funny story, in which a group of oldies in a retirement community are rejuvenated by an alien rock that crashes into their pool. Proving that a movie with a cast of veterans could be an enormous draw at the box office, Cocoon won an Oscar for veteran actor Don Ameche. Hume Croyn and Jessica Tandy also star.
The year: 1988
Why we love it: This sweeping fantasy adventure stars Warwick Davis as an unlikely hero plunged into a battle against an evil queen. At the time, the special effects from Industrial Light and Magic were cutting edge and the use of British locations as mystical backdrops is suitably atmospheric. Props also for Val Kilmer's heroic sidekick role, Jean Marsh's cackling villain and a superb score from the late, great James Horner.
The year: 1991
Why we love it: This firefighting action movie is beyond cheesy but who can resist the awesome pyrotechnics on offer? Frankly, the flames generate more heat than the overcooked plot, an overheated conflation of brotherly love and arson conspiracy featuring the all-star cast of Kurt Russell, Robert De Niro and Donald Sutherland.
The year: 1995
Why we love it: Almost certainly Howard's greatest movie, this utterly compelling dramatisation of the Apollo 13 space disaster drew widespread acclaim for its accuracy and attention to detail. As the imperilled astronauts, Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon and Bill Paxton resound with sweaty conviction, although the show is quietly stolen by Ed Harris as the fraught, committed NASA chief dedicated to getting his men home.
A Beautiful Mind
The year: 2001
Why we love it: An unashamedly Oscar-baiting movie it may be, but A Beautiful Mind does indeed boast a beautiful lead performance from Russell Crowe as schizophrenic mathematician John Nash. Equally impressive is Jennifer Connelly as Nash's devoted wife Alicia, recipient of one of the movie's four Academy Awards that also included Best Picture, Best Director for Howard himself and Best Adapted Screenplay for Akiva Goldsman.
The year: 2003
Why we love it: Howard's shamefully underrated Western fuses the horseback adventure of legendary filmmaker John Ford with an altogether more sinister supernatural angle. Cate Blanchett excels as a feisty frontier woman who must team up with her estranged father, played by Tommy Lee Jones, to save her daughter from the clutches of an Apache witch doctor. It's a nastier, grittier film than we expect from Howard – and all the better for it.
The year: 2005
Why we love it: Talking of underrated Howard movies, his second collaboration with Russell Crowe deserves a lot more attention. The actor nabbed a Golden Globe nomination for his stirring performance as Depression-era boxer Jim Braddock, who decides to undertake one final fight to provide for his struggling family. With excellent support from Paul Giamatti and Renee Zellweger, this rousing underdog movie is well worth your time.
The Da Vinci Code
The year: 2006
Why we love it: Given it's based on Dan Brown's enormously controversial bestseller, there was no way Howard's religious conspiracy thriller would fail to storm the box office. Even so, it's a surprisingly languorous, murky affair, the endless theological discussions mixing uneasily with frankly ridiculous chase sequences. With stars Tom Hanks and Audrey Tatou looking frankly bored, it's left to Paul Bettany to enliven proceedings as a sinister monk.
The year: 2008
Why we love it: After the relative misfire of The Da Vinci Code, Howard found himself on much more stable ground with this, a gripping dramatisation of the famous interview between British TV host David Frost and disgraced American President Richard Nixon. Hinging on two outstanding, powerful performances from Michael Sheen and Frank Langella, it's an story that, despite the lack of bells and whistles, makes for electrifying drama.
The year: 2013
Why we love it: Howard again proved his ability at dramatising true stories with this pedal-to-the-metal account of the rivalry between F1 drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda. Against the odds, it's a movie that manages to capture the frenetic essence of the sport in all its petrol-soaked glory, although it would be nothing without its memorable central performances: Chris Hemsworth as the dashing Hunt and Daniel Bruhl as the precise Lauda.