Movie Reviews

Every Richard Linklater Movie Ranked From Worst To Best


  • Linklater’s filmography spans iconic modern classics, including Dazed and Confused and Boyhood, inspiring filmmakers for decades.
  • Hit Man showcases Linklater’s genius, offering a love story with Powell’s challenging role and sharp writing that defies expectations.
  • From groundbreaking animations like A Scanner Darkly to romantic masterpieces like Before Midnight, Linklater’s diverse work continues to captivate audiences.

Richard Linklater’s newest film Hit Man is the latest in the director’s expansive filmography, but which of his movies is the best? The director and writer of many landmark pieces of modern cinema, such as the cinematic classics Dazed and Confused, the Before trilogy, Boyhood, and Everybody Wants Some!!, his first collaboration with Powell. Linklater was also an instrumental figure in the independent film movements of the 1990s. His innovations in animation and narrative continue to inspire filmmakers across the decades.

Born in Texas, Richard Linklater developed a love for cinema in his early twenties. He founded the Austin Film Society with Louis Black, the founder of the South by Southwest Film Festival. Over the years, Linklater experimented with filmmaking, eventually developing his breakout hit Slackers, soon followed by coming-of-age classic Dazed and Confused. Consistently developing new techniques, Linklater went on to direct some of the most influential pieces of cinema of the 21st century. His latest movie Hit Man is currently streaming on Netflix.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette (2019)

Based on the bestselling novel of the same name, Where’d You Go, Bernadettestars Cate Blanchett as a reclusive architect falling deeper into her anxieties. Under the combined pressure of an adversarial neighbor, an upcoming family trip, and involvement with Russian scammers, Bernadette Fox runs away from her life to Antarctica. The film is less wild than it may seem and falls short of Blanchett and Linklater’s true potential. Despite a slight lack of passion, Where’d You Go, Bernadette is a perfectly enjoyable movie.

Bad News Bears (2005)

Bad News Bears, with Billy Bob Thornton, Richard Linklater.

Bad News Bears is a fairly faithful remake of the 1970s sports comedy classic. Billy Bob Thornton features as an alcoholic former baseball player who coaches a terrible little league team. Through dedication and friendship, the team turns their success around and Thornton redeems himself. Linklater’s childhood nostalgia is apparent in Bad News Bears, and Billy Bob Thornton’s performance was highly commended. Though its humor and plot may have erred too typical, Bad News Bears’ message shines through: there’s more to life than winning.

Fast Food Nation (2006)

Fast Food Nation, with Paul Dano, Richard Linklater.

The most overtly political film in Linklater’s filmography, Fast Food Nation is loosely based on real stories of the fast-food industry. The film is comprised of three darkly comedic stories of different positions at a hamburger chain’s meat processing plant: executive, consumer, and worker. Fast Food Nation clearly critiques its industry, but its message is somewhat undercut by Linklater’s tendency to humanize all of his characters. Though it proposes no one solution to its crisis, Fast Food Nation is nevertheless effective, leaving audiences thoroughly uneager for a burger.

The Newton Boys (1998)

Matthew McConaughey as Willis Newton, Skeet Ulrich as Joe Newton, Vincent D'Onofrio as Dock Newton, and Ethan Hawke as Jess Newton in a promotional image for The Newton Boys.

Linklater’s crime comedy The Newton Boys brings pathos to the infamous 1930s bank-ribbing gang. In the film, actors Matthew McConaughey, Ethan Hawke, and Dwight Yoakam’s family of struggling brothers slip into a lifetime of robberies against an institution of unjust banks. As exciting as the premise may be, the movie spends the bulk of its time on characters and embracing the time period’s aesthetics. With its lack of real thrills, The Newton Boys falls shy of being one of Linklater’s best films.

Last Flag Flying (2017)

Last Flag Flying, with Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne, Richard Linklater.

Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston, and Laurence Fishburne star as brotherly veterans in Last Flag Flying. Carell’s Doc Shepherd recruits his long-separated friends to accompany him in burying his son, a soldier killed during the Iraq War. The story is fairly straightforward and the filmmaking simple, but the chemistry between The Office’s Steve Carell, Cranston, and Fishburne is powerful. Their simple conversations are perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of the movie. Linklater’s talent for encouraging his actors to open up in the most honest ways is potent in Last Flag Flying, and it manages to balance raw emotion with genuine moments of humor.

SubUrbia (1996)

SubUrbia, Richard Linklater.

Encapsulating the aimlessness of the young adult experience of 1990s middle America, SubUrbia brought Eric Bogosian’s surprisingly intense stage play to the screen. Four friends, who endlessly laze outside of a small town convenience store, realize their wasted potential when a former member of their group returns, having become a rock star. Parker Posey and Steve Zahn appear in the movie, which has been lauded for its effectively dark and disturbing perspective. Perhaps Linklater’s attempt at a pessimistic version of Dazed and Confused, SubUrbia is an enthralling watch.

A Scanner Darkly (2006)

A Scanner Darkly, with Keanu Reaves, Robert Downey Jr., Richard Linklater.

Adapted from the novel by Philip K. Dick, A Scanner Darkly is Linklater’s most unnerving animated feature. Keanu Reeves stars alongside Robert Downey Jr and Winona Ryder as an undercover agent investigating the drug-addicted underbelly of a future dystopian police state. The films’ narrative twists are matched by its innovative rotoscoped style; actors’ performances were digitally traced and formed into realistic, eerie animation. A well-acted and stunningly visual experience, A Scanner Darkly’s only fault is that it cannot answer the complex questions it poses.

Tape (2001)

Tape, with Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman, Richard Linklater.

Tape, another adaptation of a stage play, is one of Linklater’s most realistic works: the events in the film take place in real time. Featuring the sole performances of Ethan Hawke, Robert Sean Leonard, and Kill Bill‘s Uma Thurman, the film explores its characters’ psychology as they trick and accuse each other of crimes while isolated in a motel bedroom. The minimalism of Tape heightens its believability, allowing its actors to put on some of their best-recorded performances. Tape may be one of Linklater’s most underrated films to date.

Me And Orson Welles (2008)

Me and Orson Welles, with Zac Efron, Richard Linklater.

Me and Orson Welles is a period drama about director Orson Welles’ groundbreaking adaptation of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Zac Efron stars as an actor who bonds with Welles during the production, subsequently finding romance with Claire Danes’ production assistant. Christian McKay’s performance as Orson Welles is the crown jewel of the film through the whole film celebrates theater’s inner workings. A faithful recreation of Welles’ theatrical masterpiece, Me and Orson Welles delights both lovers of cinema and stage.

Bernie (2011)

Bernie, with Jack Black, Richard Linklater.

A darkly comic interpretation of a real murder, Berniestars Matthew McConaughey, with Jack Black as the titular character. Told through snippets of small-town gossip, a beloved, cheery mortician turns to murder when his relationship with a wealthy widow becomes overbearing. While the film overall is a well-balanced mix of humor and tension, Black’s portrayal of murderer Bernie was so lovable that an appeal was made for a reinvestigation of the real-life killer’s case. Controversial as this effect may be, Bernie is certainly a unique, fascinating film.

Slacker (1990)

Slacker, Richard Linklater

Recognized as Linklater’s breakout film, Slacker set off the 1990s’ independent film movement. As wandering and eccentric as its characters, the film follows various misfits in Austin, Texas as they explore their hobbies and wax philosophical on social issues. Linklater found his foothold in filmmaking with Slacker, establishing himself as a master of satire and period encapsulation – even inspiring such films as Kevin Smith’s Clerks. Slacker lit the fuse for innovative filmmaking in the 1990s and serves as an inspiration to this day.

Waking Life (2001)

Waking Life, Richard Linklater.

Waking Life marks Linklater’s first experiment in feature-length animation, which proved to be a massive success. The philosophy behind consciousness, reality, and free will are explored in one young man’s series of surreal conversations within a waking dream. The film is one deep question after another with no concrete answers, rather letting its quandaries lilt in and out of focus, inviting audiences to float along and ponder. Without its innovative animated style, Waking Life most likely would have been a good movie, but Linklater’s fully-realized vision proves to be much more.

Everybody Wants Some!! (2016)

The cast of Everybody Wants Some!! posing by a car

The spiritual sequel to Dazed and Confused, Everybody Wants Some!! is perfectly emblematic of college life in the 1980s. The film follows a fraternity of baseball players, and lead female Zoey Deutch, as they navigate relationships, hedonism, and brotherhood in the days before classes begin. A semblance of structure provides a loose narrative, but the main appeal to Everybody Wants Some!! is its unabashed nostalgia. Though initial box office results were low, time has proven Linklater’s assertion: EverybodyWants Some!!

Apollo 10 1/2 (2022)

Apollo 10 1/2, Richard Linklater.

Linklater’s most recent film, Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood combines all of his signature techniques. The animated feature finds a fourth-grader recruited to be the first person on the moon, though the bulk of the movie explores the young astronaut’s everyday childhood. Apollo 10½ manages to bring a fresh and personal take on recalling a seemingly simpler age, enhanced by the voices of Jack Black, Zachary Levi, and Glen Powell. Even after three decades of filmmaking, Apollo 10½ proves that Linklater still has his genius spark.

Hit Man (2024)

Glen Powell as Gary Johnson standing in front of a teaching board in Hit Man (2023)

Hit Man sees the reunion of Linklater and Glen Powell, who was fresh off the success of the Anyone But You rom-com alongside Sydney Sweeney. While Hit Man looks like it could be the most action-packed Linklater film ever made, it ends up being a sharply written story about an ordinary teacher who moonlights as a fake hitman for the local police department. Linklater offers Powell his most challenging character role yet, considering that Powell takes on a variety of disguises as part of the story. Ultimately, Hit Man is at its core a love story, which Linklater has proven time and time again to be a master of.

Dazed And Confused (1993)

Wooderson (Matthew McConaughey) standing in front of a brightly painted wall with three friends in Dazed and Confused

Possibly Linklater’s most iconic film, Dazed and Confused set the standard for coming-of-age nostalgia flicks for generations of filmmakers to come. Taking place over the course of the final day of high school in 1976, a handful of teenagers and friends enjoy drugs, rock music, and various shenanigans. Many soon-to-be-big stars got their starts in this film, but none so significantly as Matthew McConaughey, whose effortless performance caused his part to be greatly expanded. Considered a cross between art and anthropology, Dazed and Confused has created a legacy that is far more than just alright, alright, alright.

The School Of Rock (2003)

Jack Black playing music with students in School of Rock

School of Rock is more than Linklater’s biggest commercial hit, it’s also one of his most energized and heartwarming. When Jack Black’s struggling guitarist pretends to be a substitute teacher, he teaches and encourages his fourth-grade students into forming a better band than the one he was kicked out of. The film is surprisingly star-studded, with Joan Cusack, Sarah Silverman, and a young Miranda Cosgrove in major roles, but the big appeal of the film is the loveable, genuine chemistry between Black and the band of students. With the high-quality music and endlessly positive wit that permeates every minute of the film, School of Rock captured a rare kind of magic appealing to all audiences.

Before Midnight (2013)

Before Midnight, with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, Richard Linklater.

Before Midnight is the heartfelt conclusion to Linklater’s Before trilogy, a series of romantic dramas following the relationship between Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy’s serendipitous lovers. In the Before trilogy’s finale, the pair travel throughout Southern Greece with their children, facing anxieties and familial fears that raise questions about their longevity. Quiet intelligence and a carefully crafted script allow Hawke and Delpy a chance to act more intimately than most actors ever get the chance to. Universally adored, Before Midnight caps off its trilogy of romantic masterpieces in the absolute perfect fashion.

Before Sunset (2004)

Before Sunset with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, Richard Linklater.

Exactly nine years between Before Midnight and Before Sunrise, Hawke and Delpy’s paths cross again in Before Sunset. The couple falls slowly in love again as they spend a single hour together, resisting the temptation to leave the lives they’ve found since their first meeting. The film is a deeply honest look at relationships and their importance to life, the actors so ingrained in their characters that their performances are hardly acting. Both Julie Delpy and Moon Knight’s Ethan Hawke shared writing credit with Linklater for their contributions. Before Sunset is a true work of art with an ending to melt anyone’s heart.

Boyhood (2014)

Boyhood, with Ellar Coltrane, Richard Linklater.

A monument of modern filmmaking, Boyhood spans twelve real years, starring Ellar Coltrane from ages six to 18. The story evolved over time, encapsulating every step in a boy’s life as he develops into his own person within a broken but loving family. Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke feature as Coltrane’s parents, and through their and Linklater’s dedication, this ultimate coming-of-age story was given real life. Widely acknowledged as one of the best movies of all time, Boyhood has few faults and is one of Linklater’s greatest achievements in film.

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