Every Martin McDonagh Movie Ranked
Martin McDonagh is a well-known (and well-praised) feature filmmaker, but he didn’t start out that way. In fact, McDonagh got his start as a playwright. A Brit born in Camberwell, London, England, the playwright-turned-filmmaker has always cited Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, Quentin Tarantino, and Terrence Malick as his greatest inspirations—even when working on scripts for the stage and not the screen.
His work is incredibly in-your-face. It’s confrontational and intense and oftentimes vulgar and upsetting. McDonagh seems to take pride in this kind of work, though. It’s something he strives for, no matter if he’s working on a play or a film. This has gotten him quite far, though — he’s an acclaimed playwright and an Oscar-winning filmmaker, with plenty more great work sure to come.
Martin McDonagh’s first feature film, 2008’s In Bruges, remains his very best work to date. It stars Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, and Ralph Fiennes in some of the actors’ best work so far, each of them delivering endlessly entertaining and darkly comedic performances. McDonagh is known for discouraging any sort of deviance from his strictly-worded scripts, so it’s impressive to observe just how loose and free this movie feels. It’s his first film, his first feature-length movie to earn an Oscar nomination, his first Golden Globe win, and the movie that really allowed McDonagh to become a filmmaker.
Despite hailing from London, McDonagh and his debut short are Irish through and through. Again starring Brendan Gleeson (this one came a few years before In Bruges), Six Shooter sees an older man whose wife just died earlier in the day as he rides a train and encounters an unstable young man and an argumentative couple who have also lost someone recently. It’s a story about the unification and camaraderie that can come with grief, and it’s an indication of the great things to come from the soon-to-be filmmaker.
McDonagh’s second feature, again starring Colin Farrell, more or less avoids the sophomore slump. 2012’s Seven Psychopaths is about just that: a bunch of oddballs (a struggling scriptwriter, a group of foolish criminals, and a mob leader) and the criminal underworld of Los Angeles. It seems somewhat autobiographical, in a sense — Farrell’s character has a great idea for a script that he doesn’t seem to know how to tackle. He doesn’t even have the energy to commit to it, let alone make any real progress on the thing. In the time being, he gets caught up in a seemingly petty crime that throws his whole life off-balance. It’s energetic and hilarious and uniquely McDonagh’s.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Unfortunately for Martin McDonagh, 2017’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is the filmmaker’s only real misstep. Even worse, it’s quite the misstep indeed. Perhaps it’s because he’s working with a story and a subject matter and a location that an Irish playwright from London really couldn’t know enough about to tackle appropriately, or maybe it’s just because the movie lacks the sophistication of his other work — whatever it may be, his movie is a real flop. It’s hateful without any heart, it’s critical without any hopefulness, it’s bigoted without any sort of condemnation. Frances McDormand is undeniably doing her best work here — she even earned an Oscar for it — but that’s about the only thing that works here.