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Ranked: David Lynch Films from Worst to Best
From Eraserhead to Blue Velvet, we reassess every film from the master of the surreal.
by Jeff McMahon
Twenty years ago today, Twin Peaks ended with one of the most brutal unresolved cliffhangers in television history. We're still upset about it, so we're ranking all of David Lynch's film work from worst to best.
10. Wild at Heart (1990)
After establishing himself as one of the most uniquely stylish and idiosyncratic filmmakers of his generation, Lynch was awarded the Palme d'Or at Cannes for this bizarre, violent love story. So of course it's the film of his that I like the least, a meandering, excessive freakshow in which Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern's Sailor and Lula are almost afterthoughts. But at least it has Willem Dafoe's delightfully sleazy Bobby Peru.
9. Lost Highway (1997)
Lynch is at his best when following his muse into realms of nightmares and darkness. But when he tries too hard to make "a David Lynch film," the results can verge on self-parody. Still, Lost Highway's nightmare logic and overpowering sense of dread help redeem it from its pop psychology and trendy post-Pulp Fiction violence.
8. Dune (1984)
George Lucas offered Lynch the director's chair on Return of the Jedi (imagine the Ewoks!), but he made this space opera instead. It's hard to dislike the only Lynch film to feature spaceships and sandworms, but in retrospect Lynch was woefully mismatched with Frank Herbert's sprawling sociopolitical epic.
7. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992)
Fire Walk With Me is probably the most-hated movie on this list. Fans of the canceled TV show were hoping this follow-up film would resolve some of the lingering questions left by the series' abrupt cancelation. Instead, Lynch made a prequel in which half of the show's cast barely appears. If you can leave all that aside, the portion of the film focusing on the last days in the life of Laura Palmer is haunting.
6. The Straight Story (1999)
The one title in the Venn-diagram intersection of "David Lynch films" and "Walt Disney Studios" is probably his least characteristic, a character-based road movie that also serves as a metaphor for the end of life's journey. It's pleasant, but doesn't leave much of an impact.