Degrees Of Uncool: Ranking The Narrative Films Of Cameron Crowe

"The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you're uncool." – Lester Bangs, Almost Famous

With that quote, writer director Cameron Crowe smashed through levels upon levels of truth. He's talking about art, he's talking about loss, he's talking about individuality, basically he's talking about everything. What we talk about among friends is what defines us and the films of Cameron Crowe have always been about that. They've been about more too, but they've always have been about the human experience. In the best cases, Crowe's words, choice of music and actors have greatly enhanced that human experience too, making the uncool cool.

This week marks the release of Crowe's eight narrative feature, Aloha. It's a film fans have anticipated for sometime, mostly because we trust in the work of this iconic, wonderful filmmaker. To celebrate the occasion, we've ranked all eight of his narrative features films (he's done two documentaries too, Pearl Jam Twenty and The Union, which we've omitted just to keep things focused). What's number one? Below, read our rankings of the best Cameron Crowe movies

Degrees of Uncool: The Best Cameron Crowe Movies

Aloha Poster

8. Aloha (2015)

Aloha feels like every single Cameron Crowe movie shoved into one. That's not a good thing. The film, which is kind of, but not really, about a military contractor torn between two loves, never knows what it wants to be. In one moment it's poetic. The next it's philosophical. Then it's cool and sweet, followed by romantic. It always tries to be very nature-conscious and there's a heavy dose of Hawaiian mythology thrown in for good measure. There are multiple love stories, not all of which make sense, scenes that explain what's happening after they've already happened, the list goes on and on. Some Cameron Crowe charm still emerges thanks to the settings, performances and music, but unfortunately, Aloha never comes together like we know a Crowe film can.

Elizabethtown poster

7. Elizabethtown (2005)

The last fifteen minutes of Elizabethtown are as good as anything Cameron Crowe has ever made. There's energy, there's wonder, there's that unique blend of music, visuals and nostalgia that the filmmaker has probably done better than anyone. However, the rest of the movie simply doesn't hold up to its finale. The odd ball love story is packed full of fun characters and joyful moments. Even the story is original and offbeat. But the complexities of blending a tale of redemption, love, death, loss and more are always struggling with each other throughout the film. It's underrated, but definitely a step below the rest of the films.

We Bought A Zoo Poster

6. We Bought A Zoo (2011)

Where Aloha and Elizabethtown suffer a bit because they are too ambitious, We Bought a Zoo succeeds for being the opposite. In classic Crowe fashion, this family story about doing the dumbest thing in the world – buying a zoo – is unique and full of heart. From there, things don't really go too far off the path. There's great music, a nice love story and some solid performances from top to bottom. The result is a heartwarming, albeit it slightly forgettable film that does everything right, but nothing spectacular.

Vanilla Sky poster

5. Vanilla Sky (2001)

Your appreciation for Vanilla Sky can likely be answered with a simple question. "Did you see this or the original version first?" If you saw this version first – like many of us did – you probably enjoy the film more than the others. Crowe didn't change too, too much from the original film (1997's Abre los ojos by Alejandro Amenábar) so depending on which you experienced first, this fascinating, brutal, but beautiful story probably worked best that way. There are stunning visuals in the movie, a wonderful lead performance and some of Crowe's best musical choices. It's a powerful, surprising film whose biggest flaw is that it's a Cameron Crowe version of someone else's movie.

singles poster

4. Singles (1992)

Singles was Crowe's second directorial effort and it bares the rawness of a young filmmaker still finding his voice. Of course, the Seattle-grunge based love story also does a wonderful job of capturing that time and place in popular culture thanks to a killer soundtrack that was probably more successful than the film was. But besides the music, which has been and forever will be Crowe's calling card, Singles has a real authenticity to it. You know these people, you understand their plights, and seeing that familiarity in an alien setting is what good filmmaking is all about. A relatable story in an unrelatable world would also become a Crowe staple.

Almost Famous Poster

3. Almost Famous (2000)

I know I'm going to get some crap for this, but first let me explain. These last three films are on another level. They're all masterpieces in their own right and having to choose between the three is a cruel punishment. On any given day any one of these next three films could be in any one of these three final spots. I love them all, maybe this one the most, but I was forced to pick and now I'll explain why I put Almost Famous at number 3.

The Untitled cut is better. There, I said it. The theatrical cut of Almost Famous is wonderful. Magical. A personal, touching story that blends fantasy and reality with incredible music, better performances and impeccable direction. It's a film I've come to love more and more every single time I've watched it. But then you watch the Untitled cut and it's just a little bit better. A few of the minor, insignificant plot holes get covered up. Some of the tertiary characters are given more room to breathe, and as a result an already magnificent film gets that much better. But we're talking about the theatrical cut of Almost Famous and, because of that distinction, it gets the ever so slight, minuscule drop off cut from the next two, equally perfect, movies.

Jerry Maguire poster

2. Jerry Maguire (1996)

Much like Almost Famous, Jerry Maguire has it all. It takes us into an unknown world and makes it incredibly interesting and accessible to all. Every emotion in your body gets stimulated at least once or twice. There are at probably five or six absolutely spot on, perfect moments that basically have defined what Cameron Crowe can be as a filmmaker. The praise just goes on and on and on. And yet, as good and even and crispy as Jerry Maguire is, it's missing just a hint of something that places it in slot two.

Say Anything poster

1. Say Anything... (1989)

Everything I've said about the last two movies I can say again here. But what makes Say Anything, in my mind, Cameron Crowe's best movie is how raw it is. It was Crowe's first film and that he could come out and tell a love story that's so different, yet so honest, and fill it with moments and dialogue that will last forever boggles the mind. If we're being objective, Almost Famous and Jerry Maguire are probably more well-rounded films, but Say Anything goes for it, doesn't apologize, and ends up being one of – if not the – best romantic comedies of all time. And it was Cameron Crowe's first film, which makes the achievement that much more amazing.