David Lynch Movies

Tuesday, December 14, 2010 at 10:38 am

David Lynch movies are never mundane, and this highly original filmmaker has been dividing audiences and critics for over 30 years with his dark tales of multiple identities, crushed dreams, and the seedy underbelly of small-town America. Below, we’ll take a look at every David Lynch film made to date, offering a brief plot synopsis and a few personal observations along the way.

All of the films of David Lynch are available for purchase on Amazon, or you can become a member of Netflix and rent them instead. Either way, be prepared for storylines that take sudden twists and turns, frequent dreamlike imagery, and plenty of beautiful and doomed women.

Eraserhead (1977) – Lynch has called this his “most spiritual movie,” and it’s certainly one that you’ll either love or hate. But despite the mixed reactions from critics and viewers, it firmly established Lynch as a newcomer with a most powerful vision. The film itself follows printer Henry Spencer (Jack Nance) as he tries to enjoy his vacation in the center of a crumbling urban cityscape. But this becomes increasingly impossible with the appearance of an old girlfriend who’s recently given birth to his child, a grotesque and constantly whining creature. Henry is soon left to care for the child on his own, and this duty is interspersed with bizarre run-ins with a beautiful neighbor, a dancing women in the radiator, and a disturbing dream sequence where his severed head is seemed fit for use in making pencil erasers. Stanley Kubrick listed this as one of his all-time favorite films, and George Lucas would later offer Lynch the reins to Return of the Jedi after viewing the movie. Lynch, of course, turned down the offer, and one can only wonder what the Ewoks would’ve been like in the hands of this visual innovator.

The Elephant Man (1980) – Following his mind-blowing release of Eraserhead, Lynch was hired by producer Mel Brooks (yes, the guy behind Robin Hood: Men in Tights) to direct this black-and-white true story of John Merrick (John Hurt), a deformed individual trying to survive in 19th century London. Anthony Hopkins co-stars as the compassionate doctor who rescues Merrick from a freak show, and Anne Bancroft is the famous actress who befriends him. An inspiring tale of dignity and redemption, The Elephant Man was lauded by critics and received eight Oscar nominations (including Best Picture). One of the most accessible of all the David Lynch films.

Enjoy all these David Lynch movies by becoming a member of Netflix today.

Dune (1984) – Lynch attempted to adapt Frank Herbert’s epic sci-fi novel to the big screen, and the resulting film drew largely negative reviews (both Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert voted it the worst movie of the year). Lynch himself was denied the rights to the final cut, and many versions of the film replace his name with the infamous pseudonym Alan Smithee. Dune revolves around Paul Atreides (Kyle MacLachlan), the son of a murdered nobleman who must fulfill his destiny as the savior of a planet known for its harsh climate, giant worms, and spice production. Sting co-stars as a dagger-wielding creep, and other cast members include Brad Dourif, Linda Hunt, Virginia Madsen, Patrick Stewart, and Sean Young. If you’re able, be sure to see the 137-minute theatrical cut, and avoid the longer (189-minute) Alan Smithee version offered by Netflix.

Blue Velvet (1986) – If you’ve never seen a film by David Lynch, this twisted tale of small-town America is as good a place to start as any. Lynch regular Kyle MacLachlan stars as a college student who returns home after his father falls ill. While walking back home from the hospital, he finds a human ear in a vacant lot and slowly becomes drawn into a web of deceit, murder, and bizarre sexual kinks. Laura Dern is the teenage cop’s daughter who assists our hero in his misadventures, while Isabella Rossellini is a torch singer who suffers through sexual slavery at the hands of local crime figure Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper in one of his most memorable roles). Both Bobby Vinton’s “Blue Velvet” and Roy Orbison’s “In Dreams” play important roles, and there’s plenty of dark humor to break up the scenes of sadism and misogyny. Co-starring Dean Stockwell, Brad Dourif, and Lynch favorite Jack Nance.

Wild at Heart (1990) – Lynch takes a look at romance with this raunchy tale of Lula Fortune (Laura Dern) and Sailor Ripley (Nicolas Cage), a pair of young lovers who hit the road to escape the clutches of Lula’s disapproving–and murderous–mom (Dern’s real-life mother, Diane Ladd). There’s plenty of trademark Lynch craziness amidst all the sex scenes, including Sheryl Lee as a fairy godmother and Jack Nance as a mad scientist. Other faces to keep an eye out for include Willem Dafoe, Crispin Glover, Isabella Rossellini, and Harry Dean Stanton. As Lynch has been quoted as saying, Wild at Heart is a “picture about finding love in Hell.”

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992) – Once the complete Twin Peaks series ended after two seasons, Lynch kept the weirdness going with this feature film about the events leading up to death of troubled teen Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee). Kyle MacLachlan returns briefly as FBI agent Dale Cooper, but singer Chris Isaak also pitches in as a member of the bureau. A wicked tale of incest, murder and double identities, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me is a must-see for fans of the show. Anyone else may be left scratching their head in confusion. Familiar faces from the TV series include Ray Wise, Madchen Amick, Peggy Lipton, James Marshall, and Dana Ashbrook. Also keep an eye out for David Bowie and Kiefer Sutherland.

Lost Highway (1997) – Bill Pullman stars as a L.A. saxophonist accused of murdering his wife (Patricia Arquette). But that’s only half of it, as the Pullman character eventually transforms into a young mechanic (Balthazar Getty) whose girlfriend bears an uncanny resemblance to the musician’s dead wife. Critics hated it, and audiences were confused, but that hasn’t stopped Lost Highway from gaining a cult following over the years. Robert Blake is especially memorable as the creepy Mystery Man in Black, and other notable appearances include Richard Pryor, Robert Loggia, and Gary Busey. One of the most challenging David Lynch movies, Lost Highway will leave you debating its content for weeks to come.

If you’d like to experience the films of David Lynch, join Netflix today.

The Straight Story (1999) – Critics who labeled Lynch as a one-trick-pony were forced to eat their words following the release of this moving, G-rated masterpiece. Perhaps the most emotionally moving of all David Lynch movies, The Straight Story follows WWII veteran Alvin Straight (Richard Farnsworth) as he travels 240 miles on a lawn mower to see his estranged brother (Harry Dean Stanton). Along the way, he experiences the kindness of strangers, waxes philosophic on the pitfalls of getting old, and remains determined to repair the decade-long rift between he and his sibling. Good luck holding back the tears on this one, and the fact that star Richard Farnsworth was dying in real life from bone cancer while filming makes it all the more poignant.

Mulholland Drive (2001) – Naomi Watts stars as a fresh-off-the-bus actress who tries to help the dark-haired amnesiac (Laura Elena Harring) she finds hiding in her aunt’s apartment. The film is also peppered with several vignettes that seem to have nothing to do with the central narrative, but everything slowly converges as the ending nears. Filled with alternate realities, dreamlike imagery, and a scathing commentary on Hollywood, Mulholland Drive was cited by many critics as among the best films of the 2000s. It doesn’t hurt that the sex scenes between Watts and Harring are hot enough to melt steel. Originally intended to be a television series, the movie also stars Justin Theroux, Dan Hedaya, Ann Miller, Melissa George, and Robert Forster.

Inland Empire (2006) – Laura Dern plays an actress whose latest film role slowly begins to bleed into the real world. It’s actually far more complicated than that, but explaining this thriller/horror film would take far more space than available here. Suffice it to say that it’s the kind of melancholy weirdness that Lynch fans have come to expect, and the impressive cast includes Jeremy Irons, Diane Ladd, Harry Dean Stanton, William H. Macy, and Nastassja Kinski. Inland Empire took over 2 1/2 years to make, and it was the first David Lynch movie shot in standard definition digital video. If you’ve ever wanted to see a Lynch film that includes talking rabbits, then get this one immediately (for more on the bunnies, check out The Short Films of David Lynch).

For additional David Lynch movies, become a member of Netflix. Or, if you prefer, you can visit Amazon and purchase David Lynch – The Lime Green Set, a collection of his films and short movies. Either way, you’ll be getting more narrative strangeness than you can shake a stick at. Plus, the small commission we get when you make a purchase helps keep us in business.

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