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Slackers, Stoners and Scanners: Richard Linklater’s Films, Ranked

In honor of his epic ‘Boyhood’ hitting theaters, we rank all of this pioneering indie filmmaker’s work from worst to best

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Paramount

Richard Linklater's ambitious, acclaimed, experimental coming-of-age film Boyhood offers yet another reminder that this filmmaker has, for more than three decades, built up a career that brims with inquisitiveness and anything-goes sense of invention. Unlike so many others labeled with the ominous words "Great Artist," Linklater's work displays a generosity of both spirit and process; he's notoriously collaborative and prefers a go-with-the-flow vibe on the set. All that has resulted in an amazingly diverse body of work – from early indie hits like Slacker and formal experiments like A Scanner Darkly to studio comedies like The Bad News Bears and the unclassifiable wonders of his Before trilogy with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. 

See Where 'Slacker' Ranked in Our 30 Greatest American Indies List

As his 13-years-in-the-making magnum opus to childhood comes out this weekend, it makes sense to look back on this American original's career and revisit both his hits and misses. Here are Richard Linklater's 17 feature films, ranked from worst to best. You don't have to go through all of them, but it'd be a lot cooler if you diiiiid.

Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection

2

‘Before Sunset’ (2004)

The sheer greatness of this second installment of the Jesse and Celine Saga sneaks up on you. The young lovers of Before Sunrise find each other again, many years later. They spend a day wandering the streets of Paris and talking about life before Jesse, now an author, has to catch a plane back to America. But this time, their back-and-forth has the stirrings of wisdom: Though still young, these people have now lived through regret and disappointment – even as they've achieved some of their most hoped-for dreams. It's probably the ideal distillation of Linklater's fascination with philosophical rambling, as well as a perfect example of his generosity as a director, working with Delpy and Hawke to create one of the most compelling romantic journeys in all of cinema.

Gramercy Pictures /Courtesy Everett Collection

1

‘Dazed and Confused’ (1993)

How hilarious was it that Linklater's teen-movie masterpiece was marketed primarily as a stoner comedy when it first opened? ("See it with a bud!" the ads blared.) That’s not a completely off-the-mark description, exactly, but it's kind of like calling Citizen Kane a movie about a snowglobe. In this portrait of the last day of high school in an Austin suburb in 1976, Linklater lays out an entire ecosystem of adolescence: Love, drugs, bullies, acceptance, not to mention the sense of promise and overall uncertainty that the future holds for these kids on the cusp of the Reagan era. Plus it contains so many great actors, caught right before they hit it big: Ben Affleck, Parker Posey, Milla Jovovich, Renee Zellweger, and, of course, Matthew McConaughey as Wooderson, both the saddest and funniest one of all — a good-old-boy grown-up who's never stopped macking on high school chicks. (Because Wooderson's glory days are clearly behind him…and because the ladies still pick up what he's putting down. All right, all right, all right!) It's a great American film, but it's also fleet, charming, funny, and affectionate — the sort of movie that contains multitudes. You could disappear into it for weeks on end.

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