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Yorgos Lanthimos's best films, ranked, as Poor Things wins best comedy at the Golden Globes

Ramy Youssef and Emma Stone in Yorgos Lanthimos’ Poor Things (Photo by Yorgos Lanthimos. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures © 2023 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved)
Ramy Youssef and Emma Stone in Yorgos Lanthimos’ Poor Things (Photo by Yorgos Lanthimos. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures © 2023 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved)

It came as no great surprise that Poor Things, the latest project from Oscar-nominated Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos, won best musical or comedy at the Golden Globes last night, despite facing strong competition from Barbie and May December.

The new black comedy, which premiered at Venice in September and will be released in the UK on Friday (January 12), has been described by critics as "pleasure to the eye, pleasure to the soul", "luscious", "toweringly bizarre", and "unlike anything you’ve seen in years".

Starring Emma Stone, Mark Ruffalo and Willem Dafoe, the science fantasy extravaganza is a riff on Frankenstein. Stone's character Bella Baxter is the result of an experiment where a baby's brain has been put into the head of her freshly dead mother's body. The film follows Bella exploration of the world as her mind develops from that of a baby, to a child, to a woman.

"Together, Lanthimos and his team of players and crew have conjured up a delight that – like its protagonist – is eccentric, smart, a little dark, lovely to look at and charming as hell," said the Standard in its five-star review.

Lanthimos is undeniably one of the most exciting directors of the last decade: his last film, The Favourite (2018) was nominated for nine Oscars, winning one, and his earlier features, such as the frightening and hilarious Dogtooth (2009) had already marked him out as a first-rate filmmaker.

Here is our pick of Lanthimos's best films, ranked in ascending order. We've left off his first films, My Best Friend (2001) and Kinetta (2005), which are markedly less good than the rest of the bunch (discuss).

Alps (2011)

It's a fascinating premise: a small company (of four people) provides a service in which its staff impersonate deceased family members, to help fill devastating holes in people's lives. The story follows nurse Monte Rosa (Aggeliki Papoulia) as she works for the strange firm.

Lanthimos's 2011 psychological drama won the Osella for Best Screenplay at Venice. His famous wit and tone run throughout the snowy feature, but the storyline is less perfectly paced than those in some of his other works.

The Lobster (2015)

Rachel Weisz is a marvel, and the first half of this barmy film is electrifying, but The Lobster fails to hold its momentum until the end, which is why it's so far down our list. Still, it's fun to watch Lanthimos's dark musings on relationships and being single.

The premise is both thrilling and terrifying. David (Colin Farrell) finds himself single after a 12 year relationship so heads to a singles hotel, which is run by Olivia Colman's strict and nameless proprietor. The guests are given 45 days to find a partner; if they don't they are turned into animals. David's brother, who failed the process, is now a dog. Weisz's unnamed character becomes David's love interest. Léa Seydoux, Ben Whishaw and John C. Reilly also star.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)

All of Lanthimos's films have unsettling and dark elements, but The Killing of a Sacred Deer is an out and out psychological horror. The story, which the Standard described as "shocking", follows heart surgeon Steven (Colin Farrell) whose family become sick after the teenage son (played by Barry Keoghan) of one of his old patients shows up. Nicole Kidman, queen of these kind of ice cold thrillers, also stars.

The Favourite (2018)

It was the film that won Olivia Colman her first Oscar, and took the world by storm in 2018. Colman played Queen Anne, the chronically ill English Queen who reigned from 1702 to 1714 and lived a life marred by sadness, with only five of her 17 pregnancies leading to live-born children, and none living past the age of 11.

In The Favourite, Lanthimos's approached the unhappy subject with his typical dark edge, producing an eccentric, hilarious, farcical and scabrous award-winning film. In Australian writer Tony McNamara's reimagining of the period, which also featured exquisite turns from Nicholas Hoult, Joe Alwyn and Mark Gatiss, Queen Anne's lover Lady Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz) finds a rival in the very charming new courtier Abigail Hill (Emma Stone) and the games begin.

Dogtooth (2009)

We thought long and hard about whether Dogtooth or The Favourite should take second place. Dogtooth won out in the end because, despite all of the later film's accolades, Dogtooth was the film that put Lanthimos on the map. It's a scorcher: weird, distressing, funny, thought-provoking, creepy, brilliant.

The psychological thriller, which won the Prix Un Certain Regard at Cannes in 2009, and was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film in 2010, tells the story of a household in which the parents have never let their children, who are now adults, out into the outside world. Their home, predictably, is a very strange place indeed.

Poor Things (2023)

Admittedly, we should hold back before crowning Poor Things as Lanthimos's best work yet, but the reviews have been utterly astonishing and Stone looks likely to receive an Oscar nod for her work (the Academy Award nominations are announced later this month). Although one reviewer said the film was "deeply self-satisfied", nearly all other critics have heaped on the praise.

When the film, which is an adaptation of Alasdair Gray's 1992 novel, premiered at Venice Film Festival in September, The Standard said: "Dealing with issues of patriarchy, ownership and feminism, as well as philosophical debates about human nature, not to mention the thorny issue of prostitution and sexual freedom, this is a fascinating and entertaining ride."

Sounds like a winner to us!

Poor Things opens in cinemas in the UK on January 12