I didn’t rank the three that Lynch was involved in – it doesn’t make much sense to rank Twin Peaks or Off the Air, as a single entity, and I could not track down Hotel Room – which was a miniseries. But, I did rank the features, and then the shorts, music videos and oddities.
Here’s a ranking of the features only – everything else will be below.
10. Dune (1984) – I’m not exaggerating when I saw this may be the worst thing Lynch ever directed – and not all of the shorts, music videos, etc. are very good at all. It’s an example of the wrong director with the wrong material, with the wrong producer/studio behind him. Lynch learned a lesson, and moved on. So should we.
9. The Elephant Man (1980) – Yes, it was a hit – and got Lynch his first Oscar nomination for Best Director (and remains the only one of his films to be nominated for Best Picture). But it’s a dull, overly sentimental – if wonderful looking – film. This isn’t what I watch Lynch for.
8. Lost Highway (1997) – Yes, it’s still the most frustrating film on Lynch’s filmography, because so much of it is so good, but it ends up making you feel like you’ve been jerked around. But, over the years, I’ve come to accept this, and enjoy it on its own terms – as limited as they are.
7. Wild at Heart (1990) – The fact that I quite enjoy this film, and still ranks fairly low, tells you how good Lynch’s filmography is. Yes, it does look fairly weak alongside other Palme D’or winners, and other Lynch films for that matter, but it’s still very entertaining, and quite possibly the most positive movie of Lynch’s career – at least among the films that contain that much violence and bloodshed. And Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern are terrific – the supporting cast is wonderful too.
6. The Straight Story (1999) – A deceptively simple story that is quietly powerful and heartfelt. I had only seen it once before starting this series – and to be honest, once is probably enough for this movie. But it has a great central performance by Richard Farnsworth, and is a really, really beautiful film. But it is quite simple and straightforward. I’m very glad Lynch made it though – if only to prove he could make a great film without being weird.
5. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992) – This film, without a doubt, was the most improved on the most recent viewing. Perhaps it was having the original series so fresh in my memory, or perhaps it was just knowing what to expect this time around. But watching the film this time, what emerged was a near-brilliant, surreal nightmare – a definite sign of where Lynch was going to go later in his career. It still has flaws, but it is a great film – with an incredible performance by Sheryl Lee. If you hated the film the first time you watched it, give it another chance.
4. Inland Empire (2006)- The wonderful, bizarre, three hour odyssey that may or may not add up, but is so brilliantly executed, that I don’t much care. Laura Dern delivers one of the greatest screen performances of all time, and the film really is a one of a kind experience. It’s also a throwback to Lynch’s DIY spirit of his first films. It’s too bad he stopped making films after this – because he really could have gone on to do something even better.
3. Eraserhead (1977) – I always loved Eraserhead – but I think I loved it even more this time than I ever had before. The soundscape is brilliant, the visuals haunting and unique, the performances odd. From his first feature, Lynch had his aesthetic down pat – and made one of his masterpieces.
2. Blue Velvet (1986) – I have seen the film so many times, and never fails to win me over, to draw me into the seemingly perfect suburban world on the surface, which hides the unspeakable evil underneath. The film is funny at first, and then gets sickening as it moves along, and at the end, we all just bury our head in the sand again at the end. The more times I watch it, the better it gets.
1. Mulholland Dr. (2001) – This is Lynch’s masterpiece – a surreal dream world that slowly becomes a nightmare. No other film I have ever seen has ever so perfectly replicated a dream world. An absolute perfect film – one that usually makes my list of the 10 greatest films of all time.
Shorts/Music Videos/Commercials/Experiments Rank
Ranking 35 shorts, videos, oddities and experiments is a ridiculous activity – so of course I did it. Take it with a grain of salt, which is how I intended it.
35. Longing - X Japan (1995) – Music Video – Painful song, sappy visuals – if it was much longer than the 6 minute length, I may well have given up watching it.
34. Yves Saint Laurent's Opium Parfum (1993) – TV Commercial – It’s just another perfume commercial – the type of thing we see every day on TV, and nothing at all special or memorable. Not sure why they wanted him to turn in something that any director could have done.
33. DumbLand (2002) – Web Series – The title is apt – it’s is very dumb. A series of 6 shorts, 5 minutes long each, which are stick figures swearing and doing crude things. It would work if it was funny – but it isn’t. The 30 minutes spent watching this seems much longer.
32. Fictitious Anacin Commercial (1967) – Short – The title is apt – this is a fake commercial for Anacin, which is very similar to most headache medication commercial, just slightly exaggerated. I can think of worse ways to spend 1 minute of your time – but there isn’t much to recommend it either.
31. Out Yonder – Neighbor Boy (2001) – Short – Lynch co-stars with his son in this short about two guys hanging in their backyard that is trying very hard to be funny, but isn’t.
30. Thank You Judge – BlueBob (1999) – Music Video – This was supposed to be the first of three videos made in support of Lynch’s band BlueBob’s album. The fact that the other two didn’t get made probably tells you how good the video – and song – are.
29. Industrial Soundscape (2002) – Short – Not really a movie, but a strange motion painting, with some very strange music. It works for what it is – but what it is, isn’t exactly all that interesting.
28. Intervalemeter Experiments (2004) – Experiment – An experiment, which is right in the title, and it is rather interesting. But there isn’t much here to talk about.
27. Wicked Game - Chris Isaak (1990) – Music video – A fairly typical little music video – taking clips from Wild at Heart, combined with Isaak and his band playing the song from the movie. It’s better than most of these – but still not precisely that great.
26. Absurd Encounter with Fear (1967) – Short – A very odd little short, with a man coming across a woman in a field, and attacking her, with bizarre results. It’s only two minutes, so there isn’t much here – but it’s weird.
25. I Predict – Sparks (1982) – Music Video – The video was controversial in 1982, not so much anymore, and not particularly interesting. But that song has been stuck in my head for weeks – and it is amusing, so it’s not bad by any means.
24. The Amputee (1974) - Short – Lynch only had a night to write the screenplay, and shot it twice in a row, on different film stocks. It’s kind of funny, but the short time frame shows – especially compared to what was made right before and right after this.
23. Boat (2007) – This is Lynch simply goofing off, with his strange short with a disembodied voiceover with only shots of boats and water for the first half (of 7 minutes), then Lynch himself driving a boat on a “journey into the night”. Does it mean anything? Not really – but it’s somewhat amusing.
22. Crazy Clown Time – David Lynch (2012) – Music Video – Too long, and not a very good song that just keeps going and going and going. It’s strange, but not much else.
21. 42 One Dream Rush - Dream # 7 (2009) – Omnibus Segment – Another film that doesn’t have much to offer except strangeness – but at least its short, at only a minute.
20. Industrial Symphony No. 1: The Dream of the Brokenhearted (1990) – Short – This really is a film stage play that Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti co-created. From what I saw, I would have loved to see the stage show. But as a movie, it doesn’t really work – and at 50 minutes it is a little long. But it is very interesting.
19. Bug Crawls (2004) – Short – A bizarre short – which is about a bug crawling on a house, and falling off. That’s all. But god is it creepy and memorable – at least for.
18. Blue Green (2007) – No, Blue Green doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it’s a haunting little piece of surrealism that sticks in your head – and perhaps that’s all it was intended to be.
17. The Three Rs (2011) – Film Festival Intro – The film is rather haunting, and although I don’t get it, I do think there’s something here – even if I don’t quite get what.
16. Idem Paris (2013) – Short – A short documentary about master print makers is fascinating, yet repetitive, and more than a little slow.
15. Rabbits (2002) – Web Series – As a part of Inland Empire, the rabbits are haunting, memorable and really rather brilliant. As a standalone series – especially when they are watched back to back to back for 50 minutes, it’s a one joke comedy that still works, but certainly drags.
14. Ballerina (2007) – Short – A mixture of beautiful and creepy, this short from the Inland Empire DVD is haunting, creepy, beautiful and memorable.
13. I Touch a Red Button – Interpol (2011) – Music Video – A decent music video that may be repetitive, but is also creepy and memorable.
12. Six Men Getting Sick (Six Times) (1966) – Short – The first thing Lynch ever directed – a “motion painting” which is about what the title implies. This one has grown on me since first seeing it. It really is something to see where he started from.
11. Lamp (2003) – Short – A 30 minute documentary about Lynch making a lamp. It shouldn’t work – but it does.
10. The Cowboy and the Frenchman (1988) – TV Segment – A half hour TV stand alone TV episode for a show that never existed. I enjoyed the more typical, sitcom level stuff at the beginning, more than the strange turn at the end – but it is certainly amusing.
9. Shot in the Back of the Head – Moby (2009) – Music Video – One of Lynch’s best music videos, a wonderfully animated film that takes Moby’s song both literally, and then spins off into the surreal.
8. Came Back Haunted – Nine Inch Nails (2013) – Music Video - It may given you a epileptic fit, but if it doesn’t, this is the best music video that Lynch has directed in his time – for the best song as well.
7. Lady Blue Shanghai (2010) – Short/Commercial – Yes, this is basically a 15 minute purse commercial, but it’s one that only Lynch could make, and one that works, even when you can tell what it’s selling.
6. More Things That Happened (2007) – Deleted Scenes – Still not sure if it’s supposed to be a standalone movie, or just a collection of deleted scenes from Inland Empire – but at its best, it is very, very good and a must see for Inland Empire fans.
5. Darkened Room (2002) – Short – An odd short that starts in one place, and ends somewhere completely different. Perhaps not overly original, but really effective.
4. Absurda (2007) – Omnibus Segment – An odd three minute movie that was supposed to be about the future of film – I have no idea what Lynch thinks this is saying about that, but I do know it’s a surreal nightmare par excellence from Lynch.
3. The Grandmother (1970) – Short – This half hour short is probably a little too long – but is a key short to show where Lynch was going from here. The little boy in this may well have grown up to be the lead character in Eraserhead.
2. The Alphabet (1968) – Short – A haunting mixture of animation, and live action – a childhood nightmare about a girl getting her period, the film is abstract, haunting and somewhat brilliant.
1. Lumière and Company - Premonition Following An Evil Deed (1995) – Omnibus Segment – Lynch embraces the limitations placed on him to be a part of this omnibus, and ends up making a brilliant, haunting, 52 second silent masterwork – as complex and jammed with ideas as many features. Absolutely brilliant.
So that’s it – 10 feature films and 35 shorts and other curiosities ranked – and that doesn’t even mention a two TV shows. I know I probably missed some things – Lynch has made and released a lot of these weird shorts in the past decade or so. I still hope that one day, Lynch will directed another feature – but perhaps next year’s Twin Peaks revival will be even better than that.