It is uncommon for a screenwriter to be celebrated for a movie. But for a mastermind such as Charlie Kaufman, whose every screenplay is near-perfect, it isn't a surprise. He has been nominated for four Academy Awards, winning one as well as winning two BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplays, one BAFTA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay and a Saturn Award for Best Writing. Kaufman is known for his melancholic movies that brilliantly study the introspection of characters; his movies are always relatable and almost always described by critics as "human". In his honor, we rank his top five movies.
Director: Charlie Kaufman, Duke Johnson
Starring: David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tom Noonan
"Our time is limited, we forget that."
'Anomalisa' tells the story of a man crippled by the mundanity of his life, who visits Cincinnati for a business trip. During the trip, he realises that everyone - man or woman- have the same voice and act the same way. This nightmare is put on hold when he meets a lady with a unique voice, whom he calls "extraordinary". Despite being puppets, the characters are eerily realistic and the animation opens door to some incredible dream-like sequences.
Director: Spike Jonze
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep
"You are what you love, not what loves you. That's what I decided a long time ago."
To describe the movie, Roger Ebert said in a review "'Adaptation' contrasts the physical evolution of orchids (which assume fantastic forms to earn a living) with identical twins, one who writes from his nature and the other from his nurture." The movie tells the story of Charlie Kaufman himself, who is having trouble adapting a novel. Just like a blank first page of a screenplay, you never really know where this movie is going to go. Nicolas Cage notably performs as Charlie Kaufman, as well as his fictional twin brother Donald Kaufman who are two different sides of a coin. 'Adaptation' is a must see!
3. 'Being John Malkovich'
Director: Spike Jonze
Starring: John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, Catherine Keener, John Malkovich
"I wouldn't describe myself as lacking in confidence, but I would just say that - the ghosts you chase you never catch."
Often described as a neo-surrealist film, 'Being John Malkovich' is about a puppeteer who discovers a portal inside the mind of John Malkovich. He begins to sell entrance tickets to the mind of the great actor and the attraction soon becomes very popular. You spend a lifetime being yourself so most people would spend a fortune to be inside the mind of someone else. The movie has brilliant underlying philosophical questions and themes that are waiting to be discussed.
2. 'Synechdoche, New York'
Director: Charlie Kaufman
Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Samantha Morton, Emily Watson, Jennifer Jason Leigh
“There are nearly thirteen million people in the world. None of those people is an extra. They're all the leads of their own stories. They have to be given their due.”
Kaufman's directorial debut, 'Synechdoche, New York' is perhaps his most enigmatic piece ever. No other movie has portrayed the passing and time as luminously as this. The movie tells the story of an ill playwright who is given the chance to create the project of a lifetime: a play of his life that exists in an actual city but he loses track of the play as obsession begins to rule his mind and his time.
1. 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind'
Director: Michel Gondry
Starring: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet
"How happy is the blameless vestal's lot! / The world forgetting, by the world forgot / Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind! / Each pray'r accepted, and each wish resign'd."
Perhaps Kaufman's most popular movie, as well as the one that finally got him his Oscar, 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' is an all-time classic. It tells the story of two lovers who find each other, after erasing the memories of one another from their memory after a breakup. As beautifully shot as it is written, the magic realist scenes that take place inside the mind of the main character, complemented with touching acting earns the movie the top place on this list.
There is no doubt that this list will be outdated once the next Kaufman movie comes out. He is one of the best American screenwriter of all time. Tell us in the comments what your favorite Kaufman movie is and let's discuss!