Frankly, film has missed Oliver Stone. The original button pushing infant terrible, the caustic controversy causer who loved to stir things up as well as entertain and engage, has been creatively MIA for far too long. It’s been only two years since his last film (the vastly mediocreWall Street sequel) and yet it seems like he’s been out of the cinematic limelight for twice as long, if not longer. Granted, he may have misfired through most of the Aughts, choices like Alexander and World Trade Center arguing for a man missing his main muse, but when you consider how brightly his contentious star burned throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, a little post-millennial malaise can be expected. In fact, to believe that Stone will ever be as creatively powerful as 1986 through 1996 is an aesthetic fool’s paradise.
With the opening of his latest work as co-writer/director, Savages, it’s time to look back at a motion picture catalog so dense and yet so diverse. Stone seems to have favorite subject matters—war and remembrance, crime and (the lack of legitimate) punishment, the conspiracy behind the veil of social reality—and when he stays within those limits, he’s luminous. It’s only when he strays from his considered comfort zone—pro football, ancient history, talk radio—that he falters, sometimes fatally. With this in mind, we have decided to pick through the 28 films he’s been responsible for either at the typewriter, behind the lens, or both, and pick our favorite ten. For the most part, the usual suspects are present, but as with the man who we’re celebrating here, surprises are par for the course, beginning with: