Every Richard Linklater Movie Ranked

Every Richard Linklater Movie Ranked

Richard Linklater has carved a unique niche in the world of cinema, starting with his DIY film school experience and a $3,000 budget for his debut, “It’s Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books” in 1988. From his Austin, Texas base, Linklater has consistently showcased his boundless curiosity and wanderlust through a diverse filmography. His breakout film, “Slacker,” demonstrated that great films could emerge from anywhere, setting the stage for a career that deftly navigates between micro-indies and major studio projects.

Linklater’s films are unified by recurring themes: philosophical musings in “Slacker” and “Waking Life,” personal memories in “Dazed and Confused” and “Everybody Wants Some!!,” and temporal experimentation in the “Before” trilogy and “Boyhood.” Even his less successful films, like “Bad News Bears,” offer something of value, though they may fall short of their ambitions.

“Bad News Bears,” a remake of the 1976 comedy classic, is often considered Linklater’s weakest film. Despite his personal history as a baseball player, the film feels unnecessary and disengaged, merely mimicking the original without adding anything new.

“Tape,” a product of an era when filmmakers were experimenting with digital video, suffers from murky visuals and a one-room melodrama that feels half-formed. However, its plot, involving two old friends revisiting a dark past, offers some contemporary resonance.

“SubUrbia,” written by Eric Bogosian, clashes with Linklater’s naturalistic style, resulting in a film that feels sour and judgmental. Despite this, Linklater’s direction and the indie-rock soundtrack add some redeeming qualities.

“Where’d You Go, Bernadette” features a strong performance by Cate Blanchett but lacks the energy to move its story forward. The film only comes alive when its protagonist visits Antarctica, but by then, it’s almost over.

“Fast Food Nation,” an adaptation of Eric Schlosser’s muckraking book, struggles to translate facts into compelling dialogue. However, it succeeds in linking fast food to a conformist culture, suggesting that we confine ourselves to borders even when they don’t exist.

“Me and Orson Welles” shines whenever Christian McKay’s electrifying portrayal of a young Orson Welles takes center stage. However, Zac Efron’s passive performance as an actor plucked from obscurity diminishes the film’s overall impact.

“The Newton Boys,” Linklater’s first major-studio film, offers a happy-go-lucky take on bank-robbing brothers, rejecting both conventional and revisionist Westerns. The film’s appeal lies in its period detail and the camaraderie among its lead actors.

“Last Flag Flying,” a sequel of sorts to “The Last Detail,” gains depth as it explores the uncomfortable truths behind a Marine’s son’s death in the Iraq War. The film reflects on patriotism and the universality of war, connecting Vietnam and Iraq.

“Inning by Inning,” Linklater’s only feature documentary, focuses on Augie Garrido, the winningest baseball coach in NCAA Division I history. The film is a thoughtful rumination on sports and life, emphasizing the inevitability of failure.

Linklater’s debut, “It’s Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books,” is a travelogue about his own feelings of curiosity and existential uncertainty. Shot on a $3,000 budget, it stands as a symbolic rebuke of traditional film school, advocating for learning by doing.

“A Scanner Darkly,” an adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s novel, uses rotoscope animation to depict the creeping schizophrenia of an undercover cop. The film’s trippy visuals make its themes of corporatization and paranoia more persuasive.

“Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood” blends memory and fantasy in a sweet, profound reverie about growing up in NASA country. The animation allows for literal flights of fancy while staying grounded in the period.

“Hit Man,” based on a Texas Monthly piece, stars Glen Powell as a philosophy professor posing as a hit man. The film morphs into a sexy, twisty neo-noir comedy, playing like a modern-day “Double Indemnity.”

“Before Midnight,” the third film in the “Before” trilogy, explores the contentiousness of a long-term relationship. Céline and Jesse, now a couple with twin girls, have shifted from moony romantics to partners with real issues to work out.

“Waking Life,” a series of philosophical musings animated through rotoscoping, creates a dreamlike context that opens the mind to many ideas. The film’s shimmery, destabilizing visuals make its academic lectures more tolerable.

“Bernie,” based on a true-crime story, features Jack Black and Shirley MacLaine in a frisky comic energy. The film offers a disturbing commentary on human nature, showing how people see what they want to believe.

“Everybody Wants Some!!” is a frat-house comedy set over a weekend in 1980, filled with dumb masculine rituals, eccentric characters, and a kick-ass soundtrack. The film is a memory piece loaded with gentle curiosity.

“School of Rock,” a crowd-pleaser, features Jack Black as a phony substitute teacher who forms a band with precocious private-schoolers. The film is a joyous celebration of youthful rebellion and artistic collaboration.

“Before Sunrise,” the first film in the “Before” trilogy, captures the fleeting romance between two strangers in Vienna. The film’s conversational feel and genuine emotion make it a perfect little romance.

“Slacker,” Linklater’s breakthrough, changed the face of American independent filmmaking. The film’s roundelay of vignettes captures the authentic essence of Austin, Texas, with its conspiracy theorists and dime-store philosophers.

“Boyhood,” a one-of-a-kind temporal experiment, tracks the development of a young boy from age 6 to 18. The film literalizes the expression “kids grow up fast,” offering a heartrending look at the passage of time.

“Before Sunset,” the second film in the “Before” trilogy, explores the regret and romantic possibility between Céline and Jesse. The film’s brief, intense conversation is filled with the added weight of adult lives and missed opportunities.

“Dazed and Confused,” a stoner classic, captures the music, fashion, and sentiment of high school in 1976. The film’s rewatch value lies in its immersive hang-out comedy and complex reflection on adolescence.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top