With just the creation of six films, Paul Thomas Anderson has solidified himself as one of the greatest directors in existence. If his career in filmmaking were to end right now it would still be one the most enigmatic, beautiful, poignant and spectacular careers that will have ever been crafted. I could watch any one of his six films at any time and be completely happy. He’s made six spectacular films, five of which I would consider masterpieces and that’s all there is to it. This is a list celebrating him and his illustrious career.
6. Hard Eight
It just amazes me that I’m putting Hard Eight last on my list. This is how you debut a career in filmmaking. Anderson regular, Philip Baker Hall, gives his career best performance as protagonist Sydney with John C. Reilly doing just as great as usual. It’s completely consistent of Anderson to have rich and incredibly-well written characters. You’ll find exactly those kind of characters in Hard Eight. I would expect nothing but a truly spectacular movie from Anderson and that’s exactly what my least favorite Paul Thomas Anderson movie is.
Paul Thomas Anderson was quoted as to saying that for better or worse Magnolia will probably be the best film he’ll ever make. Where as I hate to disagree with such a genius, I do. Magnolia is just as much of a masterpiece as my top three on this list, but I did have to decide on an order and this is where Magnolia falls for me. This examination of life and the oddities there in is nothing short of breathtaking. The film offers one of the greatest ensemble casts ever and it goes without saying, but the direction is outlandishly good. Magnolia simply proves that Anderson is a director without boundaries.
4. Boogie Nights
With Boogie Nights, Paul Thomas Anderson offers a movie that is as character-driven and riveting as Raging Bull, almost as epic as Apocalypse Now and as fun as your average Quentin Tarantino movie. That’s quite a feat on its own, but when you add the fact that it’s a film tracking the rise and fall of the porn industry between the 70s and 80s, the idea of it is rather ridiculous. Boogie Nights tells a timeless tale and does so with unrelenting gusto. It’s hard not to be seduced by the world that Anderson has laid out in front of you and once I was consumed by it, I was left speechless right up until the credits rolled. Boogie Nights is an extravaganza of the things that make for a truly classic film and the best way to describe the experience is unforgettable.
3. Punch-Drunk Love
Punch-Drunk Love offers up one of the greatest cinematic love stories ever told and one as only Paul Thomas Anderson could tell. It definitely does not need to be said, but I’ll say it anyways; this is by far Adam Sandler’s best performance and none of his movies even come close to being as fantastic. Punch-Drunk Love tells such a beautiful story of contempt and the defying ability of love, that the idea of artful direction could fall as a moot point. Instead Paul Thomas Anderson takes the beautiful story he’s crafted for himself and creates the masterpiece that it truthfully deserved to be. Punch-Drunk Love usually falls by the wayside and is eclipsed by his other films, but I love the film and I always will.
2. The Master
The Master tells the tale of a confused and troubled man, a drifter, who’s looking for his way after World War II. The drama ensues with a chance meeting with Lancaster Dodd. That is his name, but it becomes apparent that the title more often used to refer to Dodd is “Master”. He is an enigmatic man, he’s likable, he’s articulate, and there’s a sense of power to him. He is the master of his own religious movement. However, this eloquent tale deals with a lot broader themes than just religion.
The Master is a masterpiece. It’s Anderson’s sixth and latest film and at this point it’s as if I can expect nothing less than a masterpiece from this brilliant artist. The always spectacular Joaquin Phoenix gives his career best performance as Freddie Quell, while Lancaster Dodd is also portrayed flawlessly by Philip Seymour Hoffman. The film centers around the relationship of these two characters. One is a leader and one is a follower and the two characters are utilized to tell a chilling and beautiful tale of obedience and control.
1. There Will Be Blood
Paul Thomas Anderson is a master of his craft and one of my favorite directors working today, but it’s with There Will Be Blood where he proves himself to be one the greatest directors of all time. Some may call Punch-Drunk Love his best and I could see a lot (or most) of people calling either Boogie Nights or Magnolia his best. No matter how much I love Anderson’s other masterpieces, there was never a doubt in my mind that I would call There Will Be Blood his best film.
In Paul Thomas Anderson’s magnum opus you’ll find the greatest character study ever put on film. The word ruthless was never as evident than when the character Daniel Plainview was on screen (which was practically the entirety of the film). He’s conniving, cruel, vindictive, monstrous, and he’s the protagonist. Daniel Plainview is a character so gloriously layered and so distinctively dissected that only a truly masterful performance would have sufficed. Daniel Day-Lewis offers that and more in one of the greatest performances in the history of film.
There Will Be Blood is extraordinary in every sense of the word. It is the most flawless film in Anderson’s career of spectacular movies. Every detail is meticulously slaved over and what results is a film that is gorgeous in its scope and a masterpiece that showcases film as the art form it is. There Will Be Blood is above all else, a perfect movie that serves as a testament to the true prowess of its creator.