Misery And Laughs: Ranking The Narrative Films Of David Gordon Green

David Gordon Green's career really isn't that odd. He began his journey as an indie darling, directing intimate dramas with a slightly off-kilter tone. When Pineapple Express came out in 2008, his career took a turn, not a detour. But the director's two major studio comedies that followed the success of his stoner action-comedy divided his fans. With perhaps one exception, whatever the final result, at least he's always experimenting behind-the-camera.

After the jump, check out a ranking of David Gordon Green's films.

The director's new movie, Our Brand Is Crisis, which stars Sandra Bullock (Gravity) and Billy Bob Thornton (Fargo), opens in theaters this Friday. The film has received mixed reviews so far — which isn't anything new to Green. Even his most accomplished film was highly divisive when it was released. The movies he's been directing over the past few years haven't been made with everybody in mind. Green usually does his own thing, which is one of the many things to admire about his thematically dense, laugh- and misery-filled career.

Here are all the other David Gordon Green films ranked:

10. The Sitter (2011)

What's saddening about the filmmaker's worst movie is that it has none of his personality. All of his projects, no matter how different they are, are David Gordon Green films — with this one extraordinary exception. Even his dark dramas have his oddball sense of humor, while The Sitter has none of it. The babysitter comedy, starring Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street), feels like it was made by a committee with no sense of humor, not Green.

In trying to make a movie for everyone, the director made a movie for no one. A comedy with Jonah Hill, J.B. Smoove (Curb Your Enthusiasm), and Sam Rockwell (Moon) should've been far funnier than this. The tone is all over the place, Hill's performance is oddly stiff, and none of the heart is earned. When The Sitter tries to pull at the heart strings, that's when it really falls flat.

At the very least, the film gave us the Sam Rockwell-improvised line, "Put a quarter in my butt, let's get this party farted!"

9. Your Highness (2011)

Not as bad as most people, including the film's star, James Franco (This Is the End), say it is. Your Highness is a little hit and miss, but it does have a giant minotaur dick, a pesky mechanical bird named Simon, and a dick-less Toby Jones (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy). A good amount of Your Highness's humor lands, with the exception of all the jokes that rely on the word "fuck." Saying "fuck" a lot isn't particularly funny. Otherwise, Justin Theroux (The Leftovers) as a horny wizard and Danny McBride (Eastbound and Down) as an insecure prince are actually pretty funny, while the female characters, played by Oscar winner Natalie Portman (Black Swan) and Zooey Deschanel (500 Days of Summer), are left on the sidelines (as is often the case with comedies). But Your Highness isn't without its charms, including some excellent puppetry and a handful of well-designed monsters. The pedophilic puppet, without question, is the highlight of Your Highness.

8. Manglehorn (2015) 

This isn't an easy movie to recommend. It's a long-winded, almost unrelenting film about loneliness — with very few light spots to counter the darkness. Green generally balances light and dark with his movies, but not so much with Manglehorn. There are some very comedic moments, like whenever Al Pacino and the director of Spring BreakersHarmony Korine, are acting together, but it's mostly overshadowed by the excessively somber tone.

The film relies on repetition, so sometimes it's all a bit too much. For the most part, though, Green paints an earnest and sometimes rewarding portrait of regret and solitude. Even most of the extras and bit players appear lonely. The character, A.J. Manglehorn (Pacino), sucks the life out of every room he walks in. Manglehorn is, at its best, a reminder of what Pacino is capable of when he's given juicy material.

7. Joe (2013) 

This drama, comedy, and thriller is kind of a mess, structurally and tonally, but that's also a part of its appeal. The film goes to unexpected places, and even when it's not clicking, there's always Nicolas Cage's (Adaptation) performance to marvel at. Cage plays Joe, a kind and thoughtful man with a serious anger problem, and it's one of the actor's meatier roles from the past few years. Green, Gary Hawkins' script, and Cage make you care for this mess of a man. Joe comes close to misery porn, but its laughs and sincere heart keeps Green's film away from absolute bleakness. This and Manglehorn share a lot in common, and they'd make for one uncomfortable but amusing double feature.

6. George Washington (2000)

The filmmaker's directorial debut got released on Criterion for a reason. Green was only 25 when he made George Washington, but there's nothing amateurish about his first feature film. The mood, performances, and themes are all clearly thought-out and effective. It's an arresting story about salvation, regret, and childhood. The kids in George Washington learn the hard way that bad things happen, sometimes for no rhyme or reason. Does the tragedy they experience define the rest of their lives? Can they ever move forward? The answers are for the viewer to decide. Almost every one of Green and cinematographer Tim Orr's frames pack emotion. George Washington is a beautifully made and moving drama.

5. Snow Angels (2007)

Probably Green's most challenging and unflinching film. Its darkness is absorbing, though. Sam Rockwell plays Glenn Marchand, a signature Green character — a small-town man wanting more in life. The immensely talented actor is heartbreaking as a guy who desperately wants a second chance, and the same can be said of all the supporting characters. Nobody is really satisfied in this isolating, cold town.

There's a beauty and sensitivity to the bleakness. Green rarely ever revels in the misery his characters experience. He always expresses great empathy for his protagonists, no matter how badly they've messed up. Snow Angels isn't without moments of kindness, either. Michael Angarano (The Knick) and Olivia Thirlby's (Juno) chemistry and storyline show a different side to this town and story.

4. Pineapple Express (2008)

Here's another excellent buddy movie from Green, written by Seth Rogen (Steve Jobs) and Evan Goldberg (The Interview). This stoner comedy is by no means a lowbrow comedy. The jokes are too well-timed and structured to be considered lowbrow. Pineapple Express isn't a spoof of a buddy action movie; it is a buddy action movie — a buddy action movie that happens to feature two strangely likable stoners.

It's also one of the few cinematic comedies of the past decade. The opening credits sequence is wonderful, and you expect those visual flourishes from someone like David Gordon Green, not most comedy directors. Unlike The Sitter, his personality and style rings loud and clear in Pineapple Express.

3. Prince Avalanche (2013)

This, Manglehorn, and Joe almost make for a thematic trilogy. All three films are about characters cut off from the world. Whether because of their past or present situation, they just can't seem to fit in — and Prince Avalanche explores this loneliness with a sharp wit. It might even be funnier than Pineapple Express, despite its moments of heartbreak.

Green cast the two leads, Paul Rudd (Ant-Man) and Emile Hirsch (Into the Wild), after having lunch with the two actors and realizing they both have nothing in common. In the case of Prince Avalanche, opposites attract, because Hirsch and Rudd are wonderful together. Both actors show new sides of themselves, with Rudd tightening up and Hirsch cutting loose. Watching these two for 90 minutes in this honest depiction of friendship is pure joy.

2. All The Real Girls (2003)

"We ain't friends no more! You ain't even in my top 10!" is one of the many, may funny lines in All The Real Girls. The fine comedy aside, there's a real warmness to this picture. All of the friends in Green's film — played by Paul Schneider (Lars and the Real Girl), Shea Whigham (Boardwalk Empire), and Danny McBride – are believable and lovable, even at their lowest. All The Real Girls explores what it really means to feel close to someone, whether with your family, friends, or loved ones. Sometimes it's painful, sometimes it's beautiful, or sometimes it's both. In this small town, characters either desire or run from that feeling.

1. Undertow (2004)

David Gordon Green's most potent combination of extreme tones. Surely influenced by The Night of the Hunter, Undertow is a wild and surprisingly powerful movie about brothers, greed, and a curse. Two siblings sheltered by their grieving father finally get to escape, but only after their dad is murdered by their uncle, played by a menacing and unstoppable Josh Lucas (The Mend) — who, at times, is almost framed like the big bad wolf in this R-rated, Southern quasi-adventure movie.

The environments are beautiful but oppressive, and they're packed with faces and characters you won't soon forget, no matter how long they're in the movie for. "World-building" is generally only used to describe sci-fi or fantasy movies, but Green is a world-builder. There's a richness to these settings and desperate people. Every location and character has a story to tell.