Advertisement

Every Yorgos Lanthimos movie, ranked

Before "Poor Things" takes on the 2024 Oscars, EW looks back on the Greek director's eclectic filmography.

<p>Atsushi Nishijima/Searchlight Pictures; Everett Collection (2)</p>

Atsushi Nishijima/Searchlight Pictures; Everett Collection (2)

Yorgos Lanthimos is a master of the odd and absurd. The Greek filmmaker first commanded attention abroad with 2009’s Oscar-nominated Dogtooth, a bizarre feature that must be seen to be believed. He’s been a fixture of international cinema ever since, dazzling critics and audiences alike with everything from sci-fi romances (The Lobster) to royal satires (The Favourite).

Whether he's working with European indie players or A-list actors, the performances he elicits often have an uncanny quality. The results are both unsettling and fascinating. Poor Things, his latest and most life-affirming work, is no exception — and the Academy has taken notice. The genre-bending black comedy starring Emma Stone is nominated for 11 Oscars, including Best Picture.

Below, check out EW’s ranking of every Yorgos Lanthimos movie.

8. My Best Friend (2001)

<p>Greek Film Centre</p>

Greek Film Centre

Though it’s technically his debut feature, the Greek farce My Best Friend feels far removed from Lanthimos’ filmography. For one, it’s nearly impossible to get your hands on. He also co-directed it with comedian Lakis Lazopoulos, which means there are fewer of his handprints here, though he still imbued the buddy comedy (about a man who finds his pal in bed with his wife) with plenty of dark humor. You’re probably not missing out by skipping it, though if you find a video rental store that 1) still exists and 2) carries a copy, our tip line is open.

Where to watch My Best Friend: Not available to stream

7. Kinetta (2005)

<p>Everett Collection</p>

Everett Collection

Lanthimos’ first solo directorial venture follows three strangers (a plain-clothes police officer, an apathetic maid, and a creatively stunted videographer) at a vacant hotel who awkwardly roleplay rapes and murders on tape. The taboo premise is par for the course in the director's filmography, and completionists may enjoy Kinetta as an early treasure hunt for his trademarks — unnaturally stiff social exchanges, invented realities blurring with real ones, understated performances that quietly simmer — but most people watching at home will hardly find this arthouse fare provocative.

Many aspects of the movie deflect the viewer’s attention, from the grayscale color palette to the sparse dialogue to the grating shakycam. None of these are cinematic sins per se, but since the central players and plot develop at a glacial pace, the stylistic choices are little more than white noise humming through (and adding to) the slog. Much like the trio’s unsavory home videos, Kinetta feels like the stuff of student filmmaking, with experimental swings and unfocused execution. It’s a slow burn that fizzles out with little payoff.

Where to watch Kinetta: Amazon Prime Video (with premium subscription)

6. Alps (2011)

<p>Everett Collection</p>

Everett Collection

Alps is a more compelling companion piece to Kinetta, borrowing a similar premise while turning up the tension. This time, we follow the exploits of a trauma nurse (played by an astute Angeliki Papoulia) who moonlights in a shadowy acting troupe for hire that plays dead people for grieving loved ones. Our protagonist goes rogue, however, when she secretly assumes the role of a deceased teenager and becomes overly attached to the girl's grieving family.

Lanthimos expertly composes surreal scenarios that, while rooted in reality, feel like a window into another world. In Alps, the actors and their patrons treat the macabre service as commonplace and routine, behaving with an emotional detachment that feels incongruous with the strange situation. Their make-believe is far from an artistic practice; it’s a conduit for destructive dissociation. The resulting film — hot on the heels of the ever-disturbing Dogtooth — is confounding and deeply uncomfortable, with Lanthimos once again flexing his ability to turn intimacy on its head (and leave you scratching yours).

Where to watch Alps: Amazon Prime Video (with premium subscription)

5. The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)

A24
A24

Lanthimos had industry clout to spare when he took on The Killing of a Sacred Deer, his second international feature and collaboration with A-list Hollywood talent. Beyond the star power of Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman as esteemed married doctors, we’re also treated to a younger Barry Keoghan in one of his breakout roles (coinciding with Dunkirk the same year) as Martin, a teenager who’s a little… off. After Martin’s father dies on Farrell’s operating table, he takes the boy under his wing. But his condolences have huge ramifications when his family mysteriously falls ill one by one.

The ensuing fallout unravels like (and is loosely inspired by) a Greek tragedy, where carnage is inevitable and the players are powerless. Lanthimos’ most suspenseful work is also the closest he’s come to genuine horror, with blood oozing from the eyes while a score like a hornet's nest quickens the pulse. These setpieces call for melodrama, yet we’re met with the director’s trademark stoicism. Farrell is impassive as the travesties mount, behaving like a robot that relies on algorithms to process and feign emotion. Meanwhile, Keoghan’s nonchalant instigator is so alien and unnerving that his eventual rise to sex-symbol status with last year’s Saltburn seems inconceivable here.

EW’s critic chided the film for being “too enigmatic,” but Lanthimos’ earlier projects are far more cryptic and (with the exception of Dogtooth) much less compelling. Like Stanley Kubrick’s more peripheral works, Sacred Deer is best enjoyed when you lean into the uncanniness rather than dissect it.

Where to watch The Killing of a Sacred Deer: Tubi

4. Dogtooth (2009)

Everett Collection
Everett Collection

The movie that put Lanthimos on the map, Dogtooth struck a nerve at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival with its story about a patriarch who keeps his now-adult children isolated from the world, spoon-feeding them lies about everything from the meaning of certain words to the purpose of a phone. Their only bridge to reality is a woman their father pays to have sex with his son. But when this newcomer introduces the eldest daughter to artifacts from the outside (like a VHS tape of Flashdance), she shatters the father's carefully constructed facade.

Lanthimos' most disturbing work runs the gamut from incest to self-mutilation. Still, fans of Michael Haneke's social thrillers — and those with a morbid curiosity about ethical blights like the Stanford prison experiment — will likely delight in the discomfort. These siblings are stilted in every sense of the word, from stiff body language to stunted social cues, making for a fascinating character study. Papoulia (Alps) once again carries the film as the rebel sister, and her liberation is revelatory. Still, it's Lanthimos who comes out on top with his first unequivocal victory for Greek cinema.

Where to watch Dogtooth: Amazon Prime Video (with a premium subscription)

3. The Favourite (2018)

<p>Yorgos Lanthimos/Fox Searchlight/Everett Collection</p>

Yorgos Lanthimos/Fox Searchlight/Everett Collection

Though he’d previously earned nods for Dogtooth and The Lobster, The Favourite was the first time Lanthimos had the awards circuit in a chokehold. His seventh feature tied with Roma for the most Oscar nominations that year with a whopping 10. The Academy was especially keen on Olivia Colman (who isn’t?) as the sniveling and riveting Queen Anne, while Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz dazzled in supporting roles as two cunning courtiers vying for her affection.

Like many of the best period pieces, The Favourite eschews historical accuracy in favor of social chess in high society. The writing is cerebral yet accessible (a rare balance for the director), rife with dark humor that satirizes how malleable world leaders can be — and the self-serving nature of the people pulling their puppet strings. The whole affair is devilishly fun and could have easily topped this list, but when considering the full scope of his filmography, Lanthimos is at his best when he turns up the weird factor; this film, though a cinematic feat, falls short of scratching that odd itch.

Where to watch The Favourite: Hulu

2. Poor Things (2023)

<p>Atsushi Nishijima/Searchlight Pictures</p> Emma Stone and Mark Ruffalo in 'Poor Things.'

Atsushi Nishijima/Searchlight Pictures

Emma Stone and Mark Ruffalo in 'Poor Things.'

After a five-year hiatus, Lanthimos returned to the big screen with Poor Things, a raucous film about a Frankenwoman named Bella Baxter (a never better Emma Stone) who’s brought back to life with the brain of her unborn fetus. We spend the rest of the runtime seeing the world through her unclouded eyes, beholding the wonders of literature and travel, pastries and sex (LOTS of sex), with fervor and awe. But, inevitably, Bella must also bear witness to injustice and reacquaint herself with suffering.

The movie is a feast for the senses, reimagining 19th-century Europe as a candy-colored steampunk fantasia. But the decadence never distracts from Stone, and how could it? She is exuberant and unencumbered, embodying the mannerisms of a postnatal infant and accelerating into a reckless youth without missing a beat. Her lust for life, even in the face of adversity, is utterly infectious (and a formidable entry in the Best Actress category).

If Poor Things has one fault, perhaps it’s that Lanthimos’ signature touch is swept up in the excess. It’s another case of a rousing filmmaker with indie roots getting plucked up for a blockbuster (see also: Greta Gerwig’s fellow Best Picture contender Barbie). They still produce reliably stellar movies, but part of the singular magic that made their art so affecting feels somewhat lost in translation (and in the inflated budget). Thus, Poor Things is edged out of the top slot, if only by a hair.

Where to watch Poor Things: Hulu (on March 7)

1. The Lobster (2015)

<p>Everett Collection</p>

Everett Collection

The Lobster is a cornerstone in Lanthimos’ career for many reasons. Beyond marking his foray into English-language movies, it was also the first time he crafted a tight story (no meandering here!) without sacrificing the oddball energy that makes his films so mystifying. Set in a dystopia where romantic relationships are a prerequisite for societal acceptance (sound familiar?), single people are banished to a “resort” where they must couple up in 45 days or be turned into an animal of their choosing. There, we follow a potbellied Colin Farrell as he searches for love in a heartless world.

It’s the movie that best exemplifies all the elements that make Lanthimos an inimitable filmmaker: themes of social isolation and indignation, a thought-provoking premise, and absurdity to spare. Meanwhile, the performances are deadpan in a way that warms your heart instead of furrowing your brow, and the pitch-black humor (like seeing singletons hunt other ostracized loners forced to dwell in the forests) is a devious treat. Even if the characters don’t express much emotion, their connections are not rendered any less moving.

The Lobster reminds us that the world is f---ed but leaves you feeling strangely hopeful about the whole calamity. There are still moments that make your hair stand on end, like that bone-chilling conclusion, but the film never loses its charm. A swoon-worthy love story that (spoiler!) culminates in eye-gouging may sound Shakespearean, but make no mistake; it’s a happy ending entirely Lanthimos’ own.

Where to watch The Lobster: Max

Related content:

Read the original article on Entertainment Weekly.