Denis Villeneuve: His Filmography Ranked

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Denis Villeneuve © Jan Thijs

Denis Villeneuve is a name on everyone’s lips after he took us back to the world of Arrakis with Dune: Part Two. Delays to the release of the film only added to the anticipation and he cemented himself as an all-time great in the directorial world with the smash hit.

From the joys of Dune to Villeneuve’s modern interpretation on a Ridley Scott classic, here are all of his feature films ranked.

11. Polytechnique (2009)

Denis Villeneuve began his career in 1998, but then took a break for the best part of a decade following his first two films—a return to the drawing board, if you will.

When he made his return he didn’t worry about pulling any punches, releasing a graphic depiction of the infamous Montreal Massacre of 1989 entitled Polytechnique.

Questions of necessity arrive when watching this film and at the time, there were a real spread of critical responses.

Variety’s Rob Nelson compared it, unfavourably so, to John Carpenter’s iconic Halloween (1978), whilst others voiced an appreciation for how the film dealt with the atrocities and didn’t further dramatise them.

10. Maelström (2000)

A number of words come to mind when describing Villeneuve’s second feature, Maelström.

Bizarre is where we shall start—after all, the narrator is a talking fish who is on the chopping block and ready to be killed. 

As a successful business owner accidentally kills an older man with her car before then falling in love with his son, ‘interesting’ is another word that might crop up.

Villeneuve certainly has to be commended for the idea at hand; Maelström is nothing if not creative. But it pales in comparison to his later films due to a convoluted narrative that never feels clear enough.

9. August 32nd on Earth (1998)

August 32nd on Earth (1998) © Max Films Productions

This next film, Villeneuve’s first, isn’t always totally engaging. August 32nd on Earth tells the story of Simone, who takes a trip from Canada down to the US after a car crash. Along with her friend Philippe, she’s on the hunt for some new meaning in life.

There are some majorly forgettable moments between the characters but it is intriguing all the same. The idea at its heart is sound, which helps to carry the plot through its short runtime.

8. Enemy (2013)

Not only does Jake Gyllenhaal feature in two separate Villeneuve films but he also features twice in this one, as he stumbles across a minor actor who is a spitting image of him.

It feels like the director was able to truly hone his skills and vision with Enemy. Like a hugely intricate jigsaw, all the pieces slot together during the final act with excellent precision.

7. Sicario (2015)

Sicario is a gritty, determined war-based action film that builds up to a fascinating conclusion in a similar manner to Enemy.

Cartel activities are a popular subject in the film world, but very few people have portrayed them to as high a level as Villeneuve reached in 2015.

Visually this movie is stunning and really has you hooked, with the suspense of the plot added to by the careful balance between light and dark.

6. Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

Villeneuve may have claimed to want to steer clear of follow-ups to already great releases from other directors, but many would be content with labelling Blade Runner 2049 as better than Ridley Scott’s original.

Ryan Gosling proves to be a wonderfully diverse actor once again, and the world that we see is just as magnificent as the others that the director has introduced us to throughout his commendable career.

5. Incendies (2010)

Incendies (2010) © micro_scope

The general trend of this list has seen Villeneuve’s filmography improve with time give or take a few anomalies, and Incendies is another of the latter.

It’s difficult to properly describe and do justice to the brilliance of this film. Villeneuve’s ability to weave a story in and out of real-life occurrences as well as the unlikely and unbelievable really comes to the fore here in what is a devastating watch. A pair of siblings’ search for answers following the passing of their mother opens them up to even more heartbreak regarding their broken family.

4. Prisoners (2013)

Jake Gyllenhaal is back again, and this time he is accompanied by Hugh Jackman, Viola Davis and Paul Dano to name a few.

Everybody performs to the highest of levels in Prisoners, helping to make this so much more than a story of family turmoil and a chilling police case.

David Dastmalchian deserves endless credit for his work here, with the creepy nature that he is able to put across adding another layer to the production. Prisoners is the thriller genre at its very best as the director proves, once again, that he has a number of strings to his bow.

Cinema Scene on X: “Prisoners (2013) Dir: Denis Villeneuve https://t.co/oZp1ShPVHo” / X (twitter.com)

3. Arrival (2016)

Arrival is a perfect example of the sci-fi genre’s ability to thrill and excite.Villeneuve uses the film to share such interesting things to say here about the human race’s perception of aliens, with Amy Adams’ character bridging the species gap when it comes to communication.

Every single time the aliens came down to interact with Adams and Jeremy Renner is a breathtaking experience, and one that doesn’t diminish no matter how regularly you watch it. On top of that Arrival may well boast one of the best sound designs out there, the mystery and suspense building with every beat.

2. Dune (2021)

A discovery point of Denis Villeneuve’s brilliance for many was his take on Frank Herbert’s beloved novel, Dune.

David Lynch is often mocked for his adaption, which was released in 1984, but now, three-and-a-half decades later, we have an absolute classic on our hands.

As the first of a series, this film consists heavily of world-building and character development which could easily lose some viewers. That being said, Arrakis is shown to be a planet of true beauty and so we could easily have spent hours and hours searching behind sand dunes for the secrets of the Fremen.

Marvelling at the world in front of you, as well as seeing Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) grow from a young duke’s son to the most important man in the universe, makes for a fascinating watch that never gets old.

1. Dune: Part Two (2024)

It may be too soon for some people to hand the golden crown over to Part Two already, but the scope and sheer size of the film can’t be denied.

New characters are intricately added into the fold whilst we also learn more about those we met in Part One.

Austin Butler and Florence Pugh are particular standouts, blowing the audience away with every line they deliver and in every fierce Villeneuve-crafted shot.

Where Part One builds the tension, Part Two chops it all down with some epic fight scenes that get ingrained into one’s brain.

This movie was born for the big screen—if you haven’t already, make sure to catch it while it’s still in cinemas to get a taste of Denis Villeneuve at his best.

Words by Jamie Rooke


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