Every Taika Waititi movie, ranked from worst to best

Few people in Hollywood are as busy as Taika Waititi. Just this year, we’ve seen him appear in the hit comedy Our Flag Means Death, produce another excellent season of What We Do In The Shadows, and, of course, release his latest movie, Thor: Love And Thunder. It increasingly appears this is Waititi’s world and we are simply living within its zany, irreverent, creatively rich borders. Though Waititi has only been making movies for a little over 15 years, he has clearly made an impact, not only bringing several original stories to life but drastically shifting the trajectory of one of Marvel’s most essential characters. We ranked his movies, including Thor: Love And Thunder, from worst to best.

7. Eagle vs Shark (2007)

Waititi’s first-ever feature, 2007’s Eagle vs Shark is a remnant of a very specific time and place. Early 2000s independent comedy went through a seismic change in 2004 when a film with a $400,000 budget made $46 million at the box office. That movie, of course, was the dry, awkward, understated Napoleon Dynamite. After that, every studio was looking for their own quotable, adorkable hit of their own, which is perhaps why Eagle vs Shark — a similarly low-key independent rom-com from an unknown voice — was purchased by Miramax Films even though they’d only seen a 5-minute trailer for the movie. Eagle vs Shark was not quite the smash the studio was probably looking for but it did introduce the world to the quirky, creative mind of Taika Waititi and to his frequent collaborator Jemaine Clement. Eagle vs Shark tells the story of Lily (Loren Horsley) and Clement’s Jarrod, a pair of outsider, artist-types who fall in clumsy love with each other over the course of the movie. Like a lot of first features, Eagle vs Shark can be a bit messy, more overstuffed with ideas about how to tell the story than the actual story itself, but it’s easy to see the more accomplished Waititi shine through amongst the more cluttered parts of this movie. 

6. Thor: Love And Thunder (2022)

The idea of diminishing returns is something that has been creeping into the Marvel Cinematic Universe as of late. Yes, they are still cranking out quality content at an increasingly impressive rate, but both the films and movies of the last few years have not been met with the kind of rave reviews of previous efforts. Thor: Love And Thunder is a perfect encapsulation of what ails the world’s biggest movie making behemoth. It is not a bad film whatsoever but when considered next to even its predecessor, Thor: Ragnarok, it is a movie that feels, at times, redundant. In Thor: Love And Thunder, we meet back up with our titular hero as he navigates a feeling of emotional stagnation. Sure, he is the God of thunder, able to win pretty much any battle he enters with ease and a distinct flair, but what does it really all mean when you have no one to share the spoils of victory with? Herein lies the titular “love” which Waititi has decided to make the focal point of this Thor film, one where we see many characters battle with what it means to love, lose and, hopefully, love again. For this, Waititi brings back the long lost love of Thor’s life, Jane Foster, in what is an effective callback to a mostly forgotten character. Again, everything works fairly well here as Waititi uses the same blend of goofy humor, epic needle drops, and dazzling, colorful set pieces. But it is not a better movie than Ragnarok and so those comparisons become something holding Love And Thunder back as opposed to being a strength. 

5. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

It’s hard to overstate how important Thor: Ragnarok was to the Thor series as a whole. When Chris Hemsworth was first introduced as the titular God of Thunder he was forced to play the part largely stone-faced and self-serious, unable to find even a shred of humor in the fact that he was an impossibly handsome and well-built human action figure with a magical hammer. Waititi changed all that with Ragnarok, unleashing what turned out to be the best part of Hemsworth’s portrayal of Thor, his ability to wink at the circumstances around him without making a joke of the proceedings. Ragnarok also introduces us to some amazing new characters entering the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie and Waititi’s rock-creature Korg. What’s most impressive, though, is how Waititi is able to fuse his own unique sensibilities with the Marvel movie machine, something countless directors have had a very difficult job of doing. 

Jojo Rabbit (2019)

For his next trick, Waititi will somehow make a coming-of-age story about a member of the Hitler Youth. It’s the kind of thing you can do only after you make a popular and acclaimed Marvel movie and now have the cachet to do whatever it is you want. The titular Jojo is the young Nazi in question, a sweet boy in the early days of his indoctrination whose imaginary friend, Hitler himself (Waititi), follows him throughout the movie. Now, this isn’t the Hitler of the real world, but the one in the mind of this young boy who, apparently, imagines Hitler to be a bumbling idiot. Things burst into action when Jojo finds a jewish girl (Thomasin Mackenzie) hiding in the attic, a girl who does not resemble the twisted monster his instructors would have him believe all Jewish people are. Jojo Rabbit struggles a bit as it moves into its later half, finding it increasingly difficult to balance its competing tones but its high points rank up there with Waititi’s best to be sure, as evidenced by his Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. 

What We Do In The Shadows (2014)

At this point, you might be more familiar with the television series this film inspired than the original source material, but I assure you that if you enjoy the FX series of the same name, you will absolutely love 2014’s What We Do In The Shadows. Taking on a kind of real-world style mockumentary, this marked Waititi’s third feature film, and leans heavy on the goofier side of his comedic stylings. This falls snuggly into the “should not work” category of movie. “Modern vampire of a city” is a good bit but stretching that idea into an entire movie — much less a series — would seem a difficult task and yet, this movie is hilarious. The commitment to the bit might be the most impressive aspect here, as each of its main characters fully embrace the absurdity of the citation and setup. A scene early on in the movie when the vampires are getting ready for a night out on the town stands out in this regard. Though the vampires are intent on looking their best, we are soon reminded that they cannot look in the mirror to check out their outfits. It’s a wonderfully clever setup, and one that pays off when one of the roommates is forced to draw the other to show them their “reflection”. It’s the kind of absurd humor that makes this movie work over and over again. 

Boy (2010)

Eagle vs Shark might have been Waititi’s first feature but this is where he truly starts to make his mark. Boy, written and directed by Waititi, tells the story of an 11-year-old boy — known almost exclusively as “boy” — living on a small farm in rural New Zealand with his grandmother and younger brother. ”Boy” is obsessed with Michael Jackson, determined to impress the cute girl at school, and more than a little insecure about his absent father, who he builds up to be a larger-than-life hero rather than the deadbeat we soon discover him to be (his father played by Waititi himself). Like Eagle vs Shark, Boy is a movie that indulges in its fair share of flights of fancy, clever little bits of filmmaking that will surely bring to mind a stylist like Wes Anderson. But where his previous film felt more immitative than original, Boy feels incredibly singular, showing us a specific corner of Maori society in a way that is both inspiring and heartbreaking. The titular “boy”, played by James Rolleston, is almost instantly charming and bursting with creativity but the movie embraces his unlikable side as well and his refusal to see his father as the manipulative, bumbling con-man he is is as understandable as it is difficult to watch. 

Hunt For The Wilderpeople (2016)

Though What We Do In The Shadows was Waititi’s follow-up to Boy, it’s this movie that truly takes the funny, touching torch from the previous film on our list. Hunt For The Wilderpeople is, at its heart, the story of the unlikely friendship between the sullen, “bad egg” Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) and the grizzled, soft-spoken Hec (Sam Neill). Similarly to Boy, this is a story in which our young hero’s life is largely absent of parental figures. That is, until he is placed with a new foster family, one who finally appears willing to accept Ricky for who he is. Things don’t go precisely as planned and soon, Ricky and Hec are on the run in the New Zealand bush. It’s here they get to develop the odd-couple dynamic that powers the movie and  makes for one of the most memorable quasi father-son relationships of the century. As with Boy and Eagle vs Shark, Waititi experiments with form throughout Hunt For The Wilderpeople but this is surely the deftest hand we’ve seen him employ to date, perfectly blending comedy with the essential heart of the movie.