prince

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.

all the real girls

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.

undertow

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.

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