The Movies of Director Kathryn Bigelow

Award-winning director Kathryn Bigelow's latest film, Detroit, is generating a lot of positive reviews. Let's take a look at her filmography to trace the evolution of her impressive career.

(I'm only examining her theatrical motion pictures, not the work she's done on television. Her TV credits as a director include Wild Palms, Homicide: Life on the Street, Karen Sisco starring Carla Gugino, and The Miraculous Year with Lee Pace, Eddie Redmayne, and Susan Sarandon.)


The Loveless
(1981)
Co-written and co-directed with Monty Montgomery, Bigelow's debut effort starred Willem Dafoe in a story about a motorcycle gang stopping in a small town and causing trouble. It was a decent start and set the stage for more to come.


Near Dark
(1987)
Bigelow's first solo-directing effort is now a cult classic about a farmer's son who is kidnapped by a traveling group of vampires. The cast included Adrian Pasdar, Jenny Wright, Lance Henriksen, and Bill Paxton. Co-written with Eric Red, it was atmospheric and full of chills and thrills.


Blue Steel
(1990)
Bigelow co-write this script again with Eric Red and did a fine job directing lead actress Jamie Lee Curtis, who plays a rookie police officer battling a stalker psychopath, portrayed by Ron Silver.  The cast also includes Clancy Brown, Elizabeth Pena, Louise Fletcher, and Philip Bosco. The film is another highlight from her early years.


Point Break
(1991)
This is the best movie from Bigelow's early career, and much better than its bland 2015 remake.
Starring Patrick Swayze, Keanu Reeves, Gary Busey, and Lori Petty, the tale follows undercover FBI agent Johnny Utah as he infiltrates a group of surfers who might be bank robbers. It's a visually stunning motion picture with plenty of action, which Bigelow films with confidence.


Strange Days
(1995)
Although many people praised this flick, it wasn't one of my favorites. Written by James Cameron and starring Ralph Fiennes, Angela Bassett, Juliette Lewis, Tom Sizemore, Michael Wincott, and Vincent D'Onofrio, the near-future science fiction drama set in Los Angeles shows what happens when a former cop turned street hustler uncovers a conspiracy. The violence pumps up viewers' adrenaline, but the gritty virtual reality (a metaphor for drugs) seemed overdone to me.


The Weight of Water
(2001)
In this adaptation of the 1998 novel by Anita Shreve, starring Catherine McCormack, Sean Penn, Sarah Polley, Josh Lucas, and Elizabeth Hurley, a photojournalist researches an axe murder from the 1870s as an editorial tie-in to a brutal contemporary double murder. Meanwhile, her marriage to a writer begins to fall apart. I consider this low key drama the fulcrum between Bigelow's early work and her latter work.


K-19: The Widowmaker
(2002)
Harrison Ford, Liam Neeson, and Peter Sarsgaard star in this historical thriller about a Russian navel team trying to prevent a disaster when the first nuclear submarine malfunctions on its maiden voyage.  This marks Bigelow's artistic shift toward action-filled true-life scenarios.


The Hurt Locker
(2009)
Bigelow was awarded the Oscar for Best Director for this movie, which also won Best Picture. It propelled her to the ranks of one of Hollywood's most esteemed moviemakers. Starring Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty, Guy Pearce, Ralph Fiennes, David Morse, and Evangeline Lilly, the script, written by Mark Boal, reveals an army bomb squad's efforts to survive while doing their job during the Iraq War. Many hailed it as an accurate portrayal of the military experience in the war zone.


Zero Dark Thirty
(2013)
Working with another screenplay written by Mark Boal, Bigelow delivered a compelling (and controversial) chronicle of the hunt for al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, starring Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Joel Edgerton, Edgar Ramirez, Mark Strong, Chris Pratt, Kyle Chandler, and James Gandolfini. It was critically praised and earned a number of award nominations, but some bemoaned factual inaccuracies and stereotypical portrayals of a Pakistani.


Detroit
(2017)
Her latest film, again written by Mark Boal, stars John Boyega, Anthony Mackie, Will Poulter, Algee Smith, Jacob Latimore, and John Krasinski. It tells the true tale of three young African Americans are murdered at a motel during the Detroit Rebellion of the summer of 1967, and many have seen parallels to issues still faced by our present-day society.

What path will Kathryn Bigelow's future work follow? If her filmography is any indication, it will be full of emotion and a thrill to watch.

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