Ranking the Richard Linklater Films

UPDATED: 5/16/2022

ONGOING FLUID PROJECT (ie: to be updated continuously yet sporadically)

Unwatched: It’s Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books, SubUrbia, The Newton Boys, Waking Life, Tape, Fast Food Nation, Me & Orson Welles

Films to Re-Watch Before Placement: Boyhood, A Scanner Darkly

13. Last Flag Flying

While Linklater’s motivations for making a movie rarely if ever seem cynical, this by far was the one that most seemed like an awards-bait piece of bullshit. Cranston and Carell in particular seem to be really going for Oscar Nom #2 here with everyone on this one clearly in Full Trumbo Mode.

 

12. Bad News Bears

No one could ever accuse me about being squeamish or resistant to the idea of sequels, remakes, prequels, reboots, etc. They can be great sometimes! Giving the ’98 Psycho treatment to The Bad News Bears though is one of the most bizarre ideas I have ever seen executed though! Very bizarre shit.

 

11. Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Hard to imagine a scenario where this does not end up being one of the most forgettable Linklaters ever. The one thing the film has going for it is that it’s a Blanchett vehicle, and at the end of the day a film can only be so bad when it is that. On the other hand, from that perspective, it’s kinda remarkable how unremarkable this in fact ended up being.

 

10. Apollo 10 1⁄2: A Space Age Childhood

It is always cool to see auteurs push themselves and display some sense of growth. Huge props to Linklater for setting this film in Houston instead of Austin.

For whatever reason, it is really hard for me to remember that the director of Dazed and Confused is a boomer. Anyway, this movie is about being a kid in the late sixties and early 70s in the suburbs of the United States.

The film works because of the commitment to the POV of “Young Stanley” seen through the eyes of the young kid but told through the narration of “Old Stanley” (and voiced by Jack Black). Linklater has continuously explored the concept of nostalgia. Here he captures how we see our childhood in retrospect and how (if you are lucky enough), you can paint a very flattering picture of yourself even if your memory is completely unreliable.

There is not much more being said than merely pointing all of that out. But it is an adequate film to vibe to as the majority of the film is Jack Black listing things that Linklater experienced in childhood and that is more comforting than one might necessarily guess.

 

9. Slacker

90s low budget US indie cinema has such a charm to it. There is something so inspiring and basic about it that makes filmmaking seem so accessible and possible for anyone. This early Linklater picture was obviously one of the earliest and most influential of the lot. It still is pretty fun and interesting to watch, especially from the standpoint of looking at Linklater’s career at large.

 

8. Boyhood

Is there a cut of this movie called Fatherhood or something and we just follow Ethan Hawke vibing around for fifteen years as he makes his way in the world? Anyway, I have extremely fond memories of this film, and it undoubtedly remains an impressive accomplishment. The passage of time is always one of the most rewarding ideas to explore in art, and what better way to make a movie about fifteen years in the life of a human than actually film it over fifteen years? The problem is that the titular boy in Boyhood is not especially interesting. I cannot tell if he is supposed to be or not to be fair – but the film undoubtedly suffers from the lack of compelling features about this boy. The only real part of his (and his family’s) life that was how much their existence was dictated by capitalism. “I just want to do anything I want because it makes me feel alive.” It is quite sad how this family’s livelihood is dictated just in order to ensure they have the basic necessities to keep living dignified lives. And for what? “I spent the first half of my life acquiring all these things, and now I have to spend the second half of my life getting rid of it all.”

 

 

7. School of Rock

While it would be tempting to write this one off a tad, at the end of the day, this is about people hanging out and the vibes. That is probably the defining element of Linklater’s voice!! It’s also executed as well as you would want, and Jack Black fucking killed it in the role he was born to play.

 

6. Bernie

What a wonderfully quirky little character piece and faux but kinda real documentary? I don’t know! But it’s a real good dividing line film between good Linklater and weak Linklater so that in it of itself gives it some value! Linklater really gets how to write for Jack Black though and clearly they need to work more together.

 

5. Before Sunrise

Young people, hanging out, talking, and being cringe. No one does it quite like Linklater! Watching this as an adult is kinda like staring at zoo animals. “Aren’t they so cute!” It was an essential movie and kickstarted the defining series of films for the white generation X. It just does not move me quite as much now.

 

4. Everybody Wants Some!!

The most loving tribute to The Boys and The Fellas that there has ever been. One of the best films to ever explore the idiocy of boys in a truly loving manner. While it has yet to make the cultural impact of Dazed, it will hopefully be discovered and beloved by new generations for years and years to come.

 

3. Dazed and Confused

What else needs to be said! It’s a wonderful tribute to the idiocy to the notion of nostalgia, and then helped to usher in a new wave of nostalgia! You can never underestimate the idiocy of the audience or use that as an excuse to dismiss a film. Just some beautiful cinema right here.

 

2. Before Midnight

This was one of the most stressful movie watching experiences of my life. The moment Jesse gets into the SUV, and you learn he and Celine have TWINS the countdown starts and you know there is so much tension that is assuredly going to blow over by the end of this. This whole series is a remarkable achievement in some ways more impressive than Boyhood. It’s the defining text for the white GenX population. Give me, Before Twilight.

 

1. Before Sunset

While life can often be cruel, it’s not the only truth we know. The way Céline and Jesse were terribly impacted by their experienced nine years earlier was just beautifully told on screen. The gradual transition from Jesse trying to cover up his pain to it being revealed that Celine has been just as fucked up by the experience was just perfectly executed. Celine’s rant in the taxi is probably the peak of the series.

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