Ranking Richard Linklaters best films


Richard Linklater is a modern filmmaker who can already be ranked amongst the greats. His keen eye for relationship drama and his ability to bring the audience back to a time and place through atmosphere alone builds films that feel timeless. This means that it caused quite a dilemma in the TYF crew in picking out what films constituted as his best, but we’ve narrowed it down to eight that exemplify what makes him such a talent. Picked via a poll for the site’s writers, I’m immensely pleased with our number one (my personal favorite of the bunch), mildly surprised by the second and surprised about where Boyhood ranked overall.

Take a look below at our ranking and let us know in the comments what Richard Linklater film is your favorite.


The further and further away we get from the 2015 Oscars the more agitated I get over the Birdman win and can’t help but wonder what on earth voters were thinking during the time. Both films had a particular, gimmicky narrative to run with, but the difference is that Boyhood was more than just that. Emotional in ways that might seem surprising, it captures memories through a single song, a Harry Potter quote or long drive towards adulthood that all evoke visceral reactions, however small. Giving us a genuine photograph of the passage of time, the film is excellent from start to finish.

A Scanner Darkly


Waking Life aside, A Scanner Darkly has to be the most experimental film the filmmaker is ever tackled. Utilizing the rotoscope style of animation, the film takes deep dive into uneasy neurosis as characters reality begin to dissipate. A new drug has entered the characters world and with it comes the loss of identity and understanding of their worlds around them. Tonally opposite then just about anything else Linklater has done, the film is a quiet, psychological thriller.

Dazed and Confused


In a sense the film that officially put Linklater’s name out into the world as a must watch for any newbie film enthusiast who wants to dive head first into the world of auteurs, Dazed and Confused is wonderfully fun and spirited storytelling. Capturing a singular moment in time like only Linklater can, the film traces a perfect day of stoned and festive youthful exuberance. Linklater demonstrates his knack for telling lighter stories without ever thinking of painting his characters and/or stories as jokes.

Before Sunrise

The film that jump-started the trilogy of Jesse and Celines’ decade sprawling would-they-won’t-they romance, Before Sunrise is the most compact in terms of story, the start and what could have been the end. Capturing the easy chemistry before his two leads, Before Sunrise is a film all about the secret looks and hesitant touches but loaded words and they attract one another with their thoughts and ideas on the world.



An absurdest comedy based on a true story, here’s another example of Linklater taking a very personal, specific story and shining a spotlight on it. Jack Black is terrific in the titular role as he helps strike the note on what the rest of the film is going to feel like. Darkly comedic with hints of drama in Bernie’s self-doubt and insecurity, Linklater turned this small town into a whole world.

Before Midnight

The greatest achievement in the third film of the “Before” trio logy is how Linklater stripped back any ounce of romanticism and instead replaced it with storytelling that was frank, brutally honest and almost painful to watch as two characters we loved needled one another in ways that only people you care about can. Instead of waxing poetic about life the two fought, instead of sharing silent and secret moments they argued and tried to get as far away from each other as possible. While I count myself among the few that believe that as the two sat alone at the end of the night, tired but Jesse still believing in the them that made these films, that they would bolster up enough faith in their relationship to keep going, it is heartbreaking to watch such beloved characters tear one another apart.

School of Rock

Behold the strength of a well-executed “feel good” movie. Music, laughter and a whole lot of heart makes School of Rock better than the sum of it’s parts with invigorating filmmaking and clever script. Jack Black is once again phenomenal in the role as a laid up musician pretending to be a substitute teacher and the story excels as it celebrates the importance of the arts and how it helps kids and fosters and greater appreciation for the world around them.

Before Sunset

Subtle, graceful filmmaking at it’s finest with two superb performances at it’s core, Before Sunset is not only the (arguable I suppose) best of the trilogy but the best film Linklater has done to date. Introspective with more than a few hints of melancholy, the film see’s both Celine and Jesse at a crossroads as they try and determine where their lives are going to take them next. It’s proof that their first meeting wasn’t just a fluke and that there is some deep, tangible chemistry between the two, both physical and metaphysical. There is a spark that ignites when the two are close as their hugs turn into embraces or as Celine reaches out to fix Jesse’s hair. That spark burns in Jesse’s eyes as he watches Celine sing and dance in her living room, very much aware that he’s about to take a sudden leap all for a woman that has so totally and completely captured his heart and mind in the two, brief encounters they’ve shared. It’s a romance for the ages and character study near unparalleled in cinema.


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