Denis Villeneuve’s English-Language Films, Ranked From Least to Most WTF

After coming up as a director of French-Canadian arthouse cinema (and music videos) in the 1990s and 2000s, Denis Villeneuve has over the past decade entrenched himself as both a name-brand auteur and a steady set of hands for big-budget Hollywood movies. He’s also — and I say this with nothing but admiration — a weirdo. Spiders and snakes and no hair, oh my.

Even his most, er, sedate Hollywood films have moments that make you ask, “What the fuck?” Below, in reverse order, are his most WTF movies:

Warning: This post contains potential spoilers, so proceed as cautiously as Jake Gyllenhaal enters a house at night.

6. Sicario (2015)

Sicario feels a bit like Narcos but, instead of being from the POV of the drug cartels in Mexico, shown from the perspective of US law enforcement as they infiltrate the network. With a major exception: Benicio del Toro, who comes from we don’t know where and who’s working for we don’t know who.

With del Toro playing the wild card, you don’t know What he’s going to do. And then, when The Fuck happens, you’re like, “I wouldn’t have guessed that.”

5. Dune (2021)

Dune is the most commercially successful Villeneuve film. Unsurprisingly, it’s also one of his least WTF. If you’ve read the eponymous Frank Herbert novel, you’ve nodded along to the allusions to North Africa and Islam. But Villeneuve succeeds in adapting the book (or, at least the first part of it) because he’s able to create a sense of place that takes the viewer not to the Sahara, but to Arrakis. None of that is WTF.

What is: Stellan Skarsgård naked in a fat suit, emerging from an oozing bathtub.

4. Arrival (2016)

M. Night Shyamalan, trying to emulate Hitchcock and other directors of suspense, staked his career on the twist ending. Denis Villeneuve put his name on the map with a twist beginning.

3. Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

Two words: Jared Leto.

2. Prisoners (2013)

Just looking at the logline, this is your standard family melodrama / detective procedural centered about two children who go missing in a small Pennsylvania town. Then perennial weirdo Paul Dano shows up and you just know it’s going to get crazy. Dano’s other credits include a huckster preacher, a Batman villain culled from from the darkest timeline, and a man who plays with a farting corpse.

But then David Dastmachian shows up. And, oh, hey, WTF are in these locked boxes?

1. Enemy (2013)

I mean, have you seen this movie? It’s about a history professor who discovers he has a doppelganger who’s a movie actor. They have the same voice, same scars, everything. At one point, the actor pretends to be the professor so he can take the latter’s girlfriend out for a romantic weekend. And none of that is the WTF part of the movie.

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