Kathryn Bigelow's Top 10 Movies Ranked

Kathryn Bigelow's Top 10 Movies Ranked
Kathryn Bigelow Top 10 Movies

Kathryn Bigelow is undoubtedly one of the most talented and groundbreaking directors working today. As the first woman to win the Academy Award for Best Director for her 2008 Iraq war thriller “The Hurt Locker,” Bigelow has helmed some of the most critically acclaimed and thought-provoking films of the past four decades.

Spanning multiple genres from neo-noir to historical drama, Bigelow’s filmography offers a compelling examination of complex subject matters. Her movies often focus on marginalised communities and subcultures, providing nuanced portrayals without judgement.

At Rewind Zone, we count down Kathryn Bigelow’s top 10 films, exploring her directing talents and why these movies still resonate today.

10. The Weight of Water (2000)

The Weight of Water (2000)

Starring: Sean Penn, Elizabeth Hurley, Catherine McCormack

Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Genre: Mystery, Thriller

A lesser-known entry in Bigelow’s filmography, “The Weight of Water” is a haunting mystery thriller alternating between the present day and the 19th century. The film follows photojournalist Jean (Elizabeth Hurley) as she investigates the 1873 axe murder of two women, interweaving the factual historical event with the fictional modern-day mystery. Known for its gorgeous cinematography and capturing the foreboding isolation of the ocean, “The Weight of Water” showcases Bigelow’s ability to build suspenseful intrigue.

9. The Loveless (1981)

The Loveless (1981)

Starring: Willem Dafoe, Marin Kanter, Robert Gordon

Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Genre: Drama

Bigelow’s debut feature film, “The Loveless,” offers an early glimpse of her flair for visual aesthetics. Shot in a dreamy retro style, the movie focuses on Vance (Willem Dafoe), a brooding outsider biker roaming through a small town in 1950s America. Though light on plot, the evocative atmosphere and moody rock n’ roll soundtrack pointed to the stylized vision Bigelow would hone throughout her career. With its rebel attitude and art house sensibilities, “The Loveless” rings as an arthouse rebel classic.

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8. Blue Steel (1990)

Blue Steel (1990)

Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Ron Silver, Clancy Brown

Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Genre: Action, Thriller

Pairing Kathryn Bigelow with Jamie Lee Curtis, “Blue Steel” blends the action and thriller genres for an adrenaline-fueled feminist commentary on female rage. Curtis stars as rookie cop Megan Turner, who becomes a target after witnessing a Wall Street broker (Ron Silver) commit murder with her gun. Exploring themes of obsession and society’s views on female vulnerability, the cat-and-mouse story utilises Bigelow’s kinetic visual energy. The stylized aesthetics and Curtis in badass leading lady mode make “Blue Steel” a pulpy neo-noir treat.

7. K-19: The Widowmaker (2002)

K-19: The Widowmaker (2002)

Starring: Harrison Ford, Liam Neeson, Peter Sarsgaard

Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Genre: Historical Drama, Thriller

Proving her versatility with large-scale historical dramas, Bigelow’s “K-19: The Widowmaker” dramatises the first of many accidents aboard the Soviet submarine K-19. Built in haste during the Cold War, the submarine suffered a dangerous reactor leak on its maiden voyage in 1961, risking a nuclear catastrophe. With no protocols in place, the crew led by Captain Polenin (Liam Neeson) and Mikhail Politivskiy (Harrison Ford) make impossible life-or-death decisions. Taut and gripping, “K-19” demonstrates Bigelow’s skill for balancing technical intricacy with tense human drama.

6. Detroit (2017)

Detroit (2017)

Starring: John Boyega, Will Poulter, Algee Smith

Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Genre: Historical Drama, Crime Drama

A searing look at systemic racism in America’s justice system, 2017’s “Detroit” recreates the chilling true events of the 1967 Detroit rebellion. Focusing on the Algiers Motel incident, where police and security officers interrogated and brutalised a group of young black men and women, the film is an unrelenting account of police intimidation and brutality. Anchored by raw performances and shocking moments of violence, “Detroit” packs a visceral punch while spotlighting an overlooked case of racial injustice.

5. Strange Days (1995)

Strange Days (1995)

Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Angela Bassett, Juliette Lewis

Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Genre: Science Fiction, Thriller

Co-written by ex-husband James Cameron, Bigelow’s 1995 sci-fi thriller “Strange Days” is set in a dystopian 1999 Los Angeles where humans can experience memories via recordings straight out of “Black Mirror.” Starring Ralph Fiennes as a hustler peddling these illicit “SQUID” discs, the stylish cyberpunk noir touches on voyeurism, reality, and perception. Carried by Angela Bassett’s strength as a determined limo driver embroiled in a murder conspiracy, the innovative “Strange Days” proves ahead of its time. The dazzling first-person POV and prescient questions on technology still captivate.

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4. Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

Starring: Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler

Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Genre: Political Thriller

Nabbing Bigelow her second Best Director Oscar, the highly debated “Zero Dark Thirty” chronicles the decade-long international manhunt for Osama Bin Laden after 9/11. Led by a fierce Jessica Chastain performance as CIA analyst Maya, “Zero Dark Thirty” tracks her ruthless crusade across black sites, foreign prisons, and political red tape to take down the figurehead of al-Qaeda. Though controversial for its depiction of torture, the film offers a ground-level procedural of military operations without politicizing. Gripping despite the familiar outcome, “Zero Dark Thirty” cemented Bigelow as the queen of real-life suspense.

3.Near Dark (1987)

Near Dark (1987)

Starring: Adrian Pasdar, Jenny Wright, Lance Henriksen

Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Genre: Vampire Horror, Western

A seductive twist on the vampire genre, 1987’s “Near Dark” combines gothic horror with western aesthetics into a stylish original fable. When young cowboy Caleb Colton (Adrian Pasdar) meets gorgeous vampire Mae (Jenny Wright), she turns him, forcing him to join her roaming band of undead outlaws evading the sun across the dusty plains. Atmospheric and unexpectedly tender, “Near Dark” injects new blood into familiar genre territory. Populated by sexy, dangerous vampires rather than hideous monsters, Bigelow crafts them as antiheroes more punk than evil. The evocative visual textures and romance make “Near Dark” eternally bewitching.

2. Point Break (1991)

Point Break (1991)

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Patrick Swayze, Gary Busey

Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Genre: Action, Thriller

The movie that catapulted Bigelow into blockbuster renown, 1991’s “Point Break,” perfectly blends high-octane action with brooding philosophical undertones. Undercover FBI agent Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) infiltrates a gang of surfing bank robbers led by Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) to get his adrenaline fix. Cinematic and soaked in California cool, “Point Break” pulses with homoerotic tension between Johnny and Bodhi as they develop a mutual respect for each other's extreme dedication and search for meaning. Alongside explosive practical stunts and charming performances, “Point Break” proves Bigelow’s ability to elevate any genre into a transcendent sensory experience.

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1.The Hurt Locker (2008)

The Hurt Locker (2008)

Starring: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty

Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Genre: War, Thriller Drama

The pinnacle of Kathryn Bigelow’s filmography, 2008’s “The Hurt Locker” employs her talent for tactile action and visceral suspense for one of the most authentic war movies ever. Tracking an elite U.S. Army bomb squad unit during the Iraq War, led by the reckless yet expert Sergeant First Class William James (Jeremy Renner), the film thrusts viewers into the chaos of war through rattling battle scenes and improvised explosive devices. Far from the usual gung-ho military bravado, “The Hurt Locker” meditates on the addictive adrenaline and dread of combat. Raw, insightful, and breathlessly tense, the landmark “The Hurt Locker” exemplifies Bigelow’s bold, unmatched vision and penchant.