Jim Jarmusch movies — 5 best to watch before "The Dead Don't Die"

Dead Man dir. Jim Jarmusch 1995

The forthcoming Jim Jarmusch film The Dead Don't Die has an official release date, so let's recap.

Jim Jarmusch is one of the most important, influential and hailed American independent filmmakers of his generation. If you glance over his body of work, you'll immediately realise just how consistent he has been; it's actually rather remarkable. He began making feature films in the eighties and his directorial debut - 1980's Permanent Vacation - remains such an alluring piece of work. The way that he captured New York during this time was so unique, and the film offers a fascinating guided tour on the periphery, courtesy of misfit Aloysious Parker. 

Garnering instant critical attention for his debut, he went on to follow it up with 1984's Stranger Than Paradise, of which will be highlighted here as one of his very best works. It's a stunning sophomore effort, but again, Jarmusch continued to prove he would simply get better and better. Arguably, he's still getting better today, as his most recent film - 2016's Paterson - is a beautiful and quiet tale of a man's artistic perception of everyday life. Again, we were left captivated by a man who has sustained audience interest for almost four decades. 

His forthcoming film is said to belong to the zombie sub-genre. The Dead Don't Die already has our attention, firstly because Jarmusch is at the helm, and secondly, the cast is absolutely amazing; Adam DriverTilda SwintonSteve BuscemiBill MurrayCaleb Landry JonesSelena GomezTom WaitsRosie PerezDanny GloverRZAIggy Pop. We know that this is a lot of names to include, but really, how impressive is that? Despite this extensive list, the film will boast even more famous faces. The plot is currently unknown, but as we'd anticipated, it's a horror-comedy. 

So, for those who are new to Jarmusch, welcome, you're in for a treat. Those already familiar, hopefully, these choices resonated with you also. To kick things off, let's highlight the aforementioned Stranger Than Paradise. Often regarded as a masterpiece, the director's second feature won him the Camera d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival and helped shape the face of American independent cinema at the time of release, clearly influencing filmmakers such as Richard Linklater and beyond. Our characters have no direction and neither does the narrative, we're simply along for the ride, and it's a worthwhile one. 

This isn't formatted as a list as such, in hopes to encourage viewing all of the films. All are terrific, but in at number four we'll spotlight his recent slide into genre subversion, 2013's Only Lovers Left Alive. We imagine that what Jarmusch did for vampires here, he'll do for zombies with The Dead Don't Die, offering his own unique twist on horror expectations. Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston turn in great central performances as two vampire lovers whose longstanding romance is tested with the arrival of Eve's (Swinton) younger sister Ava, played by Mia Wasikowska. As we've come to expect from his work, it's such an original film, and one you're likely to return to time and time again. 

In at number three we have 1991's Night on Earth, which features a series of unforgettable vignettes taking place across the globe. Jarmusch's confidence in his performers allows some of their personalities to rise above the characters and immerse us in what feels like gloriously authentic conversation; it's hard to peel your eyes away from it. The dialogue is marvellous and the cast really gives it their all, with certain highlights from Winona RyderGiancarlo Esposito and Béatrice Dalle. It's an intimate dive into human behaviour, the type which only Jarmusch can deliver. Entertaining, heartfelt and oddly educational. 

Next up at number two, we have one of his most popular films, 1995's Dead Man, boasting a (potential) career best from Johnny Depp. The director's revisionist western is a nineties indie essential for any American cinema enthusiasts, offering a curious take on the genre unlike any other elsewhere. Depp is terrific in the lead and there are some superb surrounding performances from the likes of Robert MitchumIggy Pop and let's not forget the hilarious appearance of Billy Bob Thornton as Big George Drakoulious. Jarmusch takes the audience on such a transcendent journey with this one, and it remains mighty proud as one of the most singular westerns ever put to screen. 

Finally - and of course, this is personal - we have Jarmusch's best film at number one. Before Dead Man and Night on Earth, the filmmaker concluded a successful eighties run with 1989's Mystery Train. It tells three intertwining stories over the course of twenty-four hours in Memphis, Tennessee. Arguably, it's his most charming, beautiful, hilarious and purest piece of work to date, and remains the most fun to revisit over time. It certainly takes some interesting turns, so the less you know about Mystery Train, the better. All you need to know is this: see it, immediately. 

There you have it; a personal selection of five Jim Jarmusch favourites. As you may have guessed, there are many more gems across the director's admirable body of work, and such efforts as Coffee and Cigarettes and Down by Law are also definitely worth your time. In preparation for The Dead Don't Die on June 14, 2019, it would be wise to plunge into the visionary cinematic universe of Jim Jarmusch. It's always a pleasure. 

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