Kathryn Bigelow Movies Ranked

8. Blue Steel (1990)

Kathryn Bigelow is one of the few female directors working in Hollywood that has managed to consistently attract top talent. This is perhaps where it all starts, with her first real thriller in the form of Cold Steel. The film follows Jamie Lee Curtis’s newly qualified New York cop, Megan Turner, who shoots a man holding a convenience store hostage. After the shooting they find no evidence of a weapon and put her on a leave of absence, but a meeting with a stranger sees a killer bring her into the fold of his murder spree.

Roger Ebert compared the film to Halloween, claiming it to be a sequel to the film with Lee Curtis’s first leading role. In some ways it is.

Curtis is both the pursued and the pursuer, amalgamating her role of Laurie Strode with Donald Pleasance’s Sam Loomis. The killer, in some ways, is the big-city shooter version of Michael Myers, a seemingly supernatural bogeyman stalking the streets looking for someone to pick off. It is its own film, however, and Bigelow gives enough style and flare to confidently keep everything together. Even some slightly clichéd slow-motion in the final moments isn’t so terrible that you want to claw your eyes out as it often is in less talented hands.

Despite this, it is an attempt to ever-so-slightly change up what is, in essence, a fairly run-of-the-mill film. The family aspect isn’t incredibly interesting, the relationship between Turner and the killer she pursues is clear but blunt. It’s not a bad film, but it’s not exceptional or outstanding.

7. K-19: The Widowmaker (2002)

Leave it to Kathryn Bigelow to continue to mix things up when it comes to her choices of films to make. She has done vampires, police thrillers, cyberpunk, historical crime dramas, and in 2002 she boarded a Soviet submarine with a nuclear reactor malfunctioning. She brings with her Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson as the captain of the ship and the crew’s true captain respectively. Will they survive or not? Tension under the sea, two hours of thrills.

K-19: The Widowmaker is a fine film. Bigelow keeps everything contained, offering enough moments of intimacy with the men to give them humanity to their desperation, so that when the cramped quarters of the ship threaten to become their tomb, we feel it. Her direction builds the tension nicely, keeping the audience shivering in the seats as the temperature in the nuclear reactor continues to climb. You feel the spats between the men, you feel the tension between the captains. It is controlled claustrophobia, beautifully directed.

The downside to the film is that it’s not got anything unique to make it stand out. Ford and Neeson unfortunately sound like Ford and Neeson occasionally remembering to try and put a Russian accent onto things, but you can’t disguise Harrison Ford’s voice; it’s just not possible. And at the end of the day, nothing groundbreaking occurs. It’s very well made formula, but formula nonetheless.

6. The Hurt Locker (2008)

The Hurt Locker, when one looks through the history books, will be Bigelow’s crowning achievement. It won the Oscar for Best Picture, and gave Bigelow the award for Best Director, making her the first woman in history to get it. And why shouldn’t it? It’s a fine film. It stars future Marvel co-workers Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie as soldiers, polar opposites of each other in personality, out in the Middle East during the Iraq war, helping the people out, defusing bombs here and there, dealing with a little PTSD on the side.

The opening bomb diffusion scene will be remembered for a long time; it is filled with tension and well directed, plus the slow-motion shot of a bomb diffuser falling as a blast goes off behind them is a picture for the ages. The directing style is also interesting, as Bigelow makes the decision to go mostly handheld, giving a greater sense of almost documentary-style realism. The theme of voyeurism runs throughout, the danger of being watched, the idea that someone lurking in the shadows is waiting to take you out. Is it a commentary of the role the media played in perceptions of the Iraq War? Perhaps.

There are issues, however. The Hurt Locker is incredibly controversial with its depiction of non-Americans. The opening scene has a man standing in front of carcasses at a meat stall, a man who will eventually detonate a blast. From then on, almost everyone we see that isn’t American is a threat. It’s one of the most pro-America films you’ll ever see. Not only this, but there are parts of the film which drag. It’s simply a series of events loosely joined up together, and whilst its nicely directed, it isn’t as engaging as it thinks it is. It’s a decent film, but not life changing.

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