(Photo by Paramount/courtesy Everett Collection.)

All William Friedkin Movies Ranked

William Friedkin’s win for the Best Director Oscar on The French Connection, which would also take Best Picture that same ceremony, heralded the peak of the New Hollywood movement. Beginning with late-1960s films like the iconoclastic Bonnie and Clyde and counterculture-defining Easy Rider, and the destruction of the industry’s self-censoring Hays Code, filmmakers in America had been en masse telling darker, more explicit stories. Young, rebellious directors working under this New Hollywood banner included Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, and Friedkin. His police thriller French Connection polishes this era’s tendencies to a grubby shine: It was shot cinema vérité-style (Friedkin had cut his teeth directing live television and documentaries) with a morally questionable hero and a crazed, open ending. The film’s most famous sequence (Gene Hackman’s detective Popeye Doyle racing his car against an elevated train) includes unscripted vehicles collisions, refining the movie’s feel of gritty reality.

Just two years later, Friedkin was back in the Best Director Oscar hot seat for 1973’s The Exorcist. With the movie advertised as the scariest movie ever made since its release, and which became a cultural horror touchstone, Friedkin brought a clinical, matter-of-fact approach to the religious and supernatural possession story. The Exorcist would become the first horror movie to be nominated for Best Picture, though the award that year would go to The Sting, whose helmer George Roy Hill would also take Best Director.

Friedkin sought to make a triple-play with audiences in directing 1977’s Sorcerer, a bruising remake of Henri-Georges Clouzot’s The Wages of Fear. Sprawling yet relentlessly taut, with a story both ambitious and ambiguous, Sorcerer would be no match to the compact escapist thrills of Star Wars, released one week earlier. Friedkin claims nothing could withstand being in the wake of such a phenomenon; other films released in the immediate wake of Star Wars include Smokey and the Bandit, Exorcist II: The Heretic, New York, New York, and The Rescuers.

Friedkin has remained working in mid-budget dramas and thrillers since. 1980’s Cruising with Al Pacino generated immediate protest and controversy for its presentation of New York’s gay nightclub scene. (A decade earlier, Friedkin had directed the landmark LGBTQ+ film The Boys in the Band.) 1985’s To Live and Die in L.A. saw Friedkin attempting to top his own achievement for most impressive car chase.

Jade, Blue Chips, and an acclaimed TV-movie version of 12 Angry Men were among Friedkin’s output in the ’90s. Likely inspired by the success of the Star Wars Special Editions, Friedkin and Warner Bros. then revisited The Exorcist, restoring cut scenes (including lil’ Reagan’s spiderwalk) and changing the soundtrack, and released “The Version You Never Saw” in 2000. Friedkin’s latest narrative films are 2006’s Bug and 2011’s Killer Joe.

Now, we’re ranking all William Friedkin movies by Tomatometer!

#19

Good Times (1967)
0%

#19
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Pop-star duo Sonny (Sonny Bono) and Cher (Cher) star in this parody of Hollywood B-movie clichés, helmed by director William... [More]
Directed By: William Friedkin

#18
#18
Adjusted Score: 4842%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: An arms dealer eager to score a big contract, Eddie Muntz (Chevy Chase) heads to South America to negotiate with... [More]
Directed By: William Friedkin

#17

Jade (1995)
13%

#17
Adjusted Score: 14309%
Critics Consensus: An ostensible erotic thriller that's largely neither erotic nor thrilling, Jade marks one of several unfortunate low points for aggressively sexual mid-'90s cinema.
Synopsis: When a prominent art dealer is found murdered, the man's death leads to an intriguing investigation steeped in sex, corruption... [More]
Directed By: William Friedkin

#16

The Hunted (2003)
29%

#16
Adjusted Score: 33260%
Critics Consensus: An all too familiar chase movie that's not worth the talents involved.
Synopsis: "The Hunted" is a suspense thriller about a tracker, Bonham (Tommy Lee Jones), who teams up with FBI agent Abby... [More]
Directed By: William Friedkin

#15

The Guardian (1990)
30%

#15
Adjusted Score: 20483%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Optimistic about their future, well-off parents Kate (Carey Lowell) and Phil (Dwier Brown) hire the pleasant and lovely young Camilla... [More]
Directed By: William Friedkin

#14

Blue Chips (1994)
37%

#14
Adjusted Score: 37229%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Pete Bell (Nick Nolte) is a college basketball coach who has to improve his team's standing -- by any means... [More]
Directed By: William Friedkin

#13
#13
Adjusted Score: 39202%
Critics Consensus: The script is unconvincing and the courtroom action is unegaging.
Synopsis: Col. Terry Childers (Samuel L. Jackson) is a 30-year Marine veteran: a decorated officer with combat experience in Vietnam, Beirut... [More]
Directed By: William Friedkin

#12
Adjusted Score: 44535%
Critics Consensus: The Devil and Father Amorth sets out to interrogate age-old questions of faith, but fails to find enough compelling answers -- or reasons for viewers to watch.
Synopsis: Filmmaker William Friedkin follows the Rev. Gabriele Amorth as he performs an exorcism on a woman in Italy.... [More]
Directed By: William Friedkin

#11

Cruising (1980)
50%

#11
Adjusted Score: 54889%
Critics Consensus: Cruising glides along confidently thanks to filmmaking craft and Al Pacino's committed performance, but this hot-button thriller struggles to engage its subject matter sensitively or justify its brutality.
Synopsis: A psychopath is scouring New York City gay clubs and viciously slaying homosexuals. Detective Steve Burns (Al Pacino) is ordered... [More]
Directed By: William Friedkin

#10

Bug (2006)
62%

#10
Adjusted Score: 66616%
Critics Consensus: Disappointing resolution aside, Bug uses its claustrophobic setting and cinéma vérité camerawork to tense, impressive effect.
Synopsis: At a rundown desert motel, Agnes (Ashley Judd) begins a tentative relationship with a newcomer named Peter (Michael Shannon). He... [More]
Directed By: William Friedkin

#9
Adjusted Score: 18133%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: To distance herself from her strict Amish family, naïve Rachel Schpitendavel (Britt Ekland) escapes to New York City to become... [More]
Directed By: William Friedkin

#8

The Brink's Job (1978)
75%

#8
Adjusted Score: 70194%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: On Jan. 17, 1950, a group of unlikely criminal masterminds commits the robbery of the century. Led by Tony Pino... [More]
Directed By: William Friedkin

#7

Sorcerer (1977)
79%

#7
Adjusted Score: 82866%
Critics Consensus: Sorcerer, which obstinately motors along on its unpredictable speed, features ambitious sequences of insane white-knuckle tension.
Synopsis: In the small South American town of Porvenir, four men on the run from the law are offered $10,000 and... [More]
Directed By: William Friedkin

#6

Killer Joe (2011)
80%

#6
Adjusted Score: 86411%
Critics Consensus: Violent, darkly comic, and full of strong performances, Killer Joe proves William Friedkin hasn't lost his touch, even if the plot may be too lurid for some.
Synopsis: A cop (Matthew McConaughey) who moonlights as a hit man agrees to kill the hated mother of a desperate drug... [More]
Directed By: William Friedkin

#5

The Exorcist (1973)
84%

#5
Adjusted Score: 91134%
Critics Consensus: The Exorcist rides its supernatural theme to magical effect, with remarkable special effects and an eerie atmosphere, resulting in one of the scariest films of all time.
Synopsis: One of the most profitable horror movies ever made, this tale of an exorcism is based loosely on actual events.... [More]
Directed By: William Friedkin

#4
#4
Adjusted Score: 87188%
Critics Consensus: With coke fiends, car chases, and Wang Chung galore, To Live and Die in L.A. is perhaps the ultimate '80s action/thriller.
Synopsis: When his longtime partner on the force is killed, reckless U.S. Secret Service agent Richard Chance (William L. Petersen) vows... [More]
Directed By: William Friedkin

#3
#3
Adjusted Score: 79676%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Michael (Kenneth Nelson) is hosting a birthday celebration for a pal when he gets an unexpected visit from old friend... [More]
Directed By: William Friedkin

#2

12 Angry Men (1997)
92%

#2
Adjusted Score: 92044%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In a remake of the 1950s classic, bias and group-think influence the deliberations of a dozen jury members. Initially, one... [More]
Directed By: William Friedkin

#1
#1
Adjusted Score: 105239%
Critics Consensus: Realistic, fast-paced and uncommonly smart, The French Connection is bolstered by stellar performances by Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider, not to mention William Friedkin's thrilling production.
Synopsis: New York Detective "Popeye" Doyle (Gene Hackman) and his partner (Roy Scheider) chase a French heroin smuggler.... [More]
Directed By: William Friedkin

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