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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

Thrillers, concert films, exploitation movies, uproarious comedies, Oscar-winning dramas, quirky character studies, socially conscious documentaries – was there anything Jonathan Demme couldn’t do? To say we lost a major artist today when the director of The Silence of the Lambs, Stop Making Sense, Philadelphia, Something Wild and many, many more passed away today at the age of 73 is underselling the gap left behind – few working Hollywood directors had his verstatility and almost none of them had his all-encompassing for humanity, in all its glory and messiness.

Thankfully, we still have the movies, if not the man, and the following 20 films exemplify his range, his way with actors, his love of music and his sense of using the medium to make a statement. Some are sweet, some are slick, some are rough. All of them are Demme’s movies, from start to finish.

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‘Justin Timberlake + the Tennesee Kids’ (2016)

By the time that Demme captured Justin Timberlake’s infectious stage show, he was widely acknowledged as one of our greatest concert filmmakers, and so it was tempting to take the excellence here for granted. Now that he’s gone, this joyous affair, a film that celebrates creativity and passion, feels like a fitting way to say goodbye. What made Demme’s work with fellow artists so remarkable was how much he understood to get out of their way. And so his film swoops across the stage, bouncing from musician to musician, and humming with a pop rhythm that channels Timberlake’s Vegas-meets-Jacksons’-Victory-tour spectacle. This was a man who filmed music makers in a way that made you love them as much as he did. We already miss him. BT

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