A comprehensive list of Denis Villeneuve movies ranked, including Dune, Arrival, Blade Runner 2049, and more
On the brink of the biggest release in his astonishing and varied career, Denis Villeneuve seems to be at an interesting inflection point. On one hand, the Canadian director’s legacy seems already cemented as he’s often considered one of the best filmmakers of his generation, and on the other hand, he may be destined for a even bigger heights depending on the commercial and critical success of Dune: Part Two.
Villeneuve’s career took a few outings to truly launch, with a handful of independent foreign-language films not catching on quite like his 2010 breakthrough Incendies did. That was his fourth official feature as a director, and it propelled him to a career of big-budget Hollywood dramas and franchise science fiction epics.
This next month feels like a culmination of Denis Villeneuve’s career and longstanding place within the industry. I haven’t always been a huge fan of his work, and I’ve actually been quite dubious of a few of his more financially viable projects this last decade, but there’s an undeniable approach to bold ideas that you have to give credit to. He’s one of the few visionaries still able to get original ideas and projects in theaters across the country, and he’s become a pioneer for a few of the best event films since he made the transition to this style of blockbuster filmmaking.
And I’m simultaneously extremely excited for the impending release of Dune: Part Two and slightly hoping that this marks the end for him in this universe so that he can shift his focus to something less cosmic. I hate losing exciting directors to a franchise for years on end, and I would like to get a few more original movies like Enemy and Arrival while he’s still at his apex.
There’s a lot of movies to get through in Villeneuve’s filmography, so I wont belabor these points, but it’s fun to go back through the works of this particular director because it’s a bit all over the place. Everyone has a different favorite, and there’s about four or five films that you could reasonably argue is his best. I landed pretty firmly on two movies on this rewatch that really outdo the others, but that says more about those two films and less about the rest of his catalogue.
I’ll stop rambling. Here’s how I’d list the Denis Villeneuve movies, ranked:
10. Maelström (2000)
9. August 32nd on Earth (1998)
8. Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
7. Incendies (2010)
Incendies is an often compelling cinematic experience fueled by powerful performances, particularly Lubna Azabal’s tentpole portrayal of Nawal. It may not quite be Denis Villeneuve’s best movie, but it serves as a worthy introduction for one of the industry’s brightest filmmakers to the big stage. Incendies review
6. Polytechnique (2009)
Polytechnique is a challenging, soul crushing film that forces us to confront uncomfortable truths and grapple with complex ethical questions. Denis Villeneuve directs a harrowing movie I still have a few gripes with. Polytechnique review
5. Prisoners (2013)
4. Dune (2021)
Dune is an ambitious and visually stunning sci-fi epic that successfully brings Frank Herbert’s classic novel to the big screen. With a star-studded cast led by Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, and Zendaya, the movie delivers on its promise and begins a new franchise worthy if its critical acclaim. Dune: Part One review
3. Sicario (2015)
2. Enemy (2013)
Enemy‘s true power lies in its ambiguity. Unlike conventional narratives that spoon-feed answers, Denis Villeneuve invites the audience to actively participate in unraveling the movie’s enigmatic plotlines. The recurring spider motif becomes a potent symbol, open to individual interpretation. Is it a harbinger of danger, a manifestation of repressed desires, or simply a narrative thread to guide us through the inner turmoil of Adam (Jake Gyllenhaal)? The beauty lies in the absence of definitive answers for Enemy, where Denis allows you to form your own conclusions. Enemy review
1. Arrival (2016)
Arrival is a beautifully presented, excellently edited piece of work that stands as a testament to Denis Villeneuve’s directorial ability. It is a rare achievement in the realm of science fiction, offering both spectacle and substance in equal measure. With its powerhouse thematic accomplishments and compelling performances, it cements its place as one of the standout films of the 2010s. Arrival review
View a Letterboxd version of this list here
More Director Rankings from Cinephile Corner
- All 10 Denis Villeneuve Movies Ranked from Worst to Best
- Joseph Kosinski Movies Ranked from Worst to Best
- Jonathan Glazer Movies Ranked: The Zone of Interest, Under the Skin, and More
- Noah Baumbach Movies Ranked from Worst to Best, Featuring White Noise