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Ranked: Oliver Stone Films From Worst to Best
We reassess the provocateur behind Wall Street, Platoon, and the new Savages.
by Phil Dyess-Nugent
At sixty-five, Oliver Stone is the grand old man of bad-boy moviemakers. His new one, Savages, based on the book by Don Winslow, finds Blake Lively in a menage a trois with pot merchants played by Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Taylor-Johnson. These three run afoul of Salma Hayek and Benicio del Toro, as the leaders of a Mexican drug cartel who don't like competition, and John Travolta, as a deeply untrustworthy DEA agent. In sum: sex, drugs, violence, hot lights, assaultive camera angles, and a beat you can dance to. Will it be any good? Hard to say, but based on the director's track record, there's reason to think it probably won't be boring. Herewith, his filmography from worst to best.
18. Heaven & Earth (1993)
With this epic about a young Vietnamese girl who endures torture and rape in her own country before entering into a (disastrous) marriage to a U.S. soldier (Tommy Lee Jones), Stone intended to lay rest to the talk that he couldn't create believable women characters. But he really can't seem to get into his heroine's head, so the scenes of her unhappy life during wartime play as over-the-top melodrama, while the scenes showing her alienation from the vulgar consumerist society of America are just shrill. Heaven & Earth is the worst of Stone's movies, because, as bad as some of the others are, this is the only one that has no entertainment value at all: with that suffering girl at its center, you can't even enjoy making fun of it.
17. Alexander (2004)
Stone's only pre-20th-century historical film turned out to be a three-hour, $155 million "Kick me!" sign pinned to the seat of his pants. Stone had good luck in the past when he cast hot actors (Tom Cruise, Anthony Hopkins) in unlikely roles, but Colin Farrell was unable to convince anyone that he could conquer the world by the force of his beetle-browed pout. Never one to accept defeat gracefully, Stone accused critics of reacting badly to a subplot about Alexander having a male lover, which would certainly have qualified as ironic justice after the arguably homophobic JFK. Two years later, he put out three-and-a-half hour version, apparently believing that audiences had ignored the theatrical release because it didn't go on long enough.
16. Seizure (1973)
Stone's first feature is an amateurish, low-budget, but artistically ambitious horror movie of the "Is this real or just an illusion?" variety. Jonathan Frid, the original Barnabas Collins of the TV series Dark Shadows, plays a horror novelist who's been having bad dreams, and who is having friends over for the weekend. The party is crashed by a silky, sexy "Queen of Evil" (played by scream queen Martine Beswick), a bearded dwarf (Herve Villechaize), and a hooded muscleman carrying an axe, who put the guests through a series of trials and torments. It's more nastily misanthropic than scary, and in its own way it's as pretentious as anything Stone has ever done. But as juvenilia, it does have a certain midnight-movie appeal, thanks in no small part to the freakishness of that cast.
15. The Hand (1981)
Stone's first major studio picture is a horror movie starring Michael Caine as a cartoonist who loses his hand in a car accident, with his wife at the wheel. As he grows more and more enraged over the loss of his drawing ability and the breakup of his marriage, his severed hand is crawling all over the place strangling people, including his young lover. If there's a way to show people reacting to having a disembodied hand wrapped around their larynxes without it looking funny, Stone couldn't find it. He may have included his own meta-review by casting himself as a bum who becomes the hand's first victim. Two qualities connect The Hand to Stone's later work: one, the targets of the cartoonist's fury are mostly women, and two, the tone is frequently hysterical.
14. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010)
Well, you can't go home again. Money Never Sleeps involves Gordon Gekko being released from prison and having to confront the way the world has changed since the 1980s, but Stone himself doesn't seem to have a clear handle on what those changes are or how to fashion a movie around them. Douglas isn't half as much fun as he was in the earlier movie, but he's still the liveliest person here. If money never sleeps, it must not spend a lot of time watching Shia LeBeouf.
13. Any Given Sunday (1999)
The It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World of football movies features everybody and his mother, plus LL Cool J, trying to out-shout Al Pacino. There are two schools of thought on this picture. One group thinks it's a crock of shit that was worth making just for the sake of Cameron Diaz's locker-room scene. The other group thinks it's a crock of shit that was worth making just to hear Lawrence Taylor hold forth on playing to prove yourself an honorable man.