When you mention the name Lars Von Trier, you get a decidedly diverse set of reactions. Many mainstream film fans have no idea who he is. They’ve never seen his work, perhaps could name check a movie or two they’ve “heard” about, and are perhaps better versed in his various recent tabloid tales than anything he’s done on celluloid. Others may be a bit better informed, mentioning his no-frills filmmaking ideal Dogme ‘95 or his controversial Cannes outbursts. On the other hand, it will be the rarified cinephile who can walk through the man’s output over the last few decades, delineating his output in both specifics and subtextual generics. Indeed, Von Trier is that kind of artist, an auteur with a singular vision that occasionally gets carried through (and away) within stark expressions of his own personal complexities. He doesn’t shy away from the difficult or the contentious, but he does occasionally let it do too much of the talking.
With the arrival of his latest, a sex-filled saga of psychological dysfunction also known as Nymphomaniac (or Nymph()maniac Vol. 1 and2), we thought it would be time to illustrate our love of the clearly creative (and contentious) filmmaker by picking the 10 best examples of his creative output. Granted, there is only 13 features, one documentary, two TV mini-series, and some shorts to deal with, but on the upside, when Von Trier is great, he’s gobsmacking. In fact, he may be one of the most consistently amazing moviemakers out there today. Sure, he’s also incredibly divisive, with just as many hating his output as celebrating it, and you have to get around his often elusive ideologies in order to appreciate his art and approach, but when you consider the number of adored filmmakers who can’t offer up a single significant film, let alone 10, you start to understand our Von Trier appreciation. He may be a rogue, but he makes great films, beginning at the beginning, more or less: