Sofia Coppola is one of our brightest and most talented directors, genre-hopping throughout her career with each turn offering something new. She has developed a distinct style over the course of her career, something that is keenly shown off in her remake of The Beguiled. With her latest now in theaters, we look back and rank her feature films up until this point. Let us know which film of hers is your favorite in the comments below.
6. A Very Murray Christmas
The only saving grace of Bill Murray’s snarky, boozy holiday special is Sofia Coppola’s cinematic touch that brings an air of bluesy poignancy to A Very Murray Christmas. Filled with celebrity cameos, holiday clichés and understated musical performances, the special still is a departure from the usual holiday special. It’s casual and dimly lit, a nice compliment to Murray’s melancholy over his failure at delivering a spectacular holiday event. But its uneven tone and a host of unconvincing and awkward comedic moments put a damper on what could have been something truly great. Regardless, A Very Murray Christmas is unique and watchable, much thanks to Coppola’s deftness behind the camera. [Gabrielle Bondi]
5. The Bling Ring
Coppola’s films often examine themes of isolation and privilege from the perspective of those walled off from within, but in The Bling Ring, she examines a world shaped by these forces from without, to those in the thrall of modern celebrity culture. Inspired by actual events, the teenage thieves in The Bling Ring crave the lifestyles of the rich and the famous, and they are willing to break and enter the homes of the stars they idolize to get a taste of it. By stealing and wearing their clothes, jewelry, and shoes, they felt like they too were part of that golden group who mattered enough to warrant having their every move and thought broadcasted to the masses. The shocking thing wasn’t that these kids succeeded, but how easy their crime spree was. All they did was go online and see where their victims lived, then track their movements on social media to see if they were home or not. Celeb cameos abound, and Coppola embraces the group’s obsession with fame and labels to fully immerse us in their world, but The Bling Ring is at its best when it focuses on Emma Watson. The Harry Potter movies had concluded only two years ago, and Watson not only steals every scene, she spins comedic gold from a young woman so vapid she is unable to think or speak beyond New Agey self-help faux spirituality. Although, maybe nowadays it’s not such a stretch to think she could lead a country one day. [Andrea Thompson]
Somewhere is a movie that requires patience to watch and surely required patience to make.The film opens with a two-minute-long static shot of a sportscar circling a dusty racetrack. Before the 10-minute mark, we’ve had two long, still sequences of movie star Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) lying in his Chateau Marmont bed while strippers perform a private show just for him. It’s in these quiet moments, as the camera stays motionless, that Coppola conveys Johnny’s state of mind, the emptiness that has come with his ascension to international celebrity status. Somewhere is a mood piece, and it is an excellent mood piece indeed. There isn’t much plot: Johnny looks after his eleven-year-old daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning) as he recuperates from a minor stunt-related injury at the Chateau. Yet even in her film’s plotless, meditative form, Coppola is doing something exciting with each and every frame.
Johnny and Cleo’s relationship, Johnny’s sense of emptiness and about the fact that Cleo is the only thing in his life that brings him purpose take up the crux of the film. It’s about a man without passion, reinvigorated by his daughter who he loves so dearly – that love comes across instantly in the way Dorff looks at Fanning and vice-versa. Both central performances are stunning; the actors are in lockstep with the director; the three artists, together, have created something truly special.And while Somewhere does, ultimately, amount to “look at the poor movie-star, he’s so sad,” Coppola manages here (as she always does) to imbue her story, her world, and her characters with enough down-to-earth realism to evade the pitfall of her film being a meditation on how being rich and famous is so terribly difficult.Coppola uses her own first-hand knowledge of the subject to tell a story about such a dynamic: a depressed movie star and his innocent, adolescent daughter. [Eli Fine]
3. The Virgin Suicides
There’s something about the moody atmosphere that permeates Sofia Coppola’s debut film, 1999’s The Virgin Suicides. The story of four sisters, and the young boys desperate to figure them out, resonated with me personally. As Hanna Hall’s Cecilia says in the intro, being a 13-year-old girl isn’t what people assume, and watching Coppola’s film at the same age left me reeling. With its 1971 setting the movie has a dated, nostalgic quality that contradicts the painfully modern discourse about growing up female. Each of the Lisbon sisters has a unique identity, both giving me characters I wanted to be (Kirsten Dunst’s feisty Lux) and the girl I most likely was (the quiet, intelligent, Therese). Coppola’s camera captures the female gaze and eliminates male control from the narrative. The Lisbon sisters retreat to a natural world of grass and heather, while the boys try to “interpret” things about them. In the end, the boys, the girls’ parents, everyone fails to hear the plaintive cries of femininity restrained. It’s amazing to factor in that Coppola was only 28 when the film was released! I’m nearly 30 and I don’t have nearly the grasp on life as what Coppola told us about being a teenager. [Kristen Lopez]
2. Marie Antoinette
While not quite her most definitive film (we’ll get to that in a moment), Marie Antoinette is Sofia Coppola at her most opulent. With lush cinematography that evoke the imagery of an oil painting, to a career best turn from Kirsten Dunst in the leading role and a soundtrack that mixes old and new and creates something transcendent, Marie Antoinette soars. It captures the isolation of women in positions of power, the requirement of girls to age quicker then men and the judgement that befalls them when in the public eye. It’s a nuanced, soulful and heartbreaking portrait of one woman, in a film that forgets the titles and power and instead focuses on the young woman and her stumbles and successes inside that limelight and fervent scrutiny. [Allyson Johnson]
1. Lost in Translation
Scarlett Johansson has played everything from an assassin to an alien in human skin, but these roles hold nothing to her turn as a stranger in a strange land in Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation. At first glance, this film would seem like a vehicle for Bill Murray to showcase vulnerability, but that is quickly shattered when we see how much of the story is about Johansson’s character and her shared connection with Murray’s. Ghost World may be considered her breakout role, but Lost in Translation showcases her range and talent while keeping her grounded and relatable. As Charlotte, she takes us on a tour of Tokyo as she experiences everything for what seems like the first time. The power in her performance is how she perfectly emulates that “alone in a crowd” feeling most of us know all too well. The way the film subverts the romantic tension, never letting it turn into some unrealistic, only-in-the-movies meet-cute is what gives this film an evergreen hue. It always stays true to the characters and true to real life, turning this film into nothing more than a blip in the lives of the characters, and that is what makes is so compelling. [Jon Espino]