All Paul Thomas Anderson Films Ranked From Worst to Best

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The Films of Paul Thomas Anderson


Paul Thomas Anderson, the acclaimed director, has just released his ninth film, Licorice Pizza. Anderson has been captivating audiences since his debut in 1996 with Hard Eight, followed by the explosive Boogie Nights. His latest film has garnered widespread acclaim, and to celebrate its release, we have ranked all of Anderson’s films from worst to best. Although it may seem odd to label any of his films as “worst,” this ranking showcases the incredible talent and genius that Anderson brings to the cinematic world.

9. Hard Eight (1996)

Hard Eight is a remarkable indie darling and an astonishing debut film from Anderson. It explores themes of trust, addiction, love, coming of age, and consequences. The character study in this film is truly astounding, and it is hard to believe that this is Anderson’s first feature. Phillip Baker Hall shines in his leading role as a veteran gambler with a heart of gold. The film’s captivating story and brilliant performances make it a must-watch.

8. Inherent Vice (2014)

Inherent Vice, based on Thomas Pynchon’s novel, is a mesmerizing and hazy private detective romp set in SoCal. Joaquin Phoenix delivers a stellar performance as the bumbling detective, stumbling through a mystery that becomes more convoluted with each puff of marijuana. The film’s oddball characters, including Martin Short’s coke-crazed dentist, add to its unique charm. Although the plot may seem perplexing, it is best enjoyed with a grain of salt and a margarita in hand.

7. The Master (2012)

The Master delves into the complexities of power, sex, and masculinity. Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, and the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman deliver powerhouse performances that captivate viewers. Anderson’s cinematography is mind-numbingly wicked, creating a visually stunning experience. The film offers a searing and thought-provoking commentary on cults and religions, with Scientology serving as an inspiration. Anderson handles the subject matter with finesse, leaving a lasting impact on audiences.

6. Boogie Nights (1997)

Boogie Nights catapulted Anderson to Hollywood stardom and established him as a bonafide filmmaker. Set in the world of the adult film industry, the film explores themes of fame, stardom, and power. Mark Wahlberg’s portrayal of Dirk Diggler, a young talent with a promising future, is exceptional. The star-studded cast adds depth to the story, and the film’s success paved the way for Anderson’s subsequent masterpieces.

5. Licorice Pizza (2021)

Licorice Pizza marks Anderson’s return to ensemble storytelling. Set in the 1970s, it tells the coming-of-age story of a cheeky entrepreneur child actor and his relationship with an older woman. The film features outstanding performances from Cooper Hoffman and Alana Haim, who make their impressive debuts. With its stellar supporting cast and an impeccable soundtrack, Licorice Pizza is a hidden gem that will stand the test of time.

4. Punch-Drunk Love (2002)

Punch-Drunk Love is a whimsical tale of an everyman superhero, portrayed by Adam Sandler, still trying to find his place in the world. Anderson’s distinctive style is evident in the film’s dreamlike atmosphere and vibrant visuals. The unconventional love story explores themes of depression, anxiety, and overwhelming love. With its energetic camerawork and Sandler’s standout performance, Punch-Drunk Love is a unique and heartwarming experience.

3. There Will Be Blood (2007)

There Will Be Blood showcases the remarkable collaboration between Anderson and Daniel Day-Lewis. The film is a scathing critique of capitalism, yet it masterfully lures viewers into rooting for its protagonist. Day-Lewis delivers an unforgettable performance as Daniel Plainview, a relentless oilman. Anderson’s direction, coupled with the film’s stunning cinematography, creates an epic and thought-provoking experience. There Will Be Blood stands as one of the greatest American films of the 21st century.

2. Phantom Thread (2017)

Phantom Thread marks the reunion of Anderson and Day-Lewis, resulting in a true masterpiece. Set in postwar London, the film revolves around a renowned dressmaker’s complex relationship with a young muse. The performances, cinematography, score, and costumes are all exemplary, creating a visually stunning and emotionally intense experience. Lesley Manville’s portrayal of the dressmaker’s sister adds another layer of brilliance to the story. Phantom Thread is an artistic triumph that solidifies Anderson’s status as a cinematic genius.

1. Magnolia (1999)

Magnolia is Anderson’s magnum opus, a sprawling ensemble black dramedy that challenges viewers to reflect on their lives and the interconnectedness of humanity. The film masterfully weaves together various narratives across a single day, exploring themes of forgiveness, happiness, misery, fate, and redemption. With its stellar cast including Tom Cruise, the film pushes the boundaries of storytelling and forces audiences to contemplate their own existence. Magnolia’s thought-provoking nature and unassuming brilliance make it Anderson’s greatest achievement.


Paul Thomas Anderson has consistently delivered exceptional films throughout his career, pushing the boundaries of storytelling and captivating audiences with his unique style. Each of his works, from the mesmerizing Magnolia to the recent Licorice Pizza, showcases Anderson’s unparalleled talent. His films offer profound insights into the human condition and leave a lasting impact on viewers. Anderson’s ability to create thought-provoking narratives and draw remarkable performances from his cast solidifies his status as one of the greatest directors of our time.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Which Paul Thomas Anderson film should I start with?

If you are new to Anderson’s work, a great starting point would be Boogie Nights. This film showcases his distinct storytelling style and features an impressive ensemble cast.

2. What makes Paul Thomas Anderson’s films unique?

Anderson’s films are known for their intricate storytelling, compelling characters, and visually stunning cinematography. He delves into complex themes and challenges conventional narrative structures, creating a cinematic experience that is both thought-provoking and emotionally resonant.

3. Are all of Paul Thomas Anderson’s films interconnected?

While Anderson’s films share thematic elements and recurring motifs, they are not directly connected in terms of narrative. Each film stands on its own but bears the distinctive mark of Anderson’s directorial vision.

4. Which Paul Thomas Anderson film has received the most critical acclaim?

There Will Be Blood is widely regarded as Anderson’s most critically acclaimed film. It received numerous accolades and earned Daniel Day-Lewis an Academy Award for Best Actor.

5. What can we expect from Paul Thomas Anderson’s future projects?

Anderson’s filmmaking career has been marked by a consistent pursuit of artistic excellence. His future projects are eagerly anticipated, and fans can expect him to continue pushing the boundaries of cinema with his unique and captivating storytelling approach.