8. Knight of Cups (2016)
Suffering similarly to Song to Song but being anchored by easier to grasp autobiographical elements and a series of fantastic performances, Knight of Cups may be far from the heights of Malick’s best or even his most original, but it still looks and feels unmistakably Malickian. Here, the camera of the incomparable Emmanuel Lubezki (The Revenant) floats through the action as would be expected of a late career Malick release, but it vitally never misses the opportunity to find intimacy between characters; the film’s unravelling of themes such as love, regret and finding one’s place in this world ensuring that Knight of Cups remains as much a character piece as a form-evolving experiment.
7. To the Wonder (2013)
The heights and depths of love have rarely looked so unique or beautiful on the silver screen as in To the Wonder. Here, Malick’s journey into relative experimentalism continued after The Tree of Life in 2010; Ben Affleck, Olga Kurylenko, Rachel McAdams and Javier Bardem each offering their own unique performative aspects to Malick’s work in a relatively toned down and seemingly more intimate film than those the great director had previously released. The third of his collaborations with Mexican Director of Photography Emmanuel Lubezki, To the Wonder plays with naturalistic lighting like few films of the era and uses a wide range of lenses to gift shot after shot a uniquely Malickian beauty. Divisive in its colliding narratives and ever-present narration, and not quite as loud of a Malick movie as some still to come on this list, To the Wonder is a soft and absorbing meditation on the service of love.
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6. A Hidden Life (2019)
Propelled by a beautiful and emotive string-focused score from James Newton Howard and featuring a series of fantastic performances, not least from leads Valerie Pachner (left) and August Diehl (right), A Hidden Life was to many a return to form for a director who had spent the previous decade with more explorative and divisive features. The unique photography of Jörg Widmer, coupled with the vastness of life and beauty provided by the Austrian mountainside, presented the real-life tale of Franz Jägerstätter refusing to serve the Nazi party during World War II as something heaven sent, the director’s trademark of questioning the will of man versus the grace of God being ever present. Make no mistake, this film may sit at number six on our list, but it is a sensational example of Malick’s filmmaking, and an utterly watchable (and beautiful) film in its own right.