For most of his career, Jordan Peele had made a name for himself in the world of comedy, writing and starring in offbeat sketch comedy shows like "Key & Peele."
Who'd have guessed he'd become one of the greatest living horror film directors? Ever since he burst onto the scene with his directorial debut "Get Out" in 2017, Peele has consistently wowed audiences with spine-chilling thrills and thought-provoking narratives.
For anyone looking to dive into his catalog but unsure where to start, here's a verifiable ranking of his movies from worst to best.
"Us" is by no means a bad film, but when stacked up against the rest of Peele's filmography, it is easily his weakest.
"Us" follows the Wilson family, consisting of Adelaide (Lupita Nyong'o), her husband Gabe (Winston Duke) and their two children, Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex), as they embark on a beach vacation. The family's trip takes a sinister turn as they come face to face with their evil doppelgängers, known as the "Tethered."
Undoubtedly, the strongest aspect of "Us" is its characters. The actors are not only tasked with delivering convincing performances as a loving family but also as their Tethered equals. Nyong'o is a standout, giving an unforgettable performance as Adelaide's psychotic counterpart, Red — one of Peele's most memorable characters.
On paper, everything about "Us" sounds like it should be another home run for Peele, but in execution, it feels a little too safe and all over the place. Like Peele's other films, he utilizes an outlandish concept, clones, in this instance, to explore real-world issues.
Here, he delves into class dynamics by portraying the conflict between humans and the Tethered as analogous to the relationship between the wealthy and the poor, particularly within the U.S. Though Peele has a lot to say, it's overshadowed by an unnecessarily complicated narrative and execution.
Where "Get Out" relied on a unique twist of psychological horror, "Us" feels much more like a traditional horror movie, giving into the cliches of the genre, including jump scares and an obvious, forced twist.
"Us" is ultimately an entertaining movie, ideal for any Halloween watch party, featuring inventive concepts and an all-time performance by Nyong'o. But for those seeking more depth, it ultimately falls short compared to Peele's more realized works.
As the most recent Peele film, "Nope" is proof that he has no signs of slowing down and is only getting better as a director and a storyteller.
"Nope" centers on the Haywood siblings OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) and Emerald (Keke Palmer), who manage a business wrangling horses for film productions. As their business continues to struggle, their problems escalate when an extraterrestrial object begins abducting their livestock. In their journey to unravel this mystery, a nearby rancher, Ricky 'Jupe' Park (Steven Yeun), seizes the opportunity to exploit the situation for profit.
The movie immediately stands out amongst Peele's work in that it takes a completely different approach to his usual formula. Everything, from the movie's breathtaking visuals to its action set pieces, feels like a daring and ambitious new direction.
Unlike "Us" and "Get Out," which were firmly set in the horror, thriller and comedy genres, "Nope" sets itself apart by incorporating elements of sci-fi and western. As a result, the movie is one of Peele's most distinct, showcasing how versatile he truly is.
Peele's first two movies make their messages abundantly clear to the audience, while "Nope" is much more restrained and ambiguous, something that might leave some viewers confused by the end.
This approach may keep audiences more engaged and wanting to immediately revisit the movie, searching for details and foreshadowing they might have missed, but that may not be the case for everyone.
Notably, the movie marks Kaluuya's second collaboration with Peele. His character, OJ, is a relatable and interesting enough protagonist, but where the film truly shines is in its supporting cast. Palmer nails both the film's comedic and emotional moments, and Yeun surprisingly excels in playing a sleazy con man.
More than any other movie in Peele's filmography, "Nope" has something for everyone, whether it's a fun adventure film or an analysis of the exploitative and fame-driven nature of social media and Hollywood.
While "Nope" comes close to being crowned Peele's best work, it is impossible to ignore the importance of "Get Out," not only for the director's career but also for the film industry.
"Get Out" focuses on Chris Washington (Kaluuya), a Black man accompanying his white girlfriend Rose Armitage (Allison Williams) on a visit to her family's estate. As he becomes acquainted with her family and other guests, he uncovers a horrifying conspiracy about their past and current practices.
The movie is rich with striking imagery, especially in Kaluuya's reactions, which evoke a sense of terror and convey the film's themes surrounding the historical evolution of racism.
The movie is incredibly dark, but its comedic moments, particularly through the character of Rod Williams (Lil Rel Howery), infuse a much-needed sense of levity into the narrative and demonstrate how well Peele can balance different tones.
"Get Out" was, and still is, a breath of fresh air within the horror genre. It challenges the longstanding convention of limiting Black characters to supporting roles by demonstrating, through its success, that Black stories can be both profitable and the source of an intriguing and compelling narrative.
Peele's efforts to highlight Black voices have had major impacts on the industry, ushering in a new wave of Black-led horror projects like "Lovecraft Country" and "Antebellum," while contributing to the broader movement for more Black-led cinema.
This film also helped launch one of Peele's most frequent collaborators, Kaluuya, to become a recognizable face in Hollywood, going on to star in blockbusters and even winning an Oscar.
"Get Out" is more than just cheap scares, serving as a profound critique of an entire culture and a deconstruction of an entire genre, igniting meaningful conversations and change in the process.
For anyone looking to watch through Peele's filmography on their own, "Get Out" and "Us" are available on Netflix, while "Nope" is available on Amazon Prime.