Every Paul Thomas Anderson film, rated worst to best

Punch-Drunk Love (screenshot);  Licorice pizza (Photo: MGM);  Boogie Nights (screenshot);  Phantom thread (screenshot);  The master (screenshot)

Punch-Drunk Love (screenshot); Licorice pizza (Photo: MGM); Boogie nights (Screenshot); Phantom thread (Screenshot); The master (Screenshot)

This weekend brings one of the biggest events of any cinephile year: a new film by Paul Thomas Anderson. Licorice pizza, the 70-part comedy by the author and director about falling in love with puppies, is already deserve glowing reviews by critics, though it will be a few more weeks before most of the country can immerse itself in this rambling, meandering portrait of the San Fernando Valley of its creator’s youth. The fact that the film causes raves should of course not surprise anyone who has followed Anderson’s career since it caught the eye of international film buffs in the mid-1990s. Pretty much every Anderson trait is valued to some extent. He is the rare filmmaker of any nationality or generation who every time arouses something relatively close to consensus admiration at Bat.

Where the fans disagree, of course, depends on the preference within this filmography. You could interview 10 different Anderson lovers and get probably 10 different opinions on what counts as his best and worst (though you’d likely see general agreement on the worst). That is, the following ranking is actually nothing more than an author’s opinion; if any other critic contributed, the results could be radically different. In all honesty, all of Anderson’s films are worth it – even his scribble of an hour-long musical documentary, Junethat we have excluded from the hierarchy. Hell, even that reviewer might disagree with his own ranking on another day. That is the nature of evaluating an artist as consistently as PT Anderson: He turns the concept of a “favorite” into an opinion in eternal progress, as slippery as the psychology of his characters.

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