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David Cronenberg's 10 best films ranked in order of greatness

David Cronenberg has managed to grab the public imagination once again, following the announcement of the premiere of his upcoming project Crimes of the Future at Cannes. Although it was rumoured that Cronenberg had been forced into retirement due to the lack of funding, the master of body horror is back with one of the biggest surprises of the year.

Known for his pioneering contributions to science fiction and horror cinema, Cronenberg’s legacy is deeply connected to the evolution of the aforementioned genres. Through groundbreaking films such as Videodrome and Crash, Cronenberg’s works have put forward new conceptualisations of horror as well as the human condition.

While waiting for the premiere of his latest film, many fans are bound to revisit some of the illustrious projects that Cronenberg has worked on in the past. In order to honour the brilliant auteur, we have explored some of the definitive films from Cronenberg’s fascinating career that have established him as a formidable auteur.

Check the full list below.

David Cronenberg’s 10 best films:

10. Eastern Promises (2007)

Viggo Mortensen has been a frequent collaborator of Cronenberg for a while now and he is set to star in the director’s upcoming film Crimes of the Future as well. One of his most notable roles came in this 2007 gangster crime film by Cronenberg.

The film revolves around a midwife who delivers the baby of a teenage Russian sex worker. An uncompromising vision of human depravity and the machinations of crime, Eastern Promises is a dark tale featuring some unforgettable sequences.

9. The Brood (1979)

A psychological body horror by an undisputed master of the genre, The Brood follows the lives of a man and his mentally disturbed ex-wife who are subjected to controversial therapeutic techniques by a doctor with experimental tendencies.

Many commentators have noted that the film is one of Cronenberg’s most personal works which is why it is so effective. While describing the narrative and his own artistic intentions, Cronenberg said: “The Brood is my version of Kramer vs. Kramer, but more realistic.”

8. A History of Violence (2005)

A History of Violence is a gripping action thriller that is based on the eponymous graphic novel by John Wagner, with illustrations by Vince Locke. Viggo Mortensen stars as the owner of a diner in a small town who finds himself in an interesting scenario.

Although he is known as a family man, everything changes when he is forced to confront two criminals in self-defence. Due to the publicity surrounding the confrontation, he realises that he cannot avoid his own criminal past anymore.

7. The Dead Zone (1983)

One of the greatest Stephen King adaptations ever made, The Dead Zone features Christopher Walken as a man who wakes up from a coma to find out that he has psychic powers. After wrapping his head around his newfound abilities, he decides to dedicate his life to the elimination of a politician who will become a fascist in the future.

Cronenberg revealed: “While] working on The Dead Zone, I realised that there’s a kind of fusion of your sensibility with someone else’s when you’re making a film it could be very productive and you would come up with a creation that would be neither completely his, or hers, or your own.”

6. The Fly (1986)

The Fly is undoubtedly among the most well-known projects by Cronenberg and there’s good reason for that. Starring Jeff Goldblum in one of the finest performances of his career, The Fly is the perfect combination between the conceptual elements of sci-fi and the visceral sensibilities of body horror.

Goldblum is fantastic as an eccentric scientist who figures out how to make a successful teleportation device. However, the results become disastrous when a housefly gets into the device at the moment of teleportation and the scientist merges with the insect.

5. Naked Lunch (1991)

Throughout his career, Cronenberg has claimed that his literary influences were William S. Burroughs and Vladimir Nabokov. That’s exactly why Cronenberg decided to do the impossible by conducting a delightfully bizarre adaptation of Burroughs’ unfilmable book Naked Lunch.

Since its release, the film is often cited as a cult classic for various reasons including the perfect combination of Cronenberg and Burroughs. In fact, the acclaimed filmmaker was so in-tune with Burroughs’ sensibilities while writing the screenplay that he joked: “I’ll just write his next book.”

4. Scanners (1981)

Another fan-favourite from Cronenberg, Scanners is an indispensable sci-fi film that revolves around a group of people who have all kinds of psychic abilities. Things get complicated when one of them becomes determined to ensure the liberation and domination of the psychics.

Scanners also happens to feature one of the most iconic scenes in the history of horror cinema, displaying the glorious explosion of a head. There were many attempts to get it right until the special effects supervisor decided to shoot the dummy with a shotgun.

3. Crash (1996)

An extremely complex psychological thriller about people who fetishise car crashes, Cronenberg’s Crash is actually one of the most important films ever made about the subject of post-humanism because it envisions the next step in our evolutionary ladder.

In the film, Cronenberg explores how car crashes are a special event – trapping the victims in a moment suspended between life and death where such violent oscillations become orgasmic. Despite the controversy upon its release, Crash is widely regarded as one of Cronenberg’s best.

2. Dead Ringers (1988)

Dead Ringers is among Cronenberg’s greatest achievements, starring Jeremy Irons as twin gynaecologists. The two have an unusually close relationship, often slipping in and out of each other’s lives while exchanging their identities as well as their lovers.

Irons is fantastic in this dual role, managing to perfectly capture the subtle nuances of the twin brothers as they are pushed towards the edge of insanity. Now cited as one of the best Canadian films ever made, Dead Ringers is an essential classic.

1. Videodrome (1983)

Videodrome is Cronenberg at the apotheosis of his talents. One of the greatest body horror films ever made, it follows the bizarre journey of a television station executive who enters a dark and depraved world when he stumbles across a snuff channel.

Launching an attack on the voyeuristic sensibilities of audiences and the fetishisation of violence, Videodrome anticipated the pernicious machinations of mass communication in many ways by showing how technology shapes our realities.