The films of Yorgos Lanthimos are a big, fascinating, and unique vehicle into a surreal world, one with a heightened artificiality that twists and subverts reality into something truthful. Lanthimos told Issue Magazine, “I’m not interested in just trying to represent reality as it is. I can see that right in front of me.”
The filmmaker was born in Greece, while studying at a film school he started making films with his friends, they had no funds, but were fuelled by the desire to tell stories in a creative and enigmatic way. Despite co-direction with Lakis Lazopoulos’ 2001 mainstream comedy My Best Friend, Lanthimos doesn’t list this film on his official website and said that the 2005 experimental Kinetta is his first feature film. It’s fair to say Yorgos Lanthimos discovered his voice in Kinetta, with the film, along with a few others, becoming a key part of the Greek Weird Wave, a movement with brilliantly strange films by young Greek directors that provoked discussions about taboo topics, loneliness, and authoritarian power.
After a further two Greek language films, Dogtooth and Alps, Yorgos Lanthimos presented his first English language feature film, The Lobster in 2015. The Lobster was a critical hit, receiving an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay. His next two films, The Killing of a Sacred Deer and The Favourite, were received by both critics and audiences in a similar, glowing vein; for The Favourite, Lanthimos received Academy Award nominations for Best Director and Best Picture. The director’s latest film, Poor Things, is already generating awards buzz. Take a look at every Yorgos Lanthimos film ranked.
Update December 15, 2023: This article has been updated following the release of Poor Things, Yorgos Lathimos latest film in theaters, and where his films can be streamed.
7 Kinetta (2005)
This 2005 psychological drama film is set in the Greek seaside resort of Kinetta, with three strangers (a hotel cleaner, a police officer, and a photographer) who decide to recreate crime scenes together. Their bizarre amateur film and reality soon become blurred.
Yorgos Lanthimos urges us to think about filmmaking, isolation, and violence. Kinetta is an imperfect solo debut with camera work that lacks fluidity and sparse dialogue, but this film certainly foreshadows the idiosyncratic works of this talented Greek director. Kinetta introduces us to ideas that would come to define Lanthimos’ future movies, allowing the audience to become acquainted with his peculiar and unique style that relies heavily on dark satire. Stream on Prime
6 Alps (2011)
Alps is a provocative and surreal story about a group of therapists who impersonate deceased individuals for the questionable benefit of people who have lost their loved ones. There is a dystopian, almost futuristic air to this film and one that taps into an underdeveloped niche of grieving loss.
In the hands of a Hollywood filmmaker, perhaps, this plot could be deeply poignant and moving, but Yorgos Lanthimos made a film which is more of a social experiment and, at times, absurd and odd. Alps won the 2011 Venice Film Festival award for Best Script, so its emotionless nature actually became advantageous, inspiring Lanthimos’ style further (along with the careers of other directors, like Riley Stearns and his films The Art of Self-Defence and Dual). Stream on Prime
5 Dogtooth. (2009)
The 2009 nightmarish drama Dogtooth centers on controlling and manipulative parents who keep their children in isolation from the outside world, create a lot of bizarre rules, invent a new vocabulary (in which, for example, “sea” means an “armchair”), and promise that isolation will end with losing a dogtooth. We don’t know why parents create such strange reality for their children, but at least we know who is creating this isolated surreal world in Dogtooth (unlike other Lanthimos films, where very little is known).
Dogtooth deals with the subject of power and abuse, how influential a child’s environment is, and perfectly shows the drawbacks of extreme protectiveness. Dogtooth went on to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film, and Yorgos Lanthimos became renowned worldwide thereafter. This was perhaps Lanthimos’ most important film in terms of enhancing his reputation as a filmmaker and forging a career for himself in the mainstream film industry. Stream on Prime
4 The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)
Lanthimos’ 2017 psychological horror The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a chilling modern adaptation of the ancient Greek tragedy Iphigenia at Aulis. The film follows the surgeon Steven (one of the best Colin Farrell indie performances) and his perfect family (with Nicole Kidman as a wife), but their life becomes a nightmare after Steven introduces them to a sinister boy who’s connected to the surgeon’s past.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer is set in the real world, arguably a first for Lanthimos, though the emotionless register of the actors is unmistakably his style. “Within this world that we’re familiar with, something odd and otherworldly happens. So it was important that it felt like the real world so that the situation did seem extreme and strange and impossible to deal with”, Yorgos Lanthimos told The Atlantic. The contrast between the usual reality and the events in the film make The Killing of a Sacred Deer one of the most terrifying and brutal movies about revenge and justice. It is a visually stunning and thought-provoking portrayal that employs this vivid, graphic, and matter-of-fact lens. Stream on Prime, Netflix, and Paramount+
3 The Favourite (2018)
- Release Date
- November 23, 2018
- Main Genre
In 2018, Lanthimos chose an unusual project for himself: a dark comedy film about 18th-century Great Britain. The Favourite follows two young women (played by Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz) who want to be the court favourite of Queen Anne (for this role, Olivia Colman won the Academy Award for Best Actress). The Favourite is unlike any period drama that has come before it as the genius is that it dresses itself up as a period piece costume drama that award season voters love but is a sexually charged kinky affair that comments on society dresses up it’s more primal urges.
It is weird, entertaining, awe-inspiring, and perfectly performed, subverting traditional historical movies while also queering them with a unique LGBTQ+ narrative. This movie became the biggest commercial success for Yorgos Lanthimos and received 10 Oscar nominations in the process. Olivia Colman’s display alone beautifully personifies the inherent eccentricity of Lanthimos’ approach to cinema and storytelling. The Favourite balances a timeless aesthetic and an LGBTQ+ love story with this grotesque, slightly disturbing underbelly. Rent on Prime and Apple TV+
2 The Lobster (2015)
- Release Date
- October 15, 2015
- Yorgos Lanthimos
The Lobster is one of the best English-language debuts from an international director, this film is about dystopian society where being single is illegal. People in the world of The Lobster have 45 days to find love. If they fail, they become animals. Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz lead the cast emphatically while assuming the film’s titular roles. “The Lobster tries to look at how we are as people,” Yorgos Lanthimos said, “what it means to be single, alone, or involved with someone and all of the constraints that society puts on that. We tried to reflect upon these aspects of the human condition while portraying a very original love story.”
The Lobster is the type of film that brings joy not only while watching, but via a truly affecting nature that lingers on long after the end credits role. The Lobster sheds a different light on the rat race to find love, and to locate meaning in an unforgiving, brutal society. This is a film quite like no other, and while it draws on aspects from an alien world, its roots remain firmly embedded in the thoughts, feelings, and ideals of the modern world. Stream on Prime and Max
1 Poor Things (2023)
- Release Date
- December 8, 2023
- 2hr 21min
Poor Things pitches Emma Stone in the principal role as Bella, a science experiment gone slightly askew, when the daring Doctor Baxter (Willem Dafoe) oversees a transplant of a child’s brain into a grown woman’s body. Making haste with her lover, lawyer Duncan (Mark Ruffalo), Bella goes on a journey of self-discovery and sexual liberation, fighting against the inherent prejudice of 19th-century Britain. Poor Things is Lanthimos’s version of the Frankenstein story, all done through a metaphor for female empowerment through maturity and sexual awakening.
Poor Things is Lanthimos’s largest canvas to date, with massive, sprawling sets and gorgeous production design that resembles that of watercolor paintings. Having premiered at the Venice Film Festival, to no one’s surprise, this 2023 black comedy received a raft of critical approval. Undoubtedly, the most indulgent picture of Lanthimos’ increasingly audacious filmography to date, Poor Things, fuses together some of the director’s instantly recognizable filmmaking traits with a new level of utter absurdity. Emma Stone gave one of the best performances of her career, and she and Lanthimos have found a great working relationship with one another. This sci-fi meets drama meets horror meets fantasy, never tired in its pursuit of pushing boundaries, and it’s equally hilarious as it is deranged. Currently playing in Theaters.
Want to know more about Poor Things? Watch our interview with the film’s cinematographer Robbie Ryan.