Best Denis Villeneuve Movies
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Iconic Directors: The 5 Best Denis Villeneuve Movies

Dune: Part Two is almost upon us kids, burrowing toward the box office like a spiced-up worm charging into battle. Reviews are fantastic, with many liking the sequel to The Empire Strikes Back and The Dark Knight.

Considering the talent behind the camera, namely the astounding Denis Villeneuve, I’m willing to believe the hyperbole. It’s no surprise that this filmmaker, who has already produced some of the finest movies of the past decade, would knock a high-profile sequel out of the park. As proof, check out this list of the best Denis Villeneuve movies, which could change drastically once I see Dune: Part Two this weekend.

Honorable Mention: Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

I wanted to love Blade Runner 2049 when I saw it on IMAX six years ago. Yet, this futuristic sci-fi tale is visually striking but curiously lacks the dramatic stakes needed to bring it all together. Ryan Gosling and Ana De Armas are terrific in their respective roles, and it’s nice to see Harrison Ford give a damn for a change. Still, like Ridley Scott’s 1982 original, Blade Runner 2049 is a film I admire more than I enjoy, which is why it barely misses the list of the best Denis Villeneuve movies. I didn’t feel emotionally invested in the story, despite appreciating the craftsmanship of the picture, which portrays a silent blade runner’s journey to uncover a dangerous secret that could trigger a catastrophic war.

5) Arrival (2016)

Arrival is one of those films I pop in now and then to marvel at its genius. Slow, meticulous, but utterly captivating, this unique drama starring Amy Adams (in one of her best roles) presents an exciting twist on the alien-invasion picture and leans more on intellect than outright thrills. Here, Dr. Louise Banks (Adams) must decipher the language of two extraterrestrial visitors to prevent global conflict. The intrigue revolves around Banks as she gradually learns to communicate with the aliens, unraveling a mystery that will profoundly affect the past, present, and future. Arrival isn’t the most uplifting film to pop in on a Saturday afternoon, but few films match its scope and ambition.

4) Prisoners (2013)

If Prisoners proves anything, we’ve grossly under-appreciated Jake Gyllenhaal’s and Hugh Jackman’s astonishing talents. Here, the pair star in a reasonably routine murder mystery (replete with a twist that’s somehow shocking and underwhelming) that manages to overcome its well-worn troupes thanks to impressive performances and Villeneuve’s sturdy direction. Jackman takes on the role of a determined father, prepared to go to any lengths to locate his missing child, even resorting to kidnapping and torturing a local boy (Paul Dano) suspected of being involved in the incident. Gyllenhaal plays the local detective tasked with solving the crime.

What unfolds is a slow-burning character drama that’s more about digging into the murkier sides of human behavior than just the nuts and bolts of the case. The big reveal might not blow you away, but you can’t help but be impressed by the stellar performances and the unexpectedly deep dive into the complexities of human nature. Prisoners is rock-solid cinema.

3) Incendies (2010)

Villeneuve showcases his undeniable talent in this mid-2000s narrative centering around Nawal Marwan (Lubna Azabal), a recently departed woman whose heart-wrenching life story unfolds through the efforts of her surviving children on a quest to find their estranged brother. Characteristically, Villeneuve envelops the film in a mesmerizing style, weaving images of violence and horror that resonate long after the credits roll. And let’s not forget about that unexpected twist in the third act — it’s nothing short of shocking, setting the stage for a gripping finale that will undoubtedly leave you profoundly affected.

2) Dune (2021)

It may have taken a few watches and a recent trip to the IMAX screen, but I’ve finally jumped aboard the Dune train. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the picture when I first watched it a few years back, but as Bill Paxton says in Titanic, “I never let it in.” Thankfully, my perception shifted drastically in recent months after numerous rewatches that allowed me to fully embrace the story of Paul Atreides.

Dune hit me like a tidal wave, a cinematic experience that demands multiple viewings to truly grasp its depth. Villeneuve skillfully blends blockbuster spectacle with a nuanced focus on his diverse set of characters, ensuring that the grand visuals and vast scope don’t overshadow the intricacies of the narrative. It’s a masterclass in filmmaking, reminiscent of the sophisticated sci-fi we used to get from Star Wars in its early days — a movie that treats its audience respectfully while delivering continuous entertainment. No doubt, Dune is on its way to becoming a classic. The big question now is, can Villeneuve nail the landing?

1) Sicario (2015)

I’m a huge fan of Sicario. I made that clear in my review of its somewhat disappointing sequel, Sicario: Day of the Soldado. The writing, characters, story, and Villeneuve’s filmmaking style – I love it all. It’s one of those flawless films that ticks all the boxes, a thinking person’s action movie that goes beyond mindless shootouts.

Emily Blunt (in her best role) takes the lead as FBI agent Kate Macer, roped into the war on drugs by a mysterious government official portrayed by Josh Brolin. As Kate digs deeper into her new mission, the stakes get higher, especially with the arrival of the mysterious operative played by Benicio Del Toro (likewise, a career-best turn), who brings his own personal agenda to the table.

Taut, dark, haunting, and ultimately poignant, Sicario remains one of the standout films of the last decade – a gripping thriller that reveals new layers with each viewing. Despite his prowess with sandworms, it’s in Sicario where Villeneuve’s talent truly shines. Man, I can’t get enough of this film, which is why it tops the list of the best Denis Villeneuve movies

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