Friday, 10 June 2011

List #5 Top ten... David Lynch Movies

Or rather, the Lynch oeuvre in what is, for my money, it's proper hierarchy of quality - happily, our David's done exactly ten movies. I know, I know, hardly the most original premise for a movie blog list. But Lynch is pound-for-pound my favourite director, so it's about time he got the Slut treatment.

10. Eraserhead

OK, so this one I like the least. It does inhabit a startlingly well-realised visual world, and there's a great money shot with the baby-creature, but this really isn't the kind of film you'd want to see more than once - the very definition of 'not a date movie'. Incidentally, if someone tells you this is their favourite Lynch movie or (god forbid) favourite movie full stop, they're either lying or deranged.


And this is where Lynch just went a bit too bonkers for me. There are great elements to this film - Grace Zabriskie, the Locomotion scene, Harry Dean Stanton, but the overwhelming non-linearality (yes, it's a word now) make this a bridge too far for me. Also it's probably his ugliest film - still visually striking, but the starkness of the digital film stands in contrast to his other gorgeous, textured, celluloid movies.

8. The Elephant Man

Lynch's sophomore flick, produced under the aegis of the indomitable Mel Brooks, is perhaps his most conventional. Here we see a film-maker still finding his feet and mastering his own vision, but nevertheless it's a lovely little film, with dignified performances from John Hurt and Anthony Hopkins. Plus it earned a Lynch a couple of Oscar noms - for direction and screenplay.

7. Twin Peaks: Fire, Walk With Me

A much-misunderstood movie that is rather different in tone to the wonderful TV series. It was poorly received on release, but now deserves (and is starting to find) tentative, positive reappraisal. I love it - it's a great slice o' Lynch with plenty of his trademarks - psychological horror, a woman in trouble, a fabulous soundtrack and (buried rather deeply, it has to be said) some black humour.

6. Lost Highway

Lost Highway divides opinion - for some it's a pointless muddle of ideas with a dose of exploitation and a trendy gen-x soundtrack. For others it's a challenging, almost Borgesian, Mandelbrot set of a puzzle-plot, with some great moments of genuine horror and a whole bunch of memorable performances. No surprise then that I'm in the latter camp; it's one of my all-time favourite horror movies too.

5. Dune

*Collective gasp*... really? Dune, that renowned commercial and critical flop, at number five? Well, this is a personal list. And yes, I happen to love Dune in spite of its problems. I love the still-great special effects, the ludicrously overblown dialogue, the fabulous set-design and even the Toto soundtrack. I understand the criticisms, but won't accept them. It's wholly irrational, but I love Dune. Deal with it, mo-fos.

4. The Straight Story

It's commonly considered a departure for Lynch - it's a linear, family friendly (and largely true) story about an old man riding a lawnmower hundreds of miles to build bridges with his estranged and ailing brother. But wait - we've also got small-town America, gorgeous vistas, genuinely good people, folk doing peculiar things, memorable bit-part players, a gorgeous Angelo Badalementi score (his best yet), Everett McGill and a very strong female performance: classic Lynch hallmarks all. And oddly, the older I get, the more I love this movie. 

3. Blue Velvet

From a purely objective point of view, this could be his best film. It is the very epitome of what we now consider to be 'Lynchian' - it's a bleak, horrifying and bizarre tale of the rotten floorboards beneath the flush shagpile that is the American Dream. Kyle Maclachlan set up an entire career here, and Dennis Hopper returned from the wilderness with the best and most disgusting movie villain since Noah Cross; my glass is forever raised to his fuck. A masterpiece maybe - but there are two others I adore even more...

2. Wild At Heart

Hotter than Georgia asphalt, this movie is Lynch at his most playful, outside of the first season of Twin Peaks. It's hilarious, enormous fun and perhaps the one grown-up film that's seen more repeat viewing chez Slut than any other (after The Big Lebowski). It also goes a long way to explain my long-standing tolerance for Nicholas Cage. This movie really does contain multitudes and I'll be exploring it greater depth in the near future, unless I'm begged otherwise.

1. Mulholland Dr.

Excellent choice, Adam...
Just a supreme, all-time great piece of filmmaking. You watch it collapsed back in your chair, mouth agape, marveling at the work of a master artist with a complete command of his medium and vision. Mulholland Dr. contains many things: a baroque deconstruction of Hollywood (and companion piece to Sunset Boulevard), some straight-up horror and exploitation, a perfectly-judged mobius-strip dreamplot, sheer dread, broken dreams, (another) girl in trouble, satire, comedy... there are more wonderful scenes, shots, snatches of dialogues, sounds and images than most directors will manage in an entire career. And it's beautiful throughout. Like Nabokov - or Mozart, or Dali - at the top of their games, this is an ornate and perfect work of genius.

...or am I just spouting nonsense? Thoughts below. Unless you're too busy bein' a smart-aleck.


  1. For what it's worth, I agree with you on Dune. I actually worked (tangentially) on the Dune computer games from Westwood Studios back in the day, so I'm partial to all things Arrakeen.

    Tell me about your homeworld, Usul.

  2. i find straight story to be most pleasing of all of his work, it's a movie with so many layers that even the title has extra depth. and whilst i would cite mulholland drive as being excellent i don't think that i've managed to watch it more than once despite meaning to watch it again to try to understand more.

  3. @Steve - I've loved that game! Had it on (I think) the Sega Megadrive. I was House Ordos.

    @Toby - Straight Story really is great. I wonder if it would be considered more of a 'classic' if it had been filmed by a different director? As it is, I think most folk just see it as 'that David Lynch film that isn't weird'.

  4. Lost Highway is my least favourite of the works of his that I have seen. Just do not understand that film at all. It felt like a film that only Lynch could decipher.

  5. Hey, we have the same Top 3. I haven't seen Straight Story nor Dune though, so I can only do a Top 8 myself.

    Just wrote a piece on Lynch over at my blog (posted it late last night - so it is fresh).