With each Ryan Coogler’s movie that has been released, the filmmaker continues to establish himself as one of the great talents to emerge in the 21st century. In just a short time, Coogler has proven that he can combine the personal touch and creativity of independent cinema with the big-budget spectacle expected from modern blockbusters. From his directorial debut with Fruitvale Station to his latest return to the MCU in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, each of these Ryan Coogler movies has been written and directed by him, further showcasing his impressive talents.
Coogler started out as an acclaimed film student at USC, where he created several award-winning short films before making the critically acclaimed indie Fruitvale Station. Its success led to Coogler reviving the Rocky franchise for a new generation with Creed. Coogler then directed MCU’s first Black-led movie with Black Panther, which was also a huge commercial and critical success leading to its 2022 sequel, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. While he has served as producer on Creed II, Judas and the Black Messiah and Space Jam: A New Legacy, focusing on his four directorial efforts shows that every Ryan Coogler movie has been impressive in its own way.
4) Fruitvale Station
The first of the Ryan Coogler movies, Fruitvale Station, is his most naturalist and visceral film. Fruitvale Station is based on the infuriating real story of Oscar Grant, a young Black man killed by a BART police officer in San Francisco in 2009. It also marks Coogler’s first movie with Michael B. Jordan who would go on to act in all of his directorial efforts to date. Grant’s story is sadly more relevant than ever as the Black Lives Matter movement continues to call attention to the unacceptable level of police violence that Black people experience, and Fruitvale Station is one of the best movies dealing with America’s policing crisis.
What makes Fruitvale Station special is how it treats Oscar Grant as not just a symbol of a problem, but a real person. Much of the movie is dedicated to the last day of Grant’s life, showcasing his relationships and struggles that were interrupted by violence. Ryan Coogler’s intimate directorial style helps the viewer empathize with Grant and understand this tragedy. This focus on Grant’s life can be a weakness of Fruitvale Station, as much of the movie is taken up by relatively mundane scenes that by the movie’s nature don’t have a satisfying resolution. The film is a strong directorial debut for Ryan Coogler, but a comparatively minor work.
3) Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
As his fourth film, it is easy to imagine that Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was the most difficult of Ryan Coogler’s movies. Having already scripted a sequel to the massively successful first movie, those plans were scrapped following the tragic death of star Chadwick Boseman. Following a period of mourning, Coogler and his team decided to carry on with the movie and transformed Black Panther: Wakanda Forever into a continuation of the original as well as a tribute to Boseman and T’Challa. The movie follows the characters of Wakanda in the aftermath of losing their king and protector while also facing a formidable new enemy, Namor.
The movie failed to live up to the original in the eyes of many fans with a somewhat bloated story. However, given all the production problems Ryan Coogler’s movie faced, including the COVID-19 pandemic and Letitia Wright’s on-set injury, this might account for some of the movie’s messiness. However, it is also easy to overlook those problems and admire the spectacle Coogler and his team was able to pull off. The movie is an emotional and personal story in many ways while still being a thrilling blockbuster adventure that opens up new corners of the MCU, including the Namor’s underwater Talokan civilization.
Certain characters like Danai Gurira’s Okoye and Michaela Coel’s Aneka aren’t given much to do, but new characters like Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne) and especially Namor (Tenoch Huerta) make exciting new additions. Among the returning cast members, Letitia Wright expertly steps into the role as the new Black Panther while Angela Bassett gives a powerhouse performance that has earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress, a first for the MCU.
2) Black Panther
The biggest of Ryan Coogler’s movies in terms of box office, Black Panther has also been hailed as one of the best moves in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The movie introduced audiences to Wakanda, a technologically advanced African country that drew on Afrofuturist ideas, and told an involving story that saw Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa dethroned and having to win back the trust of his kingdom.
Ryan Coogler’s use of color and well-structured script helped to elevate Black Panther above standard MCU fare, feeling like a brief glimpse into a fascinating new setting. The movie also featured one of the best villains of any Marvel movie in Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger, an intense figure with understandable motivations. With a star-studded supporting cast including Lupita Nyong’o, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Angela Bassett, and Forest Whitaker, it’s easy to see why Black Panther was such a milestone in both Black culture and around the world.
Black Panther still succumbs to some of the problems like the MCU’s lackluster final battle and overuse of CGI. The inclusion of Martin Freeman as a heroic white CIA agent also feels very out of place at times. But while it may not have the restrained realism of other Ryan Coogler movies, the epic Black Panther is still one of the best blockbusters of the 2010s. It also remains the only MCU movie to date to earn a nomination for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.
Ryan Coogler’s Creed gave the classic Rocky franchise a modern reinvention and helped to launch a new generation of fandom. Creed reoriented the franchise on Adonis Creed, the son of Rocky’s greatest rival Apollo, and saw Rocky mentoring the younger boxer and leading him from club fights to a battle with the pound-for-pound kingpin. Creed helped pull the franchise back from the excesses of 1980s filmmaking and back towards the gritty realism and patient character work that made the original Rocky such a classic.
Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone’s performances drew a lot of attention, but Ryan Coogler’s direction was also central to Creed‘s success. The director used many of the same techniques as in Fruitvale Station, creating a blockbuster that at times feels like an indie drama. Coogler also makes Creed‘s fight scenes feel more real and visceral without sacrificing any of the franchise’s trademark drama.
Using Ryan Coogler’s movie as a template, Creed has become a modern franchise. While other directors have taken over the subsequent sequels, including Michael B. Jordan making his directorial debut with Creed III, Coogler has served as a producer on the Creed sequels, with his style still very much a part of the series. Creed remains the best of Ryan Coogler’s movies, representing the perfect combination of both the gritty naturalism on display in Fruitvale Station and the blockbuster spectacle Coogler would later achieve with Black Panther.
Will Ryan Coogler Direct Black Panther 3?
Looking ahead at possible new Ryan Coogler movies, many fans are understandably eager to find out if the director will be returning to the Black Panther franchise. Even with the difficult production of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Coogler expressed that he would be willing to make these movies for as long as he was allowed, but seemed to suggest the decision is out of his hands and there is no confirmation on whether Black Panther 3 will happen.
Given the success of the first two movies, it would seem unlikely that Marvel would want to stop there or that they wouldn’t ask Coogler to return. For now, Coogler is still involved with the MCU, serving as producer of the rumored Wakanda Disney+ series as well as the Ironheart series.