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Best Robert Altman Movies, Ranked

Robert Altman was one of the most legendary directors in Hollywood history. He had an unmistakable film style. He came before Martin Scorsese and Brian De Palma and was already making waves in the film industry before they started their careers. Altman was considered a new take on filmmaking at the time. Altman’s signature storytelling was the cast of an ensemble, using overlapping dialogue to create films deeply imbued with a sense of realism.

Born in Kansas City, Missouri, Altman was a director, screenwriter, and producer. He entered the New Hollywood era at professional age, which was per Studio Binder, was a sort of cultural movement in cinema in the 1960s and 1970s, prompted by new academic forays and led by film students seeking to “challenge the stagnant status quo” of Hollywood’s Studio System. Throughout his career, Altman earned five Best Director Oscar nominations, confirming his status as one of the most prolific directors in film history. These are his best movies, ranked.

Related: Every Best Director Oscar Winner of the ’90s, Ranked


7 Gosford Park

Gosford Park was released in 2001 and was a huge success among audiences and critics. Julian Fellowes would win an Oscar for his participation in the film, but unfortunately Altman would miss another Oscar opportunity for his own directing. Set in the 1930s, the film is a murder mystery with a multi-directional plot. The film is quintessentially Altman-style, with seductive bustle, penetrating humor and complex sound design, all together making for a breathtaking feature. The ensemble cast is excellent, consisting of: Maggie Smith, Helen Mirren, Michael Gambon, Kristin Scott-Thomas and Clive Owen. It is well worth a look and shows Altman’s talent at its best.

6 California Split

California Split was another success of the 1970s for Altman. Released in 1974, the film is a comedy about two gamblers who hunt for luck to find success. The film stands out because the plot is extremely difficult to define and at times feels confusing. While California Split Today perhaps a bit dated, with scenes that do not fit into the modern perspective, it is an important film in the history of cinema.

5 secret honor

secret honor was released in 1984 and stars Philip Baker Hall as Richard Nixon, who is frustrated and alone after his resignation as President of the United States. He begins to write down his thoughts about his time as president and the events that led to his current situation. The script assumes that the public already knows a lot about Watergate and the wars Nixon became embroiled in with the media during his tenure. The film, therefore, does not want to be a source of education and teaching audiences about the events that led to Nixon’s downfall, but rather as a sort of historical artifact operating from within, illustrating how characters in the story felt about the historical events. secret honor is character-focused as we watch Nixon wander through a new world unfamiliar to him, making it one of the more unique films about American presidents.

4 popeye

popeye was released in 1980 and is one of the few comic book movies that stays completely true to its original source. The film is set in the small town of Sweethaven, and Robin Williams plays the well-known sailor, with Shelley Duvall as Olive Oyl. popeye is visually upbeat and different from the typical Altman film, which stands the test of time when viewed today.

Related: Every Best Director Oscar Winner of the 2010s Ranked

3 3 women

1977 saw the release of 3 women, a complex film that stands the test of time as one of the most important in Altman’s filmography. The first half is a comedy about mismatched roommates, played by Shelley Duvall and Sissy Spacek. This part of the film feels light in nature and this makes the rest of the film all the more unexpected. 3 women quickly erupts into a daring story where the characters’ reality is shattered and they are tasked with holding themselves together. It is a totally unique film whose influence can be felt in later films directed by David Lyncho

2 McCabe & Mrs Miller

1971 saw the release of McCabe & Mrs Miller, a really important film that will have a big influence on future filmmakers. The film is a romantic anti-western that follows Warren Beatty, who builds a brothel in a mining town that does not sit well with its inhabitants. Julie Christie plays the madam of the brothel and they both have excellent chemistry. The film is visually stunning and there has been nothing quite like it since.

1 Nashville

Nashville is a truly iconic film and deserves its place at the top of this list. Released in 1975, the film was a statement film about Bicentennial-era America. It featured the screenwriting talents of Joan Tewkesbury, who spread across a dozen characters and became a commentary on celebrity worship and an evolving America. The film was not initially intended to be such a commentary film and is an example of an accidental classic. It has stood the test of time and influenced countless movies that have come after it.


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