Jean-Marc Vallée's Films And Series Ranked Worst To Best

The last few weeks of 2021 were heavy with losses in Hollywood. The death of the talented director Jean-Marc Vallée on Christmas Day prompted a slew of tributes from famous friends and past collaborators. The filmmaker was only 58 years old.

Vallée was born and raised in Montréal. Working in both English and French, the director began his career in the 1980s in Canada on music videos and commercials before turning to short films and full features (and even some TV) in the 90s. He first attained critical and box office success in 2005 with the film "C.R.A.Z.Y." which propelled his career in Hollywood.

He was known for making emotionally-driven films and TV shows with strong female and LGBTQ characters and amazing rock soundtracks. His love of rock'n'roll often trickled into the characters of his films. Vallée was not only a fantastic director but also a phenomenal editor — sometimes editing his films under the pseudonym John Mac Murphy. His use of flashbacks and jump cuts has been described as adventurous and elevated his reputation as a director. In memory of this incredible filmmaker, here is a ranking of all of Jean-Marc Vallée's films and TV series.

12. Los Locos

Vallée's early forays in the U.S. included two projects in collaboration with Mario Van Peebles — the first of which is 1997's "Los Locos." Marketed by the distributor Polygram as a sequel to "Posse," the 1993 Western directed by and starring Van Peebles, it's not clear if the film was really intended as a followup since Van Peebles' character has a different name.

"Los Locos" follows Chance (Van Peebles), an outlaw who is recruited by a nun to escort a group of handicapped people. The convent that served as their asylum is closing down, and they need to make their way across the desert to safety. It's Vallée's second feature and his first directed in English, so one can assume the director was still honing his skills. Not much has been written about this film. It was a limited release and slid under the radar as many smaller genre movies often do.

11. Lover Love

Another obscure entry from Vallée's filmography, "Loser Love" is an erotic thriller from 1999. Lily (Laurel Holloman) is a privileged young woman who has spent her life suffering the abuse of important men in her life: first her dad, Sydney Delacroix (Burt Young), and then her boyfriend, Tim (Andy Davoli). Tim is a playboy who charms Lily into an abusive relationship. Lily's best friend, Kilo (Rachel Robinson), tries to convince her to leave Tim. Eventually, the abuse goes too far and pushes Lily over the edge. She starts planning revenge on both Tim and her dad, leading to deadly consequences.

Just like "Los Locos," "Loser Love" flew under the radar and hasn't been talked about very much. Those two movies are probably the least personal of Vallée's work because he was trying to make it as a director-for-hire in Hollywood. His second act in the mid-2000s worked out much better.

10. The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne

Did you know that Jean-Marc Vallée worked in television before dipping his toes into HBO's "Sharp Objects" and "Big Little Lies"? Vallée directed two episodes of a steampunk reimagining of Jules Verne's classics titled "The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne." First airing on the CBC in 2000, it was later shown on Syfy (then known as The Sci-Fi Channel).

The premise of "The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne" is that the famous writer lived his famous stories. It's inspired by his science fiction books "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea," "Journey to the Center of the Earth" and "Around the World in Eighty Days" and lasted only one season. Nevertheless, it's still entertaining over two decades later. It feels like a precursor to what "Doctor Who" would later become when it was relaunched in 2005. "The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne" set the stage for Vallée's future work in TV.

9. Black List (Liste Noire)

Vallée's very first feature film, 1995's "Black List" ("Liste Noire"), was filmed in French with a French-Canadian cast. It's a thriller about a sex worker named Gabrielle (Geneviève Brouillette) who threatens to reveal a list of influential politicians and lawyers who have been her clients. When she hands the list to Judge Jacques Savard (Michel Côté), things quickly turn sour: Gabrielle's lawyer is murdered, and she is assaulted. Despite the investigation being shut down by the police, she enlists the aid of investigator Michel Gauthier (André Champagne) and tries to discover who's behind it all.

Complete with dirty cops and dirtier politicians, "Black List" follows the classic tropes of the neo-noir genre. It's a solid first offering by Vallée, who had just turned 30 when it was released.  "Black List" was nominated for nine Genie Awards, including best motion picture and best achievement in direction.

8. Demolition

Released in 2015, "Demolition" was Jean-Marc Vallée's last feature film. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as investment banker Davis Mitchell. Early in the film, Davis and his wife are involved in a car crash. He makes it out unscathed, but she dies on the spot. Davis is unable to process his emotions regarding the tragedy. Instead, he writes very detailed and personal letters to a vending machine company about one of their machines that malfunctioned at the hospital and wouldn't dispense the candy he paid for. Karen (Noami Watts), a customer service rep for the company, reads the letters and reaches out to Davis, and the two become friends.

"Demolition" is about navigating loss and grief. When Davis' father-in-law (Chris Cooper) tells him that "to fix something, you have to take it apart and put it back together," Davis starts taking things apart around him, starting with his own house. He then quits his finance job and joins a demolition crew. While "Demolition" is a bit on the nose and delivers a disappointing ending, Vallée makes the most of the material with his usual sensitive tone, precise direction, and thoughtful editing. Gyllenhaal delivers an awesome performance.

7. The Young Victoria

After the success of his breakout film "C.R.A.Z.Y.," Vallée was recruited to direct "The Young Victoria," a Martin Scorsese production about Queen Victoria, giving him a solid opening in Hollywood at last. He admitted not being too keen on the project at first because he wasn't interested in making a period drama about war and conquest, but after reading the screenplay by Julian Fellowes, he was charmed.

The movie boasts exquisite production values and a star-studded cast. Emily Blunt plays teenage Victoria with Rupert Friend co-starring as Prince Albert. Rounding out the ensemble are Jim Broadbent as King William, Paul Bettany as Lord Melbourne, Miranda Richardson as Victoria's mother, and Mark Strong as Sir John Conroy. Focusing on the Queen's adolescent years and her epistolary romance with her German cousin Albert, "The Young Victoria" is a sweet biopic and not much else. In Vallée's defense, it can be hard to turn letter writing and reading into exciting cinema. Nevertheless, he navigates the politics of monarchy (and its myriad of manipulating influences) in a proper, decorous way and delivers a perfectly charming movie.

6. Café de Flore

"Café de Flore" is a delightful film for romantics: It's about destiny, soulmates, reincarnation, and believing in something bigger than ourselves. In 1969 Paris, young mother Jacqueline (Vanessa Paradis) is devoted to her son Laurent (Marin Gerrier) who has Down syndrome. Jacqueline's husband leaves after she refuses to institutionalize the boy. The child's upbringing becomes Jacqueline's life's mission. However, she grows jealous as her child develops an intense affection for Véronique (Alice Dubois), a girl who also has Down syndrome.

In contemporary Montréal, Antoine (Kevin Parent) is recently divorced and inseparable from his new love, Rose (Évelyne Brochu). His ex-wife Carole (Hélène Florent), with whom he has two daughters, is convinced that Antoine is her soulmate and has a hard time moving on. She is a sleepwalker who has vivid dreams of Paris and seeks out a medium to help her understand them.

Written, directed, and edited by Jean-Marc Vallée, the movie was released in 2011, and it mirrors his previous French film "C.R.A.Z.Y." with its great rock soundtrack and fragmented timeline. 

5. Big Little Lies

Reese Witherspoon enjoyed working with Jean-Marc Vallée' so much on his 2014 film "Wild" that she sought him out for HBO's "Big Little Lies." While TV shows usually have many directors who split the directorial duties, Vallée was given the whole first season. He would also serve as an executive producer for the show's run.

The story of "Big Little Lies" follows five women who are tied to a mysterious death during a school fundraiser. Four of them are mothers of first-graders who develop relationships through their children's enrollment at school: Madeline (Witherspoon), Celeste (Nicole Kidman), Jane (Shailene Woodley), and Renata (Laura Dern). The fifth is Madeline's ex-husband's new wife (and new step-mother to their children), Bonnie (Zoë Kravitz). The series' first season was widely acclaimed and won numerous awards, including several Emmys. Unfortunately, the second season was not as warmly received, and there was some scandal surrounding it. Director Andrea Arnold claimed her creative control and final cut were stripped from her and allegedly handed to Vallée in post-production. 

4. Wild

"Wild" is based on the acclaimed memoir of the same name by Cheryl Strayed and stars Reese Witherspoon as the author. Witherspoon, who bought the rights to the book and produced the film, reached out to Jean-Marc Vallée to direct the film after seeing an early cut of "Dallas Buyers Club," starting a fruitful collaboration between the two.

When her life falls apart following the death of her mother (Laura Dern), Strayed challenges herself to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. She has both friendly and dangerous encounters on her journey, and Vallée doesn't shy away from showing how truly harrowing such a solo hike can be. Vallée's style shines in this emotional adventure. His non-linear editing (again credited as John Mac Murphy) brings us back to the uglier moments that Strayed lived through, including heroin addiction and a nasty divorce. Still, "Wild" is a story of hope as Strayed clings to memories of her childhood — especially of her mom, Bobbi. Witherspoon and Dern's raw, authentic performances earned them Academy Award nominations, and Nick Hornby's screenplay was also widely applauded.

3. Dallas Buyers Club

Based on the true story of smuggler Ron Woodroof, "Dallas Buyers Club" is the film that cemented Jean-Marc Vallée's presence in Hollywood. Matthew McConaughey stars as Woodroof, an electrician diagnosed with HIV who smuggles unapproved AIDS treatments in the 1980s. Given only 30 days to live, he's surprised by his diagnosis and tries alternative treatments to survive. He starts dealing in illegal treatments in nightclubs and encounters Rayon (Jared Leto), a transgender woman he'd briefly met when he first was diagnosed. Portrayed as homophobic, Woodroof is initially extremely antagonistic toward Rayon. However, she convinces him she can bing him more customers, and they become business partners in an operation they call the Dallas Buyers Club.

The film caused a bit of controversy because it was not entirely faithful to the reality of Woodroof's sexuality and overall personality. Nevertheless, both McConaughey and Leto won Academy Awards for their performances.

2. C.R.A.Z.Y.

A touching LGBTQ coming-of-age story, "C.R.A.Z.Y." was cowritten by Jean-Marc Valleé and François Boulay and was inspired by both men's lives. The film follows the Beaulieu family, and its title is an acronym for the clan's  five sons: Christian (Maxime Tremblay), Raymond (Pierre-Luc Brillant), Antoine (Alex Gravel), Zac (Marc-André Grondin), and Yvan (Félix-Antoine Despatie). Born on Christmas Day in 1959, Zac displays signs of being different very early on. When his father, Gervais (Michel Côté), catches him wearing his mother's clothes, he sends him to therapy to be "cured." Attempting to fit in with his family, Zac hides his sexuality.

"C.R.A.Z.Y." had limited screenings in the U.S. because of its soundtrack and copyright issues, but it traveled around the world in festivals and garnered many prizes and nominations. Fun fact: As a child, Grondin starred in Vallée's short film "Magical Flowers," and they kept in touch over the years, becoming great friends in the process. It was a natural choice for Vallée to cast him as Zac.

1. Sharp Objects

"Sharp Objects" is the second TV show Jean-Marc Vallée directed for HBO and was his final project before his death. It's a Southern Gothic drama mini-series (based on a novel of the same name by Gillian Flynn) about an alcoholic journalist named Camille Preaker (Amy Adams) who is sent back to her hometown on an assignment. While investigating the murder of two young girls, she is swept up in her family's drama. Her mom, Adora (Patricia Clarkson), is a socialite who keeps on top of small-town gossip and imposes her will upon Camille. Her half-sister, Amma (Eliza Scanlen), plays a two-faced game, acting sweet and docile while having a much spicier personal life. Soon, Camille's past comes back to haunt her. The series features many flashbacks to her youth in which Sophia Lillis plays young Camille.

The timeline-blending style that Vallée was known for shines again in this thriller. Again, Vallée edited the show under an assumed name (credited as Jai M. Vee on all eight episodes). As with "Big Little Lies," "Sharp Objects" was nominated for many awards. Adams and Clarkson won Golden Globes for their stellar performances.