10th May 2024

Every David Leitch movie, ranked

With his years of experience, Rotten Tomatoes-certified film critic and Film Critics Guild member Akhil Arora assesses and ranks every film directed by David Leitch, including The Fall Guy.

Ryan Gosling, David Leitch, and Logan Holladay on the set of The Fall Guy
Ryan Gosling, David Leitch, and stunt performer Logan Holladay on the set of The Fall Guy // Photo: Eric Laciste/Universal Pictures

Once, he was the stunt double for Brad Pitt. Now, he’s the director behind action-packed movies—from the Charlize Theron-led Atomic Blonde to the Pitt-starrer Bullet Train. David Leitch got his start doing stunt work on TV and film, performing in the likes of Fight Club, Ocean’s Eleven, The Matrix Reloaded, and The Bourne Ultimatum. He then graduated to directing the second unit for big-budget movies, from Jurassic World to Captain America: Civil War. Around that time, Leitch—and his close collaborator, Chad Stahelski—landed his first feature directorial gig: John Wick. Since then, he hasn’t looked back.

A major advocate for stunt performers to be recognised at the Oscars, given his own background, Leitch naturally puts an emphasis on in-camera stunt work. Unfortunately, some of the films he has made have suffered from an overuse of CGI or incoherent editing in the action set-pieces. That said, he’s delivered some really stylish and memorable work elsewhere. I rewatched every Leitch film—as research!—before sitting down to write this. And with that, it’s time for my ranking of every movie directed by David Leitch so far, including his latest, The Fall Guy.

Jason Statham and Dwayne Johnson in Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw
Jason Statham and Dwayne Johnson in Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw // Photo: Daniel Smith/Universal Pictures

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw

With choppy, wholly cartoonish action sequences that are nearly impossible to follow, this franchise spin-off about petrolheads saving the world was a mind-numbing experience. (The underlying philosophy also botches the film’s stated theme of people over technology.) The barb-trading between Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham wears thin and the extended surprise cameos feel grafted onto the narrative as comic relief.

Brad Pitt in Bullet Train movie
Brad Pitt in Bullet Train // Photo: Scott Garfield/Sony Pictures

Bullet Train

When it’s not being derailed by yet another expository backstory, Bullet Train serves up a mish mash of action choreography that’s more interested in being quirky or witty. Sadly, the humour reads like a second draft. On top of that, you’ve a setting that never really justifies itself and a whitewashed and underused cast, with many existing as elaborate jokes, sans any agency, or to enrich the diversity quota.

Keanu Reeves in John Wick
Keanu Reeves in and as John Wick // Photo: Lionsgate

John Wick

It might now be an established franchise with multiple spin-offs but rewatching the first chapter makes it clear that you’re watching two stunt coordinators turned directors—David Leitch co-directed it, but was denied credit due to guild rules—finding their filmmaking language. Unrefined, stilted, and rough in places, the film’s leanness and coherent action can’t make up for the fact that Keanu Reeves is close to wooden and doesn’t offer much as an actor. (The other parts aren’t that strong either.)

Charlize Theron and Sofia Boutella in Atomic Blonde
Charlize Theron and Sofia Boutella in Atomic Blonde // Photo: Jonathan Prime/Focus Features

Atomic Blonde

The narrative isn’t anything special and the characters are thin—there’s a feeling of generic across Atomic Blonde like it trades on what David Leitch has read and heard about Cold War-era Berlin. (Also, what’s with all the neon overuse?) Still, the dialogue is punchy, the acting refined, and the stylish action is a delight. The fight on the staircase, a single take that lasts several minutes, is a particular highlight. It draws humour from the violence, too, and James McAvoy is having a ball as an unhinged operative.

Ryan Reynolds and Zazie Beetz in Deadpool 2
Ryan Reynolds and Zazie Beetz in Deadpool 2 // Photo: Joe Lederer/20th Century Fox

Deadpool 2

The action is generic and forgettable for the most part. It deals in clichés, overused tropes, and outdated stereotypes. And it has little to say thematically and takes the most on-the-nose approach to conveying its message: narration. Thankfully, Ryan Reynolds is the glue that holds it together. Some of its best moments are powered by the constant undercutting of the dramatic tension. And it skewers the idea of superhero team-ups in the fashion you’d expect from a Deadpool movie.

Ryan Gosling in The Fall Guy
Ryan Gosling in The Fall Guy // Photo: Eric Laciste/Universal Pictures

The Fall Guy

Fuelled by the explosive chemistry between Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt—the kind that pulls you into the film and makes you forget everything—The Fall Guy delivers a combination of silly action and tongue-in-cheek romance that never fails to entertain. It’s spritzy and fleetfooted, the comedy flies thick and fast, and meta-ness (about stuntpeople) is the engine of much humour. Plus, we are treated to a bunch of exciting and glorious action stunt sequences. A true joy.

Akhil Arora

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