If you are tired of blockbusters and comic book films, and would like to feel confused, freaked out and constantly asking yourself, “What just happened on screen?”, then you are in the right place.
Directors on this list specialize in teleporting viewers from their cinematic comfort zone to a bizarre and surrealistic dimension where anything could happen, even things that are most unpredictable and opposite to the strict laws of logic. Here are the 10 directors who make the weirdest films.
10. Yorgos Lanthimos
Yorgos Lanthimos is the most important representative of the contemporary cinematic phenomena called Greek New Wave, also known as Greek Weird Wave. In the context of Lanthimos’ body of work, the second name definitely seems more appropriate.
Lanthimos made his cinematic debut by co-directing the comedy “My Best Friend” (2001) with Lakis Lazopoulos. The movie that made his name recognizable for weirdness lovers is his third feature film, which is the famous “Dogtooth” (2009). The story of a family that isolates their children from the outside world is a bizarre, disturbing, thought-provoking and open to multiple interpretations, but is also darkly funny in the same time piece of film art.
That description fits every movie of Lanthimos going forward, such as that black comedy “Alpeis” (2011), the dystopian “The Lobster” (2014) (which was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay) and his newest film, “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” (2017) is a home invasion thriller, partly resembling “Dogtooth” in terms of depicting a dysfunctional suburban family, and partly inspired by the works of Stanley Kubrick because of its cold and surgically precise visual style.
His upcoming film, “The Favourite” is described as a drama that deals with a complicated love triangle in the aristocratic circles of 18th century England. Knowing Lanthimos’ touch, this film is guaranteed to not be the typical and stiff period drama.
9. David Cronenberg
Not without reason, David Cronenberg is called the undisputable master of body horror. His films are filled with grotesque, nightmarish and simply physically repulsive images, and a visibly unhealthy fascination with sickness or the mutation of the human flesh, but they work as truly intelligent and surrealistic allegories of human condition, not just as exploitation style shockers. And that’s a basic key to understanding and enjoying the fascinatingly weird world of Cronenberg.
In the 70s and 80s, he created unforgettable visceral horrors such as “Shivers” (1975), “The Brood” (1979), “Scanners” (1981), “Dead Ringers” (1988) and the film he’s probably most known for, “The Fly” (1986), which is also one of the best remakes ever made.
The title of his opus magnum belongs to “Videodrome” (1983). The film tells a story of TV producer, Max Renn (James Woods), who’s searching something to thrill his audience and discovers the eponymous Videodrome – a perverted and violent broadcast, which soon starts to alter his mind and body. This movie has all the elements of Cronenberg’s style, and is as disturbing as it is fascinating, while being also to this day a relevant vivisection of the morbid connection between mass media and sex / violence.
In the 90s, his two best movies were the adaptations of books – “Naked Lunch” (1991), loosely based on William S. Burroughs famous drug-fueled stream-of-consciousness masterpiece, and “Crash” (1996) based on the J.G Ballard novel about car crash fetishists.
Modern audience know him for his two neo-noir gangster films – “A History of Violence” (2005) and “Eastern Promises” (2007). While those two films are not typical Cronenberg films, his touch is still visible, especially in the gruesome violence sequences, which strongly reminds of his body horror roots.
His last three movies, “A Dangerous Method” (2011), “Cosmopolis” (2012) and “Maps to the Stars” (2014), are not as strong or innovative as his previous efforts, but still have certain parts that are evidence of Cronenberg’s artistic genius.
8. John Waters
If controversy were to have a second name, it would be John Waters, aka the “Pope of Trash.” This peculiar looking and mildly mannered person with a characteristic pencil moustache was directly responsible for creating true masterpieces of transgressive cinema.
With a group of his friends who are often referred as ”Dreamlanders,” he targeted the American prudish morality and good taste since his early titles, such as the demented and provocative “Mondo Trasho” (1969) and “Multiple Maniacs” (1970). The film that make him (in)famous is, of course, “Pink Flamingos” (1972). This movie really has no limits whatsoever. It is filled with sequences of cannibalism, vomiting, coprophagia, bestiality, incest and… a singing anus.
Breaking the taboo was the element, which made “Pink Flamingos” a Midnight Movie classic. It was really something innovative with its purely provocative purpose. Drag actor Divine (Glenn Milstead), who plays the main character, has become a true cult icon. He continued his obscene routine with “Female Trouble” (1974), “Desperate Living” (1977) and “Polyester” (1981).
Everything changed when he directed the light-hearted musical “Hairspray” (1988), which takes place in the 60s. It started the mainstream era of John Waters. His artistic temperament has been a little tamed since then, but it doesn’t mean he’s fully lost it. “Serial Mom” (1994), “Cecil B. Demented” (2000) and “A Dirty Shame” (2004) are proof that he still remains a cinematic rebel.
7. Nicolas Roeg
Before Nicolas Roeg became one of the best British directors around, he was a talented cinematographer. He was the second-unit cinematographer on the set of David Lean’s legendary classic “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962), and was later responsible for the cinematography in movies like Roger Corman’s “The Masque of the Red Death” (1964) and François Truffaut’s “Fahrenheit 451” (1966).
The movies Roeg directed aren’t weird in the way Takashi Miike’s or David Lynch’s movies are. They are peculiar cinematic experiences by the specific techniques he uses, such as hallucinatory and sometimes confusing parallel editing, unusual camera angles, and a tense, suffocating atmosphere. He made his feature film debut by co-directing “Performance” with Donald Cammell in 1970. The best way to describe this movie is as a counterculture gangster crime film with Mick Jagger. The movie achieved cult status and was the main inspiration for filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino, Jonathan Glazer and Paul Schrader.
Aside from “Performance,” his must-see films for a connoisseur of weirdness are “The Man Who Fell to Earth” (1976) and “Don’t Look Now” (1973). “The Man Who Fell to Earth” is a unique sci-fi film about Thomas Jerome Newton (David Bowie), who arrives on Earth from his dying planet and become a CEO of a large company, while progressively becoming addicted to human vices like alcohol and television.
“Don’t Look Now” (1973) is now regarded as a psychological horror classic and tells a story about a married couple – Laura (Julie Christie) and John Baxter (Donald Sutherland) – who lost their child in a tragic accident. While living in Venice, Laura meets psychic Heather (Hilary Mason), who claims that she could make contact with their dead child. The movie is famous because of the extremely creepy, weird and unsuspected ending.
The other great and weird film from Roeg is “Witch” (1990), a very spooky horror film made for children, but showing this film to kids could leave them traumatized with its bizarre context.
6. Ken Russell
In 2011, the world of cinema lost a truly crazy and visionary director – Ken Russell. No one else can recreate, even in a slightest bit, the outrageous lunacy, ultimate weirdness, and hyperactive energy that accompanied many of his films. His vivid and demented imagination had no limits and was the reason why his movies are so fascinating to experience. Buckle up and check out the five best representatives of his unique touch:
“The Devils” (1971) – A loose adaptation of “The Devils of Loudun” by Aldous Huxley. It tells a story of Urbain Grandier (Oliver Reed), a prominent 17th century priest with an unorthodox approach to religion, and wherefore is convicted by the church and state representatives of an alliance with the devil.
The movie, just like Grandier himself, was considered as a work of the devil because of its anti-church stance and obscene sequences. It was banned in the UK and heavily censored. It is also the best film from Russell, a true hallucinogenic experience of the complicated times of Louis XIII watched through the eyes of a madman.
“Crimes of Passion” (1984) – A black comedy about Bobby (John Laughlin), who’s unquenchable in his own marriage. He receives the task of spying on the employee of a fashion house, Joanna Crane (Kathleen Turner), who turns into a prostitute nicknamed China Blue at night. It’s a very underrated film about sexual desire and a very wild and aesthetic ride, as is usual with Russell, not to mention the wonderfully cheesy soundtrack by Rick Wakeman.
“Altered States” (1980) – A sci-fi horror with a plot centered around Dr Edward Jessup (William Hurt), who decides to widen the boundaries of his consciousness with psychedelic drugs, not knowing that it will eventually turn him into… a caveman. It has probably the most marvelously shot sequences of drug-fueled psychedelic visions that ever appeared on cinema screens.
“Lisztomania” (1975) – Biographical/period drama films don’t get any weirder than this story of a famous composer, Franz Liszt (Roger Daltrey) and his conflict with vampire Richard Wagner (Paul Nicholas).
“Gothic” (1986) – A peculiar horror film that moves the audience into a 19th century villa in Geneva, where a poet, George Byron (Gabriel Byrne) invites a group of friends – including the future author of “Frankenstein,” Mary Shelley (Natasha Richardson) – to a dinner that soon transforms into a hellish nightmare.