20 Most Essential Jonathan Demme Movies

From serial-killer thrillers to 'Stop Making Sense,' mob comedies to a feature-length monologue – the Demme films you need to see ASAP

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'Ricki and the Flash' (2015)

Yes, Demme's final fictional feature film is far from perfect – but even when his material wasn't top-notch, he could still pull incredible performances from his cast (this was a man who genuinely loved actors, and loved watching them work) and infuse the wonkiest of stories with his trademark humanism. Meryl Streep's down-and-out singer finds the Oscar-winner warbling gamely through classic-rock tunes, but watch how Demme films this bar-band like they're the Stones in 1972; he gives these middle-aged musicians with their misguided "Hello, Cleveland!" dreams a sense of dignity. What you remember aren't the big missteps but the movie's small grace-note moments: Mamie Gummer's manic, heartbroken daughter enjoying the familial chaos; the joint-smoking bonding between Streep and her ex-husband Kevin Kline; new wife Audra McDonald shutting down her rival's passive-aggressiveness; Streep and beau Rick Springfield bickering and leaning on each other like a real couple. The Demme-isms were in the details. DF

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