Mel Gibson moved through the eighties as a major star, using that clout to step behind the camera in the nineties and prove his artistry. Fine, subtle work impressed critic in ‘The Man Without a Face’ (1993) but it was his thundering epic ‘Braveheart’ (1995) that won him Academy Awards for Best Director and Best Picture. He would continue acting, and very well, but his first love was directing.
In 2004, his masterpiece The Passion of the Christ was released to strong reviews, and to the Worlds surprise massive box office. Did anyone expect the film, about the terrifying death of Jesus told in excruciating detail, the actors speaking a dead language, the film historically accurate, to be a success? Yet it was, taking in more than seven hundred and fifty million dollars world-wide, earning the actor personally five hundred million dollars. Here we rank the 5 Mel Gibson movies from best to average.
1. The Passion of the Christ (2004)
A masterpiece but in fairness one of the most demanding films ever made due to the extraordinarily realistic depiction of the violence. The film does not deal with the life of Christ, but his death, the last twelve hours of his life. What he went through in that time, the relentless beatings, the horrific scourging, the further beatings and finally the excruciating crucifixion is all portrayed with intense realism. Yet through all the horrors, Christ, portrayed with great humanity by Jim Cavaziel moves forward to his fate atop the hill. Gibson made the film with his own money, filmed it in a dead language, used subtitles only when pressured, and created not only an inspirational work, but one of the great Biblical films of all time. Did I mention it earned over seven hundred million dollars worldwide? For this he might have won the Academy Award for Best Director had the Academy the courage to honor him.
2. Hacksaw Ridge (2016)
His comeback film was an Oscar nominee for Best Picture, Actor and Director just last year in telling the true story of WWII hero Desmond Dos, portrayed with intense fury by Andrew Garfield. Refusing to kill, even carry a rifle, Dos would become a hero saving more than sixty men from certain death. Gibson plunges thecaudience into the chaos, hell and madness of combat with his camera, and Garfield was superb in conveying that nightmare. Directed and edited with powerful precision, it is among the cinema’s Great War films.
3. Apocalypto (2006)
A stunning film set in South America in the jungle and Mayan city, what is impressive about this excellent film is motion. Set in the days before Columbus landed on the shores, a jungle tribe lives peacefully among their own, hunting and living. Attacked by a vicious, bloodthirsty tribe, many are slaughtered, others are bound and marched through the dense jungle, across the mountains to a massive city. High above the earth they are taken to be sacrificed by these nasty people. When an eclipse scares them, the hero of the film Jaguar Paw escapes running into the jungle with the warriors in hot pursuit. Panthers, snakes, spears will be his enemy as he makes his way back to his wife and son, trapped in a pit. Brilliant.
4. Braveheart (1995)
The placement must seem odd given the fact the film won five Academy Awards, but it is simply that Gibson has evolved as a director and gotten much stronger behind the camera. What he did with Braveheart (1995) was magnificent for the time, and worked magic on the audience, but he is a more confident director now, with no need of himself in a film. As fine a film as this was, and we cannot deny the visceral power, he manipulates, pulling the audience to him by making the British such louts. Still a stirring and powerful film.
5. The Man Without a Face (1993)
A very fine directorial debut, having the courage to explore its subject matter, Gibson possessing the courage to portray the character he portrays. It takes guts for an actor to portray an accused pedophile because the question will always be, did they? I like this film immensely when it came out and it has lost none of its power.
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