Ranking David Lynch’s Films

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Just last week I managed to tick off the final Lynchy feature film I had left to see, Lost Highway. I was saving it and saving it until I finally gave in so that I can finally say that I have seen every feature film from my favourite ever filmmaker, David Lynch. The man is a god! He understands that film can be as artistic and powerful as any other piece of art. No other director creates worlds like David Lynch. You know that if you stick on one of his films that you’ll be transported into another place for a few hours and it’s quite an extraordinary feeling. The very best David Lynch films are more like an experience than an average film so it’s important not to think about what’s going, but to feel it instead. Even his short films like The Alphabet and The Grandmother offer more ingenuity than the majority of Hollywood’s churnings.

I would normally be feeling mournful at the fact that there’s no more David Lynch output to look forward to, however that simply isn’t true! Laura Palmer promised that she’d see us again in 25 years and here we are with David directing a Twin Peaks revival. With the renaissance TV is going through at the moment with brilliance such as, Breaking Bad and Fargo, there’s every chance that David could blow every series that’s gone out of the window! But for now, here are my rankings of David’s ten film canon complete with my weirdness rating and overall film rating.

10) Dune

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Let’s begin with the elephant (man) in the room. Dune was a self-confessed disaster which even the most hardcore David Lynch fan finds impossible to excuse. There are a few sci-fi weirdos who love it, but I’m not one of them. Everything about this film is just plain bad, from the clunky dialogue to the inexplicable plot. David had absolutely no control over this beast and was lost amidst a gigantic behind-the-scenes crew and controlling production company. David wanted to create a strange three hour plus epic, but those pesky studio execs grabbed hold of it and butchered the film to its very bare bones. The scene which sums the film up is the part where David Lynch himself plays a muddied miner whose trying to harvest all the good spice he can until a giant sandworm (which he couldn’t possibly control) gobbles him up. So as David didn’t really have any power over Dune at all, let’s just pretend it didn’t happen okay?

Best bit: Probably the line, “Bring in that floating fat man!”
Weirdness rating: 6/10
Movie rating: 3/10

9) The Straight Story

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David Lynch surprised the world when he released a genuinely sweet film for all the family to enjoy. Younger viewers might get a little restless at its snail pacing, but for those who appreciate great acting and warmth will find a lot to like. It follows the (mostly) true story of Alvin Straight, a man who rode for miles on his lawnmower to meet his estranged brother. Honestly, it really is that simple! Not a lot happens but somehow it isn’t boring at all. Perhaps it’s because of how involving it feels. You feel as though you’re going through the long and strenuous journey with Alvin, and the end scene really is beautiful and moving. However, us Lynch fanatics see it as one of his lesser films due to the lack of dancing dwarves and general dreamlike weirdness.

Best bit: The cockles-warming end scene.
Weirdness rating: 1/10
Movie rating: 8/10

8) Wild At Heart

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This Palme D’or-winning road trip boasts plenty of Lynchy weirdness, including a squealing peg-legged Grace Zabriskie and an appearance from the fairy godmother herself (played by Laura Palmer). In fact, Wild at Heart features some of the most memorable characters and performances David has ever mustered. Diane Ladd (Laura Dern’s real Mum!) possibly steals the show as Lula’s nightmarish, psychotic mother. Her wildly hammy performance quite rightly garnered an Oscar nomination as she gives Bette Davis a run for her money! Equally impressive is Willem Dafoe as the terrifying Bobby Peru. Willem has never been easy on the eye but Lynch turns him into the stuff of true nightmares. The only thing that stops Wild at Heart propelling to the top is Barry Gifford’s linear and less interesting plot. It’s still a fantastic journey full of fun, frights and lunacy!

Best bit: When Diane Ladd turns to reveal her entire face smothered in lipstick.
Weirdness rating: 7/10
Movie rating: 8/10

7) The Elephant Man

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The other ‘normal’ David Lynch film (along with The Straight Story) which catapulted him into the big time. After the super low-budget Eraserhead found its way into the hearts of Midnight Movie fans, Mel Brooks gave David the chance to direct the true story of Joseph Merrick. The story goes that Lynch accepted the job as soon as he heard the title of the film! Considering how young and inexperienced he was at the time, The Elephant Man is a truly miraculous piece of work and a timeless film by anyone’s standards. It’s impossible not to feel moved and involved in Joseph’s tragic life as he’s taken into care by a kindly Anthony Hopkins. Seeing him transform from a terrified mute into a compassionate and confident character is a pretty life-affirming experience. It also features one of the most powerful and upsetting endings of all time. Despite the scenes which bookend the film, The Elephant Man features virtually no signature strangeness which is why it falls slightly shorter for me. However, it’s still a fantastic piece of work.

Best bit: The soul-crushing ending
Weirdness rating: 1/10
Movie rating: 9/10

6) Lost Highway

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Another Barry Gifford collaboration, although it’s clear who’s in the driving seat here! After a terrific title sequence over David Bowie’s haunting I’m Deranged song our polarising non-linear narrative begins. The first Fred Maddison story features some of the best stuff David has ever done as we’re transported into a frightfully eerie dream world in which a saxophone player and his missus are plagued by mysterious videotapes. The suffocating atmosphere disappears slightly when a perplexing second story begins involving a young mechanic called Pete Dayton. Lost Highway is a gripping and thought provoking psycho-sexual-horror-neo-noir which offers no easy answers. It also features one of the David’s scariest creations in the Mystery Man who’s probably the key to entire mystery but who doesn’t fit into the story at all (seemingly). It perhaps doesn’t feature his strongest protagonists’, but it is unfairly overlooked when discussing David. It’s also masterfully directed.

Best bit: Fred’s first meeting with the Mystery Man is probably the moment which sticks out the most. After his dream!
Weirdness rating: 8/10
Movie rating: 9/10

5) Eraserhead

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This is where it all began! A five year labour of love where a cash-strapped young Dave even lived on the set for a short while to save money. Those five years resulted in 90 minutes of pure genius. It’s quite possibly the weirdest film ever made and transports the viewer into a strange and terrifying land where a funny-haired young man copes with the struggles of caring for a mutant baby. No, it’s weirder than it sounds! It’s exactly like watching a dream and every scene is filled with an inexplicable sense of dread. Eraserhead is the quintessential Lynch film with a polarising narrative, strange characters and dreamlike sequences which end up everywhere and nowhere. Whilst there is no real explanation to it all, David has claimed that he’s still yet to read an interpretation which matches his.

Best bit: The Lady in the Radiator’s haunting singing solo
Weirdness rating: 10/10
Movie rating: 10/10

4) INLAND EMPIRE

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Another film where David gave himself complete control to let his dangerous creative juices flow. Unsurprisingly, it’s also tied with Eraserhead as one of the very weirdest films of all time (IMO). It’s the ultimate test to see how much of Lynch fan you really are. Most people despise INLAND EMPIRE with pure venom due to its hefty 180 minute runtime and incomprehensible plot which is clear as mud. I’ll never forget when I first watched it though (one of my first David Lynch films) and feeling utterly transported. I watched it alone, in the middle of the night with no distractions (the only way to watch a David Lynch film) and I felt as though I was actually having a nightmare. It didn’t feel like I was watching screen, it felt as though I was asleep and having a nightmare I couldn’t escape. Once the film is over you feel as though you’ve spent you’re whole life watching it, yet you can only bits and pieces which is exactly like waking from a dream. At the centre of it all is a stunning performance from Laura Dern, a woman transported into total madness. INLAND EMPIRE is by far David Lynch’s scariest film, and also his most magical.

Best bit: When the prostitutes dance to the locomotion
Weirdness rating: 10/10
Movie rating: 10/10

3) Blue Velvet

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The velvet of blue is often cited as the best film in the Lynchian canon (along with my number one) and it’s easy to see why. Whilst the film has its moments of bizarreness, for the most part it’s an audience-friendly mystery thriller although it’s far from conventional. Kyle Maclachlan is a Dale Cooper in training as he becomes obsessed with finding out where a severed ear came from. The first thirty minutes are like a straightforward albeit gripping, mystery film. Things get dark and subversive when Kyle hides in Isabella Rossellini’s closet and watches her get horrifically raped by Dennis Hopper. Somehow Dennis Hopper didn’t get Oscar nominated for his electrifying performance as Frank Booth. Every scene with Frank is filled with intensity and jet-black comedy. Luckily, David Lynch got himself nominated again as best director to make up for things! Blue Velvet is a masterpiece by anyone’s standards and features scene after scene of classic Lynchian moments.

Best bit: Ben’s strange lip-synch to In Dreams
Weirdness rating: 7/10
Movie rating: 10/10

2) Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me

Laura Twin Peaks

Ooh would you look at me being controversial! It was booed at Cannes and reviled by fans of the series yet somehow it’s crept its way up to second place in my list. I love the original Twin Peaks series but the darker elements have always interested me more than the comedic side and with Fire Walk with Me, David goes full into full horror mode as we explore Laura Palmer’s final week of life. She was an enigma in the series, but here she’s thrown into the spotlight and becomes one of the most compelling characters David Lynch has ever created. After a bizarre opening in which we’re transported into a parallel Twin Peaks universe with Fat Trout trailer parks and reappearing David Bowie’s we suddenly focus on Laura’s final days. Sheryl Lee’s performance is outstanding and the moments of horror are frighteningly intense. The final sequence where Laura is killed is particularly horrifying and ultimately moving. Fire Walk with Me is, in my opinion, one of David’s most harrowing films.

Best bit: The powerful final scene which manages to be tragic and uplifting at the same time.
Weirdness rating: 8/10
Movie rating: 10/10

1) Mulholland Dr

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Ah yes, Mulholland Drive is possibly my favourite film of all time. It wasn’t always that way though! When I first saw it I gave it a 9/10 and wasn’t totally spellbound, but then I read all the explanations and realised just how rich and detailed every single scene was. Mulholland is all the magic of the movies rolled into one. It’s set in Hollywood and features the archetypal Hollywood noir plot of an amnesiac, a mysterious key and a bag of cash. It’s so much more than that though. In fact, Mulholland Drive is so layered and ingenious that it hurts your head just thinking about it. On the surface it’s just a series of random and meaningless scenes which shouldn’t work, but it just does. There’s an intense signature dreamlike atmosphere which dominates every scene right up until the final thirty minutes where the rug is pulled from our feet and the film spirals into total lunacy. Mulholland Drive is an extraordinary achievement which will never be topped.

Best scene: The entire sequence in the Club Silencio is the probably the best thing David Lynch has ever created.
Weirdness rating: 9/10
Movie rating: 10/10

Well there’s my ranking of my favourite filmmaker. Agree or disagree? Let me know below please!

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