Denis Villeneuve, the French-Canadian director has shot to meteoric fame in recent times. One of the forerunners of the science-fiction genre, Denis Villeneuve has not limited himself a single trope. His deep-rooted understanding of the human condition and avant-garde artistic flair has produced some of the finest movies in the last two decades.
A worthy successor to Stanley Kubrick, Steven Spielberg, and Ridley Scott, Denis Villeneuve’s works are the true signs of a visionary auteur. Known for his voyeuristic cinematography, Villeneuve frequently uses brutal yet necessary violence, as opposed to gratuitous violence used by directors like Quentin Tarantino. Denis Villeneuve does not shy away from using a broad range of color palettes which often augments his characters, their motivations, and the overall scene.
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Yet to make a bad movie, Denis Villeneuve project is the upcoming Dune which stars Timothee Chalamet, Dave Bautista, Josh Brolin, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Jason Momoa, Javier Bardem, Stellan Skarsgaard, and David Dastmalchian. As the movie is a few months away from getting released, here are 10 best movies from the auteur director which you must not miss.
9. August 32nd on Earth
Denis Villeneuve’s directorial debut, Un 32 août sur terre aka August 32nd on Earth marked the arrival of the auteur who would later take the filmmaking industry by a storm. With striking visuals and killer rock tracks, August 32nd on Earth is a journey of self-discovery despite having a few clichés scattered across the story.
Simone Prévost is a photo model who barely survives a car crash. The traumatic experience makes Simone question her mortality. Weirdly enough, she decides to have a baby with her best friend Phillipe. However, Phillipe happens to be seeing someone which makes it a bit complicated. But, Phillipe agrees under the condition that they conceive the child in a desert. An interesting take on love, solitude, and self-discovery, Denis Villeneuve’s debut movie was selected as the Canadian entry for the Best Foreign Film for the 71st Academy Awards.
A movie involving another car crash, Maelstrom was released back in 2000. The story follows a young businesswoman named Bibiane who undergoes an abortion. Despite having a booming business, Bibiane suffers from depression and is dependent on drugs and alcohol.
One night, Bibiane hits a person with her car and flees. The person succumbs to his injuries which makes Bibiane question her morality. But later, she ends up hiding all the evidence and dates the son of the deceased person. All of this is topped off by the fact that this entire story is actually narrated by a fish. As the fish is on the verge of revealing the meaning of life, it is swiftly killed midsentence in a classic Villeneuve style violence.
Released in 2013, Prisoners was Denis Villeneuve’s first foray into Hollywood. Starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal, Prisoners follow the story of two young girls who are kidnapped in Pennsylvania. As the police department headed by Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) fail to find conclusive proof, the father of the young girls (Hugh Jackman) takes matter into his own hands.
Denis Villeneuve’s art shines throughout the movie from cinematography to the engaging plotline. A crime thriller with a grim atmosphere, Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal’s spectacular acting chops made Prisoners one of the best movies of 2013.
Denis Villeneuve’s most controversial yet critically acclaimed movie so far, Polytechnique is based on the 1989 Montreal Massacre which claimed the lives of 14 women. An honest portrayal of a real-life shooting, Polytechnique is a haunting movie that brutally delves into the gore and violence which shook the entire nation.
A sharply incisive movie bound to leave you unsettled for days, Polytechnique is a black and white movie that further enhances its desired effects on the viewers. As a misogynistic shooter decides to shoot down women, Polytechnique also delves into the psyche of a person suffering from survivor’s guilt. Villeneuve’s skillful cinematography makes the movie a profound experience which is hard to forget for years to come.
If you thought Denis Villeneuve’s scope is only limited to science-fiction, then think again. A Canadian-Spanish neo-noir psychological thriller, Enemy once again brought Jake Gyllenhaal and Villeneuve to weave their magic.
Villeneuve’s closest take on the horror genre, Enemy relies on striking visuals and an unsettling background score to induce anxiety. As a college history professor finds his identical physical twin in his vicinity, the movie expertly manipulates the audience into doubting their own judgment whether the twins really exist, or is it just a projection of a split personality disorder.
Starring Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, and Benicio Del Toro, Sicario is a modern-day masterpiece. An idealistic FBI agent (Emily Blunt) gets entangled in the world of drug cartels and insidious agencies in the US-Mexico border. Del Toro’s engaging scenes and Brolin’s diabolical character make Sicario one of the best movies in recent years.
Praised for its intense soundtracks, aesthetic cinematography, and brutal violence, Sicario was nominated for numerous awards. Emily Blunt’s dazzling performance as the strong yet helpless FBI agent fighting for her principles against terrifying odds is what makes this movie an unforgettable affair.
3. Blade Runner 2049
Undoubtedly one of the best science-fiction movies created in recent years, Blade Runner 2049 is the sequel to Ridley Scott’s critically acclaimed Blade Runner. Ryan Gosling plays the role of a young Blade Runner who is tasked to find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former Blade Runner who has been missing for 30 years now.
Blade Runner‘s gigantic color palette and remarkable cinematography by Denis Villeneuve makes the movie a visual delight. Though Villeneuve focuses more on the grander scheme of things rather than individual characters, Blade Runner 2049 still manages to shine with Villeneuve’s quintessential touch.
Human frailty at its worst, Incendies is a war thriller film which follows the story of an Arab Christian woman named Nawal. Set in an unnamed Middle Eastern country, Nawal’s life is marred with trauma right from the beginning.
Now an immigrant in Canada, Nawal’s twins set out to discover their mother’s past which is a series of heartbreaking chapters flashing with Nawal’s exemplary bravery. Set against the backdrop of a civil war, Incendies is a brutal and unsettling movie with an ending that will leave you both disgusted and hopeful. Its devastating emotional impact is only rivaled by its picturesque visuals and spectacular acting.
Denis Villeneuve’s best work so far, Arrival is definitely one of the greatest science-fiction movies of all time. Based on the short story Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang, Arrival is an existential movie at its core that attempts to explore the concept of free will.
As a dozen alien spacecraft appear suddenly in various places on Earth, world powers unite to monitor and study their behavior. The heptapods try to communicate in a strange language which brings linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) into the picture. A far cry from usual alien movies depicting superior technology, Arrival explores the impact of the most powerful weapon known to mankind: language. Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner shine throughout the movie with their engaging acting skills. A tightly written plot paired with Jóhann Gunnar Jóhannsson’s poignant background score makes Arrival one of the best movies of the last decade.