A comprehensive list of James Gray movies ranked, including Little Odessa, Ad Astra, Armageddon Time, and more
In the bustling landscape of contemporary cinema and filmmaking, few directors have carved a path as distinct and deliberate as James Gray. His filmography, a mere eight films deep, pulsates with a singular vision, one marked by an unwavering commitment to raw human emotion and a deep fascination with the complexities of desire. Unlike the bombast and spectacle that often dominate the silver screen, Gray paints his canvases in muted tones and hushed whispers, inviting us into intimate worlds and backrooms where longing flickers in stolen glances and regret simmers beneath sun-drenched facades.
Ranking Gray’s films isn’t an exercise in objectivity; it’s a subjective trek through the great depths of his artistic universe. Each frame, meticulously crafted, holds a mirror to the human condition with perfect detail, reflecting our universal struggles with love, loss, and the relentless pursuit of fulfillment. His flawed, yearning characters, brought to life by actors under his masterful direction, navigate the gritty alleyways of New York, the untamed wilds of the Amazon, and the desolate expanse of outer space, each journey a poignant exploration of the existential anxieties that bind us.
But Gray’s genius lies not in grand pronouncements or melodramatic flourishes. He finds poetry in the mundane and subtle moments, imbuing the flicker of a cigarette or the clink of a glass with profound emotional resonance. His narratives, unfurling with the unhurried grace of a slow burn, reveal the vastness within the ordinary, transforming everyday moments into microcosms of human desire and despair.
Therefore, this isn’t merely a ranking of eight films; it’s a critical interrogation, a celebration of a masterful filmmaker who dares to plumb the murky depths of the human soul. We’ll explore the simmering tensions of Little Odessa, the heartbreaking yearning of Two Lovers, and the cosmic loneliness of Ad Astra. Each film, a carefully chosen brushstroke in Gray’s evolving portrait of humanity, awaits our dissection, contemplation, and ultimately, our admiration. Luckily, you can do just that as many of James Gray’s movies are streaming on the Criterion Channel in January 2024.
Here’s how I’d rank the James Gray movies:
8. Little Odessa (1994)
7. The Immigrant (2013)
6. Ad Astra (2019)
5. Two Lovers (2008)
4. Armageddon Time (2022)
In any profile you read or listen to with James Gray, the sincerity reigns true about his passions. As a craftsman that’s been working as a filmmaker since the 1990s, Gray is now a staple of the art world and a veteran of the profession. While his settings can range from his own personal stomping grounds to international terrain to even intergalactic expeditions, the clear and penetrating humanity that is on display with each outing grows heavier and heavier, so when it was announced that Armageddon Time would be a semi-autobiographical story about a critical point in Gray’s own childhood, it felt like both an inevitability and a slam dunk. Armageddon Time review
3. The Yards (2000)
2. We Own the Night (2007)
1. The Lost City of Z (2017)
View a Letterboxd version of this list here
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