Paul Thomas Anderson is clearly one of the greatest filmmakers working today, and he’s made a lot of exceptionally good films.

His filmography has been praised for its originality, complexity, and darkness. But which Paul Thomas Anderson movies are the best?

This list ranks every Paul Thomas Anderson movie from best to worst. It includes all of PTA’s films as a director, including his feature films and shorts. While some may debate the order of this list, it’s hard to debate that these are all great films.

The one thing that you have to understand about Paul Thomas Anderson is that he is his own kind of filmmaker. The fact that he has been able to create some of the best movies ever made is a huge testament to his brilliance.

This list will help you learn more about this amazing director and the films he has created.
 

Best Paul Thomas Anderson Movies

Who Is paul thomas anderson?

Paul Thomas Anderson (born June 26, 1970) is an American filmmaker. Though his films are often associated with the growing American indie movie scene, he does not consider himself an independent filmmaker.

He is often seen as part of the loosely defined movement known as New Hollywood or the New American Cinema.

Anderson has received consistent praise for his work. In 2002, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognized him as a young filmmaker of promise in its annual “Directors’ Showcase” initiative.

PT Anderson is one of the most exciting filmmakers working today. His films are some of the most acclaimed, his shot composition and camera movements are among the best, and his character development is second to none.

He has been nominated for Best Director five times, including three for Best Picture.

 

 

Best Paul Thomas Anderson Movies

Each and every character in a Paul Thomas Anderson film tends to be very quirky and unique. They also tend to be very memorable, due to the fact that Anderson likes to focus on smaller details about each character.

He tries to make all of the characters in his films feel like real people, and you can tell because they seem so authentic and believable in each of his films.

The performances are always fantastic, but this is due to Anderson’s ability to create complex characters for them to play off each other.

Magnolia (1999)

Magnolia (1999) is a drama film written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. The film stars Jeremy Blackman, Tom Cruise, Melinda Dillon, Philip Baker Hall, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Alfred Molina and Julianne Moore.

The movie follows the intersecting lives of several characters over three days as they all prepare for the 29th birthday party of their friend and neighbor Jimmy Gator. It was nominated for two Academy Awards in 2000: Best Supporting Actor (Hoffman) and Best Original Screenplay (Anderson). The movie was filmed in Los Angeles in the summer of 1998.

The movie was released on December 10, 1999 to positive reviews from critics. Roger Ebert gave it 3 out of 4 stars, saying that “Magnolia is Paul Thomas Anderson’s most daring film…the movie succeeds because it uses devices so conventional they seem new.

“He also praised Tom Cruise’s performance as a motivational speaker. “Empire” magazine also gave it 4 out of 5 stars, calling it “an astonishing display of filmmaking bravura.” Film critic Emanuel Levy called it “a very touching portrait of contemporary urban anomie”.

It currently has a rating of 81% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 82 reviews with an average score of 7.

Magnolia [Blu-Ray]
  • Tom Cruise, Jason Robards, Julianne Moore (Actors)
  • Paul Thomas Anderson (Director)
  • Spanish (Subtitle)

The Master (2012)

I’ve seen “The Master” twice, the first time in a movie theater where I was surrounded by people who were laughing and talking throughout the film. I have to admit that because of the distractions, it had a much different effect on me than it did when I watched it on DVD at home.

The second time around, I was able to focus more and hear the dialogue, which is so important in this film. It’s not about plot, but about dialogue and about acting performances.

The Master is a great study of character building and acting. Philip Seymour Hoffman is brilliant as Lancaster Dodd, a man who has no problem finding people willing to follow him, even though he doesn’t seem to have an answer for anything. He speaks in terms of “beliefs,” but these beliefs have nothing to back them up.

He seems to be creating his own sense of reality from scratch. And he’s helped by his wife played brilliantly by Amy Adams. She’s so wily and cunning that you can’t believe she exists in real life outside of screenplays.

But the star of this film is Joaquin Phoenix who gives such a stunning performance as Freddie Que.

Many of his films include very tight shots. The close-ups are sometimes so tight that they become uncomfortable for the audience.

One could argue that this was done on purpose to elicit some sort of reaction from the viewers. However, Anderson himself has not really given any reason as to why he has done it.

There are no real answers for this besides the fact that Anderson likes to get as close to his characters as possible.

The Master (Blu-ray)
  • The Master - Blu-ray Brand New
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams (Actors)
  • Paul Thomas Anderson (Director) - Paul Thomas Anderson (Writer)
  • English, Spanish (Subtitles)
  • English (Publication Language)

There Will Be Blood (2007)

Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood (2007) is an epic period piece drama that follows the life of an oil tycoon. Set in the early 20th century, Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) is a silver miner who discovers oil in California’s Little Boston area. Using his newfound wealth, he establishes a business drilling for oil in Southern California. With his newfound wealth and power, he becomes ruthless and cruel to those around him, including his son H. W. (Dillon Freasier), and former business partner Mr. Henry (Kevin J. O’Connor).

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There Will Be Blood
  • There Will Be Blood
  • Paul Dano (Actor)
  • Paul Thomas Anderson (Director)
  • French, English, Spanish (Subtitles)
  • Audience Rating: R (Restricted)

Boogie Nights (1997)

For a certain generation of moviegoers, Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights (1997) will always be remembered for Mark Wahlberg’s unforgettable performance as Dirk Diggler. It’s still considered one of the actor’s best roles, and he even earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

The film is also memorable for its memorable soundtrack. The movie was a big hit at the time and deservedly so. It’s a comedy, a drama, and a love story all rolled into one. It tells the story of an adult film star in the 1970s who wants to progress from being on screen to making his own films.

Starring alongside Wahlberg are Julianne Moore, Heather Graham, Don Cheadle, and William H. Macy. The film’s title was inspired by the disco song “Night Fever” by the Bee Gees. Boogie Nights is now regarded as a classic and was added to the United States National Film Registry in 2012.

We’ve compiled all reviews for Boogie Nights (1997) into this single page. Feel free to read reviews written by visitors, or write one of your own.

Boogie Nights (1997) [Blu-ray]
  • English, Spanish (Subtitles)

Licorice Pizza (2021)

Licorice Pizza is a 2021 American coming-of-age comedy-drama film written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson.

It stars Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman in their film debuts, alongside an ensemble supporting cast including Sean Penn, Tom Waits, Bradley Cooper, and Benny Safdie.

In 1973 San Fernando Valley, 15-year-old child actor Gary Valentine prepares for his high school picture day.

He notices 25-year-old Alana Kane, a photographer’s assistant, and strikes up a flirtatious conversation with her. She rebuffs his advances, but meets him for dinner and they begin a friendship.

Gary attends auditions and prepares for a press tour attached to a film starring Lucy Doolittle. When Gary’s mother Anita cannot take him to perform on the tour in New York, Alana chaperones him instead.

On the plane, Alana meets Lance, one of Gary’s co-stars; they begin dating, but break up after an awkward dinner with Alana’s family.

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Licorice Pizza [DVD]
  • Alana Haim, Cooper Hoffman, Sean Penn (Actors)
  • Paul Thomas Anderson (Director) - Paul Thomas Anderson (Writer) - Sara Murphy (Producer)
  • Audience Rating: R (Restricted)

Phantom Thread (2017)

In the cutthroat world of 1950’s London fashion, talented, tyrannical designer Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) and his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) are at the helm of their legendary dressmaking house, where expertly tailored garments are created for high-profile clients.

Women come and go in the life of the emotionally distant Reynolds, until he meets a strong-willed young waitress, Alma (Vicky Krieps), who turns his life upside down. Phantom Thread is Paul Thomas Anderson’s eighth movie and marks his first collaboration with Daniel Day-Lewis in a decade.

The film also reunites him with Phantom Thread costume designer Mark Bridges, who won an Academy Award for Anderson’s There Will Be Blood.

The film is set in the 1950s against the backdrop of the British fashion industry. Daniel Day-Lewis said that he was initially concerned about taking on another period piece but Paul Thomas Anderson helped convince him to take on the role.

Anderson said that Day-Lewis’ clothing was so well crafted that they had to stop filming while he changed outfits so they could shoot him from different angles. Vicky Krieps said she prepared for her role by having lessons in couture dresses.

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Phantom Thread [Blu-ray]
  • Daniel Day-Lewis, Vicky Krieps, Lesley Manville (Actors)
  • Paul Thomas Anderson (Director) - Paul Thomas Anderson (Writer) - JoAnne Sellar (Producer)
  • French, Spanish (Subtitles)
  • Audience Rating: R (Restricted)

Punch-Drunk Love (2002)

Adam Sandler is a lonely and neurotic man who feels intimidated by those around him. He meets a woman, Lena, and they begin a relationship . She likes his quirky personality and odd behaviors, but she wants to get married. Adam doesn’t want to commit because he is afraid she will hurt him like all the other women in his life did.

Adam’s brother tells him about this guy named Barry Egan who has made $40,000 in one week by selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door. Adam decides to go see this Barry Egan and try his luck. At first Barry doesn’t want to hire Adam, but when he sees how enthusiastic Adam is about the job, he hires him on the spot.

Barry Egan’s life seems perfect from the outside: he has a wife that loves him; a daughter he can take out for dinner at fancy restaurants; and a beautiful house in an upscale neighborhood.

But inside the house, Barry’s life is filled with anger and rage. His wife, Linda, is unhappy with their marriage because Barry refuses to leave his house or stop working as much as he does. 

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Punch-Drunk Love (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
  • Punch Drunk Love
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman, Adam Sandler, Emily Watson (Actors)
  • Paul Thomas Anderson (Director)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • Audience Rating: R (Restricted)

Hard Eight (1996)

Hard Eight is a 1996 American neo-noir crime thriller film written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. It stars Philip Baker Hall as the protagonist Sydney, John C. Reilly as his sidekick, and Gwyneth Paltrow as an escort who becomes romantically involved with both of them.

The film’s title refers to a playing card: an eight hard (or soft) is a term used in poker meaning very strong, usually indicating that a player has four cards in their hand that, added together, yield an eight or better.

Tension mounts when three strangers converge on the same upscale hotel bar: Sydney, the manager of the establishment; Johnny Boy, a gambler who owes money to the wrong people; and Clementine, a prostitute with whom Johnny Boy falls instantly in love.

The film explores themes such as romantic obsession, lost opportunities, and betrayal. It was nominated for three Academy Awards and won two: Hall for Best Supporting Actor and Roger Deakins for Best Cinematography.[3][4]

Hard Eight was Paul Thomas Anderson’s second feature film after his debut effort, Boogie Nights (1997). It was made on a budget of $8 million[5] and was filmed mainly in Las Vegas with some scenes filmed at Los Angeles

Hard Eight [Blu-ray]
  • Hard Eight (1996) ( Sydney ) ( Last Exit Reno 8 )
  • Hard Eight (1996)
  • Sydney
  • Last Exit Reno 8
  • Gwyneth Paltrow, Samuel L. Jackson, John C. Reilly (Actors)

Inherent Vice (2014)

Inherent Vice is a 2014 American crime comedy-drama film. It was written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, and stars Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin and Katherine Waterston. The film has an ensemble cast including Reese Witherspoon, Benicio del Toro, Martin Short, Jena Malone, Owen Wilson, Maya Rudolph, Michael K. Williams and Eric Roberts. Set in 1970 in Los Angeles, California, the film follows private investigator Doc Sportello as he tries to track down ex-girlfriend Shasta Fay Hepworth, who has disappeared suddenly while on the phone with him.

The story is told in a nonlinear fashion; the film jumps around to different points in time as a reporter interrogates Doc about his investigation.

The reporter insists that Doc tell the story in chronological order but Doc constantly interrupts the narrative to go off on tangents or just daydream about his ex-girlfriend. There are also extended flashbacks from earlier events in Doc’s life.

Production began in March 2013 with New Line Cinema financing the film. Principal photography took place in Los Angeles from May to August 2013. Inherent Vice premiered at the New York Film Festival on October 4, 2014 and was released in United States on January 9, 2015 by Warner Bros. Pictures.

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Inherent Vice (Blu-ray)
  • Inherent Vice
  • Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson (Actors)
  • Paul Thomas Anderson (Director) - Paul Thomas Anderson (Writer) - Paul Thomas Anderson (Producer)
  • French, Portuguese, Spanish (Subtitles)
  • English (Publication Language)

What Is Paul Thomas Anderson Known For?

Paul Thomas Anderson is one of the acclaimed film directors of his generation. He has directed several critically acclaimed films like ‘Boogie Nights’, ‘Punch Drunk Love’ and ‘There Will Be Blood’.

What is Paul Thomas Anderson known for?

Anderson was born in 1970 to parents Edwina and Ernie Anderson. His mother owned a video store and his father was a comic book artist, who worked under the name Boodikka. His parents divorced when he was very young, after which he stayed with his mother.

His stepfather was a blues promoter and musician and with him, he got interested in films at an early age. He attended the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) from 1989 to 1990 but dropped out due to financial issues after only one year. He later financed his studies by working various odd jobs like delivering pizzas and working in video stores.

During this time, he directed several short films including ‘Bottle Rocket’, which became a theatrical release in 1996. The film was well received by critics, who praised its originality and unique style of filmmaking.

In 1999 he released his first major film ‘Magnolia’. The film received positive reviews from critics who praised its originality and complex narrative structure.