All 14 Michael Mann Movies Ranked From Worst To Best

For the past half century, Michael Mann has remained a major creative force in American cinema and an absolute stalwart of the action genre. Throughout a boundary-pushing career that has seen him transform the landscapes of both film and TV, Mann has shown a keen eye for bombastic set pieces and a consistent interest in career criminals and self-destructive male antiheroes, helming at least two or three undisputed masterpieces that have inspired multiple generations of directors and film buffs.

Even if he’d retired 20 years ago, Mann would still be regarded today as one of the genre’s top directors. But at the spry young age of 81, the mastermind behind “Heat” and “Thief” shows no signs of slowing down. Fresh off last year’s star-studded Ferrari biopic, which found Adam Driver stepping into the shoes of the famed Italian racer and car builder, Mann has already exciting new projects on the horizon, with the famed director announcing plans to shoot his long-awaited sequel to his 1995 landmark crime saga “Heat” as early as this fall.

So how do each of his efforts stack up against the rest? From his low-budget made-for-TV beginnings to the star-studded blockbusters that changed the game at the turn of the century, here are all 14 movies directed by Michael Mann, ranked from worst to best.


14. L.A. Takedown (1989)

If you’ve seen “Heat” a gazillion times and always get a kick out of watching Al Pacino and Robert De Niro square off in an intricate game of cops and robbers across L.A., an obscure title worth tracking down next is this made-for-television crime thriller Mann quickly put together for NBC in the late 1980s — a film that would coincidentally serve as an unwitting dry run for what eventually turned out to be a landmark achievement in modern American action cinema.

First-time viewers should keep their expectations in check for what is essentially a glorified 93-minute-long pilot for an aborted series about a workaholic cop closing in on a ruthless armed robber that was shot in 19 days on a shoestring budget. In fact, the Mann himself brushed off comparisons between “L.A. Takedown” and the $60 million 1995 crime saga it set the template for, suggesting that it would be like comparing “freeze dried coffee” to “Jamaican Blue Mountain”.

Warts and all, hardcore completionists should still find plenty of reasons to roll the dice and add the film to their watchlist, as it features many ideas and themes that the director has toyed with for decades.


13. The Keep (1983)

If the prospect of watching a bunch of Nazi SS soldiers being haunted and brutally slaughtered by creepy ghosts and a golem-like supernatural entity within a desolate Romanian medieval castle sounds like the kind of thing that will float your boat — have we mentioned Tangerine Dream’s deliciously atmospheric soundtrack yet?  — by all means please consider giving this underseen Eighties gem a try. For most readers, though, chances are that Mann’s flawed sophomore feature ends up being the kind of ‘interesting failure’ you’re better off reading about than actually watching, at least in its current form.

“The Keep” was headed for failure after suffering several setbacks during and after production, including Paramount hastily deciding to cut the theatrical cut of the film down to 96 minutes from Mann’s originally intended 210. The director once described the film as a “a fairy story for grown-ups” but has since shut down rumors of ever revisiting it while disavowing the project altogether in more recent years. Today, it endures as little more than a weirdo rite of passage for diehard Mannheads and hardcore horror aficionados alike.


12. The Jericho Mile (1979)

Before the 1984 hit TV series “Miami Vice” instantly established him as a name in the industry that deserved to be on every big studio’s radar, Michael Mann earned his stripes and took his first major steps into Hollywood super-stardom with this Emmy-winning sports-prison genre hybrid made for network television about a lifer inmate (Peter Strauss) with a knack for long-distance running who’s offered a last shot at redemption by competing at the Olympic trials.

Mann has come a long way since his debut and evidently didn’t possess the same kind confidence or panache behind the camera he does now to hit the ground running in his first foray into feature-length filmmaking, but his made-for-TV debut still offers spurts of brilliance and many stylistic flourishes that would pop up many times throughout his work. Despite working on an extremely low budget, Mann’s timely decision to shoot on location at Folsom Prison and feature real convicts as extras to take a realistic approach in portraying the everyday routine of prison life provides “The Jericho Mile” with a sense of immediacy and authenticity that feels completely in sync with the rest of his work.


11. Public Enemies (2009)

The old-school gangster crime caper gets a 21st century digital do-over in Michael Mann’s late-aughts shoot-‘em-up, which vividly recounts the life and times of the notorious Depression-era outlaw and prolific bank robber John Dillinger.

The mouth-watering prospect of watching Johnny Depp’s fedora-wearing rogue on the run take on Christian Bale’s resourceful FBI agent with both men trying to outsmart each other and keep their head above water on a deadly collision course had every Mannhead who previously fell for De Niro and Pacino’s intricate game of cat-and-mouse in “Heat” salivating. In hindsight, the end result, if not quite the slam dunk some of us predicted, still packed enough of a punch to entertain casual audiences and make it a solid addition to the director’s personal canon.

The decision to cast Marion Cotillard as Dillinger’s gorgeous sweetheart sticks out like a sore thumb, sure, but there’s much to treasure here: The jail-breaking opening sequence and the heart-racing shootout set pieces alone makes “Public Enemies” worth the plunge despite its glaring flaws.


10. Blackhat (2015)


This 2015 techno-thriller finds Chris Hemsworth (at the very peak of his movie-star celebrity fresh off his breakout MCU role) playing against type as a convicted hacker-turned-globe-trotting secret agent who’s released from prison by the U.S. government under the condition that he hunts down the elusive criminal mastermind who keeps manipulating the global stock market at his will.

As the looming threat of cyber-warfare continues to escalate and become increasingly tangible in today’s muddy geopolitical landscape, this initially-panned box-office bomb — which was unceremoniously buried by the studio merely two weeks after its theatrical rollout — only seems to grow within hardcore cinephile circles with each passing year.

There’s nothing new here you haven’t seen elsewhere in a dozen of cyber-crime nail-biters before, but depending on who you ask, “Blackhat” is either a rare misfire in Mann’s otherwise-unblemished directing track record or an unheralded masterpiece. The film seems to have been re-evaluated lately following a newly-minted director’s cut that restored the film into something closer to Mann’s original vision and offers a significant improvement on the butchered theatrical version.


9. Ali (2001)

Will Smith plunges himself into the role of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali in this sturdy turn-of-the-century biopic that saw Mann pretty much follow the Hollywood-biopic playbook to a tee to provide a surface-level look at one of the most polarizing and influential figures of the 20th century.

Trying to scan through every broad stroke in Ali’s storied life both in and outside the ring — from his meteoric rise through the boxing ranks, his run-ins with the law, controversial conversion to Islam and pioneering efforts as a Black activist amidst the civil rights movement to his iconic ‘rumble in the jungle’ vs. George Foreman — all while capturing the man’s indefatigable charisma and inner turmoil is quite a delicate balancing act to pull off. And while “Ali” hardly ever tries to challenge conventional notions about its larger-than-life subject matter, Mann’s sure-handed direction and Smith’s convincing lead turn are enough to keep you engaged all throughout the film’s lengthy 155-minute runtime, despite the occasionally dull stretches that keep it a notch or two below Mann’s best work.


8. The Last of the Mohicans (1992)


Famed method acting practitioner Daniel Day-Lewis went beyond the beyond in preparation for this sprawling historical epic adapted from James Fenimore Cooper’s 1826 novel, and allegedly learned how to track and skin animals, build a canoe, and refused to go anywhere without his period-specific dual muskets for his role as Nathaniel Hawkeye, an orphan of white colonialists in 18th-century America who must walk a fine line between two worlds after being raised by a Native American tribe.

Compared to the Best Picture-winning “Dances with Wolves” that hit theaters a year prior, the tides of time have been somewhat kinder to this sympathetic yet unapologetic depiction of Indigenous culture against the threat of colonialist invasion and the Seven Years’ War, which saw the French and British forces squaring off for control over land that didn’t belong to them in the first place. Pacing woes, subpar romance subplots, and historically inaccuracies aside, “The Last of the Mohicans” is very much worth the ride.