In “The Fabelmans,” David Lynch is proclaimed by a studio executive to be “the greatest filmmaker of all time.” Sort of. Lynch plays John Ford in a scene based on director Steven Spielberg’s real-life meeting with the Western icon. But for Lynch devotees, the statement certainly rings truer with the “Twin Peaks” creator in the role.
People who like Lynch’s films don’t just watch them: they’re overtaken by them. Lynch’s surrealist instincts as a director can be divisive — he’s had some fairly high profile detractors over the years — but if it works for you, it’s likely he’s one of your all-time favorite filmmakers. That’s part of why, when rumors of Lynch bringing his first feature in almost two decades to Cannes popped up in 2022, there was such widespread excitement, and public disappointment when it didn’t pan out. A Lynch film is unlike any other movie, and we haven’t gotten a new one in far too long.
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In the general consciousness, Lynch is known for making films that are categorically “weird” and borderline impossible to understand. That’s a bit of an oversimplification (although even some of Lynch’s own muses don’t really understand his work sometimes), but his dreamy, surrealistic style of directing tends to defy straightforward storytelling in favor of digging at intense emotional truths. From his first film “Eraserhead” to his 2018 “Twin Peaks” sequel series “The Return,” Lynch’s use of symbolism, unconventional plot structures, experimental sound design, stylized violence, and many other trademarks have prompted decades of debate, analysis, theories, and interpretations about his work’s intent and meaning, which the director himself gamely avoids revealing.
Although there’s no director like Lynch, his influences are clear from watching his work. The director’s affinity for “The Wizard of Oz” shines through from the many homages he’s made to it, and he’s an obvious fan of filmmakers like Federico Fellini and Billy Wilder and their contemporary pop culture of the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. Regardless of whether Lynch finally does make his return to the director’s chair, visiting some of the his favorites makes for an interesting trip into the works that inspired a legend.
Here’s a list of Lynch’s favorite movies, compiled from interviews and stories from the director over the years, and listed in no particular order.
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