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What Is David Lynch's Best Movie?

david lynch abstract

David Lynch, born January 20, 1946, is an acclaimed American filmmaker and artist, renowned for his distinctive and surreal style. He catapulted to fame in the late 1970s with the release of his first feature film, “Eraserhead” – a nightmarish and experimental piece that became a cult classic.

His filmography is an eclectic mix of the bizarre and the thought-provoking, often blending elements of horror, noir, and the absurd. Notable films include “Blue Velvet”, a dark mystery thriller, and “Mulholland Drive”, a cryptic psychological drama that won him a Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival.

In the world of television, Lynch co-created the influential series “Twin Peaks”, a seminal work that blends mystery, horror, and soap opera tropes to create a truly unique narrative experience.

Lynch’s work has been praised for its dream-like imagery, intricate sound design, and narrative complexity. His uncanny ability to explore the dark underbelly of American suburbia and the mysteries of the human psyche has earned him a reputation as a master of the macabre and one of the most significant filmmakers of modern cinema.

Known for his long-time collaboration with composer Angelo Badalamenti and his fondness for recurrent themes and motifs, Lynch’s films are immediately recognizable, making him a favorite among film lovers and cult cinema aficionados alike. Despite the often polarizing responses to his work, Lynch has carved out one of the more iconic niches in film history, and his influence continues to resonate through the world of cinema.

Vote below for your favorite David Lynch film and join in the celebration of this extraordinary filmmaker’s contribution to cinema.

Film Release Date Budget Box Office
Eraserhead 1977 $10,000 $7 million
The Elephant Man 1980 $5 million $26 million
Dune 1984 $40 million $30.9 million
Blue Velvet 1986 $6 million $8.5 million
Wild at Heart 1990 $10 million $14.6 million
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me 1992 $10 million $4.2 million
Lost Highway 1997 $15 million $3.8 million
The Straight Story 1999 $10 million $6.2 million
Mulholland Drive 2001 $15 million $20.1 million
Inland Empire 2006 $4 million $4 million

What Is The Best David Lynch Movie of All Time?
Mulholland Drive poster

VBOAT'S PICK: Mulholland Drive

We don’t care if it’s cliche. It’s the correct answer. And if you think there’s no clear interpretation than pick a number and get in line. There is and this is Lynch’s masterpiece.

Eraserhead

Eraserhead, David Lynch’s debut feature, is a surreal and highly atmospheric exploration of anxiety and paranoia. The story follows Henry Spencer, a man living in an industrial wasteland, who is left to care for his severely deformed child alone. Often described as a nightmare put to film, Eraserhead is renowned for its eerie, uncanny mood and intricate sound design. The film launched Lynch’s career and firmly established his distinct, unsettling aesthetic.

  • Year Released: 1977
  • Budget: $100,000
  • Box Office: $7 million

The Elephant Man

In stark contrast to his debut, The Elephant Man is a biographical film about Joseph Merrick, a man living with severe physical deformities in Victorian London. It’s a deeply human and empathetic film, as Merrick is given dignity and respect but is also tragically exploited for his appearance. The Elephant Man is a key early film in Lynch’s career, signaling his ability to combine mainstream narratives with his unique visual style.

  • Year Released: 1980
  • Budget: $5 million
  • Box Office: $26 million

Dune

David Lynch’s Dune, based on Frank Herbert’s seminal science fiction novel, was a critical and commercial disappointment on release. Its narrative complexity was reduced to an over-simplified plot, which disappointed many fans of the book. Despite its reception, Dune has gained a cult following for its impressive visuals and atmospheric world-building. However, Lynch has often expressed dissatisfaction with the final product due to production issues and lack of creative control.

  • Year Released: 1984
  • Budget: $40 million
  • Box Office: $30.9 million

Blue Velvet

Blue Velvet marks Lynch’s return to form, blending the mundane and the macabre in a deeply unsettling exploration of middle-class America. Its depiction of violence and sexual depravity lurking beneath the surface of an idyllic town is classic Lynch, with standout performances from Kyle MacLachlan, Isabella Rossellini, and Dennis Hopper. Today, Blue Velvet is considered a key film in the American independent cinema.

  • Year Released: 1986
  • Budget: $6 million
  • Box Office: $8.6 million

Wild at Heart

Wild at Heart, a violent and quirky road movie, earned Lynch the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. The film, with its intense performances from Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern, is a bizarre love story filled with Lynch’s trademark strange humor and disturbing imagery. Its reception was divided upon release but has since been recognized as a distinct and notable entry in Lynch’s filmography.

  • Year Released: 1990
  • Budget: $9.5 million
  • Box Office: $14.6 million

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me is a prequel to Lynch’s popular television series, “Twin Peaks”. The film delves into the last week of Laura Palmer’s life, exploring dark and disturbing themes. Initially met with a negative response, over time, it has been re-evaluated and is now seen as a significant work in Lynch’s canon.

  • Year Released: 1992
  • Budget: $10 million
  • Box Office: $4.2 million

Lost Highway

Lost Highway is a neo-noir horror that navigates through the disjointed narrative of a man’s fractured psyche. Featuring a complex, non-linear storyline, it’s filled with mysterious characters, grim visuals, and an unsettling atmosphere. While it confounded many upon its release, Lost Highway has since found an appreciative audience for its uncompromising originality.

  • Year Released: 1997
  • Budget: $15 million
  • Box Office: $3.8 million

The Straight Story

The Straight Story, an outlier in Lynch’s oeuvre, is a heartwarming film based on the true story of Alvin Straight’s journey across America on a lawnmower. Lacking the typical darkness and surrealism of Lynch’s work, it instead focuses on the simplicity of its story and the humanity of its characters. It’s often praised for its warmth, sincerity, and the performance of Richard Farnsworth.

  • Year Released: 1999
  • Budget: $10 million
  • Box Office: $6.2 million

Mulholland Drive

Mulholland Drive is often cited as Lynch’s masterpiece, a surreal and haunting tale of ambition and identity in Hollywood. The film’s dreamlike narrative, filled with unforgettable images and sequences, weaves a complex web of illusion and reality. Mulholland Drive has been widely praised for its enigmatic plot and its critique of Hollywood’s glamour and cruelty.

  • Year Released: 2001
  • Budget: $15 million
  • Box Office: $20.1 million

Inland Empire

Inland Empire, Lynch’s most recent feature as of 2021, is a sprawling, three-hour, digital video experiment. The narrative, involving an actress who loses her sense of identity, is deliberately obtuse and fragmented. Inland Empire is often seen as Lynch’s most challenging work, but it’s been praised for Laura Dern’s performance and its daring narrative structure.

  • Year Released: 2006
  • Budget: Unknown
  • Box Office: $4 million

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