Get Ur Body Horror: Cronenberg Films Ranked

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
June of 2022 will forever be linked with one thing- that's right, the release of David Cronenberg's new movie .... Crimes of the Future! And I am super excited for it. In order to get properly in the mood, I am suggesting that everyone, everywhere, watch a few of the Cronenberg classics.

So for purposes of discussion I thought I'd post the rankings of all Cronenberg movies. As always, my rankings all the products of logics and maths, and cannot be disputed, but you are welcome to suggest your own (wrong) rankings within the comments.

Tier 5- For Cronenberg completists only.

21. Fast Company (1979). Cronenberg is a distinctive director, with a certain voice. This ... this is a competent movie with none of the flare that Cronenberg is known for. It's got cars.

20. Stereo (1969). This is Cronenberg's first movie, and he is already exploring many of the themes he would become known for later- including body horror, alienation, and misaligned eroticism. But it's his first movie, and often closer to a film school experiment than a polished release. Also? The acting is really terrible.

19. Crimes of the Future. (1970). Wait, what? Yes, that's the title. His second feature is more self-assured than the first, and continues to explore "Cronenbergian" themes, but ... watch he does it better, later, and with a higher budget.

Tier 4- The misfits.

18. Maps to the Stars (2014). Great cast, not great movie. It's difficult to say what was being attempted here, but whatever it was ... it didn't work.

17. M. Butterfly (1993). A decent film done with taste and restraint; hardly Cronenbergian hallmarks.

Tier 3- The horror .... the horror.....

16. Shivers (1975). What if STDs were ... actual visible parasites? The more you know?

15. The Dead Zone (1983). Cronenberg's first Hollywood film, and one of the best Stephen King adaptations; unfortunately, while a very good film, it lacks a certain ... Cronenberginess.

14. Scanners (1981). What if the Kids in the Hall wanted to explode heads instead of squish them?

13. Rabid (1977). Classic Cronenberg. And yes, that is Marilyn Chambers.

12. The Brood (1979). Most fans recognize this as the most personal of Cronenberg's movies. To which non-fans would reply ... uh ....

Tier 2- The modern classics.

11. Cosmopolis (2012). One of the few movies that I kept expecting to be MORE, and then, at the end, I realized that the understatement was the point.

10. A Dangerous Method (2011). Psychoanalysis and repression? Sign me up.

9. The Fly (1986). Even though we can recognize it now as an allegory for the HIV epidemic, it still powerfully resonates.

8. Eastern Promises (2007). Can Cronenberg do a gangster movie? Yes. Yes he can. And you may regret asking the question.

7. A History of Violence (2005). Arguably his "best" film (at least in terms of critical reception), it unpacks the self-conscious American narratives around violence.

6. Spider (2002). A true masterpiece involving a fractured narrative.



Tier 1- MAXIMUM CRONENBERG!

THERE ARE NO DESCRIPTIONS NEEDED. THESE ARE THE TOP FIVE.

eXistenZ (1999).

Naked Lunch (1991).

Dead Ringers (1988).

Videodrome (1983).

Crash (1996).
 

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I like the list. I would put scanners in the top 5 personally (I might even swap out eXistenZ-----I like it but is sooooo 90s, and I find it not as easy to rewatch....scanners I can watch again, and again, and again). Video Drone would probably be my number one pic. I may even try to squeeze the fly into that top 5 (because it is one of those rare remakes that far exceeds the original and tapped into some things that were really frightening if you lived through that time period).
 

JAMUMU

Justified & Ancient
I like the list. I would put scanners in the top 5 personally (I might even swap out eXistenZ-----I like it but is sooooo 90s, and I find it not as easy to rewatch....scanners I can watch again, and again, and again). Video Drone would probably be my number one pic. I may even try to squeeze the fly into that top 5 (because it is one of those rare remakes that far exceeds the original and tapped into some things that were really frightening if you lived through that time period).
That's the same swap I'd make. Scanners definitely still works for me on a lot of levels, and I think - like Videodrome - it's still pretty relevant. If I had to sub out for The Fly my pick would probably be Crash, though it's pretty much splitting hairs by that point.
 



jeremypowell

Adventurer
This next Cronenberg's gonna be a tough one for me—I think everything in your tiers 1 & 2 is a truly great film and he is one of the greatest living film directors (maybe somewhere around #25 for me, but it's a very crowded list).

On the other hand I find extreme body horror unwatchable because my response is always one of, well, actual horror, and that's not a feeling I enjoy. It can sometimes stay with me for months or years, give me recurring nightmares, doubly so when it's presented in any sort of scenario resembling medical surgery. Much as I'm conflicted about the modern hypostasis of the "trauma" lens to describe any experience that makes someone uncomfortable, I've reluctantly come to accept that viewing extreme body horror films is—for me—basically self-inflicting trauma. And advance buzz is that Crimes is his most "tough to watch" film ever, by a long shot. I've watched the trailers and yeah, that seems about right.

So this might wind up being the first Cronenberg since 1980 that I deliberately decide to avoid.
 

Likewise I'd put Scanners in the top tier, though I'd probably swap Dead Ringers instead of eXistenZ. Dead Ringers is amazing, don't get me wrong, but as a twin myself, it's always been a little too unnerving for me.

I like the list. I would put scanners in the top 5 personally (I might even swap out eXistenZ-----I like it but is sooooo 90s, and I find it not as easy to rewatch....scanners I can watch again, and again, and again). Video Drone would probably be my number one pic. I may even try to squeeze the fly into that top 5 (because it is one of those rare remakes that far exceeds the original and tapped into some things that were really frightening if you lived through that time period).

I was heartily disappointed by A Dangerous Method. Considering the subject matter, the director, and the cast, I expected something amazing. Instead, I could barely finish the film.

I saw Crash in the theaters when it first came out and fell in love with that surreal and sleek movie then and there.

One thing I think should be mentioned is how, ahem, instrumental the soundtracks of Howard Shore are to much of Cronenberg's work. Whether its the analog synth pulse of the early stuff, the frenetic jazz of Naked Lunch, or the dream-like, barely-recognizable-as-such guitars of Crash, he sets a mood like no one else.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
One thing I think should be mentioned is how, ahem, instrumental the soundtracks of Howard Shore are to much of Cronenberg's work. Whether its the analog synth pulse of the early stuff, the frenetic jazz of Naked Lunch, or the dream-like, barely-recognizable-as-such guitars of Crash, he sets a mood like no one else.

I also have to blame/thank Howard Shore for introducing me to Ornette Coleman.

Prior to seeing that movie, I hadn't really thought about jazz; after it, I sought that incendiary sound like it was the bugpowder I depended on.
 

I'd swap places on The Fly and Dead Ringers. The Fly is near horror perfection, and frankly I think Dead Ringers is a little overrated and kind of derivative of Videodrome (still a good movie, though, and great acting). Scanners and Dead Zone seem like they should be higher, but I also have seen either in a really long time. I'm missing more on the list than I expected.
 

The Fly is notable in that despite being both a remake and Cronenberg's first major studio work, it did gangbusters without sacrificing Cronenberg's aesthetic one bit. Critical acclaim, Academy award nominated, and a major financial hit. Yet it's just as gruesome, disturbing, and cerebral as anything he did prior.

I'd swap places on The Fly and Dead Ringers. The Fly is near horror perfection,
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
The Fly is notable in that despite being both a remake and Cronenberg's first major studio work, it did gangbusters without sacrificing Cronenberg's aesthetic one bit. Critical acclaim, Academy award nominated, and a major financial hit. Yet it's just as gruesome, disturbing, and cerebral as anything he did prior.

The Dead Zone?

(A Hollywood big-budget film starring Christopher Walken and distributed by Paramount)
 



The Fly is notable in that despite being both a remake and Cronenberg's first major studio work, it did gangbusters without sacrificing Cronenberg's aesthetic one bit. Critical acclaim, Academy award nominated, and a major financial hit. Yet it's just as gruesome, disturbing, and cerebral as anything he did prior.

First Cronenberg movie I saw, and made a massive impression. I either saw it in the theater or on VHS right when it hit the video store (I remember seeing an ad in the paper for it but I think I would have been too young to see it in the movies). It is one of those rare bigger budget studio films done well. It was the kind of movie you just kept thinking about even years after watching it.
 


Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Where do you rank his performance in Nightbreed?

I thought he was great. Cronenberg has ... there is such a presence about him. If he wasn't so dang good at directing, I'd be curious to see what else he could do as an actor. Of course, look at the roles he has attempted- I'm not sure he is, exactly, a method actor.

I had this weird moment a while back. I had been watching ST: Discovery, and there was this cameo character that I absolutely loved; totally mesmerizing. And I was having trouble placing the actor. Of course it was Cronenberg. I literally couldn't place him because I wasn't expecting him. Strangest thing.
 


The Fly is notable in that despite being both a remake and Cronenberg's first major studio work, it did gangbusters without sacrificing Cronenberg's aesthetic one bit. Critical acclaim, Academy award nominated, and a major financial hit. Yet it's just as gruesome, disturbing, and cerebral as anything he did prior.

For trivia, I also like to point out that The Fly is a Mel Brooks film. He was an executive producer, but left his name out of the credits (as he did on many movies after The Twelve Chairs) so people wouldn't expect it to be a comedy. See also: The Elephant Man.
 

I thought he was great. Cronenberg has ... there is such a presence about him. If he wasn't so dang good at directing, I'd be curious to see what else he could do as an actor. Of course, look at the roles he has attempted- I'm not sure he is, exactly, a method actor.

I love Nightbreed (both the movie and the book Cabal), but thought his performance was one of the things that really made it work. It is perfectly sedated and calm (I've met more than one psychiatrist who speaks that way)
 

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