Todd Haynes is known as a pioneer of the New Queer Cinema movement, and as such many of his films portray LGBTQ + characters and focus on identity dilemmas, gender roles, and social problems. Haynes first attracted attention with using Barbie dolls as actors in his experimental 1987 film Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story. Since then, he has made nine feature films.
There are two major upcoming Haynes pictures: May Decembera family drama with Natalie Portman and Julianne Mooreand Fever, the Peggy Lee biopic with Michelle Williams. Until then, let’s take a look at every Todd Haynes movie, ranked.
Todd Haynes’s first feature Poison is based on the novels of Jean Genet. The 1991 film consists of three stories filmed in completely different styles: HeroTV documentary about a seven-year-old boy who killed his father; Horrora black-and-white sci-fi about a scientist who becomes a monster; Homoa love story of two prisoners. Poison is regarded as one of the most important films of the New Queer Cinema movement. All three parts of the controversial movie cover taboo topics and started conversations about death, sexuality, and the LGBTQ + experience which continue today, three decades later.
8 Velvet Goldmine
The 1998 musical drama Velvet Goldmine is a dazzling Todd Haynes’s tribute to the 1970s glam rock era. The film follows Brian Slade, the glam icon inspired by David Bowie. Despite Bowie’s refusing access to his songs, Haynes made a vivid film about the soul of rock & roll. Also, Velvet Goldmine borrows the investigative technique from Orson Welles’ great debut movie Citizen Kane. One of the most captivating scenes from the movie is the first time two men kiss, so Velvet Goldmine it’s not just about music, but also about love.
Based on the Brian Selznick novel of the same name, the 2017 mystery film Wonderstruck tells the story of parallel journeys of two children separated by 50 years. In 1927, 12-year-old Rose, deaf since birth, decided to find her mother; in 1977, 12-year-old Ben decided to find his father. Rose’s part of the film is shown in black and white and Ben’s part is colorful.
Director Todd Haynes opened up to NPR about making a children’s movie, saying, “I think in many ways, it reminded me of movies that I saw when I was a kid … They were films that made me kind of want to learn more about life and turned me on to the excitement of cinema and ultimately made me want to be a director of movies. “
6 The Velvet Underground
Todd Haynes expressed his musical passion once again in the 2021 documentary The Velvet Underground. This film is a dazzling story about the iconic rock band The Velvet Underground and their work with Andy Warhol. Haynes told Rolling stone, “I felt we did not need a movie about the Velvet Underground that simply said how great they were … I wanted to honor them but, in the spirit of the group, do something radical.” And he did it, with famed critic Matt Zoller Seitz writing“It makes you think about what a documentary is, and what film can do.”
For Todd Haynes’s 1995 psychological drama Safe, Julianne Moore appears as a homemaker Carol who claims that she has an allergy to the toxins in today’s world. Carol decides to leave her family and try a new-age retreat. To make Safe, Haynes did research into New Age philosophy and Louise Hay’s book on AIDS. He wants to show that self-help culture can be dangerous. Haynes sees Safe as a horror film“but a completely latent horror film where everyday life is the most frightening of all.” Safe perfectly captures anxiety and what it’s like to fear one’s surroundings, and remains a prescient psychological and environmental film years before the latter became popular.
4 Dark Waters
The 2019 thriller Dark Waters follows an attorney Robert Bilott (played by Mark Ruffalo) who brings to light a dark secret behind DuPont. The script is based on the real events in West Virginia where DuPont polluted a town with dangerous chemicals. Dark Waters is an important, powerful, and well-done film which attempts to make the world a better place. Todd Haynes said that the film is “linking up with what’s happening in the world right now,” and we need to think more about our environmental situation.
3 Far from Heaven
The 2002 Independent Spirit Awards-winning drama Far from Heaven stars the always talented Julianne Moore as a perfect 1950s wife whose ideal life was ruined after she found out that her husband is a homosexual. Todd Haynes was inspired by Douglas Sirk, a film director who made brilliant Hollywood melodramas of the 1950s. As such, Haynes’ film has all the texture of a classic melodrama, but used it to talk about homosexual identity, social taboos, racism, and escapism.
2 I’m Not There
I’m Not There is a 2007 musical drama inspired by Bob Dylan’s life. In the film, six brilliant actors (with one of the best Cate Blanchett movie performances, along with Christian Bale, Marcus Carl Franklin, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger, and Ben Whishaw) portray parts of Dylan’s persona. Todd Haynes made a lovingly crafted tribute to one of the greatest songwriters of all time. The filmmaker said“I think about how Dylan broke all the assumptions about what popular music could be, so it could never be reducible again. I tried to do something similar in narrative film, include [experimental elements,] poetry, politics and human relationships. “
Based on the Patricia Highsmith (The Talented Mr. Ripley) novel, the 2015 romantic drama Carol tells the story of a forbidden love. Two women, the young photographer Therese (played by Rooney Mara) and the older and wealthy Carol (played by Cate Blanchett), fall in love with each other in 1950s New York. This visually stunning, atmospheric, and captivating film is regarded as the best LGBT movie of all time by the BFI and many others. Also, Carol received over 100 awards at international festivals and ceremonies, including the Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Actress (Rooney Mara) and the Independent Spirit Award for Best Cinematography. It’s a sumptious, romantic masterpiece.
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