Ranking the Films of David Cronenberg
1. Dead Ringers (1988) - As beautiful and haunting a film as Cronenberg has ever made. Both clinically-observed and emotionally devastating, Dead Ringers explores transformation, repression, and degradation through Jeremy Irons’ two powerhouse performances, which may be the greatest ever put to film.
2. The Fly (1986) - A perfect marriage of Hollywood sci-fi romance and Cronenbergesque horrorshow. Both Cronenberg’s most entertaining film and his most heartbreaking.
3. Crash (1996) - Peer into the deviant heart of the modern human. By wedding Ballard’s postmodern drama about autophilia to his own Freudian interests, Cronenberg constructs a terrifying vision of our technological present and the emotional isolation of modern society.
4. Videodrome (1983) - Cronenberg’s most prescient and, in many ways, most iconic film has all the blood and sex you could hope for in a genre picture while demonstrating how modern technology has supplanted biology in human evolution.
5. A History of Violence (2005) - A deconstruction of the modern American hero. Both a great film about transformation and a great film about America.
6. A Dangerous Method (2011) - An enthralling chamber drama and a perceptive self portrait of the filmmaker. If you want to understand the philosophical and psychological concepts that drive David Cronenberg as a filmmaker, look no further.
7. M. Butterfly (1993) - Cronenberg’s most underrated picture is a savvy deconstruction of misogyny and Orientalism. It proves to be both a fascinating examination of a white man appropriating another culture, and a deconstruction of the same.
8. Eastern Promises (2007) - Body horror meets the mob in Cronenberg’s ruthlessly-efficient gangster drama. The criminal underworld has rarely looked as monstrously violent and Satanically evil.
9. The Brood (1979) - The most personal of Cronenberg’s films. Both a blood-drenched horror thriller about psychological repression and a confession about Cronenberg’s own hatred of his ex-wife. Thrilling and disturbing in equal measure.
10. Spider (2002) - Perhaps Cronenberg’s most sympathetic picture and one of cinema’s best explorations of severe mental illness. It’s both a puzzle narrative and a sad portrait of one man’s fractured mind.
11. The Dead Zone (1983) - Cronenberg does Stephen King to great effect. As efficient a supernatural thriller as you’ll find from the 1980s.
12. Cosmopolis (2012) - Capitalism as human evolution. The market as the human body. Cronenberg adapts DeLillo in order to graft his own obsession with human evolution onto a hilarious postmodern critique of capital and the way we engage in economic and personal transactions.
13. Scanners (1981) - Quintessential low-budget sci-fi spectacle. Filled with some of Cronenberg’s most iconic imagery and still a rousing conspiracy thriller, despite all its budgetary limitations.
14. Maps to the Stars (2014) - Another of Cronenberg’s rare comedies, this time taking Hollywood to task for its incestuous nature and the violent egotism of its inhabitants. Both surprisingly funny and deeply sad.
15. eXistenZ (1999) - Cronenberg dabbles in techno-noir and ends up making another prescient thriller, this time about how technology has warped our perceptions of reality. Dramatically a bit inert, but grows more relevant with each passing year.
16. Shivers (1975) - In many ways the film that started it all. Both an entertaining B-movie and a cunning indictment of sexual deviancy and cultural repression. Cronenberg does a lot with a little.
17. Fast Company (1979) - The strangest film of Cronenberg’s career is a satisfying B-movie about drag racing. Glimmers of Cronenberg’s technological and philosophical obsessions peer through the efficient trappings of an underdog sports picture.
18. Rabid (1977) - The companion piece to Shivers and another example of Cronenberg broadening the horizon of Canadian cinema while satisfying genre conventions. Not as interesting as Shivers, but still perceptive about weaponizing sexuality and social isolation.
19. Naked Lunch (1991) - This mixture of biography of William S. Burroughs and adaptation of his most famous work profoundly understands the iconoclastic author, but is an unpleasant viewing experience. Both overly long and aggressively repulsive. Only for diehards of Cronenberg and/or Burroughs.
20. Stereo (1969) - Cronenberg’s experimental first feature lays the intellectual groundwork for everything that would follow. It’s boring, but also essential in order to understand Cronenberg as a filmmaker.
21. Crimes of the Future (1970) - Essentially Stereo part two, with more foregrounded humour and some new formal tricks up its sleeve. However, the sexual deviancy of the plot is harder to stomach this time round.
22. Secret Weapons (Programme X, 1972) - This short TV movie gives a glimpse into an alternate timeline where Cronenberg could never harness his provocative ideas in comprehensible and entertaining film formats. His only dud.