Top 10 Brian De Palma movies
If you’re looking for a director who shies away from the seediness of our everyday world, who will show you everything bright and good about our world, filmmaker Brian De Palma is not your guy. His films deal with the perversion and violence that lies beneath the surface of our society and the secrecy and deception that fuels it all. You might recognize (you might’ve even seen) some of his biggest hits, but his lesser-known films are just as good — if not better. His films are suspenseful and thrilling, gritty and harsh, but they aren’t afraid to be hopeful in the same way they aren’t afraid to shy away from violence. Whether he’s showing the rise and fall of a criminal or an investigation that goes way too deep or examining a victim of circumstance, De Palma’s skill and talent are undeniably on display in full force.
Starring John Travolta as a sound recordist for B-movies and John Lithgow as a psycho killer, Blow Out is De Palma at his absolute best. When Travolta’s character accidentally records the audio of an accident when trying to get some natural sounds, he delves deeper and deeper into the conspiracy he’s captured. It’s smart and feels like something that could actually happen.
Purchase now on Amazon for $27.99.
Based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, De Palma’s iteration of Carrie is as iconic as the book itself. Starring Sissy Spacek in a career-defining role, the story is tragic and heartbreaking and, ultimately, incredibly satisfying. It’s a horror classic and for a good reason.
Purchase now on Amazon for $7.99.
Part of what’s so great about The Untouchables is the fact that it’s based on a true story. It stars Kevin Costner and Sean Connery as two members of the team that helped to take down Al Capone. Robert De Niro stars in the role of Capone himself. It is, by and large, one of the greatest gangster movies of all time thanks to De Palma’s knack for the craft.
Purchase now on Amazon for $10.99.
Dressed to Kill
In the same macabre vein as Blow Out, Dressed to Kill tells the story of a murderous woman who kills a fellow psychiatric patient and goes after the only witness: a high-class call girl. It stars many of De Palma’s favorite actors including Nancy Allen and Dennis Franz, all of which come together to create something truly shocking and unexpected.
Purchase now on Amazon for $22.99.
Looking at the course of the Mission: Impossible franchise, it’s hard to imagine this all came from a Brian De Palma movie. Rooted in the themes of the original television series, De Palma’s Mission: Impossible movie has a lot of fun twisting and turning with a conspiracy fit only for Ethan Hunt. The scale is a lot smaller than what we’ve come to expect from these movies, but that doesn’t make it any less great.
Purchase now on Amazon for $9.99.
Following a recovering Puerto Rican criminal determined to live the life he feels he deserves, De Palma enlists Al Pacino to star in a movie that is both exciting and dramatic. It’s a heavy role, one that deals with drugs and crime and violence without remorse. Pacino, along with costars Sean Penn and Penelope Ann Miller, create something really special and important.
Purchase now on Amazon for $6.78.
A story of obsession and the consequences of stardom, Body Double is the epitome of a De Palma feature. It’s seedy, symbolic, stylistic, frantic, and explicit in all the right ways. Actors Craig Wasson and Melanie Griffith hold their own throughout the film’s mysterious story as an actor and a beautiful woman, respectively, who find themselves caught up in an astounding series of consequences.
Purchase now on Amazon for $8.99.
Phantom of the Paradise
Despite looking like a serious De Palma film, Phantom of the Paradise is actually pretty funny. Following a disfigured composer who sells his soul to be with the woman — his muse — he loves, the movie is a definite cult classic. His sense of humor was always there, right under the surface, but this film is both a dark comedy and a horror film in one. It’s entertaining and campy and unlike anything else De Palma has made.
Purchase now on Amazon for $19.99.
This is probably De Palma’s most famous film, and it’s for a good reason. Scarface is as good as you’d expect, considering the poster can be found on the wall of at least a few rooms in every college residence hall to this day. Pacino and De Palma tell the story of drug kingpin Tony Montana with that signature De Palma craft.
Purchase now on Amazon for $29.24.
Like many of his films, Femme Fatale is a captivating and haunting tale of a woman who tries to forget the past she’s tried so hard to escape from. It’s one of the more recent films on the list, so it’s interesting to see the ways in which De Palma’s style has shifted but ultimately remained the same in all the best ways.
Purchase now on Amazon for $14.55.
We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.