how would you rank his films so far?

Started by Robyn, October 23, 2017, 09:37:05 PM

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I've been reading the forums for some time now but only decided to register recently. This is not my first post but let me share my list as a formal hello. PTA is definately my favourite living filmmaker.

Absolutely adore:
1. The Master (probably my all time fav, definitely in my top3)
2. Inherent Vice (would never undestand why IV is so underrated even among PTA fans; as a whole it may not be perfect but individual scenes, lines, cinematography, acting, use of music all feel so great)

3. Magnolia
4. Boogie Nights (I love it, it's fun to watch, some great scenes but just feels too long and repetitive in the last act... and I kinda hate the Dirk Diggler fake home videos)
5. Punch-Drunk Love

6. TWBB (yeah, it's my IV; I absolutely understand why even not big PTA fans consider it one of the best movies ever but I just don't get it, I would really like to love it but I just can't, which is strange considering how much more I love The Master and IV than his (still great) eariler work.
7. Hard Eight

I can't imagine Phantom Thread is better than The Master but judging from your opinions I believe it may rank just below The Master or Vice.


Phantom Urges: Paul Thomas Anderson's Films Ranked

(Well, I must say, his rankings are about as upside-down and inside-out from my rankings as you can get...)

Another ranking from Indiewire.  (This includes things like "Junun".)

Paul Thomas Anderson Movies Ranked from Worst to Best

A third set of rankings, this time from The Wrap:


Quote from: jenkins on October 24, 2017, 01:18:49 PM
Boogie Nights
Inherent Vice
Punch-Drunk Love
Hard Eight
The Master
There Will Be Blood

i watched TWBB after not having seen it in years. i believe the above list is still accurate from the top three. it might be that The Master and Magnolia could switch. i would have to rewatch them both to be sure and idk when ill do that, probably not before i rewatch Hard Eight which i somehow like more than  pta fans who stick to its original title. i think the world is funny in a general sense

the first 15min of TWBB are spiritual. the pan up as he drags himself across the rocks is melodramatic but besides that. i think the entire score is melodramatic btw. no mystery in it at all. it's this movie's physical textures which i consider holy. DDL's performance. the live train station. the derricks. the physical textures like i said. but i can never become involved with Daniel as others can. it's just woa buddy stuff. and the whole narrative revolves around him, innit the only pta narrative that revolves around only one person.  i simply think that out of all pta's movies TWBB is a beautiful portrait of the least amount of human complexities. nothing gets tangled up in the movie, it all points to Daniel

Dano doesn't bother me btw. i think his acting talents fit well inside the idea of Paul Sunday. complimentary. Dano doesn't bother me, just to mention

that's not to ruffle anybody here. just still my least favorite pta movie. personal perspective. in terms of which pta movie i would most to watch, it's boogie or inherent, that's personal taste

Gold Trumpet

There Will Be Blood
The Master
Punch-Drunk Love
Boogie Nights
Phantom Thread
Inherent Vice
Hard Eight


Quote from: Something Spanish on November 28, 2017, 09:24:19 PM
I remember he said in one interviewer that he likes to go for the saddest happiest ending possible, and that's one of the magic touches I connect to most in his films.

i'm like really into that quote

TWBB's narrative clear as day, the next day i think about the psychological elements of this very-alive movie, in which each character behaves according to an active personality

the psychology of Daniel is the spine of the movie

the final conversation between Daniel/HW is echoed by the final conversation between Phil/Joa in The Master. HW is being reasonable by wanting to draw the line between relationship and business. but Daniel mentions that business has been first for him the whole while. they  become rivals in a sad scene that does not surprise us, Daniel having mentioned that this is how he is

in the final scene there was no reason to expect Daniel and Paul to become one. we easily accept that Daniel is not a religious person, and can celebrate what Paul has to yell. melodrama ingrained in the narrative, like the fake brother as well. how easily the killing of the fake brother is absorbed by the narrative logic, totally understandable

the story that further expresses the friction between business and personal is with the man from Standard Oil. how clear it is in their first conversation that Daniel has misread the intentions of the Standard Oil man's statement. the Standard Oil man frankly does not care whether Daniel is a good father or not, he's only talking business, and mentions the son as a good idea for retirement. but here the conversation detaches from business, since Daniel takes the comment as a judgment against his moral character. he immediately says a crazy thing that the Standard Oil man identifies as crazy by acting natural and being genuinely unaware of the inner turmoil taking place inside of Daniel. the next time they see each other Daniel embarrasses himself the whole while, covering his head with a napkin and walking over to the table.  the Standard Oil man keeps acting perfectly natural and respectable, since he truly doesn't even know what in the fuck is going on. what's cool about this moment is how obviously wrong Daniel is behaving. he's so misguided and trapped inside himself. very human. this scene is complex in a way that's demonstrated

it is true that from Daniel HW could learn what being not human looks like. how will HW do in Mexico? i wish him luck in the indifferent world of business! the absence of love in the heart of Daniel is the quality that differentiates this movie from any other PTA movie, which is actually obvious since PTA is a romantic. in this way the movie is uncharacteristic of his personality, exactly as PTA wanted it to be. he made a good movie in a surprising way. that is exciting. i'm thinking about it the day after watching it and that's a good sign too. so even my least favorite PTA movie is a juicy movie


1. The Master
2. There Will Be Blood
3. Phantom Thread
4. Punch Drunk Love
5. Inherent Vice
6. Magnolia
7. Hard Eight
8. Boogie Nights

I'm one of those guys who thinks PTA has only gotten better with time.


1.  Boogie Nights

2.  Punch-Drunk Love

3.  Hard Eight

4.  There Will Be Blood
5.  Phantom Thread

6.  The Master

7.  Magnolia / Inherent Vice


1.The Master
3.Inherent Vice
4.Phantom Thread
5.Boogie Nights
8.Hard Eight


1. There Will Be Blood (Still amazes me and shocks me and feels almost like a religious experience, still feels like it was made by aliens and an alien went into the body of DDL. I don't know why but this movie feels so incredibly freakish and alive and important to me)
2. Magnolia (I love the film but it might partly be nostalgia--I love the Jon Brion score and the PTA acting crew all at their best. I rewatched it recently and thought it would make me cringe but it just made me elated)
3. Boogie Nights (Still feels like such a pure expression of a young filmmaker making the most heartfelt, fun movie he possibly can. If I ever want to introduce someone to PTA I'll show them this)
4. Punch-Drunk Love (IMO by far his best use of set design, sound effects, colors, costumes. All the stuff other people have said about it feeling one of a kind and Sandler's performance. I think the ending is quite weak though but that might just be because it doesn't have the gut punch of, say, Magnolia)
5. The Master (I never got it. Master feels so artificial to me and so off--he never felt anything close to a real person, and if you look at him as just a character he's not even particularly interesting. That character feels more than anything else to me like a great actor playing a "type" of character that was never fully embodied or I just never got. Joaquin is obviously super impressive but I never cared about Freddie. I think this film has the worst music of the JG films.)
6. Phantom Thread (Has THE BEST JG music by far. The score is so lush and epic and bewildering and still fits a small film. Vicky Krieps is phenomenal but other than that it's older, grumpy silver-haired man getting soft and falling in love with a hot young girl and he likes her because...she challenges him? That's one of the biggest cliches in storytelling and adding on the Munchausen syndrome doesn't make it interesting)
7. Inherent Vice (Totally baffling to me. Not funny, dull, nothing noteworthy about the performances (other than Brolin). I think Joaquin was 100% miscast. This film is not worthy of PTA or Pynchon)
8. Hard Eight (A solid movie, and I'd rather watch it than Inherent Vice, but because it was so early/cheap I don't think it's fair to compare it with all the others)

I don't know if anyone else has noticed this but one of the things that I loved the most about the earlier films was their sense of surprise, in a way that you're seeing something you've never seen in a movie before or everything is unexpected. I hate watching a film (and Nolan, though he's incredible, is super guilty of this, especially with dialogue) and feeling like I know exactly what a character is going to say next, or where the story is going, because to me it just feels sort of lazy and like the filmmaker isn't really trying. Whereas with films like Magnolia and Boogie Nights, even though they get the most flack for ripping off Scorsese/Altman/others, there wasn't a single moment where I wasn't totally enraptured and wondering wtf the next amazing thing would be. Even these little surprising moments like Daniel Plainview walking ahead of HW and then pausing to let him catch up, or just the ways the camera moves in Boogie Nights and makes you go "woah, I had no idea you could do that in a movie." I'm mainly really surprised at how many people like Inherent Vice. It's cool to see such varied opinions/reactions


Quibble we will (that's part of the fun), but I enjoyed this ranking.  I didn't object to his low-end, he caught me by surprise with his top pick, and I would only do some minor shuffling here and there with the rest.  I enjoyed his enthusiasm for all of the films.

Every Paul Thomas Anderson Movie Ranked from, uh, "Least Best" to "Most Best"

Paul Thomas Anderson has made eight films, and none of them are bad. Such a track record immediately puts Anderson in rarefied air. How many other directors can boast eight in a row with no misses? Kurosawa? Hitchcock? Scorsese? Anderson belongs to this company and thensome, his work bursting at the seams with emotion, invention, and a palpable love of the game.

Anderson's pure enthusiasm for cinema at times results in films and flourishes that wear their influences on their sleeves — the aforementioned Scorsese, Kubrick, Altman — but it's clear Anderson is no pastiche player. While running through his filmography, you can see the maestro figure out how to codify, crystallize, and synthesize all the tools at his disposal into a brand new style. And then, exactly halfway through his run, he reinvented himself and did it all over again, his back half of films feeling demonstrably different than his front half, the result of an artist continually interested in growing, maturing, figuring things out. Will he start a brand new "style" with film nine?

From his incisive screenplays, his virtuoso camerawork, his unparalleled understanding of the primal relationship between "image" and "sound," and his truly remarkable guidance with actors, Anderson proves time and time again what a pure film director he is. With all this in mind, here are Paul Thomas Anderson's movies ranked from, well, let's call it "least best" to "most best." Camera pushes in, Jon Brion's score swells, and here we go...

8. Inherent Vice
I don't think I've ever laughed harder at a movie I didn't fully understand than Inherent Vice, what I might consider Anderson's purest comedy. But I don't think "comprehension" is on the film's mind. Anderson had quite the task ahead of him when adapting Thomas Pynchon's novel — even though his book was considered one of his most accessible, Pynchon still has a deserved reputation for "not being accessible." And Anderson's screenplay, audaciously and respectfully, gives us pretty much no anchor to the specific world and wackadoo flourishes therein. Joaquin Phoenix plays Doc Sportello, a shaggy, stoned, burned-out private detective on a new case he understands maybe 2% more than his audience. The details of the case, and subsequently Anderson's plot, involve land developers, missing persons, and drug smuggling — but they all come second to this film's wonderful usage of texture, vibe, and comic imagination. Phoenix is delightfully endearing as a man trying his best continually finding new ends of the rope, and his supporting cast has the most fun possible getting in his way. Martin Short is more untethered than usual, Katherine Waterston simply commands the screen, and Josh Brolin truly shines as the deadpan comedy MVP. While regular Anderson DP Robert Elswit has toned down many of his hyperkinetic "Andersonisms," what he does capture strikes with its delicious color palette and surprisingly grainy stock. If you ever wanted The Big Lebowski to be 10 times sillier, 10 times grimier, and 10 times harder to understand, Inherent Vice is your new favorite midnight movie.

7. Hard Eight
The first of Anderson's hard eight, Hard Eight is a movie that loves being a movie. It's assured in every facet of its construction and composition, showing surprising patience that even rivals some of Anderson's later work, let alone the work of a first-time feature filmmaker. But it's also eager to flex. Anderson and Elswitt's visual collaboration begins in full force, with pushes and inserts and incredible Las Vegas backdrops all over the damn place. Anderson and Jon Brion's sonic collaboration (alongside co-composer Michael Penn) also gets its start, yielding a score with genuine menace and tantalizing invention. And Anderson the writer is clearly in love with his actors saying cool-ass "movie dialogue." Luckily, his actors are all down to clown, and more importantly, down to sell it without hard-selling it — you can feel their eagerness to play in this new talent's sandbox even as their performances lock in impressively lived-in, authentic zones. Philip Baker Hall owns the picture as Sydney (Anderson's original title), a consummate professional at the business of Las Vegas living. He takes a down-on-his-luck John C. Reilly (stellar) under his wing, mentoring him into something resembling an independent man, and a helluva gambler. But when a genre plot starts cooking (more than halfway through the thing! such patience!), involving soul-hardened prostitute Gwyneth Paltrow and tough-talking casino security Samuel L. Jackson, everything about Sydney's well-measured world threatens to unravel. The aim and scope of this film is designedly minor, and its depiction (and at times icky male gaze camerawork) of women is too stuck in "movie-world" to earn the nuanced evolution it needs, but Hard Eight still offers tons of cinematic panache and joy. Hot take: Anderson does Tarantino better than Tarantino here.

6. The Master
Containing some of the best performances Anderson will ever yield, The Master is a captivating, inscrutable, demanding-to-be-scrutinized film that yields richer rewards and more questions upon each watch. The elevator pitch version of the film is: Philip Seymour Hoffman, one of Anderson's best muses, is an L. Ron Hubbard surrogate, the leader of a Scientology-esque cult. Joaquin Phoenix is an adrift, troubled Navy vet looking for direction. And Phoenix joins Hoffman's crew, resulting in the psychological examinations of both. But to boil it down to such palatable essentials would be to ignore the film's primal, uncontrollable muckraking, its aimless-feeling aims (a merit, not a fault!). Phoenix's physical unpredictability here is matched only by his emotional volatility. His performance is commandingly watchable; the fact that he won the Oscar for Joker over this drives me cuckoo. He serves as the perfect foil for Hoffman, so eager to retain his buttoned-up humanity, but so clearly tickled by Phoenix's animalistic id. These two titans clash and waver, struggling to define what makes a self a self, struggling to either keep their inherent capacities for rage contained or unleashed. And through it all, Amy Adams sneakily steals the picture, her Peggy Dodd begins perhaps the only one who truly understands how to capture and retain power. The craft on this film staggers, with unreal 70mm photography from Mihai Mălaimare Jr. and sparse, chilling, woodwind-focused music from Jonny Greenwood. The Master will make you feel all kinds of unsettled after watching. You won't be sure why. But you'll know you need to find out.

5. Magnolia
An American epic, a sprawling dive into the deep end, a flurry of tones and flourishes, an absolute monster flex. Magnolia feels weirdly contemporary and clearly defined by 1999, the peerless cinematic year from which it sprung, marked by its bravura insistences that something new must eat everything old. Anderson's work here is like if Rube Goldberg got to control a shopping mall: Every single cinematic toy and device is given time to shine despite its first-blush counter-intuition. But wouldn't you know it, it all makes sense when put together as a puzzle. But it's not an intellectual exercise; in fact, Magnolia is arguably Anderson's most sentimental movie, a work that cuts its own heart out and wears it on both its sleeves and its pants for good measure. To narrow down the scope of Magnolia into a logline feels unhelpful, but my best stab is this: A series of Americans try their best. From John C. Reilly and Melora Walters' desperate attempts at connection beyond past sins, to Julianne Moore's desperate insistence to be seen and noticed, to Tom Cruise's desperate attempts to hide his inherent traumas and pains behind toxic bravado, to the other 18,000 incredible actors doing incredible, incredible work, Magnolia is a film of yearning, of grabbing something you can see desperately but just can't quite touch. By the time the film stops in its tracks for a surprising musical number, in which every character sings a line from a heartbreaking Aimee Mann tune, not only will you already be swept away by the film's designs to even register this as self-indulgent, you will be crying too hard to care.

4. Phantom Thread
A twisted, self-contained, thrilling, and dare I say loving chamber drama of the highest quality material. Phantom Thread is the perfect love story for filmgoers who hate love stories, a romantic comedy radiating with kinky energy, a warning of and love letter to obsessions gone amok. Daniel Day-Lewis is the beyond fastidious dressmaker, a craftsman who makes sterling pieces for his sterling clientele because of the stubborn way he arranges every detail of his life. And Vicky Krieps is the woman who's gonna fuck it all up. First seen working as a restaurant server, Day-Lewis is smitten with her from the moment she takes his very odd breakfast order. Krieps, smitten right back, happily inhabits his oddly incubated world. And the two subsequently tango and wrestle for control, power, order or chaos — all the while facing brittle pieces of uncomfortable truths from the always-professional Lesley Manville, Day-Lewis' sister (the absolute MVP of the film; I love every damn second of her don't give a heck attitude). The thing I love most about this film, even on rewatch, is how unpredictable yet inevitable the narrative thread takes us. Even if you think you know where it's going, you simply do not until it gets there. And once it does, boy howdy will you have a sticky smile on your face. Bonus points on this gem: No DP is formally credited, because Anderson just kinda did it himself! And it looks stunning! Unreal talent, this guy!

3. Boogie Nights
Goodfellas but with porn? Yes, and no. Boogie Nights unquestionably prays to the altar of Scorsese, from its "rags-to-riches-to-paranoid-corruption-of-the-human-soul" narrative, to its splendid camerawork (long takes in clubs, whip-pans and push-ins, etc.), to its epic, empathetic examination of folks we typically look at with disdain. But like the best cinema-makers who clearly love cinema, Anderson takes these touchstones as diving boards, not the whole pool. Mark Wahlberg, giving unquestionably his best performance to date, stars as "Dirk Diggler," really Eddie Adams, a young man blessed with a "huge gift" who becomes the country's biggest pornographic sensation under the tutelage of master filmmaker Burt Reynolds and a found family of performers and crew-members like Julianne Moore, Heather Graham, John C. Reilly, Don Cheadle, William H. Macy, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and more. Anderson loves these characters deeply, to their raw nerves and souls, giving each performer ample opportunity to explore He also loves the business of filmmaking, pornographic and otherwise, inviting his audience to submerge themselves in the beautiful, optimistic, romantic, poetic facets of the craft and relationships forged (goodness, Hoffman is great at playing low-status in this). So when Anderson (and Macy, no spoilers) flip the switch into darkness, it feels less like a fun or exhilarating lightning bolt, and more like a painful, agonizing descent into a world these folks don't deserve (that "Sister Christian" sequence, I mean, my God). Boogie Nights is a movie thrilled to be here, an exuberant work that demands to be appreciated by its creator. No qualms here.

2. There Will Be Blood
In 2007, Anderson flipped into his "back four" filmmaking mode with a fearsome, fierce, slow-burn bang. Gone were the shiny, saturated, kinetic camera moves, ensemble casts of familiar faces, and even general sense of "love" and "optimism." In its place: Elswit still behind the camera, still shooting the hell out of it, but with an obviously "stiller" sense of pace. A cast anchored by a bonafide screen acting legend (Daniel Day-Lewis) and supported by actors who've never worked with Anderson. And an overview of the human race I would call "fucking bleak." With all of this change in his typical belt of tools, Anderson made an all-timer movie, one we'll dissect and debate for decades to come. There Will Be Blood, from Upton Sinclair's novel Oil!, stars Day-Lewis as Daniel Plainview, who will likely be the best character Anderson will ever create. He's an oil man, possessing a deep mustache and an instantly iconic vocal inflection. If the characters in Anderson's previous films represent everything good about America's id, Plainview is the snarling underbelly embedded in this nation's DNA. He's greedy, callous, consuming, powerful. Throughout the film, we see his single-minded worldview get tested, by his partner and son H.W. (Dillon Freasier) and by Eli Sunday (Paul Dano, also playing his twin brother), who both tries to take the moral high road with Plainview and then tries to chuck him in the muck when he needs to. And what is the inevitable conclusion for Plainview's journey, his crises of conscience? I don't want to spoil anything, but I will say this: Anderson's ending here is probably the best ending he'll ever craft, an utterly gut-punching sequence full of delirious, delicious dialogue and abrupt, irreversible actions. And it ain't exactly "nice." In 2007, this film lost Best Picture to No Country for Old Men — you ask me, those two titles should've been switched.

1. Punch-Drunk Love
"I have a love in my life. It makes me stronger than anything you can imagine."

This line of dialogue, spoken near the narrative conclusion of Punch-Drunk Love by Adam Sandler, sums up what's going on with every captivating Anderson protagonist. Sandler's Barry Egan, Plainview, Diggler — all of these and more are powered by a beyond-strong love (of a person, of consuming whatever's in front of them, of fucking, etc.) that gives them beyond-strong, nearly super powers. This line could also be applied to Anderson's success as a filmmaker — he loves his subjects, his worlds, his language of cinema so deeply that he can't help but render them with unmatched strength. For this clear, powerful, career-spanning thesis statement — and for like 18,000 other reasons — Punch-Drunk Love remains my favorite Anderson picture. An absolutely perfect object, this is.

Sandler's Barry is the inverse of his Uncut Gems character — a constantly beaten-down man who takes every blow dealt with him and internalizes it into emotionally self-facing admissions of defeat. Random crying episodes, pet obsessions with harebrained-seeming ideas, a group of sisters eager to emotionally terrorize him, desperate calls to phone sex hotlines — Barry needs a life vest, fast. And he finds one in the form of Emily Watson as Lena, a sweet, quiet, empathetic, and odd person herself. As the two realize that what they've been missing is each other, their love blooms into thrilling, unique sweetness — even as Philip Seymour Hoffman, giving an absolutely titanic performance as a mattress-sales-man-cum-phone-sex-hotline-owner-cum-criminal, closes his grip on Sandler in genuinely shocking moments of genre and violence. But while the forms of darkness will always threaten, love can, and will, give us strength, give us the tools to move forward, give us the tools to live.

And that's that, Mattress Man.



I have this feeling that Phantom Thread is one of those films that will keep rising in estimation in years to come. I feel like that unlike something like The Master or Inherent Vice that's one that someone can discover and more easily get very passionate about.


I think you're absolutely correct.  I've always felt that all of his films--but especially the "back four" (at this point) improve with time and rewatches.  My disdain-to-agnosticism about Inherent Vice is probably a prime example.

But having said that, I recently completed a Big Screen Rewatch over the past couple of years of all eight films, and I must say even the front four got better--which I would have doubted was possible for me.   


I rewatched all of his films during the quarantine and have solidified new rankings for myself:

1. The Master
2. There Will Be Blood
3. Phantom Thread
4. Punch Drunk Love
5. Boogie Nights
6. Inherent Vice
7. Magnolia
8. Hard Eight

I would give 1-7 all 10/10. Hard Eight is still a solid 7.5ish.


We haven't done this in awhile. Here's a poll currently going from the r/PaulThomasAnderson subreddit.