10 Best Jim Jarmusch Movies

10 best Jim Jarmusch movies

10 Best Jim Jarmusch Movies

A major player in the independent movie scene since at least the 1980s, Jim Jarmusch is nothing if not one of the most pleasantly human filmmakers of our time. His movies focus on real people and real stories (at least most of the time — some of them lovingly delve into the supernatural), bringing out a level of realism and relatability unreachable by any other director. The humanity of Jarmusch’s films is what makes them so great. He’s unhurried and minimalist, focusing more on character and less on story (just like real life). He touches on violence, cultural appropriation, music, and the real-life experiences of everyday Americans. Over the course of a few decades, Jim Jarmusch has proven himself to be an important filmmaker with a filmography filled with essential works.

Down By Law

10 best Jim Jarmusch movies

A jailbreak film that subverts every expectation that comes along with the genre, Down By Law follows three prisoners who plan to escape from incarceration. Instead of focusing on the mechanics of the breakout, the film spends most of its time providing a look at the friendship that exists between the three men and what life in prison is like for them. It’s the culmination of everything Jarmusch stands for, and it’s his best work for that reason.

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Mystery Train

10 best Jim Jarmusch movies

Comprised of three separate stories about foreign protagonists in Memphis, Tennessee, Mystery Train follows a Japanese couple, an Italian widow, and an English immigrant over the course of one night. It’s a look at America through the eyes of people who aren’t familiar with the land, which leads to an examination of the US culture that Jarmusch has been a part of since birth. He’s practically operating at the top of his game with Mystery Train, which results in one of his most memorable films to date.

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Paterson

10 best Jim Jarmusch movies

Audiences might be most familiar with Adam Driver as Kylo Ren from the Star Wars sequel trilogy, but Paterson sees the actor playing a soft-spoken bus driver with a passion for poetry. He’s a silent observer, a fly on the wall who enjoys his quiet life in his quiet town. It’s unpretentious, it’s heartfelt, and it’s genuine. Jarmusch’s Paterson is not only one of Driver’s greatest roles, but one of the director’s finest works.

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Stranger Than Paradise

10 best Jim Jarmusch movies

Easily Jarmusch’s most surreal film, Stranger Than Paradise is small on plot and big on deadpan humor. This is the movie that changed independent cinema for the better, showing off a trio of characters nonchalantly perusing New York City, Cleveland, and a Florida suburb. Jarmusch will forever be remembered for the work he did here.

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Night on Earth

10 best Jim Jarmusch movies

Like Mystery Train, Night on Earth takes place over the course of a single night. Instead of Memphis, this film takes the viewer across the globe: LA, New York, Paris, Rome, and Helsinki all get screen time as the movie profiles cab drivers from all over the world. Jarmusch understands humans perhaps more than any other director currently working, and this is most clear in films like Night on Earth.

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Dead Man

10 best Jim Jarmusch movies

A self-proclaimed psychedelic Western with a stellar cast, Dead Man is a monochromatic trip through the American West. It was the director’s first period piece, but a shift in time doesn’t change a thing about his style. The film harkens back to what gave Jarmusch notoriety in the first place: the surreality of existence not explored since Stranger Than Paradise.

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Only Lovers Left Alive

10 best Jim Jarmusch movies

It’s hard to imagine something going wrong with Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston playing the two main leads in a Jim Jarmusch movie — especially when you factor in the fact that they’re playing vampires who’ve lived hundreds of years. It’s a deconstruction of a genre, something that Jarmusch tends to do well, this time honing in on vampire movie tropes.

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Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai

10 best Jim Jarmusch movies

This film stars Forest Whitaker as a hitman for the Mafia who lives and dies by the teachings of the Japanese samurai as outlined in Hagakure. It’s a mob movie and a samurai movie in one, paying homage to the films of Italy and Japan in one glorious breath. Over two decades later, there’s still nothing like Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai.

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Coffee and Cigarettes

10 best Jim Jarmusch movies

Comprised of eleven short films all sharing a common theme, Coffee and Cigarettes follows all kinds of different characters who indulge in the titular vices. Eleven different conversations, all (at least partially) about one thing. It could serve to be a bit tighter, but this is one of Jarmusch’s most iconic works to date.

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Broken Flowers

10 best Jim Jarmusch movies

Focusing on a perpetual bachelor who tracks down his exes across the country in search of a son he’s just learned of, Broken Flowers is a showcase for the lead actor and a masterclass in bittersweet filmmaking. The female leads really make this film, with Sharon Stone, Jessica Lange, and Julie Delpy delivering career-bests. It’s a lovely work from an unbeatable minimalist.

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