Brian De Palma Wrap-Up

A Brian De Palma Ranking

  1. Passion
  2. Carlito’s Way
  3. Femme Fatale
  4. Body Double
  5. Blow Out
  6. Casualties of War
  7. Carrie
  8. Phantom of the Paradise
  9. Dressed to Kill
  10. Scarface
  11. Snake Eyes
  12. Raising Cain
  13. Sisters
  14. Mission: Impossible
  15. The Black Dahlia
  16. Greetings
  17. The Fury
  18. Obsession
  19. Home Movies
  20. The Untouchables
  21. Mission to Mars
  22. Dionysus in ’69
  23. Hi, Mom!
  24. Murder à la Mod
  25. The Bonfire of the Vanities
  26. Redacted
  27. Get to Know Your Rabbit
  28. The Wedding Party
  29. Wise Guys

Top Ten De Palma Performances

1. Al Pacino, Carlito’s Way
2. Michael J. Fox, Casualties of War
3. Sissy Spacek, Carrie
4. Noomi Rapace, Passion
5. Nicolas Cage, Snake Eyes
6. John Travolta, Blow Out
7. William Finley, Phantom of the Paradise
8. Gerrit Graham, Home Movies
9. Antonio Banderas, Femme Fatale
10. Tom Hanks, The Bonfire of the Vanities

A Few Scattered Thoughts on the “Master of the Macabre”

To the average cinephile, De Palma is most known for his cynicism and, in his most famous film Blow Out, a perversely nihilistic sensibility. Yet this is probably not an accurate viewpoint: of his 29 films (to date), only 4 have unambiguously tragic and saddening endings, though it is perhaps not a surprise that most of them are among his greatest works (an argument could also be made for Scarface):

  • Carlito’s Way
  • Blow Out
  • Phantom of the Paradise
  • Redacted

By comparison, no less than 15 De Palma films have more or less happy endings:

  • Femme Fatale
  • Body Double
  • Casualties of War (despite tinged with sadness)
  • Snake Eyes
  • Mission: Impossible
  • The Black Dahlia (shockingly, given the absolute sordidness that had immediately preceded it)
  • The Fury (again, debateable)
  • Obsession
  • Home Movies
  • The Untouchables
  • Mission to Mars
  • Dionysus in ’69 (cheating, but it counts)
  • The Bonfire of the Vanities
  • Get to Know Your Rabbit
  • Wise Guys

and the rest of the films fall into either ambiguity or a gleeful twist. It is perhaps most accurate to classify De Palma as a filmmaker who is perfectly willing to give his characters a happy ending, even if it comes abruptly, so long as he puts them through absolute hell first.

De Palma is also known for his meditations on the image, and so here is the list of his films that I believe contain something of this sort, whether it be in celluloid, flesh, or some other medium.

  • Passion
  • Carlito’s Way
  • Femme Fatale
  • Body Double
  • Blow Out
  • Casualties of War (if you count the girl on the subway)
  • Phantom of the Paradise
  • Snake Eyes
  • The Black Dahlia
  • Greetings
  • Home Movies
  • Murder à la Mod
  • Redacted

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