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Ranking the Films of Alexander Payne

For a seven time Academy Award nominee and two time Oscar winner, Alexander Payne doesn’t get spoken enough as one of the greats. People like Bruce Dern revere him in that manner, as I mentioned in my interview here with Payne, but he’s rarely spoken of as an all-timer. That being said, there are few more wildly consistent filmmakers out there, even as he doesn’t ever make the same film twice. With only one exception, his movies have been feted critically (and often commercially as well). With The Holdovers now in wide release, it seems like a great moment to rank his work, to date, now that hopefully many of you have seen the new flick.

Back at the Telluride Film Festival, I wrote here about Payne’s work directing The Holdovers:

Alexander Payne directs a screenplay by David Hemingson, though it doesn’t feel particularly far from what Payne traditionally pens. The Ashby feel is a slight change, but this is all recognizably Payne. The musical selections are all on point, the pacing is consistent (if a bit slack), and it builds to lovely ending. Plus, seeing Giamatti back with Payne (and vice versa) just feels right.

For my money, Payne’s best work remains Election, an utter masterpiece, but aside from Downsizing, his one misfire, you could order the rest of his filmography in any manner you choose. That makes the list below a bit interesting, as the variances among you all could be wild. I’ll be curious to see how you all rank his stuff, compared to mine…

Here now is how I would rank the films of Alexander Payne. Behold:

8. Downsizing

7. Citizen Ruth

6. The Descendants

5. Sideways

4. Nebraska

3. The Holdovers

2. About Schmidt

1. Election

Which Alexander Payne film is your favorite? Let us know!


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Written by Joey Magidson

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