7 best Denis Villeneuve movies, ranked

Dune movie
(Image credit: Chiabella James/Warner Bros. Entertainment)

Is there a director with a better hit rate right now than Denis Villeneuve? The French-Canadian filmmaker has been on an impressive run of critically acclaimed films for the last 15 years, as the 56-year-old raises the bar with each project. Villeneuve is best known for his technical prowess, a true visionary filmmaker who excels in sci-fi, thrillers, and war dramas. Villeneuve makes auteur-driven stories at the major studio level that become events for the general public. Only Christopher Nolan shares that distinction. 

Villeneuve’s career spans over 25 years, starting in 1998 with “August 32nd on Earth.” After directing four French dramas to start his career, Villeneuve crossed into Hollywood and began making English-language films in 2013 with “Enemy” and “Prisoners.” In honor of “Dune: Part Two,” we ranked Villeneuve’s seven best films since 2013. With apologies to fans of “Incendies,” this list only consists of the director’s English-language films since 2013. 

7. 'Enemy'

Are we our own worst enemies? This thought-provoking question is the heart of “Enemy,” Villeneuve’s psychological horror starring Jake Gyllenhaal in a dual role. Adam Bell is a dejected Toronto college professor who discovers his doppelganger in a movie, an actor named Anthony Claire. Adam stalks Anthony and becomes obsessed with his life. 

The two men finally meet in a hotel room and marvel over their identicalness. Their lives become intertwined as both men seek comfort in their partners: Helen (Mélanie Laurent), Adam’s girlfriends, and Helen (Sarah Gadon), Anthony’s pregnant wife. Fans of “Mulholland Drive” and “Memento” will enjoy “Enemy,” a cat-and-mouse thriller with a memorable yet polarizing ending. 

Watch on Hulu

6. 'Blade Runner 2049'

Did “Blade Runner,” one of the most influential sci-fi films ever, need a sequel? Villeneuve made a compelling case with “Blade Runner 2049.” Set 30 years after the first film, LAPD Officer K (Ryan Gosling), who works as a blade runner, uncovers a secret about replicants that could change the course of history. K’s investigation leads him to former blade runner Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), who has lived in seclusion for three decades. K must team with Deckard to discover the truth and prevent a war between humans and replicants. 

Despite issues over characterization and runtime — even Ridley Scott believes it’s too long — “Blade Runner 2049” is a technical marvel and arguably Villeneuve’s most visually stunning film. The film is shot beautifully, a credit to legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins, who won his first Oscar for his work on this sequel. 

Rent/buy on Amazon or Apple

5. 'Prisoners'

While most of Villeneuve’s films are noted for their bright, stunning visuals, “Prisoners” is his darkest and grittiest film. It’s a rainy crime thriller about what one man is willing to do to protect his family. On Thanksgiving, two young girls go missing. One of the girls is the daughter of Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman). Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) arrests Alex Jones (Paul Dano), the owner of the RV parked on Keller’s street where the girls went missing.

Due to a lack of evidence, Loki releases Jones, much to the dismay of Keller. Taking the law into his own hands, Keller kidnaps Jones and holds him hostage, torturing him in hopes of finding the location of his daughter. Jackman as the vengeful father and Gyllenhaal as the tormented cop are terrific in two of the best performances of their career.

Rent or buy on Amazon or Apple

4. 'Dune'

The cards were stacked against Villeneuve for his adaptation of “Dune.” Frank Herbert’s groundbreaking sci-fi novel was considered unadaptable due to confusing narration changes, immense scope, and tons of exposition. David Lynch gave it a shot in 1984 and hated it so much that he’s disowned it. Future filmmakers tackling the source material choose television over film, needing more hours to tell their story.

Enough time has passed since Villeneuve’s “Dune” to say he broke the curse. With stunning world-building and a straightforward plot, it was the best adaptation of “Dune” upon its release. Timothée Chalamet stars as “Dune’s” protagonist, Paul Atreides, the gifted son who travels with his family to the dangerous planet of Arrakis. Paul’s father, Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac), wishes to broker peace with the Fremens, the natives of Arrakis. When House Harkonnen wages war on House Atreides for Arrakis, Paul must embrace his destiny as the “chosen one” and unite the planet.

Watch on Max

3. 'Dune: Part Two'

When making “Dune,” Villeneuve knew he needed a second film to adapt Herbert’s novel. While promoting the sci-fi epic, Villeneuve admitted that “Dune: Part Two” would be a better film than “Part One.” Villeneuve’s comments were genuine and not just a promotional tactic to draw anticipation for the sequel. 

We should have known to trust Villeneuve because his analysis was spot-on. “Dune: Part Two” is the superior film in nearly every way. In the sequel, Paul (Chalamet) is with Chani (Zendaya) and the Fremens in the desert as the war against House Harkonnen intensifies. With more epic battle sequences, a sinister and psychopathic villain (played by Austin Butler), and a memorable sandworm ride, “Dune: Part Two” is already cited as the director’s masterpiece. 

"Dune: Part Two" is playing in theaters

2. 'Arrival'

Villeneuve explored time, grief, and humanity through the lens of an alien movie in “Arrival.” Aliens have landed on Earth, with 12 spacecraft hovering over various locations. What do the extraterrestrials want? That’s the job of Louise Banks (Amy Adams), the linguistics professor hired to investigate the ship over Montana. With the help of physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), Louise attempts to establish communication with the aliens. 

Louise has a breakthrough when two creatures respond with circular symbols. Louise needs time to decipher the code, but it may be too late as other nations are on the brink of starting a war for humanity. Backed by a sensational performance from Adams and a stunning ending, “Arrival” is a gripping examination of the human condition and one of the crowning achievements of Villeneuve’s career.

Watch on Paramount Plus

1. 'Sicario'

To call “Sicario” intense would be an understatement. From the explosive opening sequence, “Sicaro” never lets the audience come up for air. FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) is recruited by CIA Officer Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) to join a special Joint Task Force in the war on drugs. Macer joins a team that features Graver’s right-hand man, the enigmatic assassin Alejandro Gillick (Benicio del Toro). Their mission is to seize a top Mexican cartel lieutenant, which will hopefully lead them to apprehend the organization’s leader. 

The three leads are sensational, especially del Toro, whose dark portrayal of a vengeful killer is spellbinding. Villeneuve has never been better as an action director, with the border scene becoming one of the defying action sequences of the 2010s. As soon as the credits roll, exhale and catch your breath.

Watch on Prime Video

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Dan Girolamo

Dan is a talented content creator who specializes in pop culture, entertainment, and sports. His entertainment interviews have been featured on Digital Trends, where he has spoken with various actors and entertainers, including Brendan Fraser, Alison Brie, and James Cameron. Additionally, Dan is a sportswriter with The Sports Daily, breaking down the top news in the NFL and NBA while providing picks and predictions for each league. Other bylines include ComingSoon.net, Unafraid Show, Fansided, and WatchMojo. When he’s not working, Dan enjoys rooting for his favorite New York sports teams and watching the latest movie from Christopher Nolan or Martin Scorsese.