A top seven, of nine movies, because I don’t follow anyone’s rules, not even my own. At least it’s not a top ten, you know?
I wish more people shared my love of Terrence Malick’s work. He is a mad genius that angers beyond rage half of the people he works with like Christopher Plummer and James Horner, and becomes a center of creativity for others like John Savage and John Fisk. Looking at his end results on their own, I have nothing but praise for the man and his work. His worst film, by my estimation, is still quite good. No other filmmaker I’ve seen has this kind of consistent quality in his work, even someone like Stanley Kubrick who stumbled in his early outings. Malick was on sure footing from the very beginning and, while he has evolved his style, has only become a stronger voice.
So, here is my ranking, which is probably the most pointless exercise since my ranking of Bergman’s best films. Really, what’s the difference in quality between most these? It’s miniscule.
“It’s a rough work that betrays its fractured production, but it’s also intelligently assembled in the end. It certainly lacks a lot of the emotional punch of Malick’s other films, but it’s not really supposed to, I think.”
“I’d never really appreciated just how pleasing the movie was to look at with the Paramount DVD. That being said, this is largely the one Malick that I have the most trouble feeling on an emotional level. Everything else gets me, but I think I now understand the distance I feel after my third viewing.”
“To the Wonder, though, is a touching and intimate movie about love in two distinct forms, and the ever present search for its manifestations in our lives.”
4. Song to Song
“Song to Song is a remarkable film. Tender and sad with wonderful performances and a clear emotional throughline, it’s the best Malick movie since The Tree of Life.”
“Badlands is one of the great debut films. It looks gorgeous, feels like a poem, is anchored by wonderful performances from Sheen and Spacek, and it speaks to a universal feeling in the modern world, even fifty years after it was made and seventy years after it was set.”
“Malick took this small, nearly forgotten story of a hidden life (a phrase taken from the ending of Middlemarch by George Eliot) and demonstrates the cumulative power of those little actions that make up the world. For any other director this would be a crowning achievement, but for Malick this is just another remarkably great film in a remarkably great career.”
While not being a big fan of rankings, I sure do them a lot, but one thing I demand is that ties aren’t a thing. I can’t work around that here, though. All three of these movies I find to be the kind of masterpieces that directors only come along and make once in a long career if they’re lucky. All three are the work of an artist at the absolute height of his power in full command of his gifts. I adore all three of these films and would never want to choose between them, so they tie.
The Thin Red Line
“So, what is Malick trying to explore with these three characters (the three that I find the most prominent in the narrative)? I think it’s that we are all bound for war, but not all of us are built for it. It’s an exploration of how different types of men face the state that nature is always in. Do we embrace it? Do we act like it’s not real? Do we fold under the weight of it? The individual portraits I find to be involving and moving and one of the reasons that I love the movie.”
The New World
“The New World is a work of art. It’s one of my favorite films. It hits me emotionally like very few films can. It is the work of a visionary and a genius. I adore this film.”
The Tree of Life
“Terrence Malick is a genius. He understands the cinematic power of image and sound better than almost any other working director and most who have passed. He attacks his central questions from all angles, and never the one you might expect. He creates believable physical realities for his characters to explore and pursue his thematic obsessions. He has an incredibly distinctive cinematic voice, approaching large questions with intelligence and tenderness, while filling the frame with beautiful images that never feel staged or artificial.”