Here’s Every Movie Steve Mcqueen Directed, Ranked


There are filmmakers who make entertainment and there are those who create experiences. Famous British filmmaker Steve McQueen (not to be confused with this Steve McQueen) has created some of the most uncompromising and intellectual works of art in modern cinema, and has steadily progressed with almost every new film. McQueen started out as a visual artist but branched out into film with his 2008 feature film Hunger, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and won the Camera D’or among several other awards and prizes. The film launched his and Michael Fassbender’s careers, and the two continue to collaborate.

From there, McQueen’s career took off and he has since released several award-winning and critically acclaimed films. Although his filmography is small, the impact of each of these films on audiences and critics (and on black cinema in general) is anything but. Here, we dissect one of modern cinema’s most compelling works and see which of these unique achievements stands out above all the others.

5 widows

Widows Review: Best Crime Drama of the Year

For a director as intensely personal as McQueen, adaptations don’t come often, but when they do, few come off as white and fierce as widows. The 2018 film serves as an adaptation of a British television series and is written by Gillian Flynn of missing girl and Sharp objects notoriety. The film follows the widows of a group of bank robbers led by Viola Davis who, after the death of their husband, find themselves forced to repay their debts to a menacing crime lord (Brian Tree Henry). Under the direction of McQueen, widows becomes a compelling study of female empowerment and marginalization while being a heavily crafted and tense heist film. McQueen handles the gender aspects with ease and shows confidence in his stellar cast which includes Davis, Robert Duval, Liam Neeson, Michelle Rodriquez and Cynthia Ervo. widows could have been just another generic thriller, but McQueen assures that it’s much more psychological and complex than that.

widows may not be McQueen’s most inventive film, but it proves he can create accessible cinema while retaining his own artistry in the process. widows did respectfully at the box office and earned strong reviews, proving that McQueen can effectively handle the mainstream route as well as the art house.

Related: Steve McQueen brings a trio of black British history documentaries to Amazon

4 small ax

small ax
Amazon Studios

Although this is technically a series of films lasting around an hour, small ax is an anthology made up of five stories exploring the lives of West Indian immigrants from the 1960s to the 1980s. small ax is particularly powerful in the way it explores themes of racism, social injustice, and identity while demonstrating McQueen’s flair for storytelling. Each individual segment holds its own impact and stands apart in both tone and filmmaking, though the whole piece works as one of the best “movies” of 2020 as a whole. McQueen taps into our cultural moment with the powerful courtroom drama of Mangroveand rock of lovers features a tribute to black culture and truly moving music. Other segments such as Red, white and blue highlight issues such as police brutality and corruption, and McQueen’s confident touch ensures that all of these issues are explored with sincerity and sophistication. With small axMcQueen offers a strong portrayal of his dynamic skill set, along with a collection of timely, heartfelt and vital stories added to his filmography.

3 12 years of slavery

Fox Searchlight will re-release 12 Years a Slave in January

The movie that helped propel McQueen’s name into the mainstream, 12 years of slavery had a strong impact upon its release, earning critical acclaim as well as Oscar wins and nominations. Telling the true story of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free African-American man who is kidnapped and sold into slavery for 12 years, the film is (like much of McQueen’s work) uncompromising in exploring Northup’s suffering and endurance as he strives for his freedom. McQueen also takes a penetrating look at human morality by examining the hideous behavior of plantation owners and the power dynamics they share with their slaves. McQueen is in strong visual form here and commands captivating performances from Ejofor and an ensemble that includes Michael Fassbender and Sara Paulson, Brad Pitt and a star turn from Lupita Nyong’o. 12 years of slavery also shows strong sympathy for its protagonist but wisely attempts to avoid the white savior narrative and showcases Solomon’s strength and intelligence.

The rhythm and the narration of the film can be a bit conventional and sometimes formulaic compared to McQueen’s other works, however, its visceral impact manages to pack a punch. The film truly acknowledges the brutality of its subject matter and is an engrossing if challenging experience. 12 years overall is a showcase of McQueen’s ability to explore familiar territory within his distinct talents. The Results is one of his most commercially and critically successful films to date.

Related: Here Are 5 Great Movies That Fight For Civil Rights

2 Shame

Photos of the moose

McQueen’s best films often benefit from their intimate and singular focus on the internal struggles of a specific character. His second film of 2011 Shame is a searing, heartbreaking look at sex addiction starring Michael Fassbender as Brandon Sullivan, a man who seems to have it all on the surface but struggles underneath with his rampant sex addiction. The film focuses on his difficult relationship with his sister Sissy and the impact of her addiction on his relationship with those around him. Shame could have easily taken a comedic approach like Don Jon or been a romp; McQueen instead of executives Shame like a stark, sparse character study of a wounded soul who doesn’t seem quite able to connect with anyone despite his most intimate efforts to do so. He gets arguably a career-best performance from Fassbender, who delivers a study in quivering intensity and soulful angst, and Carey Mulligan matches him with an equally commanding performance. Shame also benefits from McQueen’s understated approach, which avoids facile sentimentality or moralizing.

Shame garnered both praise and controversy upon its release, helping to further cement McQueen’s reputation as a daring storyteller and filmmaker. Shame, according to McQueen, was meant to be thought-provoking, and the end results certainly left an impact on viewers. The film received nominations upon its release and also helped establish Michael Fassbender as a top talent. Shame showed that McQueen’s early promise as a filmmaker was no fluke and indicated a singular talent finding his voice.

1 Hunger

Distribution of the path

It’s rare for a filmmaker to announce their full talent from the get-go in their feature debut, but Steve McQueen provided extraordinary proof of that with his breathtaking and heartbreaking feature debut. Hunger follows the life of prisoner Bobby Sands, who helps lead the hunger strike in Maze prison. Hunger incredible cinematography and design truly captures the brutal and harsh conditions these prisoners existed in during The Troubles of Northern Ireland, and McQueen manages to engage viewers on a personal scale through Sand’s perspective. McQueen also humanizes the prison guards themselves with brilliant imagery, allowing for a layered view of what could have been a numbers-based protest film. Hunger also benefits from McQueen’s visual storytelling, which creates a sense of time and place that underlines the film’s message. Between two brutal parts is a long single take of 16 minutes of an emotional, theological and intellectual conversation between Sands and a priest, and the scene is the beating heart of a brilliant film.

Hunger was warmly received upon release and McQueen was heralded as a talent to watch. He was nominated for several awards and from there McQueen became a rising talent alongside Michael Fassbender in his first starring role. McQueen has since made many more notable films, as mentioned, but the raw, poetic beauty of Hunger remains his most haunting achievement to date.

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