5 Best Denis Villeneuve Movies
French-Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve’s star is still rising. He has a gigantic project on the horizon—his own telling of Frank Herbert’s sprawling science fiction novel Dune. This comes hot off the heels of another huge piece, Blade Runner 2049—the sequel to Blade Runner, Ridley Scott’s adaptation of the Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Indeed, Villeneuve is one of Hollywood’s most exciting auteurs right now—but his mass-market appeal is undeniable. His last few films have brought in hundreds of millions of dollars. His films are undeniably gorgeous, each one littered with jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring frames. Roger Deakins, renowned cinematographer is his frequent collaborator.
His films attempt to wrestle with lofty ideas. He is drawn to cold realism, even in his science fiction. While his gaze is beautiful—it is generally unsympathetic. He makes no aim toward heartwarming films, even as he directs audiences toward empathy with the main characters. They are gripping, tense stories that leave the audience thinking. Below are his five best films thus far.
Sicario tells the intersecting lives of three core characters in a joint U.S. operation the Mexican-American border: FBI Agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt), CIA Officer Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) and Alejandro Gillick (Benicio Del Toro). The plan is to apprehend a high-level operative in a Mexican drug cartel, and the means are morally questionable—at least for the relative newcomer, Macer. She also questions Gillick’s loyalty, unsure what he stands to gain in all of this. Villeneuve makes powerful use of the film’s arid desert setting and tells a viscerally gripping story.
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A man (Jake Gyllenhaal) is captivated by an actor in a film who looks exactly like him. He becomes obsessed with the actor and begins pestering him. The actor agrees to meet him—then the two are inextricably linked. They become increasingly involved in one another’s lives in the most unsettling ways. While it only earned a few million at the box office, critics praised Gyllenhaal’s performance and Villeneuve’s guiding hand.
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Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
Villeneuve’s entry into the Blade Runner narrative is no less dark and even more beautiful than the first film. An LAPD Blade Runner—android killer—named K (Ryan Gosling), who is an android himself. He begins to wonder about his own past—whether he truly is an android or if he is perhaps a human. The harder he searches for answers, the less he understands about himself or the world around him. It is an interesting film that sports beautiful colors, speaker-rattling synth and incredible set design.
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The question of how humans might try to communicate with extraterrestrials is not a new one—but the exact science of it is no more earnestly thought out than it is in Arrival. The U.S. military hires a linguist (Amy Adams) and a physicist (Jeremy Renner) to try to communicate with the aliens who have landed on Earth. It questions the nature of time and the existence of destiny in a fascinating way.
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