I am fully aware that this is not a sentiment shared by many people, but I fucking love Snake Eyes. I love how Nicolas Cage just barely keeps it together (which is to say, barely keeping zany Cage at bay), I love the insanely long tracking shots (which is to say, I appreciate De Palma doing his best to hide them via digital technology), I love Gary Sinise stepping as far away from Lt. Dan as he can, the double-back narrative, Ryuichi Sakamoto’s perfect music – everything. “You got snake eyes. The house wins.”
4. Sisters (1973)
After directing a slew of obscure comedy films, Brian De Palma released the domestic horror thriller, Sisters, which remains one of his most trademarked films yet. Sisters has all of the great characteristics a De Palma film should, including one of the most gut wrenching murder scenes in film history (followed immediately by one of the best uses of split screen ever). I’m hesitant to reveal too many plot details, but don’t be turned off by the seemingly soap opera-ish plot. Sisters is gruesome and terrifying, in the best possible way.
3. Carrie (1976)
Carrie is perfect. Carrie is scary. Carrie is unique. Carrie is upsetting and disturbing and horrific and funny. Carrie has great acting. Carrie has great writing. Carrie has great design and structure and tone. Carrie is old, but Carrie is new. Carrie is fearless and confident and iconic. Carrie is a De Palma film for people who love De Palma films. It’s also as good as horror films get.
2. Body Double (1984)
I’ve mentioned a few times about the importance of a De Palma film feeling like a De Palma film. The stylization, complex plot, erotic overtones, and so on. When it feels like De Palma is forcing these traits on us (as is the case with Passion), then it is a turn off. But when he uses these elements properly, then a film can carry the label of being a true Brian De Palma Picture. I mention this because Body Double is without a doubt the most Brian De Palma-esque film Brian De Palma ever made. It’s sexy, intricate, bloody and amazing. Body Double is a gorgeous puzzle you spend two hours trying to figure out, and have no problem giving it another go immediately after.
1. Blow Out (1981)
After beginning with one of the finest film openings of all time, Blow Out slowly develops into as tensely complex a film as Brian De Palma ever made. The film is simple in plot, but exquisitely detailed in execution. While doing post-production work on a crappy movie, film sound engineer, Jack Terry (John Travolta), accidentally captures audio of what he believes to be a political assassination. But because the police don’t believe him, Jack is forced to go at the investigation alone and uncover the truth. The result is a perfect mix between Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation and De Palma’s own Body Double (or Obsession, or Dressed to Kill).
As Jack Terry, Travolta rivals his Tony Manero and Vincent Vega as the best character he’s ever played. It was the height of Travolta’s early career, and I respect the hell out of him for taking on such a troubled character in such a dark film. Blow Up, like the best of De Palma’s work, is something you uncover more of with each passing viewing. Despite its very obvious ‘80s vibe, the film never feels old, because it’s constantly revealing itself to us. All the best De Palma films do that.