Every Ari Aster Movie, Ranked

Movies


While Ari Aster‘s filmography might not be for everyone, it is an undeniably interesting and singular body of work. He released a series of short films between 2008 and 2016, some of which became fairly well-known and infamous, while others are generally quite obscure. Then, in 2018, his feature film debut, Hereditary, made him an instantly significant figure within the horror genre, and his feature films made since then have continued to be interesting and challenging.


What follows is a ranking of all the movies Ari Aster has made so far, both short films and feature-length. Many of these aren’t for the faint of heart, but it is surprising to see how not everything he’s made specifically belongs to the horror genre. Strong-willed people who enjoy horror, very dark comedy, and, at times, distressing/tragic stories might well find it worthwhile to explore Aster’s entire cinematic output to date.


11 ‘Herman’s Cure-All Tonic’ (2008)

Aster’s directorial debut

Image via AFI Conservatory

Every director has to start somewhere, and Ari Aster started his filmography with the 2008 short film Herman’s Cure-All Tonic. It’s not the worst thing in the world by any means, but it doesn’t have a great deal about it that truly stands out or feels exciting. Safe to say, it would probably be languishing in obscurity were it not for Ari Aster’s later shorts/movies.

It does center around a strained/uncomfortable dynamic between family members, which is something that can be said about a fair few Ari Aster films. The plot here follows what happens when the son of a pharmacy owner decides to fight back against his abusive father and do things for himself. It blends comedy and horror without being hugely funny or scary, but for a 12-minute film made by a young filmmaker (Aster was 22 in 2008), it’s not bad.

Not available to stream in the US and Canada.

10 ‘TDF Really Works’ (2011)

Shortest short film ever

Two men laughing together in TDF Really Works - 2011
Image via Faux Beef Productions

Should TDF Really Works actually count as an Ari Aster film? Even for a short film, it’s super short, clocking in at 2 minutes and 44 seconds. It also has a premise where describing it would give everything away, and said description is impossible to spell out without getting obscene. It’s a fake infomercial, essentially, for a bizarre product.

Calling it immature would be an understatement, but the shock comedy angle does make it kind of funny, even if laughing at it might make one feel very guilty and stupid. Although pretty inconsequential informercial overall, Aster’s not the only well-known director to have shorts like this from way back in their filmography. Oscar-winners like The Daniels made music videos and short films before Swiss Army Man and Everything Everywhere All at Once.

Watch on YouTube

9 ‘Basically’ (2014)

Starring the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Fittingly, the premise for Basically is quite basic. It’s a short film that runs for a quarter of an hour and is essentially one extended monologue given to the camera in a variety of lavish locations by one young woman who talks about her luxurious yet somewhat unfulfilling life.

This is the point in Aster’s filmography where things start getting generally pretty good, with Basically only falling behind some other Aster shorts because it doesn’t quite have the same punch. But its dark sense of humor and sarcasm does make it generally engaging, and it’s also notable for starring Rachel Brosnahan, best known for her role in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

Watch on YouTube

8 ‘The Turtle’s Head’ (2014)

Detective Bing Shooster sitting behind his desk in The Turtle's Head
Credit: Ahsen Nadeem

In the same vein as TDF Really Works, The Turtle’s Head is another Ari Aster short that has a ridiculous and arguably obscene premise revolving around a certain anatomical part. Like that 2011 short, The Turtle’s Head has quite an immature sense of humor, but it pushes things to a ridiculous extreme, which does make the entire thing fairly funny.

It also has a bit more going for it stylistically than some other short films by Aster, given it’s a parody of old detective stories and classic film noir movies. Here, the comedy comes from the detective protagonist becoming far more worried about a unique medical condition of his, rather than any case at hand. The Turtle’s Head is very silly and very strange but proves genuinely funny in parts, too.

Watch on YouTube

7 ‘Beau’ (2011)

Before Beau Is Afraid, there was just Beau

Beau screaming in horror in Beau - 2011
Image Faux Beef Productions

Twelve years before Beau Is Afraid, Ari Aster made Beau, which runs for just seven minutes, compared to the feature-length version, which runs for almost three hours. While Beau Is Afraid consists of at least four distinct parts, Beau feels like a condensed version of Beau Is Afraid’s first act, which was largely set in the title character’s apartment.

When judged as a bite-sized piece of horror/comedy, Beau works pretty well thanks to its tense and darkly funny story about an unlucky and anxious man battling against a world that seems to hate him. The only thing that holds it back is a somewhat underwhelming ending. Still, the rest of this short film – and its overall eerie, can’t-put-your-finger-on-it atmosphere – is impressive.

Not available to stream in the US and Canada.

6 ‘C’est la Vie’ (2016)

That’s life for you

A man walking on the street while talking to the camera in C’est la Vie - 2016
Credit: Ahsen Nadeem

An Ari Aster short film that basically has the same premise/style as Basically, C’est la Vie is an overall stronger short. Like Basically, it involves a single character speaking and ranting to the camera throughout; instead of a wealthy young woman, C’est la Vie’s central character is a passionate and angry homeless man.

He rages against the horrible things in society, all while the world continues turning in the background, seemingly oblivious to what he has to say. C’est la Vie is an effective satirical short film that feels harsh, funny, and somewhat poignant. Ultimately, it ends up achieving a great deal with a poignant message in what ends up being a film that runs for just eight minutes.

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5 ‘The Strange Thing About the Johnsons’ (2011)

A family pose for wedding photos in The Strange Thing About the Johnsons
Image Via American Film Institute 

Of all the traumatic and disturbing films in his resumé, many will point to The Strange Thing About the Johnsons as Ari Aster’s most disturbing and confronting. It tells a story about abuse within a family but flips things by making it a son who abuses his father in some horrific ways. Although much of the abuse is generally implied and heard rather than seen, it’s still incredibly upsetting.

Designed to provoke and alarm, it can arguably be said that The Strange Thing About the Johnsons is perhaps too effective. Some might well find it the worst thing Aster’s made, and some might appreciate how brazen and devastating it is and call it one of his best works. The Strange Thing About the Johnson is likely to divide and traumatize, and it’s hard not to have at least some (perhaps reluctant) admiration for how deep it wades into treacherous, despairing waters.

Watch on YouTube

4 ‘Beau Is Afraid’ (2023)

Aster’s latest effort

Close-up of Joaquin Pheonix as Beau Wasserman looking very concerned in a chair in Beau Is Afraid
Image via A24

Expanding his 2011 short film Beau dramatically, Beau Is Afraid stands as Ari Aster’s most ambitious film to date. The movie feels like his most unpredictable, too, because it’s his first feature film where calling it “just” a horror film does it a huge disservice. Indeed, Beau Is Afraid is equal parts adventure, fantasy, psychological drama, and dark comedy. He’d made dark comedy short films before, but Beau Is Afraid was his first feature film to have consistent laughs… at least for viewers with a certain sense of humor.

Some people might instead find this anxiety-laden odyssey too upsetting to be funny, or some might find it too weird and off-putting to even finish. It represents Aster making something wholly personal and not worrying a bit about what everyone will think, and to that end, Beau Is Afraid is much more admirable than it can ever be confusing (and make no mistake – it is still very, very confusing).

Beau is Afraid Poster

Beau Is Afraid

Following the sudden death of his mother, a mild-mannered but anxiety-ridden man confronts his darkest fears as he embarks on an epic, Kafkaesque odyssey back home.

Release Date
April 21, 2023

Runtime
179 minutes

Watch on Paramount+

3 ‘Munchausen’ (2013)

Motherhood at its most terrifying

Mother and Son hugging in Munchausen
Image Via Invicta Films

Besides The Strange Thing About the Johnsons, Munchausen is the most well-known short film Ari Aster’s directed to date. It also explores a twisted family dynamic but plays out like a silent film. It features one extended montage where the story of a mother’s obsessive love for her son is told purely through visuals and music.

The effect is genuinely striking, and the technical skill on display here makes Munchausen arguably the greatest short film in Aster’s body of work. It’s not too horror-heavy either, even if the story does get horrifying. Instead, it feels like a stomach-churning family drama where the boldly colorful visuals just make the twisted aspects of the story feel even more uncomfortable.

Watch on YouTube

2 ‘Midsommar’ (2019)

Florence Pugh’s breakthrough role

Florence Pugh as Dani crying while surrounded by other women in the film Midsommar.
Image via A24

Midsommar was Ari Aster’s second feature film and is easily one of the greatest things the filmmaker has made so far. It follows a group of friends who go on a trip to Sweden, with one member of their group reeling from a horrific family tragedy. Things get more horrific and tragic during their travels as the group ends up getting involved in the unusual activities of a dangerous cult.

It’s a psychological horror film that starts in a bold and dark fashion and then gets continually more distressing as things go along. It deals thematically with grief and breakdowns in relationships, all the while featuring harrowing scenes of violence, psychological degradation, and hallucinations brought on by psychedelic mushrooms. Although not a fun movie by any means, Midsommar is a powerful and thought-provoking exploration of grief, trauma, and human vulnerability that will be hard to forget.

Midsommar Poster Movie

Midsommar

A couple travels to Northern Europe to visit a rural hometown’s fabled Swedish mid-summer festival. What begins as an idyllic retreat quickly devolves into an increasingly violent and bizarre competition at the hands of a pagan cult.

Release Date
July 3, 2019

Director
Ari Aster

Runtime
140

Watch on Amazon

1 ‘Hereditary’ (2018)

Toni Collete’s tour de force

Toni Collette with a scared expression in Hereditary
Image via A24

A24 is particularly well known for its horror movies, and Hereditary might just be the crowning jewel of the company’s terrifying collection. Hereditary is also notable for being Ari Aster’s feature film debut, with the story centering on a family dealing with intense loss, as well as other horrors potentially linked to their family tree.

Hereditary pushes things uncomfortably far at times, with few horror films in recent memory able to compare when it comes to general traumatic content. It also features a career-best tour de force performance from the mighty Toni Collette, whose Oscar snub still hurts today. Hereditary is likely to make anyone who watches it feel uneasy, upset, and very likely unnerved, but that’s also what makes it so effective as a work of horror, ensuring it stands as Aster’s overall best film to date.

Hereditary Film Poster

Hereditary

When her mentally ill mother passes away, Annie (Toni Collette), her husband (Gabriel Byrne), son (Alex Wolff), and daughter (Milly Shapiro) all mourn her loss. The family turn to different means to handle their grief, including Annie and her daughter both flirting with the supernatural. They each begin to have disturbing, otherworldly experiences linked to the sinister secrets and emotional trauma that have been passed through the generations of their family.

Release Date
June 8, 2018

Director
Ari Aster

Runtime
127 minutes

Watch on Max

NEXT: The Best Supernatural Psychological Thrillers, Ranked



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