Kathryn Bigelow movies, ranked | EW.com – Entertainment Weekly News

Oscar winner Kathryn Bigelow is one of the most celebrated and influential directors in recent years, with her newer works like The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty making splashes both critically and financially. Since her early career in short films, Bigelow has created a filmography that spans genres and themes including gritty action films, neo-Western horror, and sci-fi thrillers, Bigelow made her mark by taking risks, documenting the provocative display of violence and its effect on a wide cast of characters. Her unique talents and vision have earned her awards and box office success in the 21st century with films that displayed her unique camera style, placing viewers at the heart of the action and violence, and allowing us to reckon with the realism in her movies. 
Her frequent collaborators to make films like these include writers Eric Red and Mark Boal as well as her former spouse, James Cameron. However, no matter the team behind the camera and the incredible actors she has worked with over the years, Bigelow has continuously proven herself as a foremost filmmaker in Hollywood. Bigelow has won two Oscars (and became the first woman to win Best Director), an Emmy, BAFTAs, and much more for her incredible directing, producing, and writing. From Near Dark and Blue Steel to Zero Dark Thirty and Detroit, read on to check out EW's ranking of Kathryn Bigelow's feature films.
Based on the novel by Anita Shreve, The Weight of Water is a mystery tale centering on a newspaper reporter investigating a 1873 homicide who then finds her own life mirroring the century-old case. Elizabeth Hurley, Sean Penn, Catherine McCormack, and Sarah Polley lend their talents to this thriller that never found its footing amongst audiences and critics alike. 
Interweaving between the historical past and the tense present, the film, as EW’s critic pointed out, “maneuvers skillfully through the plot’s hot brine” but is ultimately bogged down trying to connect emotionally and thematically between the past and the present. Bigelow’s direction, while taut and inspired, can’t save the story from its muddled presentation. Still, the director is able to lend dimensionality to her characters, providing an expert gaze at the dangers of repression and modernity. 
If you liked The Weight of Water, you might also enjoy: Insomnia (2002)
Bigelow and Monty Montgomery co-wrote and directed The Loveless, a drama about a biker gang in a small southern town. The film features a wonderful turn from a talented new actor, Willem Dafoe. Having only featured in an uncredited role in Heaven’s Gate up to that point, Dafoe shines as Vance, a greaser who finds trouble when getting involved with a local teenager and her abusive father.
While it’s not the most memorable work of Bigelow’s, or even Dafoe’s, careers, the film is a nostalgic homage to biker gangs and the 1950s through a carefully crafted time and place. 
If you liked The Loveless, you might also enjoy: The Wild One (1953)
Jamie Lee Curtis is a rookie cop determined to catch the psychopathic killer who is obsessed with her in Bigelow’s audacious ’90s thriller. Even though audiences didn’t turn up in droves to theaters, the film shines in Bigelow’s intriguing direction, an early depiction of her stylish flourish painting characters and violence through the seductive power of each. 
Curtis has enough to work with to command the screen, leaning into her incredible filmography of fending off deranged killers, much like she did in John Carpenter’s Halloween. What makes the film stand out is its depiction of human emotions, the hook being what EW’s Owen Gleiberman called “… the heroine’s display of human vulnerability in the face of danger.” Even though it hasn’t transcended time as a memorable cop flick, Blue Steel is still a strong drama that showed how assured of a filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow is.
If you liked Blue Steel, you might also enjoy: To Live and Die in L.A. (1985)
Based on a true story, K-19: The Widowmaker is a historical thriller about a Russian nuclear submarine that malfunctions on its maiden voyage, forcing the crew to do everything they can to survive. Harrison Ford stars as Capt. Alexei Vostrikov, the commanding officer with a vaguely Russian accent that leads the crew in the attempt to prevent catastrophe. 
Along with Liam Neeson, Ford does his best to shine in a film that was another box office bomb for Bigelow amidst mixed reviews, causing one of the most expensive independent productions to garner huge losses. Despite its tepid performance at the theaters, however, K-19 is still a tense action film that keeps viewers on the edge of their seats as if we are cramped on the submarine waiting for a breath of fresh air, similar in vein to films like The Hunt for Red October and Das Boot.
If you liked K-19: The Widowmaker, you might also enjoy: Greyhound (2020)
It’s a tough task to dramatize and depict periods of civil unrest without glamorizing the pain at the heart of these chapters of American history, but Kathryn Bigelow handles Detroit with compassion for the lives lost and altered in what EW’s Leah Greenblatt called an “American horror story.” The film is set in 1967 during the Detroit riots, focusing on a group of police officers who respond to a noise complaint with murder/retribution instead of justice. Choosing to depict the action of civil unrest in a singular location is a masterful stroke of storytelling, taking the movie from the shadows of obscurity in time to heightened specificity that lets the emotions remain with viewers. 
Deploying her use of “documentary style” shots and lighting, Bigelow is able to give her actors the space to live and breathe in a time that reflects the current climate of America so well that the film might as well take place in any era and location. Detroit is a moving, hard-to-watch drama that is a great example of the directorial power of Bigelow featuring a stellar ensemble cast including John Boyega, Anthony Mackie, Algee Smith, Jason Mitchell, Jacob Latimore, Tyler James Williams, Will Poulter, Jack Reynor, and John Krasinski.
If you liked Detroit, you might also enjoy: Fruitvale Station (2013)
Ralph Fiennes, Angela Bassett, and Juliette Lewis star in Strange Days, an underrated, action-packed cyberpunk thriller about a cop-turned-street hustler (Fiennes) unearthing a dark conspiracy a few years in the future.
While it wasn’t a box office hit at the time, the film has since gained the critical reception and fan attention it rightfully deserves. Employing unique film techniques that ground the audience directly in the action that befits the film-noir and sci-fi genre, Bigelow’s direction is on full display, weaving complex themes and characters into a very smart, well-conceived, and utterly deep depiction of L.A. on the edge of violence. Strange Days is a movie that deserves more eyes, a prescient exploration of virtual reality and the societal issues that plague us to this day.
If you liked Strange Days, you might also enjoy: Deja Vu (2006)
Off the success of her Best Picture-winning war drama The Hurt Locker, Kathryn Bigelow stayed in the realm of U.S. foreign politics for the ambitious story of the decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden, led by the tenacious, fictionalized CIA intelligence officer, Maya Harris, played by Jessica Chastain. While Chastain’s portrayal of Maya, the determined, in-danger CIA analyst who works hard to uncover the location of the leader of Al Qaeda is nothing short of extraordinary, the work behind the camera to condense a decade of American intelligence and history into a tightly woven, intense political drama from Bigelow and writer Mark Boal is an achievement of the highest level.
In Zero Dark Thirty, carefully crafted scenes and character work culminate in the tense Seal Team 6 operation under the cover of darkness, serving as an excellent foray into a controversial and highly secretive period of American history. Bigelow’s direction is at her fullest strength, as EW’s Owen Gleiberman noted that she commands scenes “with such visually supple real-time suspense that she just about controls your heartbeat.”
From start to finish, the movie pulls no punches depicting the war crimes and danger at stake, whether it’s the grueling scenes of Maya watching her operatives torture prisoners or esaping a bomb going off in a restaurant on foreign soil. Co-starring Joel Edgerton, Chris Pratt, Jeremy Strong, Mark Strong, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, and Jennifer Ehle, Zero Dark Thirty is another shining example of Kathryn Bigelow’s style and the wonderful looks into history that she is so elegantly attuned to.
If you liked Zero Dark Thirty, you might also enjoy: Sicario (2015)
In her first solo feature film, Bigelow crafts a mesmerizing neo-Western horror tale that has since become a beloved cult classic. In Near Dark, a young cowboy named Caleb (Adrian Pasdar) meets a woman named Mae (Jenny Wright) at a bar, and as the two develop instant attraction, she turns out to be a vampire who ends up biting him during their encounter. Caleb quickly develops a thirst for blood and, driven by love, leaves his dad and sister and ends up joining Mae and her group of nomadic vampires led by Jesse (Lance Henriksen) and the vicious Severan (Bill Paxton). 
At a time when bloodsucker films were on the rise, Near Dark was able to skirt expectations and combine elements of horror and Westerns in a fun, exciting film that is propelled by a hypnotic score by Tangerine Dream and a solid ensemble cast. Bigelow’s solo directorial debut is outrageous and emotional, providing a sometimes gruesome and consistently moody experience that has earned its status as “one of the sharpest, pulpiest bloodsucking flicks most people have never seen.” 
If you liked Near Dark, you might also enjoy: The Lost Boys (1987)
A cult classic that spawned a too-soon, unnecessary remake in 2015, the original Point Break is an action-packed thriller that soars as high as the tides within it. Keanu Reeves stars as undercover FBI agent Johnny Utah, who is tasked with identifying a group of bank-robbing surfers, but soon gets in too deep with the group and its leader Bodhi (Patrick Swayze). 
It’s an adrenaline-filled ride that Bigelow handles with grace, devoting the time to action set pieces and character development, leaning into the psychology of the characters, an important departure from action for the sake of action. The movie has lived on in pop culture references in films like Hot Fuzz and The Avengers. With career-best turns from Swayze and Reeves, Point Break will be remembered as one of the most memorable films of Bigelow’s career.
If you liked Point Break, you might also enjoy: Face/Off (1997)
Perhaps Kathryn Bigelow’s crowning achievement is the film that earned her the Academy Award for Best Director, and earned her the distinction of being the first woman to do so. The Hurt Locker is an incredibly deft and well-directed modern war picture that puts viewers right into the heart of the action. The film follows Staff Sergeant William James (Jeremy Renner) who continuously butts heads with his bomb squad (Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty) due to his cavalier style of handling work. Each scene is wonderfully paced and expertly written, a technical marvel that breathes life into a story about the drug of war and violence.
As EW’s Lisa Schwarzbaum wrote, “… what makes the film so essential is its pinpoint accuracy in mapping the disorienting roads a man can walk down when his job keeps him so close to death.” The Hurt Locker has become recognized for its unique camera work, shaking along as we’re thrown into the minds of these soldiers through two hours of a painstakingly directed picture that remains one of the greatest modern war movies of our time. It marks the culmination of Bigelow’s career, a modern action picture packed with poignant themes and the gritty, realistic depiction of war in the 21st century.
If you liked The Hurt Locker, you might also enjoy: Jarhead (2005)
Related content:


Leave a Comment