Richard Linklater is a visionary filmmaker. He’s made films with subtle and artistic elements of realism, naturalism and humanism meshed into them. His films mostly deal with how people, culture and places are affected as they flow with the ravines of time while often being hit hard by the ravages of time. His movies portray, with expertise, the little things that make up and eventually come to matter in the big picture. There is a certain magic in his filmmaking style. This magic that I speak of is, to quite a large extent, indefinable. Linklater has delved into many genres and has quite consistently come out with films that are thought-provoking, deep and at the same time, engaging. Here’s a list of the best movies by Richard Linklater (worst to best):
9. A Scanner Darkly (2006)
This is an animated sci-fi thriller from Richard Linklater. It’s a deep, profound film. It is animated in the same style as Waking Life. There is a huge focus on excessive surveillance and drug epidemic. These realistic themes have been handled with so much humanity and heart that they seem to be a clear mirror of our own reality.
8. Bernie (2011)
Based on a true story, Bernie is based in Texas. It stars Jack Black alongside McConaughey and Shirley McLaine. Black plays the role of an undertaker who becomes close to a wealthy widow. He then gets tired of her obsessiveness and murders her.
Yes, this is a weird movie and right up Linklater’s alley. His direction made the movie reach new heights and is now a must-watch not only for the oddball plot but also for the impeccable execution.
7. School of Rock (2003)
Another Linklater film starring Jack Black. This movie wouldn’t have been so low on any list if it were not for the fact that the other movies are so good. The performances are brilliant, not only by Jack Black but also by the very talented co-stars who were just kids during the filming of the movie.
The film so well encapsulates the soul of rock n’ roll that it exuberates immense passion for music as well as life.
6. Slacker (1990)
A movie which has added a much-used word to our dictionaries has to be a great movie. And Slacker is nothing less. It was Linklater’s debut project. This movie was a major inspiration for many of the independent films that came out during the ’90s.
Slacker is a pure slice-of-life tale where we follow a young and unambitious group of people. For them, time is just flowing forward without any consequences or changes affecting them. They have not a worry or care in their lives. We follow these uninspirational but nonetheless interesting characters as they trudge on like a leaf in the wind, through the struggle that is daily life.
5. Waking Life (2001)
This movie is a literal dream sequence. The art style is innovative and artistic, the plot fascinating and intriguing. Waking Life is a surreal experience that will take your mind on a sublime rollercoaster ride.
The film, if I can call it that without degrading its artistic brilliance, is one of a kind. It is the singular most deeply explored concept creation and has stood the test of time.
The musings on the questions of life are magnificent and an exercise for intellectual growth. The artistic potential of this film is limitless. Themes ranging from free will, existentialism and the meaning of life are deeply explored with immense passion. The concept of lucid dreaming has been brought to the foreground as we see real actors in a 2.5D like animated style which is visually stunning and artistically brilliant.
The animation style is unique timeless. Even if you watch it today, it doesn’t look a day older than when it was first released.
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4. Dazed and Confused (1993)
Dazed and Confused is the dream high-school life. It celebrates the last day of high school for some Texan teenagers. It is a movie about consequence-less fun, much like what life is in the minds of unknowing teens who are oblivious to the ways of the world. Their last few days of freedom from responsibilities is depicted with such natural energy that each step they take, good or bad, feels like it needs to be rooted for. I would have wanted to and perhaps indulged in some of the vices these teenagers yielded to.
The brilliant execution brings out the thrill and the adrenaline rush out of the silver screen and into your heart. In signature Linklater style, the director uses an ultra-simplistic premise and elevating it to a level that makes it a masterpiece.
3. Tape (2001)
Tape is a testament to the writing genius of Richard Linklater. His dialogues are so gripping. They take you in and never let go. The whole story revolves around three old friends. They are in a motel room and discuss the drama and trauma they went through in their high school years.
The movie expertly navigates its way through the unending squabbles and the unrelenting emotions. It exudes uniqueness, yet something very relatable dominating its core. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have the calibre to hold an audience for as long as it does.
It has a lot of heart despite the uncomfortable, heavy issues.
2. Boyhood (2014)
Boyhood is one of the greatest feats in the history of cinema. It is an epic coming-of-age drama. The film highlights the journey of a 6-year-old boy as he grows into an adult over a span of 12 years. It is a marvel of a movie because it films the lives of the boy and his family members from 2001 to 2013, creating a very organic, authentic experience.
Boyhood is full of wit, charm and warmth. The premise seems simple but the wonderful execution by the director makes the film iconic for ages to come. Through the mundane act of growing up, which we all have gone through, we discover something magical and ethereal, something very human.
The audiences who have not steeled themselves and are expecting a simple coming-of-age tale will face a few hurdles in the beginning. But slowly and surely the movie warms up to you and leaves you with a tender sensation.
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1. The Before Trilogy
The fight for the first spot was among one of the three ‘Before’ movies and Boyhood. Now, I truly couldn’t bring myself to put either Sunrise or Sunset over one another. This trilogy stands above Boyhood for a simple reason. Simplicity. There is an ease of getting into it which you cannot afford to have when watching Boyhood. Moreover, consistently churning out one quality film after another is a herculean task, few have mastered.
All three- Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight run along the same theme. They are romantic films with simple premises; time is an essential element in each of the three. The two lovers are constrained by the limitations of fleeting time but not fleeting feelings. Their conversations, spanning 18 long years, is the main focus of the film. Their inhibitions, their intimacies, their world views and passionate proclamations of love over a casual evening stroll, a sightseeing trip and a hotel room make the movie grounded yet magically fantastical.
There go our favourite Richard Linklater movies. Your turn! Do you agree with our ranking? Which are your top 3 films of the director?
By Deepjyoti Roy
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Before trilogy is a classic. But I prefer the first two over Before Midnight.