All 10 David Lynch Movies Ranked By Weirdness

9. The Elephant Man

Still From Inland Empire
Paramount Pictures

Another straightforward biopic, this one taking place in Victorian England, but focusing on a character who embodies a lot of what Lynch finds fascinating.

It’s odd to think that this period tearjerker was Lynch’s follow-up to the arthouse madness of Eraserhead. Made six years before Blue Velvet, you won’t find many classic Lynchian tropes here. Instead of usual suspects Kyle MacLachlan, Laura Dern, and Jack Nance, Lynch directs an ensemble of British thoroughbreds in John Hurt, Anthony Hopkins, and Sir John Geilgud.

But what gives The Elephant Man its most Lynchian quality is its titular character, John Merrick (John Hurt). Throughout his work Lynch has a fascination for deformity and disability, and this biopic is the perfect vehicle for him to showcase the shapes and textures of Merrick’s face, all the while creating a genuinely sympathetic protagonist.

Merrick’s extreme elephantitis makes him an object of both wonder and repulsion for the movie’s characters. Lynch sews the seeds for a duality that recurs throughout his movies, juxtaposing the fragile glitz of high society, with the cruelty and danger of the underworld. Poor Merrick is unable to fit in anywhere, and his tragic end is inevitable.

Weirdest Bit: The movie’s opening is its most Lynchian moment. Merrick’s mother “encounters” an elephant that assaults her in some bizarre way. The superimposition of elephants over the mother’s face, the use of smoke, and the sound of a baby crying all strongly recall Eraserhead, and make for a very unsettling beginning.

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Born in Essex, lives in South London. MA in Film & Literature, actor, and playwright.