In My Opinion: Ranking the Films of Michael Mann

The films of Michael Mann

Photo: Universal Pictures
Ranking the Films of Michael Mann

In advance of this Wednesday’s release of Public Enemies I thought it was only fitting to take a look back at the films from director Michael Mann and see how they would sort themselves out in a quick ranking session and what a wild last few days it has been.

On Thursday, last week, I saw Public Enemies, later that night I watched Manhunter, the next day I watched Thief and The Last of the Mohicans — then the weekend arrived. In a matter of 48 hours I watched Heat, The Insider, Ali, Miami Vice and Collateral all in an attempt to make sure my mind was completely refreshed and ready to sort things out.

You will notice I am only ranking nine films since I have never seen The Keep (1983) and it wasn’t available through Netflix so I had to leave it out. I’m also not ranking any of his made-for-TV films such as “The Jericho Mile,” which I have also not seen and it too is not available on Netflix. So, I feel you are now up-to-speed and fully prepared as I run down my ranking of Mann’s films and hope you will do the same in the comments, since I am sure there will be some differences of opinion. Let’s get into it…

Miami Vice (2006)
I really am glad I revisited all of Mann’s films before putting this list together. Although Miami Vice would have still fallen in the ninth spot had I not watched it again, I am beginning to enjoy this film more and more each time I see it. This isn’t to say it’s not a disappointment, because it is, but I am able to get a little more entertainment out of it now than I was when I first saw it.

The absolute best thing about this movie remains the impressive use of sound Mann controls when it comes to gunfire as well as some of the truly beautiful cinematography even though I think Vice was a step backward in Mann’s use of digital and high-definition photography from his debut attempt with Collateral. I also believe this is Mann’s only film that suffers musically. Nonpoint’s “In the Air Tonight” over the first half of the final shoot-out is distracting where the lighter notes used in the second half or no sound at all would have been more appropriate. Another example would be Jay-Z’s collaboration with Linkin Park, which was great in the teaser trailer (featured below) but terrible as the pulse-pounding club song in the film’s opening moments. The story found its problems primarily due to the Isabella (Gong Li) and Sonny Crockett (Colin Farrell) relationship, which was worthless as it only rehashed territory already tread by Tubbs (Jamie Foxx) and Trudy (Naomie Harris) all the way down to a second shower scene. I would have preferred Mann introduce Crockett as a womanizer instead of have the relationship with Li’s character.

However, I can’t forget to mention my favorite scene in this film, which is set in the trailer park as Elizabeth Rodriguez as Calabrese says the following while pointing her gun at a soon-to-be-dead hostage taker:

“That’s not what happens. What will happen is… What will happen is, I will put a round at twenty-seven hundred feet per second into the medulla at the base of your brain and you will be dead from the neck down before your body knows it. Your finger won’t even twitch. Only you get dead. So tell me, sport, do you believe that?”

Classic Mann.

Ali (2001)
I believe my spots 5-8 could be rotated at any one moment, this is just how they fell this time around because after Miami Vice I love the rest of Mann’s oeuvre. Although spots 1-4 do rate a little higher on the scale.

As for Ali, I think this is a great film and while it isn’t one I could sit down and watch on a regular basis (hence the reason it is placed at #8), I was surprised at how easily I fell into watching it all over again. I am not sure if it is Will Smith’s performance or the mere fact he is portraying one of the all-time greatest sports icons in Muhammad Ali, but I can’t take my eyes away from the screen whenever he is on. Ali commands fantastic performances across the board, including Jamie Foxx as Drew Brown, Jon Voight as Howard Cosell and Giancarlo Esposito as Cassius Clay, Sr. However, I must point out how great I think the late Ron Silver was in this film as Ali’s corner man Angelo Dundee. This was a truly transformative performance by Silver and even better than Voight’s Oscar-nominated turn as Cosell in my opinion.

Rumble in the Jungle (Movie Version)

Rumble in the Jungle (Actual Footage)


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