The world of cinema has lost one of its most audacious and innovative voices. William Friedkin, the Oscar-winning director behind iconic films such as “The French Connection” and “The Exorcist,” passed away at the age of 87.
Known for his exceptional visual eye, willingness to take risks, and a unique ability to elevate genre subjects into high art, Friedkin’s death marks the end of an era. He died of heart failure and pneumonia at his home in Bel Air, leaving behind a legacy that will continue to inspire filmmakers for generations to come.
Friedkin’s work was marked by a haunted and haunting quality, conveying a preternatural sense of fear and paranoia.
He was part of a brilliant generation of filmmakers who challenged the studio system, making movies that were provocative, individualistic, and antiauthoritarian. His willingness to tilt at the establishment set him apart, and his influence can be felt in the works of many contemporary directors.
In this article, we will explore and rank the five best William Friedkin movies, reflecting on the impact and artistry of a director who never played by the rules and whose visceral works have left an indelible mark on the film industry.
5. “Killer Joe” (2011)
A dark comedy and psychological thriller, “Killer Joe” marked a comeback for Friedkin. Starring Matthew McConaughey as a cop who moonlights as a contract killer, the film’s dark themes and twisted plot showcase Friedkin’s ability to dabble in various genres.
The unforgettable scenes and collaboration with playwright Tracy Letts make it a standout in Friedkin’s later career.
4. “Sorcerer” (1977)
Initially criticized as a poor remake of “The Wages Of Fear,” “Sorcerer” has been reevaluated as a classic.
The thrilling tale of four outcasts transporting unstable dynamite showcases Friedkin’s ability to create intense and gripping narratives.
The suspense sequences, Roy Scheider’s performance, and Tangerine Dream’s electronic score add to the film’s unique texture.
3. “To Live and Die In LA” (1985)
A classic crime thriller that reflects its ’80s-era DNA, “To Live and Die in L.A.” is gritty and exciting.
William Petersen’s portrayal of Richard Chance is filled with swagger, and the film’s third act takes a surprising twist.
Full of fast-paced action and psychological depth, this film is considered Friedkin at his best.
2. “The French Connection” (1971)
Friedkin’s breakthrough film, “The French Connection,” is a stunning, compelling neo-noir action film that continues to wow audiences.
Inspired by Howard Hawks’ challenge to create a chase scene better than anyone else, the film’s documentary-style realism and Gene Hackman’s portrayal of Popeye Doyle stand out for its complexity.
Its success at the Academy Awards cemented Friedkin’s reputation as a master of his craft.
1. “The Exorcist” (1973)
A stone-cold horror classic, “The Exorcist” tapped into primal fears and brought realism to the horror genre.
Widely considered the best horror film of all time, it remains a masterpiece that continues to terrify audiences.
Friedkin’s methods on set and the original version’s impact contribute to the film’s lasting legacy.
William Friedkin’s legacy as a legendary director is cemented through his diverse and influential body of work. From the iconic horror of “The Exorcist” to the thrilling action of “The French Connection,” Friedkin’s films have left an indelible mark on cinema.
His versatility, mastery of tension building, and willingness to explore complex and often controversial themes resonate with audiences.
Whether it’s the dark comedy of “Killer Joe” or the groundbreaking portrayal in “The French Connection,” Friedkin’s films reflect a director whose influence on movie-making as an art form will be remembered for generations to come.
His passing is a profound loss to the world of cinema, but his works will continue to inspire filmmakers and audiences alike.