David Lynch Films Ranked: Twin Peaks Creator Says He’s Done Making Movies [Opinion]

More than 25 years after the airing of its final episode, Twin Peaks, the legendary series created by acclaimed director David Lynch and writer Mark Frost, is returning with an 18-episode run on Showtime. All 18 episodes are directed by Lynch and co-written with Mark Frost. To generate excitement for the highly anticipated return of Twin Peaks, Lynch has been doing interviews and answering questions from the press. While David Lynch has been careful to avoid giving away any specific details as to the content of the new episodes, he did indicate in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald that he’s done making films.

“Things changed a lot,” Lynch says.

“So many films were not doing well at the box office even though they might have been great films and the things that were doing well at the box office weren’t the things that I would want to do.”

When asked to clarify if this means it is unlikely he will make any more films, Lynch replied simply, “Yes it is.”

David Lynch Twin Peaks
David Lynch with Ringo Starr. Lynch is reviving his classic series Twin Peaks for Showtime. [Image by Kevin Winter/Getty Images]

The last feature film David Lynch made was the surreal thriller Inland Empire released in 2006. Since then, Lynch has recorded two music albums and directed a few short films. He also made a documentary about Transcendental Meditation called Meditation, Creativity, Peace. Lynch has been a long time practitioner of Transcendental Meditation and credits the practice with helping him creatively and has given numerous speeches advocating the practice. In 2011, he started meeting with Mark Frost to discuss the possibility of a Twin Peaks revival, and the idea soon became his main creative focus.

While David Lynch seems confident that he will make no more feature films, his comments seem to leave open the possibility that he could be drawn to the episode format for any future projects. If the Twin Peaks revival is as successful as the buzz around it suggests it will be, perhaps Lynch will take the opportunity to develop something new for Showtime or another network or streaming service.

Given that we may have seen the last David Lynch feature film as he has opted for other formats and mediums for his creativity, the following is a ranked list of Lynch’s films. As with any ranking, not everyone will agree. Readers are encouraged to comment below with their personal lists. In addition to his feature-length films, Lynch has directed a number of shorter works such as his fascinating early film The Grandmother. This list will include only feature-length movies.

10. Dune (1984)

David Lynch’s adaptation of Frank Herbert’s classic novel of the same name was almost universally scorned by critics and fans alike when it was released in 1984. According to the Atlantic, Roger Ebert spared it no mercy in his review.

“It took Dune about nine minutes to completely strip me of my anticipation,” Ebert said.

“This movie is a real mess, an incomprehensible, ugly, unstructured, pointless excursion into the murkier realms of one of the most confusing screenplays of all time.”

While the movie failed as a commercial enterprise, Frank Herbert was reportedly overall pleased with the movie rendering of his novel. It may not have the popular appeal of Star Wars, but as a Lynchian telling of a dense, dark, and complicated science fiction story, Dune is not without its merits and is definitely worth a watch for any fan of Lynch’s other work.

9. Wild At Heart (1990)

Wild At Heart is David Lynch’s violent, surreal, strange, and often funny adaptation of Barry Gifford’s novel of the same name. Complete with Wizard Of Oz references, Nicolas Cage singing Elvis Presley songs in a snakeskin jacket, and graphic violence that nearly gave the film an X rating, the film won Lynch the coveted Palme d’Or at the 1990 Cannes Film Festival, but otherwise divides critics and fans to this day.

8. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992)

Filmed and released a year after the airing of the final episode of the original Twin Peaks series, Fire Walk With Me is a dark and disturbing prequel to the events that happened leading up to Laura Palmer’s death, the mystery surrounding which was the central theme of the series. Some fans were put off by the lack of lighthearted humor that complemented the darker elements of the series, but Fire Walk With Me is crucial to unraveling the puzzles of Twin Peaks and also stands on its own merits as a weird and surreal addition to the David Lynch canon.

7. Elephant Man (1980)

Perhaps David Lynch’s most “commercial” and least “Lynchian” film, The Elephant Man is the true story of Joseph Merrick, a severely deformed man in late 19th century London. The film gained Lynch his first Academy Award nomination for best director and was also nominated for best picture and a number of other awards.

6. The Straight Story (1999)

When news broke that David Lynch was making a film for Disney, fans really didn’t know what to expect. What they got was a heartwarming tale based on the true story of Alvin Straight, a man who, because his failing eyesight prohibited him from getting a driver’s license, traveled on a riding lawnmower through Iowa and Wisconsin to see his sick brother. Absent the typical Lynchian surrealism and dark overtones, The Straight Story succeeds in telling a heartwarming tale without descending into overt sentimentality. It also contains some of the best shots of scenery in Lynch’s career. Richard Farnsworth played the lead and is superb. According to the Independent, Farnsworth received an Academy Award nomination for his role as Alvin Straight, which he expertly played despite suffering from bone cancer during the shoot.

5. Lost Highway (1997)

Lost Highway is a highly stylized noir mystery-thriller that plays like a long-form surrealist music video. Complete with songs by Nine Inch Nails, David Bowie, and Lou Reed on the soundtrack alongside instrumental contributions from long-time Lynch film scorer Angelo Badalamenti, it’s not a bad description, but it undermines the brilliance of the film noir-influenced script, which finds a character played by Bill Pullman trapped between two lives.

4. Inland Empire (2006)

Filmed on digital video and filled with scenes that often seem to not have any connection to the narrative, Inland Empire is to some an incomprehensible mess and to others a brilliant surrealist masterpiece. Laura Dern plays an actress whose life takes a confusing and nightmarish turn when she begins to take on the personality of a character she plays in a film being made out of a cursed script. Even some hardcore David Lynch fans consider Inland Empire a failure due to its largely unconventional narrative structure, and some are turned off by the use of digital video rather than film. Those who love it, however, regard it as one of Lynch’s best works, though few would argue it is not a challenging film.

3. Eraserhead (1977)

Eraserhead is a masterpiece of surrealist cinema. It’s almost difficult to say anything more than that because the film defies explanation. Eraserhead tells the story of a man named Henry who is forced to take care of his monstrously deformed child while living in a bleak, desolate, industrial landscape. It was made while David Lynch was attending film school in Philadelphia and still stands as one of his greatest films and one of the greatest works of independent American cinema.

2. Blue Velvet (1986)

The opening scene of Blue Velvet is one of the most sublime pieces of cinema ever filmed. It perfectly sets the theme of the entire movie, and perhaps also one of the central themes of Lynch’s work: that beneath the apparently idyllic surface of things there lurks a dark, disturbing, surreal reality. The narrative follows a young man named Jeffrey who finds an ear in a field and brings it to the police. Curious, Jeffrey begins to do his own investigation and becomes enmeshed in a dark and sinister world he previously never imagined existed in his otherwise peaceful hometown. Jeffrey is played by Kyle MacLachlan, who would later star as FBI Agent Dale Cooper, the central character in Twin Peaks.

1. Mulholland Drive (2001)

In 2016, David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive won a BBC poll of 177 film critics as the greatest movie of the 21st century, according to Indiewire. It’s not hard to understand why. Initially conceived as a TV series, David Lynch edited the original pilot into a full-length feature film when the show was not picked up by the network. While the idea of a Mulholland Drive series is intriguing, the brilliance of the film suggests that the outcome was for the best. Mulholland Drive is nothing short of a cinematic masterpiece.

[Featured Image by Kevin Winter/Getty Images]