Minghella. Minghella is a classical British auteur who died too early (at age 54) and made literary adaptation epics: The English Patient, The Talented Mr. Ripley and Cold Mountain. His strength, for the purposes of this list, is that he’s the only director left with two top 500 of all-time films (English Patient, Mr. Ripley). There is no misidentifying his work either—they all have radiant David Lean-like photography. His weaknesses are apparent as well. Even at director #128 on this list four films in the archives, and two films in the top 100 of their respective decade is a bit light. I have a theory on why Minghella gets lost in the shuffle (he has 0 films in the TSPDT top 1000 consensus). For one, The English Patient gets compared to two films all the time: 1. Fargo and 2. Lawrence of Arabia. It’s compared to Fargo because those were the two films competing for best picture in 1996 and The English Patient won. It’s not as good as Fargo but that’s not The English Patient’s fault and certainly not Minghella’s. What The English Patient is not— is a mediocre best picture winner like The Greatest Show on Earth or The Artist. Obviously the film is no Lawrence of Arabia and comparisons hurt it– but I’m pragmatic—they’re both desert epics with beautiful photography—I get it. The Talented Mr. Ripley has a similar problem coming out in 1999 – a year which many consider to be the greatest in the last 25-30 years. It certainly gets loss in the shuffle far too often.
Best film: The English Patient. I think it’s very close between The English Patient and The Talented Mr. Ripley but I’ll give the edge to The English Patient. It is a really strong 1-2 from a director.
total archiveable films: 4
top 100 films: 0
top 500 films: 2 (The English Patient, The Talented Mr. Ripley)
top 100 films of the decade: 2 (The English Patient, The Talented Mr. Ripley)
most overrated: Not a thing on Minghella. His work is underrated at this point- I think largely because his classical style is no longer in vogue.
most underrated: The English Patient is the answer but I’d be fine with Talented Mr. Ripley as well. It’s a travesty—Minghella doesn’t have a single film mentioned in the TSPDT top 1000 consensus list. I have these 2 films in my top 500 so yeah— the critics are wrong here and we’re worlds apart. You actually can search for films 1000-2000 on TSPDT and find The English Patient way down at #1868. Sad. Again, the style just isn’t chic right now but that will change over time and it has nothing to do with the text/film—that’s about trends and what’s trendy—and that isn’t important to me.
gem I want to spotlight: The Talented Mr. Ripley. This film is superb. Like The English Patient it is extraordinarily handsomely mounted. The narrative is top-tier from source material by Patricia Highsmith. Matt Damon (haunting) and Jude Law (charming) have never been better.
stylistic innovations/traits: Sumptuous photography, strong literary adaptations, period detail. The great John Seale (Mad Max Fury Road) shot all three of Minghella’s best films. Minghella is not David Lean—but he’s also not (he’s better) Richard Attenborough behind the camera as well and I think to the uninitiated they may not be able to tell the difference. There is polish and perfection in his work.
- The English Patient
- The Talented Mr. Ripley
- Cold Mountain
- Truly, Madly, Deeply
By year and grades
|1991- Truly, Madly, Deeply
|1996- The English Patient
|1999- The Talented Mr. Ripley
|2003- Cold Mountain
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives