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VBOAT'S PICK For Best David Lynch Movie: Mulholland Drive

Mulholland Drive poster

After 3 full months of polling, Mulholland Drive is pulling away from the field for the title of the best David Lynch movie. We won’t speak for everyone, but ourselves in explaining why we have Mulholland Drive as our best Lynch film. While we love Blue Velvet and Lost Highway and critically underrated The Straight Story,  we don’t think it’s particularly close. First let’s revisit his films, then get to our defense and why other movies, though good, don’t quite stack up.

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
3) 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
2) Lost Highway 1997 $15 million $3.8 million
The Straight Story 1999 $10 million $6.2 million
1) Mulholland Drive 2001 $15 million $20.1 million
Inland Empire 2006 $4 million $4 million

Mulholland Drive is David Lynch's Magnum Opus (and if you disagree we will never agree about anything)

David Lynch, a cinematic auteur known for his surreal landscapes and intricate narratives, has created a legacy of films that challenge, inspire, and sometimes confound. This one holds a unique place among his creations, not only as an exemplar of his artistry but also as a compass pointing towards the deeper, more elusive meanings in his body of work. By understanding Mulholland Drive, we argue, you not only appreciate it more (obviously) but you will appreciate all of his other previous works. Hear us out. 

At first glance, Mulholland Drive seems to be a convoluted jigsaw puzzle with its pieces in a dreamlike disarray. Even Roger Ebert, though praising the movie, said that there was no story to be found. Yet, unlike many abstract films that revel in their ambiguity, this one tantalizes with the promise of a solution. Just as a mathematician approaches a complex problem, knowing that persistence will unveil its mysteries if they can just think about it for a little longer, the thoughtful viewer of Mulholland Drive believes that if they apply enough thought and analysis, the story will unravel into clarity. This rewarding process, this dance between confusion and comprehension, is the first flag we want to plant in praise of this movie.

Okay, now there are some spoilers. When Naomi Watts’s character Selwyn sees her ex-lover Camilla get all of the accolades she’s always wanted, the former conjures a robust and convoluted narrative because the truth is the reality is simply too painful to digest.

Thus, beyond its narrative complexities, Mulholland Drive holds a mirror to an all-too-human tendency: the propensity to blame external forces for personal failures. The protagonist’s belief that an external entity, a malevolent force, is hindering her success resonates deeply in an age where many externalize their shortcomings. Lynch doesn’t just create a narrative; he crafts a poignant commentary on the human psyche. By unveiling the illusory nature of such beliefs, Lynch prompts viewers to introspect, question the scapegoats they’ve created, and ultimately take control of their destinies.

A Rosetta Stone to Lynch’s Filmography

Understanding David Lynch’s oeuvre often feels like decoding a cryptic language. However, Mulholland Drive’s intricate yet decipherable narrative serves as a Rosetta Stone to his cinematic universe. It introduces viewers to his thematic preoccupations, stylistic nuances, and narrative techniques. Once one grasps the structure and intent of this film, the abstract elements of his other works, from Eraserhead to Twin Peaks, become more accessible. Mulholland Drive is not just a standalone masterpiece but a key that unlocks the enigmatic doors of Lynch’s entire filmography.

To be fair to his other films, let’s give a breakdown of what we think you should watch after you see Mulholland Drive (at least once). Let’s start with the first runner-up, Lost Highway.

  1. Lost Highway (1997) 11.76%: While Lost Highway delves deep into the subconscious mind, using a non-linear narrative to unravel a story of paranoia, it lacks the refined complexity and thematic depth of Mulholland Drive. The latter’s critique of Hollywood and the underbelly of human desire is more nuanced and layered.

  2. Blue Velvet (1986) 10.78%: Blue Velvet is a powerful depiction of the darkness lurking beneath the veneer of suburban life, with standout performances, particularly from Dennis Hopper. However, its narrative is more conventional than Mulholland Drive, which seamlessly combines dream and reality in an enigmatic tapestry.

  3. The Elephant Man (1980) 8.82%: A moving portrayal of humanity and deformity, The Elephant Man showcases Lynch’s capability to handle more straightforward narratives with finesse. Yet, it doesn’t provide the same labyrinthine narrative puzzle that Mulholland Drive presents, which equally challenges and captivates its audience.

  4. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992) 7.84%: As a prequel to the acclaimed Twin Peaks series, this film offers a haunting dive into the last days of Laura Palmer. But its reliance on prior knowledge of the series can alienate newcomers. On the other hand, Mulholland Drive stands firm on its own, weaving an intricate narrative that doesn’t require any pre-existing context.

  5. Eraserhead (1977) 7.84%: Lynch’s debut, Eraserhead, is a surreal, black-and-white exploration of parental fear and industrial angst. Its avant-garde nature might be too abstract for some. Mulholland Drive, while also surreal, offers a more accessible entry point into Lynch’s unique cinematic world.

  6. The Straight Story (1999) 5.88%: Demonstrating Lynch’s versatility, The Straight Story is a heartwarming, linear tale of an older man’s journey. However, its traditional narrative and feel-good nature lack the challenging, multi-layered approach found in Mulholland Drive.

  7. Wild at Heart (1990) 4.90%: A road-trip movie infused with romance and violence, Wild at Heart showcases Lynch’s ability to blend genres. Yet, its overt quirkiness and stylized violence make it less of a cerebral experience compared to the introspective mysteries of Mulholland Drive.

  8. Inland Empire (2006) 3.92%: Arguably Lynch’s most experimental work, Inland Empire takes non-linearity to a new extreme with its three-hour runtime and digital aesthetic. While it’s a deep dive into Lynch’s psyche, its sprawling nature lacks the concise, focused intrigue that Mulholland Drive masterfully delivers.

Filming Locations in Mulholland Drive

Mulholland Drive Filming Locations