Alfonso Cuarón is considered by many to be one of the greatest living filmmakers. Having proven himself in many genres, Cuarón holds the distinction of being nominated for 6 different Oscar categories, a distinction shared only by Walt Disney and George Clooney.
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A true auteur, each of Cuarón’s 8 feature films showcased the director’s talents. Often partnered with his cinematographer and longtime friend Emmanuel Lubezki, Cuarón’s style appeals to visual storytelling, often employing breathtaking long shots. Here are Cuarón’s films ranked, according to Metacritic.
8 Great Expectations (1998) – 55
A contemporary adaptation of the novel of the same name by Charles Dickins, great expectations finds a painter in New York pursuing his unrequited childhood love. The film stars Ethan Hawke (training day), Gwyneth Paltrow (Shakespeare in love), and Robert De Niro (Taxi driver).
The film received mixed reviews and had the misfortune to be released soon after. The Titanicso it didn’t go well financially either. By varietyduring a public debate during the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival, Cuarón admitted that great expectations was “a completely failed film” and that he “never understood the film”. Returning to their roots, Cuarón shot his next film in Mexico and shot it using handheld cameras.
7 Solo Con Tu Pareja (1991) – 61
Cuarón’s first feature film as a director, Solo Con Tu Pareja follows Tómas Tómas (Daniel Gimenez Cacho), a womanizing bachelor who has an affair with his boss and his nurse. When his nurse realizes that Tómas is also sleeping with his boss, she falsifies the results of a blood test and tells him that he has AIDS. This drives him to suicidal desperation while falling in love with another equally suicidal woman.
The film was funded by the Mexican government, but upon completion they refused to distribute it. However, after being shown at international film festivals and gaining recognition overseas, the film was finally released in Mexico two years later, where it became a box office success.
6 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) – 82
The third film of the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban finds Harry, Ron and Hermione investigating a mystery surrounding an escaped prisoner who poses a threat to Hogwarts. The film marked a significant change in the tone of the series and is considered by many fans and critics to be the best Harry Potter movie.
In addition to receiving acclaim from the press, the film is also Cuarón’s highest-grossing feature film to date. The Prisoner of Azkaban marks the first appearances of Gary Oldman (darkest hour) and David Thewlis (wonder woman) in the series alongside lead actors Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson.
5 A Little Princess (1995) – 83
For his second film and his debut in English, Cuarón made a loose adaptation of the novel A little princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Set in New York City during World War I, a young girl is sentenced to servitude at a boarding school after her father disappears and is presumed dead.
The film, while not a box office success, was warmly received by critics, who noted Cuarón’s ability to capture the magical realism with which many children view the world. Along with its accolades, the film was nominated for two Oscars, including Emmanuel Lubezki’s first nomination for Best Cinematography.
4 Children of Men (2006) – 84
Set in 2027, children of men is set in a dystopian world on the brink of societal collapse following 18 years of human infertility. However, everything changes when a bureaucrat is drawn into a plan to deliver the only pregnant woman on earth to the Human Project, a secret scientific group dedicated to curing human infertility.
Led by Clive Owen in one of his finest films, the rest of the cast includes Julianne Moore (Magnolia), Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 years of slavery), and Michael Caine (The black Knight). The film ended up in the top 10 from several critics and received three Academy Award nominations, including Best Adapted Screenplay for Cuarón.
3 Y Tu Mamá También (2001) – 88
After completing his sophomore and junior efforts in English, Cuarón returned to Mexico for his fourth film Y Tu Mama Tambien. With the first performances of Gael García Bernal (babel) and Diego Luna in one of his best films, the film follows two teenagers who go on a road trip with an older woman (Maribel Verdú) and discover sex, friendship and life along the way.
The film was an unprecedented box office success in Mexico and was equally impressive in the United States, despite the film’s unrated rating. While Cuarón’s films had been nominated for Oscars in technical categories before, Y Tu Mama Tambien Cuarón earned his first personal Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay alongside his brother, Carlos Cuarón.
2 Roma (2018) – 96
One of the best modern black and white films, Rome loosely adapts Cuarón’s experiences growing up in Mexico City. The subject of the story is Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), a native maid for a middle-class household. When life-changing events befall Cleo and the family she cares for, they must do whatever they can to stay strong.
In addition to full creative control, Cuarón had the full backing of the film’s distributor Netflix, which created the biggest promotional campaign for Rome in the history of the company. For Cuaron’s efforts, it was nominated for Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture and won Best Director and Best Cinematography at the Academy Awards.
1 Gravity (2013) – 96
GravityCuarón’s seventh feature, stars Sandra Bullock, in one of her best films, and George Clooney (In the air) as astronauts stranded in space after a catastrophic accident leaves the rest of their crew dead. Shot in multiple long takes, the film is mostly computer generated, save for the faces of Bullock and Clooney.
Gravity was a worldwide box office success and was also hailed by critics as a visual masterpiece. The film won seven Oscars, including Best Director for Cuarón, making him the first Hispanic and Mexican to win the Oscar in that category.
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