The filmmaking genius, known for Mulholland Drive, Blue Velvet, and Dune, turns 75 today.
Today, January 20, 2021, is David Lynch's 75th birthday.
The director, screenwriter, musician, and occasional actor has been dubbed one of the most important filmmakers of all time. With a heavy focus in surrealism, his work is instantly recognizable, with the word "Lynchian" having been coined to describe his imitators — or just anything that would otherwise fit in his twisted, fascinating creative universe.
5. The Elephant Man (1980)<img lazy-loadable="true" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTUwODA4Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY3NDA2MDcxM30.vgWmhBzSzSN_WeoONEkn200UhJbvvGwhmtG_XxaE830/img.jpg?width=980" id="83bfa" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="eaa76b1d7f8ec178054fb4a65d6ef00d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="The Elephant Man (1980)" data-width="1200" data-height="675" />
The Elephant Man (1980)<p>In retrospect, the idea of David Lynch directing a movie based on a true story feels unlikely, but only a director as daring as him could pull off a story as heartbreaking as <em>The Elephant Man</em>. The historical drama revolves around Joseph Merrick (referred to as John Merrick in the film), whose bewildering deformities landed him in freak shows in England during the late 1890s.</p><p>Named after Merrick's freak show moniker, <em>The Elephant Man </em>portrays his life from his tormented upbringing in Leicester to his permanent residency at London Hospital, where he would die at the age of 27. The film marked Lynch's first critical <em>and </em>commercial success, nabbing eight Academy Awards. Special effects makeup artist Christopher Tucker's work on <em>The Elephant Man </em>prompted the Academy to <a href="https://www.google.com/search?sxsrf=ALeKk02d3IXVyF4T-RbfYVIi8krZNvHGrA%3A1611175093545&ei=tZQIYOraIO2w0PEP34mnoAE&q=best+makeup+and+hairstyling+award+elephant+man&oq=best+makeup+and+hairstyling+award+elephant+man&gs_lcp=CgZwc3ktYWIQAzoECAAQRzoFCCEQoAE6BQghEKsCOgcIIRAKEKABUI4xWKpXYPVZaARwAngAgAG7AYgB0xSSAQQwLjE4mAEAoAEBqgEHZ3dzLXdpesgBCMABAQ&sclient=psy-ab&ved=0ahUKEwiqifz4rqvuAhVtGDQIHd_ECRQQ4dUDCA0&uact=5" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">create the award for Best Makeup and Hairstyling</a> the year after.</p>
4. Eraserhead (1977)<img lazy-loadable="true" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTUwODEwMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzODMxNzEzOH0.15Jg-UYm4dt8wm0wN4qiCg_CEL5AAvOr2o2fVcIAmR8/img.jpg?width=980" id="85c0d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="39e997a124ef6689ebed5e756aa98ab8" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Eraserhead (1977)" data-width="1170" data-height="869" />
Eraserhead (1977)<p>Lynch's first feature-length film is also his creepiest. <em>Eraserhead </em>stars future<em>Twin Peaks </em>supporting actor Jack Nance as Henry Spencer, a man who discovers his girlfriend has given birth to a deformed, snakelike specimen with an ear-piercing scream. When the girlfriend leaves out of frustration, the child is left in the hands of Henry, who must evaluate the ethics of raising an inhuman child who constantly suffers in pain.</p><p>In addition to taking on sudden fatherhood, Henry must also come to terms with his own distorted views of human sexuality and disgust with the human body. While the expertly crafted dystopian nature of <em>Eraserhead </em>is by no means realistic, Henry's everyman appeal makes his personal tumult hit especially close to home. And even though Lynch was still a relative unknown at the time of <em>Eraserhead</em>'s release, its uneasiness would influence another iconic director: Stanley Kubrick, who borrowed elements of Lynch's filmography and sound design for <em>The Shining.</em></p>
3. Blue Velvet (1986)<img lazy-loadable="true" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTUwODEwOC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNjExNzY5OX0.v--0x-1CrZIMBte0DWlK6nqVoU1kif3ApneYItKGRj0/img.jpg?width=980" id="4f1b1" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d2c57266a39c74f7f3f3e9a0330ca8dc" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Blue Velvet (1986)" data-width="1170" data-height="777" />
Blue Velvet (1986)<p>One might think that the box office and critical failure of 1984's <em>Dune </em>would steer Lynch away from filmmaking altogether. Instead, he returned with <em>Blue Velvet</em>, his first official foray into the surrealist crime stories that have since become his specialty. The neo-noir mystery thriller stars Lynch's most frequent onscreen collaborator, Kyle MacLachlan, as Jeffrey Beaumont, a college student who accidentally unearths a monumental criminal conspiracy and gets caught up in a dangerous romantic relationship in the process.</p><p>Often named one of the greatest films of the '80s, <em>Blue Velvet </em>is an exemplary introduction to Lynch's work, as well as a master class in symbolism and the power of a good soundtrack. It also serves as a fitting precursor to <em>Twin Peaks</em>; both <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/1990/01/14/magazine/a-dark-lens-on-america.html?pagewanted=all" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Lynch</a> and <a href="https://www.latimes.com/entertainment/tv/la-ca-st-twin-peaks-kyle-maclachlan-david-lynch-20170519-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">MacLachlan</a> have said they view the show's protagonist, FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper, as a grown-up version of Jeffrey.</p>
2. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992)<img lazy-loadable="true" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTUwODExMi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTIwODk5OX0.9_aCt3L6IXAzA4MDSC5RluMlnyz8ZnRV9WThpzWaHRw/img.jpg?width=980" id="c0122" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c2c13b5892cb8faf491616e36afccdcf" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="2. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992)" data-width="640" data-height="360" /><p>When <em>Twin Peaks</em> was abruptly canceled after a sharp decline in ratings, Lynch was determined to create an accompanying feature-length film. But rather than divulge the harrowing fate of Agent Cooper, Lynch instead wrote <em>Fire Walk with Me </em>as a prequel, focusing on the life of Laura Palmer in the last week before her death that sent her small town of Twin Peaks, Washington into a frenzy. (Don't be fooled by its label as a "prequel," though: You should definitely watch the show first.)</p> <p>Devoid of the quirky sense of humor that made <em>Twin Peaks </em>so charming, <em>Fire Walk with Me </em>is a true psychological horror, with Sheryl Lee's spectacular performance breathing life into Laura that we never got to see prior. And while the series tended to depict Laura as a troublemaker who wrote her own doomed fate, the film details the more disturbing reality underneath her homecoming queen allure: a traumatized girl who turns to sex and drugs not for her own amusement, but to cope with years of violent abuse.</p>
1. Mulholland Drive (2001)<img lazy-loadable="true" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTUwODEyNy9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY3MjA4OTQ3Mn0.RWVvbZCEsGeeRQo1LABFssI6Lqg7UJExsRWLv-vOlZE/img.png?width=980" id="83a7e" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8770e1019c024144740a051ac8f8c020" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Mulholland Drive (2001)" data-width="1920" data-height="1038" />
Mulholland Drive (2001)<p>Arguably the most complex and thought-provoking film of Lynch's career, <em>Mulholland Drive </em>was never intended to be a film at all. Originally pitched as a television series to ABC, the surrealist mystery thriller was supposedly conceived as <a href="https://tv.avclub.com/sherilyn-fenn-talks-david-lynch-and-how-twin-peaks-shou-1798266317" target="_blank">a spin-off story of Audrey Horne from <em>Twin Peaks</em></a><em>. </em>While <em>Twin Peaks </em>fans might delight in the possibility of Audrey stumbling into trouble in Los Angeles, <em>Mulholland Drive </em>stands on its own as a powerful exposé on the dark side of show business.</p>The film stars Naomi Watts as Betty, an aspiring actress who arrives in L.A. and encounters a woman who calls herself Rita (Laura Harring). Rita is the lone survivor of a car accident on Mulholland Drive that has left her with severe amnesia. As the two attempt to find Rita's true identity, <em>Mulholland Drive </em>unfolds into a distressing commentary on fame, envy, and love in the city of angels.