Peter Jackson's Best Movies
In this week's Total Recall, we count down the best-reviewed work of the Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug director.
It took a few decades to get there, but once J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings books finally, officially made their way to theaters, they did it in a big way -- and they did it the right way, courtesy of Peter Jackson's sure-handed direction (and a $93 million budget), not to mention a pitch-perfect cast that included Elijah Wood (as the pure-hearted hobbit Frodo), Sean Astin (as his stalwart friend Samwise), and Ian McKellen (as the mighty wizard Gandalf), united in their quest to save Middle-earth from the malignant advances of the dark lord Sauron. Full of eye-popping special effects (including those used to bring to life the warped Gollum, played by Andy Serkis) and bolstered by a screenplay that did justice to its hefty source material, it was an unqualified smash -- both with audiences and with critics like the San Francisco Chronicle's Mick LaSalle, who observed, "Watching it, one can't help but get the impression that everyone involved was steeped in Tolkien's work, loved the book, treasured it and took care not to break a cherished thing in it."
Jackson's impressively violent early work might have made him a natural fit for a movie about the grisly true-life tale of two teenage girls (played by Melanie Lynskey and Kate Winslet) whose obsessive relationship leads to a shocking act of bruality -- but few of his fans could have been prepared for Heavenly Creatures, an absorbing, assured film that blended elements of drama, science fiction, and romance while drawing beautifully compelling performances from its leads. Ultimately nominated for a Best Original Screenplay Oscar at the Academy Awards, Creatures vaulted Jackson and his partner Fran Walsh to international acclaim, jump-started Winslet's film career, and wowed critics like David Rooney of Variety, who wrote that it "Combines original vision, a drop-dead command of the medium and a successful marriage between a dazzling, kinetic techno-show and a complex, credible portrait of the out-of-control relationship between the crime's two schoolgirl perpetrators."
After all that buildup, the final installment of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy had a lot of epic expectations to live up to -- and by most accounts, 2003's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King met or exceeded them, delivering the franchise's passionate fanbase a suitably sweeping conclusion to the saga that many of them had loved since long before Jackson ever stepped behind a camera. Clearly, given all the anticipation that later greeted The Hobbit, Jackson was the right person to adapt the beloved books that served as his movies' source material; as Bill Muller put it for the Arizona Republic, "Not only has Jackson boldly and faithfully brought J.R.R. Tolkien's world to life, he's created the most epic and sweeping fantasy adventure of all time."
He set a high bar for himself with the first Lord of the Rings movie, The Fellowship of the Ring -- and then Jackson surpassed it with the second installment, 2002's The Two Towers, which took a plotline that largely amounted to a lot of walking and turned it into a legitimate three-hour epic, complete with elves, dwarves, hobbits, amazing large-scale battles, and sentient, ambulatory trees. A two-time Academy Award winner (and Best Picture nominee), The Two Towers racked up nearly a billion dollars worldwide during its theatrical run, and prompted suitably hefty praise from critics like Salon's Charles Taylor, who opined, "Yes, there are some 'middle-chapter' problems, but Peter Jackson's Tolkien adaptation hasn't lost its devastating humanity, its heart-stopping cinematography or its epic sweep."
From Preston Tucker to Joe Meek and beyond, we love biopics about overlooked, overshadowed, and/or forgotten pioneers -- so when Peter Jackson premiered Forgotten Silver, an alleged documentary about the unjustly forgotten New Zealand filmmaker Colin McKenzie, its claims that McKenzie was responsible for the first talkie and color film proved irresistible to many viewers. Only one problem: None of it was true, and Jackson -- who co-wrote and co-directed with his friend Costa Botes -- was actually perpetrating a skillful fraud, right down to the interview segments with Miramax's Harvey Weinstein and film critic Leonard Maltin. Some were understandably annoyed when the truth came out, but that didn't prevent critics from bestowing universal praise; as Wade Major wrote for Boxoffice Magazine, "Forgotten Silver succeeds best because it was birthed by the filmmakers' own innate love for the art and history of movie making, a joy that bleeds through in every frame of the film."
In case you were wondering, here are Jackson's top 10 movies according RT users' scores:
1. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring -- 95%
2. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers -- 95%
3. Dead Alive -- 87%
4. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King -- 86%
5. Heavenly Creatures -- 84%
6. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey -- 83%
7. Forgotten Silver -- 82%
8. Bad Taste -- 76%
9. Meet the Feebles -- 73%
10. The Frighteners -- 72%
Finally, here's a (slightly NSFW) compedium of Peter Jackson cameos: