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Paul Thomas Anderson's Best Movie? Let's Vote.

paul thomas anderson

Paul Thomas Anderson is one of the most revered and distinct voices in contemporary American cinema. Born on June 26, 1970, in Studio City, California, Anderson’s passion for film was ignited at a young age. An avid movie watcher, he began experimenting with a video camera as a teenager and made his first film at the age of 17.

After attending New York University for a brief period, Anderson made a short film titled “Cigarettes & Coffee” which led to his first feature, “Hard Eight”. However, it was his second feature film, “Boogie Nights” (1997), that brought him to the forefront. The film was a critical and commercial success and showcased Anderson’s distinctive style – long tracking shots, vivid depictions of California, and nuanced explorations of damaged characters.

His following films further solidified his status as a unique auteur. “Magnolia” (1999), a personal favorite, displayed his skill at crafting intricate narratives and “Punch-Drunk Love” (2002) showcased his ability to blend romantic comedy with intense psychological drama. “There Will Be Blood” (2007), often cited as his masterpiece, earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Director.

In the years since, Anderson’s work, including films like “The Master” (2012), “Inherent Vice” (2014), “Phantom Thread” (2017), and “Licorice Pizza” (2021), continue to challenge, engage, and mesmerize audiences. His films are celebrated for their daring originality, deep empathy, and exquisite craft.

Anderson’s contributions to cinema extend beyond his directorial efforts. He has written most of his films, produced several, and even been involved in cinematography. His passion for filmmaking, coupled with his unyielding vision, make Paul Thomas Anderson a profoundly influential figure in modern cinema.

But what’s PTA’s best film of all time? Join the vote below.

Film Release Date Budget Box Office
Hard Eight 1996 $3 million $222,559
Boogie Nights 1997 $15 million $43.1 million
Magnolia 1999 $37 million $48.5 million
Punch-Drunk Love 2002 $25 million $24.7 million
There Will Be Blood 2007 $25 million $76.2 million
The Master 2012 $32 million $28.3 million
Inherent Vice 2014 $20 million $14.7 million
Phantom Thread 2017 $35 million $47.8 million

What Is Paul Thomas Anderson's Best Movie?

Hard Eight

Paul Thomas Anderson’s debut film, Hard Eight, is a crime thriller that introduced audiences to his unique directorial style. The film features an ex-gambler who teaches a younger man the trade before the pair gets caught up in a messy situation. Despite its limited commercial success, Hard Eight was well-received by critics and paved the way for Anderson’s subsequent works.

  • Year Released: 1996
  • Budget: $3 million
  • Box Office: $222,559

Boogie Nights

PTA’s first true breakout film, is a powerful narrative revolving around the Golden Age of Pornography in the 1970s. With its strong performances and ambitious storytelling, the film confirmed Anderson’s place as a talented director and garnered multiple award nominations, including a Best Original Screenplay Oscar nod.

  • Year Released: 1997
  • Budget: $15 million
  • Box Office: $43.1 million


Magnolia is a mosaic of American life woven through a series of comic and poignant vignettes. Anderson’s third feature film, it navigates through the lives of multiple characters seeking happiness and redemption. It received three Academy Award nominations and was praised for its innovative storytelling.

  • Year Released: 1999
  • Budget: $37 million
  • Box Office: $48.5 million

Punch-Drunk Love

In a departure from his previous works, Anderson’s Punch-Drunk Love is a romantic comedy-drama featuring a standout performance from Adam Sandler. The film, though commercially underwhelming, was praised by critics and earned Anderson the Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival.

  • Year Released: 2002
  • Budget: $25 million
  • Box Office: $24.7 million

There Will Be Blood

There Will Be Blood, a historical drama set in the early days of the oil industry, is considered one of Anderson’s masterpieces. Featuring a riveting performance by Daniel Day-Lewis, the film explores themes of ambition, corruption, and faith. It won two Academy Awards and further established Anderson’s reputation as one of modern cinema’s most accomplished directors.

  • Year Released: 2007
  • Budget: $25 million
  • Box Office: $76.2 million

The Master

The Master is an ambitious drama that delves into the life of a World War II veteran struggling to adjust to post-war society. Anderson’s meticulous craftsmanship and the performances of Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman were widely praised, earning the film multiple Academy Award nominations.

  • Year Released: 2012
  • Budget: $32 million
  • Box Office: $28.3 million

Inherent Vice

Inherent Vice, based on Thomas Pynchon’s novel, is a psychedelic noir that weaves a complex tale of crime and conspiracy in 1970s Los Angeles. The film’s intricate plot and eccentric characters showcase Anderson’s unique approach to storytelling.

  • Year Released: 2014
  • Budget: $20 million
  • Box Office: $14.7 million

Phantom Thread

Phantom Thread is a period drama set in 1950s London’s fashion world. Featuring Daniel Day-Lewis in his final performance before retirement, the film is a meticulous exploration of love, obsession, and creativity. Phantom Thread was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Director for Anderson.

  • Year Released: 2017
  • Budget: $35 million
  • Box Office: $47.8 million