Praise any of his films and you open yourself up to accusations of allowing the art to excuse the man. ‘Roman Polanski’ is no doubt one of the greatest directors in the history of cinema and that is something no one can argue about. Polanski’s career had been stained after he was convicted with charges for the rape of a minor back in 1977. Post the scandal the world would no longer look at the man the same way they once did.
In this article however, we will be looking at the artistic side of the man rather than the darker side without trying to causing any controversy.
Polanski was at the peak of his powers during the 60’s and 70’s with a style of film that no other contemporary directors were able to match. Following the scandal the 80’s seemed to have been a decade of shame for Polanski as him nor his films were as successful. Polanski has seemed to regained his mojo since the beginning of the century as you can sense the momentum coming back.
Regardless of whether you like the man or not, we will be very specifically talking about the films of Roman Polanski. With that said, here’s the list of top Roman Polanski movies.
10. Cul-De-Sac (1966)
Cul-de-sac is a 1966 British psychological crime thriller directed by the Polish director Roman Polanski. It was his second film in English and is written by Polanski and Gerard Brach. The film is follows a recluse couple who live in a isolated castle who’s life are turn upside down when two wounded gangsters break into their house and take over. The existential issues in the film are strongly reminiscent of Samuel Beckett’s masterpiece ‘Waiting For Godot’.
Dwarfed by the other Polanski’s successes in the 60’s, Cul-de-sac is a hidden gem that every Polanski fans should watch. The film is dark, stylish and is irresistibly funny. The performances in the film are fantastic, Lional Stander in particular who’s comedic timing is spot on. Dialogues are cleverly written, the characters are put into interesting scenarios despite the simple plot line.
9. Venus in Fur (2013)
Venus in fur is a 2013 French film directed by Roman Polanski based on the play of the same name by David Ives. The film premiered in competition for Palme d’or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2013. It also received five nominations at the 39th Cesar Awards, winning for Best Director. The film stars Emmanuelle Seigner as Vanda an actress who auditions for for the lead role in a play written by a misogynistic writer played by Mathieu Amalric.
Polanski is able to turn this mini budget production shot in a single location with just 2 second-rate actors into a timeless classic. It is a kind of film which in the wrong hands could result to a disaster. The two actors are fantastic in the performance are very enthralling and captivating. With such a short and simple story, the film effortlessly stretches to an impressive 96 minutes.
8. Bitter Moon (1992)
Bitter Moon is a 1992 Franco-British-American erotic romantic thriller film directed by Roman Polanski. The film stars Hugh Grant, Kristin Scott Thomas, Emmanuelle Seigner and Peter Coyote. The film follows a classy couple during a cruise who meets another couple. Nigel becomes infatuated with the new woman he has met which in turn becomes trouble for his own relationship. The film was a commercial failure as well as received with mixed reviews. Critics and audiences in time warmed up to the film and since has developed a cult.
With echoes of his earlier film ‘Knife in the Water’, Bitter Moon is a story of lust, revenge, betrayal, and love. Polanski is always at his best when he explores the depths of the human psyche. Bitter moon is set in contemporary Paris but is told in a series of long complex flashbacks. The four leads of the film are perfect with each and every step they take in the film.
7. The Pianist (2002)
The Pianist is a 2002 biographical drama film co-produced and directed by Roman Polanski, scripted by Ronald Harwood, and starring Adrien Brody. It was awarded the Palme D’Or at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival. The film follows acclaimed Polish musician Wladyslaw Szpilman who loses contact with his family during the WW2 and has to hide in the ghettos of Warsaw to survive.
The Pianist is a film that rivals every one of the greatest Holocaust films ever made. It is old fashioned both in visual and narrative style and the story is beautifully told from the uncommon perspective of a direct survivor. Brody exceeds all expectations in the film with a heart-wrenching performance that will leave you in tears. Polanskis first hand knowledge of the territory means that he brings it raw and authentic.
6. Macbeth (1971)
Macbeth is a 1971 British-American historical period drama film directed by Roman Polanski and co-written by Polanski and Kenneth Tynan. It is a film adaptation of William Shakespeare’s tragedy of the same name. Macbeth premiered at the 1972 Cannes Film Festival and despite it’s controversy for its depictions of graphic violence and nudity, it received positive reviews.
Roman Polanski’s movie is remarkable in the sense that it is not only a painfully accurate retelling of William Shakespeare’s story, but doesn’t flinch when it comes to violence. The film is unsettling and the brutal violence can raise a few eyebrows but the boldness and transparency is something to be admired about. Jon Finch as Macbeth and Francesca Annis as his power mad wife are magnificent in the film.
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