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.

Peter Jackson

No surprises here, folks -- other movies are coming out this week, but it's really all about The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug, and when it came time to figure out who would be the focus of our list, there was only one choice. Yes, we're talking about Peter Jackson, the director whose latest venture to Middle-earth is one of 2013's most eagerly awaited sequels -- and whose filmography is about so, so much more than hobbits and orcs. From gory comedies to vulgar puppets and beyond, Jackson has displayed one of the most artfully wandering spirits in Hollywood over the course of his career, and it's high time we took a look at the critical highlights. Get ready for Total Recall!


64%

10. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Just when he thought he was out, they pulled him back in. Jackson wasn't supposed to direct The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey -- originally, he only signed on to produce a two-part series of Hobbit movies, with Guillermo del Toro attached to direct. But after two years of slogging away on a first installment that seemed like it might never get off the ground thanks to money woes at MGM, del Toro departed, leaving Jackson to take the reins. And while Unexpected Journey failed to live up to its own hype in some ways -- critics seemed a lot more sensitive to this chapter's inflated running time, and some scribes were displeased with Jackson's decision to film at 48 frames per second -- that didn't stop it from grossing over a billion dollars worldwide, or from reaping positive reviews from the likes of the Newark Star-Ledger's Stephen Whitty, who wrote approvingly, "The Hobbit becomes what it was originally meant to be -- not a cut-from-the-same-cloth prequel, but its own, individual thing."

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68%

9. Bad Taste

Human fast food might be some of the grossest sustenance on Earth, but Peter Jackson's Bad Taste dares to imagine something even more disgusting -- alien fast food, derived from the human carcasses of unwilling victims. (Brings new meaning to "pink slime," doesn't it?) Gleefully embracing the promise of its title, Taste shows a side of Jackson that might surprise filmgoers only familiar with his work on the Lord of the Rings movies, but it's actually of a piece with his eclectic artistic journey -- and one that resonated with Dan Fienberg of Zap2It, who later lamented, "I miss Peter Jackson in his ultra low-budget horror mode. He always looked like he was having fun."


70%

8. Meet the Feebles

Having explored the darker side of extraterrestrial life with Bad Taste, Jackson decided to warp another object of childhood fascination -- puppets -- for his follow-up, 1989's Meet the Feebles. Dark and vulgar, Feebles was marketed with the tagline "From the creators of Bad Taste comes a film with no taste at all" -- and as far as a sizable number of critics were concerned, it lived down to its proudly lowbrow advance billing (Janet Maslin of the New York Times predicted that it was "Destined to stand as an unfortunate footnote to Mr. Jackson's career"). But for others, the ribald, felt-covered adventures of characters like Bletch the Walrus, Sid the Elephant, and Heidi the Hippo were undeniably entertaining; as Luke Y. Thompson admitted for the New Times, "Homicidal puppets with VD just get me every time."

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84%

7. King Kong

Remaking King Kong had been tried before -- and with less-than-stellar results -- in 1976, when producer Dino De Laurentiis dragooned an all-star cast into a misguided attempt at updating the classic original. But Dino didn't have Peter Jackson behind the camera, and that (along with nearly 30 years of advances in special effects technology) made all the difference for 2005's King Kong, which matched an awesome-looking Kong against a well-chosen cast that included Adrien Brody, Jack Black, and Naomi Watts as the simian-bewitching Ann Darrow. Even with a running time that clocked in over three hours, Jackson's Kong was king of the box office, drumming up more than $218 million in global receipts -- and impressing critics like Tom Long of the Detroit News, who enthused, "Monstrous. Monumental. Magnificent. Use any term you want, there's no denying the power, genius and spectacle of King Kong, which is certainly the biggest movie of the year and possibly the biggest movie ever made."

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86%

6. Dead Alive

Boasting one of the most memorably disturbing posters of the 1990s -- as well as a storyline ripe with the sort of disgusting possibilities Jackson embraced so whole-heartedly early in his career -- 1992's Dead Alive tells the delightfully gonzo tale of a lovestruck teen (Timothy Balme) whose budding romance with his lady love (Diana Penalver) hits a snag due to the fact that his mother (Elizabeth Moody) has been turned into a flesh-eating zombie by a bite from a Sumatran rat monkey on exhibit at the local zoo. It gets enthusiastically foul from there -- including the climactic appearance of a strategically wielded lawnmower -- but as far as most critics were concerned, the gore was all in exceedingly good fun; as Rob Humanick put it for Projection Booth, "Rarely has the urge to expectorate one's lunch been a feeling so sublime."

Comments

Market Man

Eric Shankle

Dead Alive is a damn good zombie flick. Didn't like Heavenly Creatures. Of course I love The Lord of the Rings, in my opinion it's the greatest trilogy of all time and some of the best films ever made.

Dec 12 - 04:48 PM

Will Lasley

Will Lasley

Agree with pretty much every word of that.

Dec 16 - 08:22 PM

Gerald Tofusandwich

Gerald Tofusandwich

Heavenly Creatures is far and away the best thing Jackson has ever done.

Dec 23 - 09:32 PM

Roman Zolanski

Gaylord Focker

Heavenly Creatures is by far and away, indubitably, without a shadow of Mordor, easily the best thing he's done. Well said Gerald! Jackson's fall from grace, from the sublime masterpiece that is Heavenly Creatures, to the "Feeble" work of Lovely Bones, King Kong, and the lowest, most contemptible ebb, Unexpected Journey - in fact the entire Hobbit trilogy is among the most worthless Hollywood projects of all time - is surely one of the cinema's worst, most astonishing and calamitous cases of artist regression (with the possible exception of Orson Welles signing off with the voice of Optimus Prime. But at least that had a humble, campy charm). Whether his success went to his head, whether he just got lazy, or greedy or whether his earlier masterpieces were just flukes - I cannot think of another film maker who has gone so dramatically from the sublime to the ridiculous toxic garbage as Mr. Jackson.

Dec 11 - 06:09 PM

Market Man

Eric Shankle

I'd say that Fellowship of the Ring is his best work but I do agree that post-LOTR he has been rather weak. King Kong was alright, didn't see The Lovely Bones, and The Hobbit: AUJ was a huge disappointment. PJ seems to care more about visuals now instead of emotional depth and proper narrative flow. LOTR had a lot of visuals as well but it wasn't used in such excess as we see in AUJ (and apparently it's bad in the sequel as well, many video game comparisons). It's funny that FOTR, made over 10 years ago, has scenes such as Moria and Amon Hen that trump anything in The Hobbit.

Dec 11 - 08:14 PM

Brad and Netflix

Bradly Martin

Orson Wells voiced Unicron, not Optimus Prime. Everything you else you wrote seems pretty spot on though.

Dec 20 - 12:58 AM

Charles Hopper

Charles Hopper

It amuses me how you overstate such a subjective opinion into something objective when it is clearly not meant to be that way. I enjoyed The Hobbit: AUJ and think it does justice to the source material and is a fine standalone movie. Does the pacing slog at times? Yes. Could there be more practical effects? Certainly. Should you let these things bother you? Not at all. I'd be nice if they were better, but I still enjoyed the package in its entirety. And The Desolation of Smaug should be an improvement. I'll wait and see, but I'm hopeful.

Dec 11 - 10:18 PM

Alessandro Moroni

Alessandro Moroni

AUJ completely lacks a narrative focus and is severely inflated by excerpts taken from LOTR trilogy those have nothing to deal with Tolkien's story. It's a much over-filmed "prequel to the prequel", and I'm afraid that despite the obvious improvment of DOS (for sure, couldn't be worse than AUJ) the whole Hobbit trilogy will be remembered as an inflated work not bringing major glory at all to the brilliant LOTR moviemaker.

Dec 12 - 12:16 AM

Charles Hopper

Charles Hopper

I'm sick of people comparing things they don't like in movies in video games. It's rather unprofessional. While I did see one spot where the visuals seemed sub-par (By movie standards. Not comparing to video games.), and there might be more, I've still heard positive things about the visual and practical effects and how better they are than in An Unexpected Journey. As the second and third movies release, we'll grow more attached to people like Bilbo, like in the book. Can't wait!

Dec 12 - 12:14 AM

Brad and Netflix

Bradly Martin

Oh Yeah, The Hobbit is suppose to be at Bilbo huh? Ha, doesn't really play at that way in the films. No no no we need to focus on Thorin Oakenshield and his right as King! What High Stakes! He either returns as King under the mountain?OR DOESN'T! Yes what high stakes in deed.

Dec 20 - 01:00 AM

Andrew Rossi

Andrew Rossi

how is return of the king rated so low by viewers? grant it 83% is not bad, but i kinda would like to hear how someone could not like those movies.

Dec 12 - 04:58 PM

Anthony DePierro

Anthony DePierro

Stupid, the audience is.

Dec 12 - 06:34 PM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

Stupid fffat audienceses'!!!

Dec 12 - 06:46 PM

Spirit Bear

Martin Tam

small attention span I bet

Dec 12 - 08:24 PM

Bertram Krogh

Bertram Krogh

Worse is that King Kong is nowhere to be found on the viewerâ??s list..

Dec 13 - 12:43 AM

Movie Fail

Soren Hough

I mean, I personally think The Two Towers is easily the best of the three films. I liked The Return of the King like I liked The Fellowship of the Ring, but The Two Towers is a step beyond... The tension-building toward the magnificent battle of Helm's Deep is unparalleled.

Dec 13 - 02:33 AM

King  S.

King Simba

The tension leading to Helm's Deep was incredible, but I slightly preffered the buildup to the Battle of Minas Tirith in Return of the King. For two hours I was on the edge of my seat waiting and almost dreading for the battle to start.

Dec 13 - 03:52 AM

Dave J

Dave J

All I can say is about that is that the theatrical version is not as good as the extended version soley because viewers wanted to know what happened to Sauron for his whereabouts was absent in the short version!

Dec 13 - 12:12 PM

Morgan Hayes

Morgan Hayes

It's most likely because Return of the King has 33,000,000 votes, compared to Fellowship's 1.2 million, so it's much harder to maintain such a high level of acclaim. Same goes for Jackson's King Kong at 32,000,000 votes, which is at a 53%.

Dec 14 - 01:25 AM

Jared Hansen

Jared Hansen

I like the series but ROTK is the weakest for me, because it becomes too overblown to take seriously and the script is pretty ragged around the edges. Some of the characters get butchered in the adaptation as well. That's not mentioning the obvious poor choices in editing - the infamous 30 minute ending being the worst offender.

Dec 28 - 10:56 PM

Brad and Netflix

Bradly Martin

I think it's because out of the 3 films it took the most liberties with the original story. I could elaborate if you'd like.

Dec 20 - 01:02 AM

Teddy K.

Ryan Gavetti

Bad Taste is an unbelievably fun movie to watch nowadays. You can certainly tell Jackson understands and excels in the medium of film even from his low-budget projects like Bad Taste. It's a ridiculous outing, but I'm still surprised by the superb technical command Jackson had here.

Dec 12 - 05:06 PM

Preston Orrick

Preston Orrick

The original cover has the alien giving the middle finger!

Dec 12 - 04:40 AM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

"Forgotten Silver" is hardly a movie at 53 minutes. It was a TV program that never had a theatrical run.

"Meet the Feebles" and "Dead Alive" remain Jackson's greatest accomplishments. I mean, other than that Ring thing.

Dec 12 - 05:20 PM

Willem DaPerson

Willem DaPerson

Yes, that whole Fantasy bother...

Dec 11 - 04:32 PM

Christopher Kulik

Christopher Kulik

I pretty much agree with this list, as I've seen all of Jackson's movies except for BAD TASTE and MEET THE FEEBLES...I know, I have catch-up to do. The first Jackson movie I saw was THE FRIGHTENERS, sadly the last starring role for Michael J. Fox (not counting his voice work of course). I loved its insane style so much: Jeffrey Combs as the FBI agent and his driver's seat tube was hilarious. This led me to BRAINDEAD (prefer its original title) which really got me interested in his work. Loved HEAVENLY CREATURES, and really loved KING KONG, still the finest remake of the past decade, I think. I own the LOTR extended editions, and I still have to go through them, which is why I'm actually passing on seeing THE HOBBIT in the theaters. (The only movie left this year that I MAY see in theaters is Katheryn Bigelow's ZERO DARK THIRTY.)

One more thing: for those who have seen THE FRIGHTENERS, didn't Peter Jackson have the most AWESOME director's cameo? Even Hitchcock would have loved it.

Dec 12 - 05:22 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

I prefer his "Braindead" cameo, as the embalmer.

Dec 12 - 05:48 PM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

Love R Lee Ermey being R Lee Ermey in it too.

Dec 12 - 06:48 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

And Chi McBride. Jake Busey's teeth always crack me up.

Dec 12 - 07:00 PM

infernaldude

Infernal Dude

I remember seeing The Frighteners in the theater with a group of friends. We had no idea what it was about and ended up loving it. Combs was awesome in it and Jake Busey was creepy as hell. Fun note: Its also a Robert Zemekis production!

Dec 12 - 09:45 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

I prefer his "Braindead" cameo, as the embalmer.

Dec 12 - 05:48 PM

Zane B

Chum Chum

His splatter films got me hard. Bad Taste, Braindead, Meet The Feebles, this guy is fucking nuts. He calmed down for the Rings trilogy

Dec 12 - 06:05 PM

Anthony DePierro

Anthony DePierro

I really have never understood the hate on "The Lovely Bones". I remember watching it and being joyfully entertained. I thought it was good.

Dec 12 - 06:33 PM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

Died the death of expectation.

Dec 12 - 06:48 PM

David Tanny

David Tanny

I like when Stanley Tucci falls off the cliff.

Dec 12 - 07:27 PM

Dave J

Dave J

The CGI death of the main antagonist just wasn't convincing!

Dec 13 - 12:09 PM

Hugo Emanuel Melo

Hugo Emanuel Melo

I read the book it's based on and it's so bad I skipped on the movie. If it's anything like the book it's really not my cup of tea, regardless of how much I love most of Jackson't works.

Dec 12 - 02:35 AM

Brad and Netflix

Bradly Martin

Kind of agree with what Hugo is saying. It's a hard book to like because of how Brutal the subject matter is. The Book is a heart punch, kick to the groin, and a salt tablet to the eyes. The film reeks of silly hallmark exposition and "violent" crimes that are anything but violent which is weird because it's not like Jackson to pull his punches on the violence. I'm told people who haven't read the book also hated the film though.

Dec 20 - 01:07 AM

Anthony DePierro

Anthony DePierro

Stupid, the audience is.

Dec 12 - 06:34 PM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

Stupid fffat audienceses'!!!

Dec 12 - 06:46 PM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

Stupid fffat audienceses'!!!

Dec 12 - 06:46 PM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

Love R Lee Ermey being R Lee Ermey in it too.

Dec 12 - 06:48 PM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

Died the death of expectation.

Dec 12 - 06:48 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

And Chi McBride. Jake Busey's teeth always crack me up.

Dec 12 - 07:00 PM

David Tanny

David Tanny

I like when Stanley Tucci falls off the cliff.

Dec 12 - 07:27 PM

David Tanny

David Tanny

The Lord of the Rings trilogy are classics, and King Kong is one of the best remakes ever. Apart from Lovely Bones, which wasn't on this list, I haven't seen any other of his movies. But I hear wonderful, wonderful things about Braindead(Dead Alive).

Dec 12 - 07:34 PM

markit8dude

Paul Bongiorno

Bad Taste is 9th.. WTF?

Whereas the ~10 hours of Jackson's movies showing dwarfs walking, i.e. the LOTR trilogy ranks better?

Blasphemy!

Dec 12 - 07:48 PM

Spirit Bear

Martin Tam

small attention span I bet

Dec 12 - 08:24 PM

infernaldude

Infernal Dude

I remember seeing The Frighteners in the theater with a group of friends. We had no idea what it was about and ended up loving it. Combs was awesome in it and Jake Busey was creepy as hell. Fun note: Its also a Robert Zemekis production!

Dec 12 - 09:45 PM

Justin Von Konsky

Justin Von Konsky

Shouldn't this say "Peter Jackson's only movies?" LOTR Forver!!!

Dec 12 - 11:01 PM

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