All Of Noah Baumbach’s Films Ranked From Worst To Best
Noah Baumbach has become one of the most important personal voices in American independent cinema. The Brooklyn-born auteur has been nominated for an Oscar three times, most recently for Best Picture Original Screenplay for his newest film, Marriage Story. But is that even Noah's best film?
Baumbach has made 10 films over the past 25 years, plus another joint effort made with his romantic partner, Greta Gerwig. Some have been rewarded come award season, while others came and went without much fanfare. It's now time to assess each. Here are all of Noah Baumbach's films, ranked from worst to best!
11 Mistress America
Co-directed with Greta Gerwig, Mistress America is a small-scale character study about Tracy (Lola Kirke), a wayward college freshman and her wild soon-to-be stepsister, Brooke (Gerwig), who pushes her to be more spontaneous.
Unfortunately, these characters are among the most annoyingly vapid of all of Baumbach's. Not much occurs in the 84-minute runtime, and by the time it's over, you can't help but call to mind Baumbach's better efforts.
By using the alias Ernie Fusco in the director's credit, it seems Baumbach has all but disowned his 1997 comedy Highball. Let's pour a shot out for the dead homey!
Starring Eric Stoltz and Justine Bateman, the film follows a recently married couple who attempt to spice up their life by throwing a series of rollicking cocktail parties in their Brooklyn abode. The loosely-plotted hangout film was shot in just six days on a tiny budget, yet still has more laughs than Mistress America.
9 While We're Young
By his own admission, Baumbach has said that he feels like Mistress America and While We're Young are "sort of sisters." If that's the case, the latter is the much better sibling!
In the attempt to recapture their youthful ways, Josh (Ben Stiller) and Cornelia (Naomi Watts) become obsessed with a young, too-cool hipster couple, Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried). As the two generationally divided couples begin spending time together, each teaches the other life lessons.
8 Margot At The Wedding
Baumbach explores the dynamics of female family members in the somewhat underwhelming Margot at the Wedding, despite the stellar turn from Nicole Kidman.
When Margot (Kidman) and her teenage son Claud (Zane Pais) travel to Long Island to celebrate her sister's wedding, old wounds are picked at while new familial problems arise. Brutal infighting and aired gossip threaten to ruin the wedding celebration while Margot holds nothing back and speaks her mind. Despite the performances, we expected more following The Squid and the Whale.
Baumbach gave Ben Stiller one of the rare chances to really show his acting chops in the Los Angeles set character study, Greenberg, a movie about existential angst and the growing pressures middle age presents.
While looking after his brother's home in L.A., carpenter Roger Greenberg (Stiller) can't quite fit in. The overly serious neurotic man tries to rekindle his relationship with an old band he was responsible for breaking up. Crabby, insatiable, and damn near unlikable, Greenberg pushes the limits of human tolerance.
6 Mr. Jealousy
It may be one of his least viewed movies to date, but the mere premise of Mr. Jealousy is enough to warrant a watch. When you do, you'll see why!
Eric Stoltz stars as Lester, an extremely jealous substitute teacher who cannot get his girlfriend Ramona's (Annabella Sciorra) ex out of his head. So what does Lester do? Under an alias, he begins to attend the ex-boyfriend Dashiell's (Chris Eigeman) group therapy sessions in order to learn all of Ramona's hidden secrets. Charming, hilarious, and truly romantic.
5 Kicking And Screaming
If making the esteemed Criterion Collection is any indication, Baumbach's uproarious feature debut Kicking and Screaming is still among his top five best films to date. No, not the silly Will Ferrell soccer movie!
The movie tracks a group of college friends trying to navigate the real world months after graduation. Post-adolescent angst, marital divorce (sound familiar?), and professional pressures punctuate this hilarious and trenchantly observed mid-90s gem.
4 The Meyerowitz Stories
In his first Netflix film, Baumbach put the inspired brotherly pair of Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller (Happy Gilmore anyone?) together in the hilarious and heartfelt dramedy The Meyerowitz Stories.
Like most Baumbach films, plot matters little. He makes movies about well-rounded people, flawed and virtuous, and makes truthful observations about quotidian life. Meyerowitz is no different, telling a story of a broken family that tries to repair past damage as the powerful patriarch (Dustin Hoffman) falls ill.
3 Marriage Story
Baumbach earned his second and third Oscar nods for his most recent film, Marriage Story, which really should be titled, Divorce Story. Then again, who'd run out to see a movie with that title?
Despite being nominated for Best Picture, one could argue that the real strength of the movie is the original screenplay (also nominated). All of the pregnant pauses, stammers, stutters, ellipses, and bits of broken dialogue were not improvised, they were on the page as written. The stellar performances all around earned Laura Dern a gold statuette.
2 Frances Ha
In their first authoritative collaboration together, Baumbach and girlfriend Greta Gerwig turned in one of both of their best movies to date in Frances Ha, a richly rewarding character portrait of a young dance hopeful.
We defy anyone not to fall in love with Frances (Gerwig), a frenetic and free-spirited dancer struggling to survive the unforgiving terrain of NYC. She's clumsy, foolish, silly, bright, bubbly, and full of heart as she pursues her passion with reckless abandon. Given their intimacy, Baumbach perfectly captures Gerwig's mannerisms as Frances.
1 The Squid And The Whale
Sure it has been 15 years, but no film of Baumbach has quite eclipsed the brilliance of his autobiographical indie The Squid and the Whale.
Channeling his teenage years in 1986 Brooklyn, the film charts the lives of two young brothers trying to navigate their parents' difficult divorce (a running theme). Jeff Daniels turns in a career performance as a stuffy New York intellectual who tries to get his sons to side with him and disavow their mother. Raw, honest, and beautifully observed.