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My Cronenberg Top Five

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Mark Kermode Mark Kermode | 14:41 UK time, Tuesday, 12 June 2012

This Friday David Cronenberg and Robert Pattinson are coming on the 5 live show to talk about their new film Cosmopolis. Here I reveal my favourite Cronenberg films...

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  • Comment number 1.

    A great list, however would probably have found a slot for A History of Violence. One of the most surprising films I'd seen in quite a while.

  • Comment number 2.

    Got some fine ideas as to what rent next. Took me ages to get into Cronenberg and still have half a dozen films to watch. I do like Spider a great deal, mainly down to the performance of Ralph Fiennes, and Eastern Promises too. I hear that the sequel is pre-production. Any chance of asking David to confirm that?

  • Comment number 3.

    Good films all of them, I agree that its a shame that A History of Violence isn't in it but I can see the reasons why others would be chosen ahead of it. I have to say that my own personal favourite is Crash, which annoyed and bored me when I first saw it. The second time I saw it I dunno what had changed but it blew my mind, it was the most numbing and brilliantly unsettling film. Afterwards I went out and read the book but it was one of the few times I have found the book did not match the experience of the film.

  • Comment number 4.

    So good to hear another Cronenberg list with Videodrome at the top! It will always be my favourite Cronenberg film. Despite its rawness, it always feels fresh to me - and always brings back the warm sense of horror I felt on first viewing.

    My 'Top 5' was extremely hard to make. I was almost tempted to split it in to subcategories (early horror, most gooey, later works) but here is my final list:

    1. Videodrome
    2. Crash
    3. The Fly
    4. Dead Ringers
    5. Eastern Promises

    I'm of the (apparently unpopular) opinion that Eastern Promises was better than A History of Violence - I thought it far more subversive and complex, and the sauna scene was far more visceral and exciting than anything in A History of Violence. I'm very excited to hear of a sequel!

  • Comment number 5.

    I'm surprised that you left "A History of Violence" off of this list, Dr K, I kept thinking "Okay, it'll be the next one." You said it was your favourite film of 2005.

  • Comment number 6.

    I was interested by your mention of The Elephant Man when discussing The Fly as I always felt the two films carried a similar message and reminded me of each other.
    I would go with Dead Ringers as a top choice but also have soft spots for A History of Violence and Rabid and that head scene in Scanners is still utterly iconic to me.

  • Comment number 7.

    My personal favorite of his films is eXistenZ. As a gamer I am constantly aware of the controversy with violence in modern games to the point that some have been given the title of 'murder simulators'. I love about eXistenZ is that it does not focus on how people might be affected by violence in games but how their ability to tell the difference between the real world and the fantasy woulds that spend so much time interacting with may be affected.

  • Comment number 8.

    I didn't watch Eastern Promises for so long because i'd seen A History of Violence and was completely underwhelmed by it. Should now go back to it I guess.

  • Comment number 9.

    Hi Mark, very interesting list and to be quite honest i had never even heard of The Brood and will definately check it out. My favourite movie on there would be The Fly, one of the most visually stomach turning yet beautifully moving films ever made.

  • Comment number 10.

    You're correct about 'Videodrome' but the rest of the top 5 are a bit meh

    Where is 'A History Of Violence' & 'Rabid'

    I think 'The Dead Zone' is underated

  • Comment number 11.

    "Naked Lunch" is a phenomenal film, and I really don't know that Cronenberg has ever made a film that was as successful on either a thematic or purely technical level. Furthermore, it fits into a trilogy of Cronenberg works that use his typical metaphor of phenotypical manifestations of existential corruption but apply it to a certain entertainment/art medium: the television in "Videodrome", the video game in "eXistenZ", and, most challengingly, the novel in "Naked Lunch."

    I'm currently writing an analysis for Joss Whedon's "The Avengers" for my personal blog, using a Czech film called "Who Wants to Kill Jessie?" as a reference point for understanding the objectifying relationship between the audience/dreamer and the surreal being/the dreamed, but it occurs to me that I could just as easily call upon any number of films in Cronenberg's filmography.

    Mark citing of the quote from "The Fly" is an EXCELLENT choice, because Goldblum's existential crisis mirrors the one that Cronenberg constantly tries to make the audience confront: art and entertainment, whichever name you prefer (let's face it, Cronenberg's style is equal parts pomp and pulp), do not fit into a paradigm of 'escapism' as we know it. The audience is not a 'victim' of the real who must 'escape' into the world of fantasy. Rather, these mediums allow audiences a privileged vantage point with which to transform human beings into objects, an act of profound and god-like narcissism that is justified because the slaves of narrative are 'fictional', the literal untouchables.

  • Comment number 12.

    Videodrome at number one, can't argue with that!

    A mention for Scanners though, which would be in my top five, an unsettling atmosphere pervades it from beginning to end, with a creepy collection of sound effects integrated with the superb music score from Howard Shore.

  • Comment number 13.

    Surprised to hear your first choice, given past comments, but delighted too as Videodrome is my favourite Cronenberg. Videodrome is 100% an ideas film "A dream of dark and troubling things" sadomaschism, voyeurism and violence as porn crammed into a film with little semblence of a plot and all the better for it.
    I heard a story that some of the extras involved in the torture scenes would hang around the set freaking out the crew, such was the hynoptic power of Videodrome. I can't believe this film ever got made but i'm sooo glad it did.

    I have a vision of Mark sitting in the Manchester Picture house utterly fascinated whilst his girlfriend runs out screaming. A general question to all reading this, does gender influence your opinion of Videodrome?

  • Comment number 14.

    I absolute despise The Brood, just terrible boring and annoying and the story is so pretentious.

    I love Cronenberg but my love for his work really starts with Videodrome onwards with parts of Scanners being great so my top 5 goes like this...

    1. Crash
    One of the most underappreciated films ever made which is perfectly captures the book but also changes it enough to suit the medium of film
    2. A History of Violence
    One of the greatest examples of neo-noir i've ever seen with a truly astonishing performance from Viggo Mortensen
    3. Videodrome
    A truly brilliant sci-fi theme which is probably the most William Burroughs esq. film ever except perhaps the next one....
    4. Naked Lunch
    I struggle to put Videodrome or Naked at 3 so I have it at 4, a brilliant attempt at doing the unfilmable, it's not the book but rather a hallucinatory attempt at doing the early life of Uncle Bill with excepts from his works.
    5. The Fly
    Mark I think said all, I also want to give a special nod for M. Butterfly which I think is a vastly underappreciated film.

    p.s Mark you might want to invest in the criterion edition of Videodrome which made to look like a betamax tape.

  • Comment number 15.

    History of Violence for me. The sudden impact of the violence in the coffee shop was outstanding as was the sex on the stairs. I thought that the somewhat hammy performance from William Hurt was class. Viggo always scares me when he is in movies like this - I think it's the eyes!

  • Comment number 16.

    Hmm not as easy as I'd thought. Cronenberg sure has made some excellent films throughout the years. In fact he belongs to that rare group of directors who has yet to make a real dud. If I had to pick my top five...

    1. Dead Ringers
    2. The Fly
    3. Videodrome
    4. Crash
    5. Naked Lunch

  • Comment number 17.

    A pretty solid list. However I find The Brood to be very annoying even with Oliver Reed's brilliant performance.

    Although I too would agree to put Videodrome as the top film of the list, its Cronenberg's most iconic film and that infamous scene with James Wood's stomach becoming a video slot and pulling out a gun is very, very hard to top. However I would personally go for Dead Ringers as his best film, a tragic, surreal and poignant film with a magnificant performance by Jeremy Irons, who was unfairly robbed of an Oscar nomination. The tools that Beverley Mantle comissions are more horrific than all of the blood and carnage so familiar to today's so called 'horror' films.

    Also A History of Violence and Eastern Promises should be there; I never imagined Cronenberg ever directing a comic book adaptation, let alone a gangster film However he did, and he made a magnificant job of it.

    Now ask which film you would like Cronenberg to direct? Total Recall. Yes we are getting the flashy remake with Colin Farrell (who incidently had to drop out of Cosmopolis due to Total Recall filming schedule) But I would love to see Cronenberg's take on it. Everytime I read Counterfait Worlds, a book dealing with the screen adaptations of the works of Philip K Dick and I get to the chapter of Total Recall, my thoughts always wonder what would've been if Cronenberg got to helm the film, his sketches in the book are astounding and even in prose form his vision would have made one hell of a movie.

  • Comment number 18.

    I think the omission of Eastern Promises is a big mistake! I think it's better than A History of Violence. Please ask Cronenberg about the sequel!

  • Comment number 19.

    Well, I don't have much to add to Dr K's list, to be honest. My personal top 5 would be:

    1. Videodrome
    2. The Fly
    3. Dead Ringers
    4. A History of Violence
    5. The Dead Zone - come on folks, where's the love for Christopher Walken's finest performance?

    The only one I would strongly disagree with is The Brood. I just didn't like it, or connect with it, at all. I thought it was just me, but at least there are a couple of other people on here who seem to feel the same. I loved Cronenberg's films immediately before and after it - Scanners and Rabid - but The Brood just seemed like a poorly-plotted mess in comparison.

  • Comment number 20.

    """"Bless me"? Do you know what God did for me? He threw an 18-wheeled truck at me and bounced me into nowhere for five years! When I woke up, my girl was gone, my job was gone, my legs were just about useless... Blessed me? God's been a real sport to me!"""

    In 1983 I was a kid and I visited a well known amusement park near Stoke. While there, I was thrown and fell over 100 feet from a ride called "The magic carpet". Apart from multiple breaks and fractures, the incident put me in a coma for two months.

    I had to learn how to walk again and I still have migraines to this day but luckily I had healed up enough that within 6 months after the fall, I was back running round the school play ground.

    It was of course typical, Mr Cronenberg should choose that time to release "The Dead Zone".

    I was 12, old enough 'to get a hold of a copy', young enough to be scared out of my wits and daft enough to believe that it if it could happen to Christopher 'Johnny Smith' Walken, then I to may have the power of second sight.

    Thank you Mr Cronenberg for allowing me to freak out all the kids at school, (who all knew about my accident), by holding on to their hand for about 3 minutes, making a "SKREEK! SKREEK!" noise followed by shouting "YOUR HOUSE IS BURNING, THERE'S STILL TIME!" or "THE ICE...IS GOING...TO BREAK!!!!!"

  • Comment number 21.

    I absolutely love 'Crash', 'The Fly' and 'Videodrome'. Cronenberg's films are so much about ideas and subtext externalised into such disturbing, horrific and gooey body matter, that there is also a perverse and hypnotic beauty in it all.

    1) Crash & The Fly. 'Crash' was such an assured and focused piece of work, heading more and more into the abyss of people's self-destructive desires.
    'The Fly' used be one of my favourite films when I first caught it on TV late at night when I was 10. (then again 'The Evil Dead' and 'The Thing' (1982) were my favourite films when I was 8. I'm 22 now). It's a great tragic love story in the mode of horror. It also has one of my favourite scores from Howard Shore.

    2) Videodrome - I think this is Cronenberg's defining film. A surreal and disturbing social commentary about television and video, and as you rightly said, Dr K, 'that central idea that watching videotapes can physically change and corrupt you'.

    3) The Dead Zone - Such a well-crafted thriller, with Christopher Walken giving a great performance.

    4) Dead Ringers - Wonderfully disturbing psychological thriller that required Jeremy Irons to create two different characters through the use of body language.

    5) Scanners - Another Cronenberg film I caught at a very young age. My Dad also loves this. A good sci-fi film with conspiracy and political thriller elements. The famous exploding head.
    Another brilliant thumping score from Howard Shore.
    While Stephen Lack is rather bland, Ironside makes great sinister villain - something he went on to repeat in 'Robocop' and 'Total Recall'.

    It has been years since I've seen 'The Brood' so I do not know if it could enter the list and replace another.

  • Comment number 22.

    I'd say it's NAKED LUNCH - not just Cronenberg's best film but the most daring film ever made. Just thinking of it I don't clearly remember the story (though I've seen it more than once) but what really stayed - it's the images.

    2nd - Videodrome
    3rd - eXistenZ

  • Comment number 23.


    Michael ironside wasn't it Robocop. You're confusing him with Kurtwood Smith, I think.

  • Comment number 24.

    My 5 Cronenberg favorites:

    5 Dead Ringers - By default, I guess. I remember that I liked it, but not much else about it... And since I think all of the rest of his films (that I've seen) are mediocre AT BEST, then I'll have to put this at #5.

    4 Scanners - Agreat little low budget mind blowing experience. It never gets old. Sure, some of the acting (and story... and dialogue...) is stilted, but it's a lot of fun for horror fans.

    3 The Fly - Everything you said. And Jeff Goldblum probably should have gotten a little more recognition for his performance.

    2 Eastern Promises - I know Viggo gets all the attention in this film, but I love it for Naomi Watts. She is great here as the heroine/damsel in distress.

    1 The Dead Zone - I know you'll disagree Dr. K, but this is Cronenberg's best film (and far more 'near-perfect' than Crash... which was a horrible wreck of a film. Pun intended). I think it was better than King's book (and I love the book), improving several aspects of the story, such as not giving away the intentions of the villain so early in the story. Christopher was never better, either, and was among a truly stellar cast with Skerrit, Sheen, Lom, (Zerbe), Dewhurst and Adams among others... Not just one of my favorite Cronenberg movies, but one of my favorite films, period.

  • Comment number 25.

    Hello Mark!
    Recorded Videodrome on a VHS-tape here in Finland when it was shown on TV for the first time, maybe 15 years ago. The rental VHS was heavily cut, the TV version not so much.
    One film I would like to have on VHS just to touch it.
    Yes, Videodrome is also my favourite and always reminds me of watching "forbidden" movies as a kid.
    Now I sometimes think how much films have changed my mind and maybe there is a part of my brain that has a life of its own because of them.

    -Saku Työrinoja (Tampere, Finland)

  • Comment number 26.

    Mmm! I love Cronenberg and it's a measure of the strength of his output that I can only agree with two of your list Dr K. My list would be:

    5. The Dead Zone - Like my colleague Crash Landen I think that this is a neglected gem, with a great central performance by Walken and a cracking villain in Martin Sheen.

    4. A History of Violence - great performances by Mortensen and Ed Harris (though Hurt's performance is a big slice of ham!) and a serious topic dealt with seriously

    3. Existenz - A surreal film with a great narrative structure around a series of enigmas

    2. The Fly - Goldblum has never been better, whilst the discussion with geena Davies about 'Insect politics' is priceless

    1. Dead Ringers - this is a great film: full stop. How on earth the "Academy" neglected to give irons an Oscar is a mystery equalled only by the heights of his performance. As usual they realised his mistake and gave him the nod for an inferior performance - that of Claus von Bülow in reversal of Fortune.

  • Comment number 27.

    For once I think I completely agree with your top 5 there Dr. Kermode (although maybe replace The Brood with A History of Violence). Cronenberg is my all-time favourite director; everything he's done is at the very least interesting, even his failures such as M Butterfly.

    I remember looking through my dad’s video collection when I was a kid and seeing the horrific cover for Videodrome (James Woods screaming in agony as his limbs were torn apart from his body). Even back then I was fascinated with horror and I asked my dad what it was about. I'll never forget him saying, "I can't tell you, you'll have nightmares." From that point on I was obsessed with watching the film and when I finally saw it around 16/17 I was not disappointed. It's still one of my favourite films today and Cronenberg's best work. Glad you had it at number 1.

    Also must mention his bizarre acting career. His brief appearances in To Die For and Jason X are great fun, but who can forget his creepy and sinister turn in Clive Barker's ambitious but flawed Nightbreed? Essential viewing.

  • Comment number 28.

    Another fan of eXistenZ here. It was one of a group of films exploring similar themes of reality vs unreality that were released at around the same time (the others being Dark City and The Thirteenth Floor) that largely got lost because of the extraordinary break-out success of The Matrix. It's true that Videodrome got there "first" as it were, but we need this story to be continually revisited.

  • Comment number 29.

    Naked lunch without a doubt. Daring and one tripping film

  • Comment number 30.

    For me, it's probably a toss-up between Videodrome and The Fly for my favourite Cronenberg film, although I would probably have found a place in the top five for Eastern Promises, a vastly under-rated film, featuring some fine central performances from Viggo Mortensen, Vincent Cassel, Armin Mueller-Stahl and Naomi Watts.

  • Comment number 31.

    Mark, regarding the point you made about The Fly. Cronenberg really does know how to make sad films. The Dead Zone (criminally underrated), Dead Ringers and The Fly all left me incredibly satisfied and yet incredibly sad at the same time. How many directors can pull that off?

  • Comment number 32.

    Glad you mentioned Olly Reed. For so long his acting and sheer charisma on screen have been overshadowed by his drinking exploits.
    Disappointed that you didn't mention Scanners, a low budget classic with a great score and atmosphere.
    Agree with Dead Ringers, only got round to seeing it this year and was very impressed (and surprised) by Jeremy Irons performance. A great film.
    Cronenborg is a brilliant filmmaker because he does his own thing and stands out from all the conformist, bland crap that is prevalent nowadays!

  • Comment number 33.

    Cronenberg must be the hardest director to concretely say a top 5... each film has such a sick little twisted visceral pleasure, black black humour, Cronenbergs work is so funny and so gut wrenchingly sad, Dead Ringers really gets me each time but History of Violence serves in the same way when Viggo changes from Tom to Eddie right there on screen it is perfection but only Cronenberg could get that, the performances he gets from his actors is in a class of its own. My favourite director of all time.

    1. Naked Lunch
    2. A History of Violence
    3. Dead Ringers
    4. Eastern Promises
    5. eXistenZ
    6. Crash

    A top 5 is too hard!

  • Comment number 34.

    1 Dead Ringers
    2 Videodrome
    3 Naked Lunch
    4 The Brood
    5 The Dead Zone

    I was very disappointed by the film Crash when it came out, it being based on one of my all time favourite novels. Overall the film is too polished, which goes against Ballard's raw aesthetic. James Spader was miscast, or perhaps wrongly directed like Keira Knightley was in A Dangerous Method, playing the role very much as a naive vegetable, in contrast to the the character in the book who has more intellectual depth. Maybe I will have a milder view now when revisiting the film after 16 years.

    I recently watched Cronenberg's first two films, Stereo (1969) and Crimes of the Future (1970) and was surprised how these early experimental films are thematically more sophisticated than his later, visceral horror films of the seventies, which, while entertaining, are somewhat trashy. By no means successful films, Stereo and Crimes of the Future reflect the Ballardian world much better than Crash does, due to their raw and experimental nature. To be more precise, they resonate with Ballard's experimental period (starting with The Atrocity Exhibition) , which is remarkable considering Ballard had only just started to develop this new direction himself and it had not yet made much cultural impact.

  • Comment number 35.

    Cronenberg's films can't be watched just once. You have to see them again and again to get the nuances you miss. Completely voyeuristic and uncomfortable, black but compelling. You can't help but watch them. My top 5 of his films are:

    1. Dead Ringers
    2. Crash
    3. A History of Violence
    4. Eastern Promises
    5. The Dead Zone

  • Comment number 36.

    1. Videodrome -- just one of my favorite films, ever, manages to veer between disturbing, satirical and surreal, to just plain threatening, as if the act of watching it could damage your mind in the same way as James Woods internal reality becomes externalized in the new flesh. Someone above mentioned the Criterion Edition, that's on my next Christmas list.
    2. Dead Ringers -- the film Jeremy Irons should have won for that year, not Reversal of Fortune, it's not just that special effects carry it off, it's Irons crowning achievement that you can tell the twins apart, even when they mock and imitate each other, a stunning performance. At the core another portrait of a descent into madness, something that Cronenberg does very well conveying not just the horror, but the tragedy.
    3. The Fly -- this is easier to sit through and more enjoyable than Dead Ringers, perhaps through the strength of the genre story, but it is very much about the tragedy of watching the disintegration of loved ones or oneself. I really wish I could see the opera.
    4. Scanners -- the first Cronenberg I saw, and I saw it in a theatre. The ending, not the melonbursting psychic powers, blew my mind.
    5. A History of Violence -- my wife usually can't stand violence in movies, and I have to be very careful what I take her to (although oddly Apocalypse Now is a favorite, and more recently Hanna). She enjoyed this, but was equally and properly disturbed that she had, which is almost the point of the exercise.

    I feel I ought to rate the adaptations of Naked Lunch and Crash higher, but particularly that cool remove in the latter keeps me from connecting with it, and the former creates something new beautiful and disturbing that is more a companion to the source novel than a telling of it. The cliché of filming the unfilmable finds its root truth here, and no one would ever claim that Gilliam would do a better job.

    Also have soft spots for the superb adaptation The Dead Zone, although I was somewhat put off by its episodic structure the first time I saw it, and They Came from Within because of its combination of social satire and horror akin to Romero's Dawn of the Dead.

  • Comment number 37.

    I am not a fan of Cronenberg in general but I do like 3 of his films quite a bit and pretty much dislike or find average most of the rest of them. The three I like and have in my collection are
    1. The Fly
    2. The Dead Zone
    3. eXistenZ

  • Comment number 38.

    p.s I think Cronenberg is rarely finer than he is as the serial killer in NIghtbreed :)

  • Comment number 39.

    I can just about stomach the exclusion of Eastern Promises from your list. heck, I can even go without a History of Violence if it makes you feel better. But leaving The Dead Zone behind is totally inexcusable. Lists are stupid anyway...

  • Comment number 40.

    I very much have a love/hate affair with Cronenberg's movies, his early work upto and including "The Fly" were either thought provoking,downright creepy or extremley bloody but all brilliantly executed masterpieces. He then in my opinion made some ok but perfunctory movies like "Dead Ringers" and "Naked Lunch" - the latter of which bored me to tears and the less said about "Existenz" the better!

    His more recent work has seen him return to his prior masterful form , particularly "History of violence" which although plotwise wasn't that much of a surprise featured one of Ed Harris's best performances in recent years.

    Clearly Cronenberg has grown and matured as a director over the years but part of me would love to see him return to his horror roots and give us something fresh, let's face it the horror genre has been in decline for a long time, why not one of it's old masters to give it a shot in the arm?

    Anyway, here's my top 5

    1. The Fly
    2. The Brood
    3. Crash
    4. The Dead Zone
    5. Videodrome

  • Comment number 41.

    And this is where me and Mark disagree.
    I do have some problems with Cronenberg's films, as I think pretty much all of them fall apart at one point or another.
    However I am quite fond of "The fly", "Dead Zone" and to a degree "Dead Ringers". Scanners today is a bit dated (not just in the effects), and Crash is a film that I just cannot stand, in fact I really hate it. existent was intriguing but it lost itself... and then it ended...
    And now a question: why why why why did he in Jason X????

  • Comment number 42.

    Spider! The one that everyone forgets about.

    Structured around the concept of an almost criminally unreliable narrator, one who rarely even speaks, the film completely ran rings around me.

    Not what I expected from Cronenberg, so much so, my friend (a confirmed body-horror-Cronenberg enthusiast) walked out of the room when the credits rolled and went to bed without saying anything in a fit of anger. I loved it.

  • Comment number 43.

    The Fly
    A History of Violence (I've seen Eastern Promises but didn't enjoy it as much)
    The Dead Zone

    A top 5 is hard to do, especially since DC has been around a long time, so my other 5:

    Dead Ringers (those surgical instruments still creep me out)!
    Naked Lunch
    Fast Company

  • Comment number 44.

    OK kids, here's the real best to worst list.

    1. Videodrome.
    2. Shivers (They Came from Within).
    3. Dead Ringers.
    4. The Brood.
    5. Crash.
    6. The Fly.
    7. Scanners.
    8. Rabid.
    9. The Dead Zone
    10. The Naked Lunch.
    11. A Dangerous Method.
    12. eXistenZ.
    13. Spider.
    14. M. Butterfly.
    15. A History of Violence.
    16. Eastern Promises.
    17. Fast Company.

  • Comment number 45.

    I always remember as a kid growing up being terrified of the posters of films like Scanners. The very idea of a Cronenberg movie was scary. The films never turned out to be quite as frightening as my imagination, but their ideas and complexity were compelling.

    Dead Ringers has to be my favourite. It's a perfect film.

    Haven't seen Crash yet so will make the effort now I think.

  • Comment number 46.

    I would definitely include eXistenZ. Of his more recent films I like Spider, but not sure I would say it was in the top five. He has quite a back catalogue.

  • Comment number 47.

    Glad so many people have mentioned The Dead Zone, it's a masterpiece.

    Firstly it has that magical opening theme by Michael Kamen.

    I also recall an amazing bit of dialogue and delivery by Walken

    Sarah (after coming outside to see Johnny): I heard you were outside

    Johnny: I am

    It's comic genius, trust me.

  • Comment number 48.

    5. The Fly
    4. A History of Violence
    3. Videodrome
    2. The Dead Zone
    1. Shivers

  • Comment number 49.

    I haven't seen all his movies. I've seen A history of violence which I thought was really good. William Hurt is really good in that. There was someone who said that he was miscast but I think he was great for that part. I also remember seeing, when I saw it in the cinema, a woman rushing off to the ladies room right after the movie ended as she was crying. She was really moved by it. Either that or she had something in her eye, I don't know. haha

    I also saw parts of Videodrome but I never saw that movie completely as it just made me feel really uneasy so I turned it off. I don't really dare to watch any others as I've seen screenshots of these films and those alone freak me out. I'm not really cut out for movies which really upset you. Martin Scorsese also said that he was often hesitant to watch his movies as they were "unsettling".

  • Comment number 50.

    I haven't seen a huge number of Cronenberg films and yet he holds a special place for me. As a teenager there was a season of his films on either BBC2 or C4 which acted as my first real introduction to grown up movies. Scanners, Shivers, Videodrome, the Fly were all brilliant but the stand out film was Dead Ringers.

    As a teenage girl that film was incredibly disturbing and even though I've never brought myself to watch it again still gives me the shivers today.

  • Comment number 51.

    My first post on this blog...
    I'm surprised by how many Cronenberg films I HAVEN'T seen so I'm far from an expert on the subject, but I maintain that of the handful (around 10 I think) I have seen, the one that really stuck out as something unique and amazing is his early short-ish film 'Crimes of the Future' from 1970.
    I'm not sure anyone else will ever agree with me, and it's definitely not one for everybody, but for what is, in effect, a glorified student film it's astonishingly mature and well-made and deals with some pretty lofty moral/social dilemmas.

  • Comment number 52.

    Much prefer Polanski to Cronenberg.The Tenant and Rosemarys baby are far better films in my eyes.My fav Cronenberg by far has 1664 at the end of it.

  • Comment number 53.

    I've found it surprisingly difficult to work out a top 5 of Cronenberg's films. He's a director whose body of work manages to be consistent and inconsistent at the same time. Therefore it's very difficult to select 5 films which are quintessentially more Cronenbergian than any others. But... here goes:

    5 - The Dead Zone. Like Scanners it features a depiction of abnormal and transcendent consciousness that is simultaneously fascinating and terrifying, and which serves to bring down a powerful, megalomaniac figure. Amazing performance from Christopher Walken. Fantastic score.

    4 - Videodrome. Deeply creepy examination of the power of mass media technology to influence human behaviour, identity and the body's capacity to consume and produce. Cracking performance from James Woods and wonderfully controlled camera movements.

    3 - A Dangerous Method. Reflects Cronenberg's interest in the pathology of method, where psychoanalysis itself is just as much a symptom of madness as it is its intended cure. Fantastic central performances from the three lead actors (sorry, I really think Kiera Knightly is fantastic in the film!), great cinematography and score.

    2 - Crash. I agree with Mark's comments about it being a perfect film. It's also very funny in places, too. Regular collaborator Peter Suschitzky's cinematography is astonishing, as is Howard Shore's score.

    1 - Dead Ringers. For me the most disturbing depiction of the co-existence of madness and science. The depiction of gynaecology as both medicine and a kind of transcendent artistic ritual is one of the creepiest things I've ever seen on film. Jeremy Iron's performances in the film are beyond great. I'm always amazed at how he can project whether he's playing Eliot or Bev even without having to say a word.

  • Comment number 54.

    How on earth did Scanners not make this list???

  • Comment number 55.

    Videodrome is also my favourite. I often lend Videodrome or Oldboy to people. When they return them, they give me a very odd look like I`m some kind of weirdo. One said "Michael , you don`t half like some weird S@%T" How right they are !!
    I also would say ` A History of Violence` is better than` The Brood` Which really is a very silly film. The lead american actor is such a plank of wood. The best thing in it, is of cause Oliver Reed. He acts everyone else off the screen He`s so intense, you can`t take your eyes off him. How did he do that ?????

  • Comment number 56.

    It is very odd that I really like his movies, look forward to them, but I cannot choose a favourite. They all have they own equal highlights.
    A top 5 sure, but they won't be in order as, like Cronerberg movies the order is in disorder.
    1. Naked Lunch
    2. Eastern Promses
    3. The Dead Zone
    4. Dead Ringers
    5. Videodrome

  • Comment number 57.

    Personally I'll never forget the first time I watched Naked Lunch on a small TV in a dingy living room with friends as a student. The most bizarre, twisted puzzler of a film that is both wonderfully humorous and unsettling in equal measure.

    Just out of interest, Mark, any chance of a top 5 David Lynch films? Would love to hear which are your favourites...

  • Comment number 58.

    Mark I'm completely shocked that you mention 'The Brood' but failed to give credit to Samantha Eggar, who, in my opinion, is the sole reason the whole mood of the film is deeply unsettling. Her performance is criminally underrated and ever since watching the movie all those years ago I still haven't been able to get that 'reveal scene' out of my mind!

  • Comment number 59.

    Hmmm difficult. Cronenberg is undoubtedly one of the better directors working in the horror genre, for the reasons of depth and subtext etc already mentioned... but c'mon... seriously? He is still overrated in my opinion. It's almost as if he had an incredible idea but never quite had the talent/money/whatever to execute it: I always seem to feel somehow left unsatisfied by his films, as if I'd been promised an amazing meal but then been told the dessert had run out... and leave still hungry.

    That said, I'd say my No 1 would be The Fly: more than any of his others, it seemed to carry through his notions of the horror of the flesh to their best level. Who can forget Goldblum's impassioned speech, that almost made you want to stand up in the cinema and whoop? "Drink deep, or taste not, the plasma spring!"

    No 2. Dead Ringers. Incredible performance from Irons, firmly burying his Brideshead Revisted typecasting. Incidentally, Irons is one of the world's most under-rated actors. I'll watch anything with him in it.

    3. Eastern Promises. Not your typical Cronenberg, but a superb film, with a knockout performance from both Viggo and Vincent.

    4. Videodrome. Yes, Mark, it WAS so creepy, and raised some disturbing questions at the time... BUT, as you hinted... once video was superseded, it lost a LOT of its impact. Suddenly, it's like watching old films where the hero is running round looking for a phone box: you can no longer identify with him.

    And I know I'm going to upset some folks here, but eXistenz and The Naked Lunch were two of the worst films I've ever seen. Kudos to the man for even TRYING to film a Burroughs book, but still a failure nonetheless...

    Mind you, as long as Strippers vs Werewolves exists, there will never be a worst film ever made:)

  • Comment number 60.

    Lol, you're right 'Crash Landen'. My mind was wandering.

  • Comment number 61.

    Crash and Dead Ringers are Cronenberg's masterpieces. Both among my favorite films of all-time. Videodrome and The Brood are also rated very highly in my book. The former completely floored me when I watched it as a sixteen-year-old. Changed my view on watching a film and filmmaking in general. As for lesser Cronenberg, I'll pick Naked Lunch and Eastern Promises. Not a Burroughs fan, and although a good movie, Eastern Promises just bored me to bits.

  • Comment number 62.

    5.) THE FLY

  • Comment number 63.

    1. Videodrome (and it really annoys me that Universal's UK blu ray is cut -damn you!)

    2. Dead Ringers

    3. The Fly

    4. A History of Violence

    5. Scanners

    I own everything he's made to date and he is one of the few filmmakers for whom lists, top fives etc do an injustice. He will always by at the very top of my 'most interesting director' list, but I think his individual titles are very interchangeable depending on what age you first came to them.

    I have a real soft spot for Rabid, The Brood and Crash… on a different day at a different time you get a different list.

  • Comment number 64.

    I really can't argue with Mark Kermode's top five Cronenberg films and I would have real trouble narrowing all his great films down to just five favourites and even more head scratching when it came to putting them in order. I really like Spider, probably his best and most overlooked film, with a career-best performance from Ralph Fiennes, and A History of Violence, a brilliant character study which (along with Eastern Promises) furthers the good doctor's claim that Viggo Mortensen is this generation's Robert De Niro.

    I now feel like re-watching the Cronenberg back catalogue!

  • Comment number 65.

    His best films for me would be:
    The Fly
    The Dead Zone
    A History of Violence
    Eastern Promises
    Dead Ringers
    (I also like some of his other films like Scanners, eXistenZ, Naked Lunch, Brood, Rabid and Shivers, but the above 6 are his best films).

    His three worst films would be:
    1. Crash
    2. A Dangerous Method
    3. Spider
    (Crash in particular is truly awful and I am surprised how many people on here, including Mark Kermode, actually like it).

  • Comment number 66.

    Mark, given your glowing review of 'A History Of Violence' I am sure I am not the only one surprised to find it not on your Top 5. In any case, bearing in mind I have not seen 'Dead Ringers' yet, here are my Top 5:

    5. CRASH

    Completely agree with you, Mark; whilst difficult to enjoy, this is a maserpiece, and in fact it is more extreme and dangerous than Ballard's original work.

    4. THE BROOD

    First time I saw it, wasn't entirely sure about it, but since then have watched it twice and love all the things I didn't notice the first time: performances, relevance of certain scenes, the creepiness, and the sadistic finale hits home harder each time.

    3. THE FLY

    One of the greatest re-imagings of all time, one of the best metaphors committed to screen, emotional and frightening, groundbreaking effects work, genuinely stomch turning moments, and a superb central performance? Of course it's on the list!


    Following close behind, but not quite as good, as its predecessor, 'Eastern Promises' offers a holding character-driven drama in a very real-feeling world, a wonderfully crafted fight scene, and a promise of things to come in a potential sequel. I really care about these people and I want to know what happens next.


    Viggo Mortensen being incredible, great writing, sublety of detail that rewards multiple viewing, and provocative subject matter. Yes I know it's unusual to have the top 2 as the more recent, less metaphysical work, but that happens to be coincidence.

  • Comment number 67.

    I'm afraid that the good Dr. missed how good A Dangerous Method is in his review. Though not his best, it was easily as good as Eastern Promises, and a lot better than Existenz and Spider, both of which were disappointing. Also, I'm not sure M. Butterfly is as bad as people make out.

    Anyway, my top 5 would be:

    5. Crash
    4. Videodrome
    3. Naked Lunch
    2. Dead Ringers
    1. The Fly

  • Comment number 68.

    I'm a huge fan of Videodrome. I wrote a review of it in a horror column I do for the Flicktalkers blog. I'm kind of ashamed to say that I haven't really seen much of Cronenberg's other stuff. I will definitely get to it at some stage though.

  • Comment number 69.

    hi mark just wanted to say that scanners is my favourite, it got patrick mcgoohan in it! and now i have to watch the prisoner again. Be seeing you

  • Comment number 70.

    Got in late on this (per the norm) Dr. K sorry Shivers still more than Videodrome (1 and 2 tho) 3 The Dead Zone 4 History of Violence and 5 The Brood ( my picks) still DO NOT like Crash and never will I guess (existenz close in running for number 2 tho)

  • Comment number 71.

    Looking forward to the interview today Dr Kermode,Croneborg is unique and I'm so looking forward to the way Mark,I heard an old radio podcast of you with Mark and Lard from '95 today, blimey, how your voice has changed! (for the better, thankfully!)

  • Comment number 72.

    1 The Fly
    2 Dead Ringers
    3 The Dead Zone
    4 Videodrome
    5 A History of Violence

  • Comment number 73.

  • Comment number 74.


    I vividly remember buying my first VHS machine when i was at college in Wolverhampton and rushing to a vid store to RENT A MOVIE. This was a big deal 30 years ago. On the shelves was a film by Cronenberg called Scanners. It's not his best, but it is my favorite.

    I was intrigued because I'd had a summer job at the ABC in Torquay putting up the letters of the wires and would be happy to send you a photo of us hanging "Rabid" another fave.

    30 years later he's still crucial and I will see Cosmopolis.

    Thanks so much

  • Comment number 75.

    I'm a huge David Cronenberg fan, and as such it is a pleasure to hear your good self talk of his films. Keep up with the Top Fives! Here's my list (no particular order):

    Honorable Mention: Scanners - not a great script, and Stephen Lack is a dullard of a lead, but it is anarchic and crazy. Also, me and a mate created a drinking game to it that is very hard: every time someone 'Scans,' you have to take a shot. By about half-way through, we were cheating and arguing what exactly constitutes a 'Scan,' deciding to compromise on Scans that drew blood. My room looked like the fallout of a nuclear apocalypse the morning after!

    5. Eastern Promises - only Cronenberg could handle make a movie which is, frankly, nuts-and-bolts and cliched, with such skill and to the point that I didn't care. On top of that, Viggo Mortensen is extraordinarily enigmatic as Nikolai in a performance with a stark level of complexity.

    4. The Brood - every movie on here is on your list, though in a different order. Completely agree with the reference to Cronenberg's back catalogue as the get-out clause to those arguing against horror films: I saw The Brood recently, found it thoroughly grotesque and haunting. That last shot sticks with me, and it's a more profound argument against child abuse than a social realist flick.

    3. Videodrome - terrific movie with enough thematic layers to back up the separation of watching Videodrome's characters as they themselves watch Videodrome (or Brian O'Blivion). I agree with it being too clean on DVD, for it isn't the same as watching it on video. I have a recorded copy of Ringu off a late showing on Channel 4 (minus your infamous introduction ;), and the raw quality of the VHS format can't be matched by a clean, crisp Blu-Ray copy. I want back the grot and slime and filth!

    2. Dead Ringers - in a day of special effects, the performance(s) of Jeremy Irons here is nothing less than an astonishing achievement. Notwithstanding this feature, the movie itself is mesmerising, and is the consummation of Cronenberg's preoccupation with the body-politik/body-horror.

    1. The Fly - a fine example of creativity in film. Every time I watch The Fly, I get shocked as to how much of it is set in Brundle's apartment/lab. Also, at the heart of it, for all of Cronenberg's thematic content, a wonderful and authentic love story is played out by Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis. And rom-coms can't convince me half the time of their 'love stories!'

    Well, there you have it!

  • Comment number 76.

    On the subject of top five and top tens, the BFI post a list of the top ten modern directors. The last one I can find on their site was from a 2002 poll of both critics and directors. It's a little dull. I would be very interested to see a blog or blogs from Mark on his choice of the top ten modern directors.

  • Comment number 77.

    This list was a nice surprise for me. I had more or less written Cronenberg off on the basis of the 6 or 7 films I had seen, but then noticed that most of them didn't feature on this list. The body of work I was familiar with ranges from the awful (Eastern Promises) to the genuinely very good, but somehow none of them ever felt like they lived up to their own potential (with the possible exception of the Fly). I had more or less come to see him as a kind of second rate David Lynch. The list, however, inspired me to get hold of Dead Ringers, which was absolutely astonishing - the only downside being that, after hearing you say that you don't find yourself wondering how he did the scenes featuring both of Jeremy Irons' characters, I of course found myself trying to figure it out. I now look forward to tracking down the other films you mentioned, in particular Videodrome and the Brood.

  • Comment number 78.

    Tough ask this one, so much quality to choose from. Oh well, here goes.

    5. Crash
    4. The Brood
    3. Videodrome
    2. A History of Violence
    1. Existenz

    Existenz is so underrated. I guess for just the power of image alone Existenz and Videodrome are the most successful for me. Obviously there is that moment in Scanners too. Mind blowing filmmaker.

  • Comment number 79.

    I have seen few Cronenberg films, indeed only seven, so I offer comments on all of them.

    5. Cosmopolis
    Really interesting. Not terribly cinematic but filled with fascinating ideas that are very well played. I like the intense focus and the exposure of completely hollow characters, ultimately asking if any identity exists in the post-human world.

    4. The Fly
    Typical Cronenberg, I suppose. Body horror, gloopy, exposure of the frailty and fluidity of the flesh. Nasty in the right ways, but also moving and touching as it needs to be.

    3. Spider
    A wonderful portrayal of mental illness that really pulls you into the fractured state of the central character. Wonderful central performance by Ralph Fiennes, doing the other thing he does really well - the quiet, diffident gent (as in "The English Patient", "The End of the Affair", "The Constant Gardener") rather than evil incarnate (as in "Schindler's List", "Red Dragon", "Harry Potter"). Also Cronenberg does a great job of shifting between the different timeframes, giving the viewer just the right level of confusion and understanding.

    2. Eastern Promises
    A gangster film! In London! With Russians! No guns! Naked knife fight! Brilliantly played, wonderfully shot, enthralling, gripping and moving. Love it!

    1. A History of Violence
    Gangster film. Western. Commentary on fluidity of identity. Portrayal of the intrinsic violence within people, and within American society. Critical analysis of media culture. All this and more. A stunning film that warrants being held up as Cronenberg's best. But then again, I've only seen these six, and one other...

    Pretentious pornography. Absolute garbage. Quite possibly the worst film I have ever seen. It is not a perfect film, Mark, it is a lurid, pitiful, tedious, missed opportunity. Every time it raises an interesting idea the idea is abandoned in favor of more kinky but ultimately boring sex scenes. These are not just empty, they are bland and indulgent. What a waste of everyone's talent, time, money and attention.

  • Comment number 80.

    My top 5 Cronenberg movies would be:

    1. Scanners
    2. Videodrome
    3. The Dead Zone
    4. Rabid
    5. A History of Violence

  • Comment number 81.

    Videodrome is definitely my top Croenberg film

  • Comment number 82.

    The Dead Zone
    The Fly
    A History of Violence
    oh hang on I forgot Scanners..Rabid....


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