Paul Thomas Anderson's Films Ranked Best to Worst
So today as of writing this post, is Paul Thomas Anderson's 49th birthday. With a filmography spanning over 20 years, there is no arguing that PTA has established his name as one of the all time greats. So in celebration of his birthday I've decided to rank his films from my personal favourite to least favourite.
Just a quick disclaimer, even if I rank a film last on this list, that doesn't mean I dislike the film. Paul Thomas Anderson has such an impeccable filmography that it's really not possible for me to hate on any of them.
8. Hard Eight
Paul Thomas Anderson's feature debut, and what a way to kick off a career. "Hard Eight" contains so many of the elements I love in a film: solid acting by an A-list cast, a well-paced narrative with a hidden agenda, obvious character development, and a unique style. There's some gambling, some sexuality, some violence, and a satisfying conclusion, as old school gambler Sydney (Philip Baker Hall) takes down-and-out John (John C. Reilly) under his wing. Gwyneth Paltrow plays a casino cocktail waitress named Clementine, who supplements her income by providing extra service to generous customers. Samuel L. Jackson adds some edginess as Jimmy, a security specialist who befriends John. And as a special treat, Philip Seymour Hoffman has a neat cameo throwing dice. What a great start to a promising career for Anderson, who's been proving himself a luminary among contemporary filmmakers ever since.
7. Inherent Vice
Paul Thomas Anderson's Inherent Vice is a force to be reckoned with. It's a shimmering and paranoiac masterwork that bubbles with a sustained sense of wistful loss and slowly-fading hopefulness. Masquerading as a neo-noir of convoluted and increasingly tense situations, PTA's film instead uses the complex story-line as a framework for a time and place that is both lost but constantly remembered. Combined with a delightful ensemble cast, typical PTA visual/aural nirvana, and a giddy eye for surreal situations and humour; Paul Thomas Anderson's latest is a wonderful trip that further showcases his individuality as a filmmaker as well as evoking tragedy with a potent dose of hilarity.
6. Punch Drunk Love
"Punch Drunk Love" is about one of those important things we've been looking for our entire life, making real contact with another person. And let's not fool ourselves. No matter how strange we are, breaking bathrooms and throwing hammers around, there is someone out there who will understand us.
If you've been living your life thinking Adam Sandler can't act, be prepared to be proven wrong.
You know that beautiful, wondrous feeling when a film comes along and absolutely knocks you for six? When a film comes along and puts you through the emotional wringer? When a film leaves you drained, yet strangely invigorated? Yeah, this is what "Magnolia" is gonna do to you.
This is a film about life and the way it treats its subject has not been done before. It appeals both to the intellect as to the heart and that is a fantastic experience. I found myself more than once with a lump in my throat, transported to a realm of bitter pasts, confusing presents and fearful, yet hopeful, futures. Watching this is a deeply emotional experience if you allow it to.
4. The Master
"The Master" is like a suffocating chamber drama about two damaged men yet it exists on an epic canvas hinting at the great changes occurring in America and the nation’s conflict and attraction it has towards religion. This friction is reminiscent of Anderson’s "There Will Be Blood", as is the constant push and pull of the characters as if their fates are eternally entwined (who knows, maybe they were Daniel and Eli in past lives). Yet the two films may gravitate around similar themes and seismic change in American history but they feel dramatically very different. The Master lacks the sweeping and operatic theatrics, it is quieter, more intimate and possesses a woozy and elusive atmosphere.
3. Phantom Thread
Paul Thomas Anderson swings hard and knocks it straight out of the park yet again with "Phantom Thread", a meticulously crafted and utterly intoxicating hybrid of biting dark comedy, mesmerising Gothic romance, and gripping psychological drama, with gorgeous cinematography, beautifully written characters, and stellar acting throughout, especially a standout turn from Vicky Krieps and a powerful swan song from the great Daniel Day-Lewis.
2. Boogie Nights
Paul Thomas Anderson is the only guy who could make a movie about porn and find some redeeming qualities of some truly reprehensible people. He manages to produce something that has us care and sympathise with the main protagonists even as they display stupidity on a grand scale.
Rightly regarded as one of the best auteurs working today, Anderson's "Boogie Nights" is what firmly stamped his name on the map and remains for me his most entertaining film. The movie is idealistic and incredibly honest in it's themes and he deserves enormous credit for having the balls to tackle such a subject matter.
1. There Will be Blood
It is extremely rare to come across a film that defines perfection from the first frame to the last. One that exhibits precision craftsmanship in even the smallest aspects of filmmaking. One that takes its audience on an unforgettable journey & leaves them absolutely speechless in the end. And for me, Paul Thomas Anderson's "There Will Be Blood" is one of those films that fits those attributes with exceptional accuracy.
A jaw-dropping work of blazing originality, an immensely captivating vignette of greed & obsession, and a highly intriguing character study that remains in a league of its own, "There Will Be Blood "is a haunting portrait of family, religion, hatred, oil & madness which not only marks an artistic high for its writer-director but is the very pinnacle of 21st century cinema that deserves to be ranked amongst the greatest films ever made.
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