Every Damien Chazelle Movie, Ranked From Worst To Best


Damien Chazelle‘s movies often feature closely-related themes and prevalent musical motifs, yet they cover vastly different stories. Despite his relatively young age, the Oscar-winning filmmaker can no longer be considered an up-and-coming director, given his films’ extensive critical acclaim. His work on La La Land cemented his status as the youngest-ever Oscar winner for Best Director at 32. Chazelle’s projects have accumulated an impressive 23 Oscar nominations throughout just five feature films, taking home 10 wins.


Chazelle made his feature film directorial debut in 2009 with Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench, a quaint indie picture. The Rhode Island native followed up this effort five years later with Whiplash, Chazelle’s breakout project starring Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons. Chazelle’s directorial prowess sparkled with the glitzy and detailed romantic musical La La Land in 2016 before he pivoted to helm First Man, the 2018 historical drama. His latest historical drama, Babylon, is an interesting addition to Damien Chazelle’s catalog, a filmography that warrants ranking.

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5. Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench (2009)

Guy and Madeline

As with many directorial debuts, Chazelle’s first foray into filmmaking has a certain roguish charm but by no means feels like a fully-finished product. With a budget of only $60,000, the flick has an outright indie feel that’s deliberately rugged. Guy and Madeline on Park Bench is shot on 16mm film, with Chazelle enlisting amateur actors that perform without ADR. Audiences can pick up on distant conversations in the kitchen, the idle chatter of pedestrians milling about the Boston streets, and even the camera rolling to boot.

Chazelle’s directorial debut mirrors Christopher Nolan’s first movie, Following. Also shot in black and white, there are seeds of Nolan’s later trademarked cinematic techniques in Following, just as there are with Chazelle’s Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench. The musical romance has cinematography and editing akin to the frenetic whip pans that Chazelle so often employs, with long unedited takes that he later utilizes in Babylon. The dialogue is sparse, with the story unfolding similarly to La La Land. Despite the lack of technical excellence, Chazelle’s first feature is an effective example of “show don’t tell” cinema, with an energetic, melodic backdrop.

4. Babylon (2022)

jovan adepo babylon-1

Meanwhile, Babylon is Chazelle’s most technically impressive work to date. The camera work, shot composition, lighting, and production design are all outstanding. It’s marvelous to behold the strides that Chazelle has made since his first feature. Babylon’s early reactions were incredibly divisive, and this polarization will likely persist. Margot Robbie, Brad Pitt, and particularly Diego Calva do the best with what they are given, but the film ultimately falters as a classic example of style over substance. Babylon is an overly ambitious attempt to capture fanfare and debauchery that is largely devoid of clear direction and, instead, favors showcasing a filmmaker’s flare and personal tastes.

Chazelle began writing Babylon in 2009 and even pitched it to a producer. Although he was turned down, he received feedback that the musical heart of the film was promising. Given Chazelle’s track record with musically inclined pictures since then, the case can be made that he deserves to tell the story that he always wanted, even if that entails a tonally turbulent product with a run time of over three hours. Babylon‘s bizarre ending will be a hit with some and will alienate others, but it will be hard to walk away from the movie without feeling thoroughly entertained.

Related: Babylon Cast & Character Guide

As much as Babylon is Chazelle’s love letter to cinema, the power and permanence of music is an integral aspect of its message. Composer Justin Hurwitz returns, and the pair have collaborated on all five of Chazelle’s films. Whereas his other titles chronicle the often arduous journey associated with success, Babylon is a compelling portrayal of cinematic stars who have already achieved this fame, coupled with a solemn depiction of the processes each character employs to cope with an ever-changing industry. Ultimately, as captivating as Babylon is, Chazelle has far more emotionally resonant pictures in his catalog.

3. First Man (2018)

Although First Man isn’t a Chazelle film that features the iconic couple of Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, the latter is terrific here in yet another subdued performance. Gosling has exhibited this same stoic allure in other films like Drive and Blade Runner 2049, but he’s asked to do even more here. Gosling and Claire Foy carry a heavy emotional burden in a film that feels more intimate than other Chazelle projects. While First Man is undoubtedly focused on family and, once again, the toll that success can take, the spectacle surrounding the Moon landing is captured magnificently as Chazelle delved into different genres following La La Land.

An Oscar winner for Best Visual Effects, the film is exceptionally shot with gripping space scenes. The unique blend of shaky cam action sequences combined with the handheld home-movie feel makes for a dynamic and refreshing viewing experience. The emotional beats feel earned, but the effort can come across as pretentious, with Chazelle and Hurwitz shoehorning in near-identical musical cues from La La Land. However, Chazelle deserves praise for stepping outside of his music-minded comfort zone with First Man, as he delivers a movie that is equal parts grand and grounded.

2. Whiplash (2014)

Austin Stowell playing the drums in Whiplash

Based on a short film of the same name, Chazelle burst onto the scene with Whiplash. In a story of strife and personal struggle, J.K. Simmons is a commanding and controlling presence alongside Miles Teller. The pair are brilliant foils for each other throughout the film, as their tumultuous journey eventually closes with a satisfying crescendo filled with catharsis. Chazelle’s whip pans are in full effect here, as he utilizes a healthy mixture of shots. There is a heavy emphasis on close-ups that masterfully capture Teller and Simmons’ immense commitment to their musical craft.

Related: The Best Movie Endings Of The Decade

Though Teller and Simmons produce great movie performances, the film offers little else in characterization for other figures. Teller’s brief love interest isn’t properly handled, as Melissa Benoist’s character feels more like a conduit for Chazelle’s recurring theme of sacrifice for success than a fully realized persona. Teller’s relationship with his father is treated with a bit more care but is largely forgettable. Teller and Simmons are unquestionably magnetic on screen together as the justified focus and strength of the film, with one of its only faults being the unnecessary time spent away from this riveting duo.

1. La La Land (2016)

Seb and Mia in La La Land dream sequence

Conversely, La La Land succeeds due to the near sole focus on its two wonderfully charismatic leads in Gosling and Stone. Besides a nifty role from John Legend, nearly the entire run time is devoted to developing the hypnotic bond between the two. La La Land is firmly cemented as one of the best movies of the decade in large part due to Gosling and Stone’s enthralling chemistry, but Chazelle tackles wide-ranging themes in what remains his most complete project to date. Clear allusions to classics like Singin’ in the Rain (which are prevalent in Babylon) highlight the continual importance of music, even in the modern era.

Further, while acting as an homage to the Hollywood classics that came before it, Chazelle subverts expectations in a manner that doesn’t feel forced. The evident commentary on the state of the movie industry is well-placed, with an ending that defies conventions, particularly for a Damien Chazelle movie. His previous two films, and later First Man​​​​​, conclude on a satisfying note, with the main character arcs typically culminating with an emotionally satisfying conclusion. As poetic and fitting as it might have been, La La Land‘s ending doesn’t fit this mold, and the film is all the better.

More: Margot Robbie’s Babylon Role Proves She Was The Perfect Harley Quinn

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  • Denis Ava

    Denis Ava is mainly a business blogger who writes for Biz Grows. Rather than business blogs he loves to write and explore his talents in other niches such as fashion, technology, travelling, finance, etc.

Denis Ava
Denis Avahttps://allbusinessreviews.org/
Denis Ava is mainly a business blogger who writes for Biz Grows. Rather than business blogs he loves to write and explore his talents in other niches such as fashion, technology, travelling, finance, etc.

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