Sofia Coppola's movies, ranked
A beguiling filmography
She was born into Hollywood royalty, but over the last 20 years, Sofia Coppola has carved out her own unique identity as a filmmaker. Each of her films demonstrates an impeccable aesthetic sensibility and a profound insight into the particular loneliness of the female experience — but still, we took it upon ourselves to rank them (only the theatrical releases; sorry, A Very Murray Christmas). So, is this race Lost in Translation’s to lose? Does Marie Antoinette take the crown? Or is The Bling Ring the true king? Read on to find out!
7. The Bling Ring (2013)
We consider seventh place not an insult to The Bling Ring, but a placement entirely consistent with its values. The Bling Ring is frankly not interested in being judged alongside its meandering SoCal sister, Somewhere, which The Bling Ring finds boring. Nor is The Bling Ring all that impressed by the tastefulness of Lost in Translation or the old-timey fashion of Marie Antoinette, even if she was, like, the Paris Hilton of the 1700s. The Bling Ring is tacky, but who cares? It’s expensive and it’s famous. The Bling Ring puts less stock in what it has to say (which is actually plenty, however slyly, however sourly) than how it’s saying it; The Bling Ring is easily Coppola’s most quotable movie. So don’t cry for The Bling Ring, okay? The Bling Ring knows in its heart that its butt looks awesome, and hopes that this has been a huge learning lesson for you all. Bye.
6. The Virgin Suicides (1999)
Coppola burst onto the scene having already developed a sophisticated cinematic voice with her first feature, based on Jeffrey Eugenides’ 1993 debut novel of the same name. The hazy, haunting Virgin Suicides follows five teenage sisters (Kirsten Dunst among them, in her first of many collaborations with the filmmaker), living in an oppressive religious household, who are admired and obsessed over by the boys in the neighborhood. Long story short: The girls all kill themselves, and the boys can never truly know why. Perhaps too little is clearly explained, making the finale feel slightly gratuitous; a clear explanation isn’t quite the point, though, of this melancholy, almost-satisfying chronicle of girlhood — a triumph of atmosphere which Coppola has the confidence to leave as mysterious as a half-lost memory.
5. On the Rocks (2020)
Coppola’s latest film displays a new maturity in multiple ways, as her first feature not to center the confusion of youth (in favor of the anxieties of stable adulthood) and not characterized by her hallmark dreaminess, as if she’s woken up from it. The clear-eyed caper stars Rashida Jones as Laura, a writer who suspects her businessman husband Dean (Marlon Wayans) might be having an affair. Enter her worldly father Felix (an impossibly charming Bill Murray), who takes it upon himself to help Laura investigate — and steals the whole movie in the process. Whenever Felix shows up, On the Rocks sparkles with buddy-comedy chemistry and old-fashioned New York magic; it can’t match the poetry or the depth, however, of Coppola’s other father-daughter film, or Murray’s other star turn in front of her camera.
4. The Beguiled (2017)
The sixth entry in Coppola’s body of work, the second remake of Thomas P. Cullinan’s 1966 novel of the same name, was an intentional departure from what audiences had come to expect from the filmmaker — a Southern Gothic psychodrama (without a hip pop-rock soundtrack) driven by a pulpy plot. The experiment of sorts succeeded in part thanks to brilliant casting: Nicole Kidman plays the headmistress of a girls’ boarding school in Confederate Virginia during the Civil War, where Kirsten Dunst is a teacher and Elle Fanning a particularly outgoing pupil. When the girls find a wounded Union soldier (Colin Farrell) near the house, all hell breaks loose — and Coppola’s eye for feminine angst comes into play. Beguiling, to be sure (hold your breath for all the dinner scenes), but not quite her greatest.
3. Marie Antoinette (2006)
To those who argue that history should taste like medicine, distanced from us by a slavish accuracy and a thick layer of dust, Marie Antoinette seems to say: Let them eat candy. The most gorgeous entry in Coppola’s uniformly lovely oeuvre, this 18th-century spectacle is rendered in sugary pastels under a shimmering synth-y soundtrack — and the shadow of how we know it must end. The film, which received mixed reviews upon its release but has been reappraised as a major work in recent years, plays out through the timeless perspective of its protagonist (Kirsten Dunst, again), just another lonely teenage girl who doesn’t know better than to live in the moment; it’s on us to reconcile the enormous pleasure of entering her world with the inescapable knowledge that every silk ribbon and macaron tower is another step toward the guillotine. For these two breathtaking hours, though, a woman famous for her death is once again vibrantly, devastatingly alive.
2. Somewhere (2010)
A true daughter of Hollywood, Coppola put her insider perspective to good use with Somewhere, an aching reflection on what it means to be Someone. Stephen Dorff stars as Johnny Marco, a Tinseltown A-lister living large at the Chateau Marmont who has to look after his preteen daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning) for a few weeks while also promoting a film. That’s it. There’s really not a twist, there’s really no high drama, there’s really not a significant amount of plot. Somewhere doesn’t need it; repeat viewings just yield more detail about Johnny, his daughter, and his uniquely Angeleno ennui, each piercing all the more each time. Narrow though she keeps her focus, Coppola’s distinct gifts as a filmmaker are at their best here, observing acutely and feeling no less for it, but without ever descending into schmaltz. Her most underrated film, Somewhere is a place to revisit again and again.
1. Lost in Translation (2003)
There’s really no other choice for the top spot. Lost in Translation won Coppola her only Oscar (so far), for Best Original Screenplay, and made her the third woman ever nominated for Best Director. Inspired in part by the filmmaker’s own experience while married to Spike Jonze, the film stars Scarlett Johansson as the young wife of a celebrity photographer and Bill Murray as an aging film star. Both are staying in — and staying up all night, afflicted with insomnia — a luxury hotel in Tokyo, where they forge a strong, fleeting connection in their shared loneliness as they navigate an unknowable foreign place. On only her second feature, Coppola demonstrates heroic restraint and unrivaled taste; when a film’s most perfect line delivery is completely inaudible, you know you’ve mastered the fine art of understatement.