Aaron Sorkin is one of the most unique scriptwriters to ever grace cinema and television. His rapid-fire dialogue, his inter-character dynamics, his overwrought scenes…
There are few like him, which is why Aaron Sorkin is one of the only people in Hollywood who’s able to get any project made by major studios. His history of results speak for him.
In 2017, Sorkin even made the leap from writer-only to writer-director with his film Molly’s Game, which ended up earning him his third Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Ready to dive into the unique greatness of Aaron Sorkin? Here are the best Aaron Sorkin movies and TV shows worth your time.
10. The American President
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The American President is often seen as the film that led Aaron Sorkin to do The West Wing. But while it certainly influenced that TV series, the tones of the movie and the show couldn’t be more different.
Sorkin’s film, starring Michael Douglas and Annette Bening, revolves around the widowed president of the United States and what happens to his opinion polls when he starts dating a political lobbyist.
The American President is well-constructed and features his typical Sorkin-style banter-dialogue throughout. But as Sorkin’s work goes, it lacks the hard-hitting razor-sharp story that’s been his signature. The performances are good and the writing is concise, but it isn’t his best.
9. The Newsroom
Aaron Sorkin must have a thing for “behind-the-scenes” TV dramas. His first attempt at the subgenre was in 1998 when he created the series Sports Night for ABC, which only lasted two seasons before it was cancelled. In 2012, he tried again with The Newsroom.
The Newsroom is about the behind-the-scenes activities of a functional TV news desk and the day-to-day interpersonal relationships between the staff.
Led by the criminally underrated Jeff Daniels and Emily Mortimer, the show featured some great performances throughout most of its run. And while it tended to slip into melodrama and waxed sanctimonious at times, it worked well for the most part.
Overall, the series was roundly met with “meh” reviews from critics, but it scored well among viewers who love Sorkin’s brand of dialogue and narrative spinning.
8. Charlie Wilson’s War
Adapting George Crile’s book was always going to be a tricky affair, given that it revolves around the US’s involvement in the Soviet-Afghan War. There was always going to be political backlash, what with all the charged opinions that are always involved in such issues.
Aaron Sorkin’s script ended up being quite strong, though, and when you have Tom Hanks, Amy Adams, and Philip Seymour Hoffman to lead the cast, the material is bound to be elevated to higher heights.
Charlie Wilson’s War was met with good reviews, despite differing opinions on the movie’s happy ending when in reality many people died. However, for the most part, Sorkin delivered a well-put-together piece that only somewhat lacked his usual panache.
7. Molly’s Game
The great thing about Molly’s Game is the deeper mystery as to whom the nasty Hollywood characters are based on. While most of them have been worked out by now, a few still remain unnamed.
The writing and direction from Aaron Sorkin is tight and well-balanced, and Jessica Chastain’s leading performance definitely brought a grand and visceral heart to Molly, which is something that Sorkin’s work has sometimes lacked.
The fact that Chastain missed out on an Oscar nomination for this role is as baffling today as it was then, while Idris Elba could have easily been more recognized for his role in the film too.
6. The Trial of the Chicago 7
By the time The Trial of the Chicago 7 came out on Netflix, people knew exactly what to expect from Sorkin—and he delivered in style.
Sorkin’s first return to the cinematic courtroom since A Few Good Men had fans excited, but this turned out to be a vastly different experience than his earlier 1992 film.
The Trial of the Chicago 7 is up there as Sorkin’s funniest film in many ways, which contrasts with how shocking it is as it revisits a divisive moment in America’s history. The leading ensemble is phenomenal, with Sacha Baron-Cohen’s performance being the standout and solid performances from Mark Rylance and Eddie Redmayne, too.
And with this being the second feature film that Sorkin directed, The Trial of the Chicago 7 shows how he’s evolved on from Molly’s Game and cultivated new abilities behind the camera.
5. The West Wing
The West Wing did stem from the success that Aaron Sorkin found with his film The American President. This TV series and that movie are wildly different beasts but you can still feel the movie’s influence in the various scenes of the show.
As a series, The West Wing was a great example of sensationalized but fun storytelling that gave a fictionalized look inside The White House. It was The West Wing that first started Sorkin’s walk-and-talk dialogue with accompanying tracking camera movements, and that later became a staple of Sorkin’s work for those parodying him.
Sorkin left production after four seasons—citing personal problems and a massive workload—but the show and its legacy are forever linked to his style. It garnered strong reviews, and the show has aged remarkably well. It’s still a must-watch for fans of political drama.
4. A Few Good Men
The original Sorkin feature film is still one of his best to this day. As courtroom dramas go, you’re hard-pressed to find many that are out-and-out more entertaining than this.
The story is about two US Marines who accidentally cause the death of a fellow soldier, all because of an unwritten rule among Marines that presses on them the need to whip their unit into shape.
A Few Good Men is a brilliantly written script that holds together perfectly. It’s thrilling and moving at the same time, but without any sense of melodrama.
Tom Cruise may have been the star, but Jack Nicholson was the MVP as Colonel Nathan R. Jessup, who will be forever remembered for uttering the line: “You can’t handle the truth!”
Moneyball represented a change in pace for Sorkin. He turned back to the sporting world for the first time since Sports Night, and alongside co-writer Steve Zaillian, he wrote a film about the surprising success of the Oakland Athletics baseball team.
The dialogue is inch-perfect here, and it enabled Brad Pitt’s Billy Beane to come across as a fully rounded character who was committed to both his work and his daughter. With a supporting cast featuring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Jonah Hill, Moneyball was a hit at the box office and was nominated for six Academy Awards.
Though it was co-written, you can feel Sorkin’s fingerprints in Moneyball with the sharp dialogue and to-the-point scenes that leave zero room for fluff. And if you’re going to co-write with anybody, Steve Zaillian is one of the best partners you could have.
2. The Social Network
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Here’s the film that finally earned Aaron Sorkin his Oscar. The Social Network tells the tale of Mark Zuckerberg’s rise to power as the CEO of Facebook—and the enemies he made along the way.
By this time, The Academy had to give Sorkin an Oscar nomination for something; he’d been due one for some time. And it all worked out for him, who collected Best Adapted Screenplay for his work.
The Social Network has gone down as one of the best made movies of the century, and Sorkin’s no-holds-barred screenplay has always been a big factor in that. It elevated all the actors involved and forced the world to see a version of Zuckerberg that wasn’t all smiles.
1. Steve Jobs
The ability to take something dull (like a tech launch) and make it as entertaining as Steve Jobs did? That’s only the second best thing that Aaron Sorkin achieved with this film.
The absolute best thing is how the movie combines Sorkin’s fast-and-sharp style with an unconventional narrative approach, which results in a hard-hitting emotional core that permeates the film.
Of course, by this we mean Lisa Brennan-Jobs. Aaron Sorkin tells this tale about one of the most innovative and successful men in history, all through the lens of his daughter. And it works.
Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Jeff Daniels, and Katherine Waterston were all perfect in their roles, and Fassbender (who played Steve Jobs himself) was robbed of an Oscar for his performance.
Reflecting on the film now, it stands alone in Sorkin’s work as one that has a real heart to it. It might have failed at the box office, but Steve Jobs will come to be known as Sorkin’s best movie.