Every Luca Guadagnino Film Ranked, From ‘I Am Love’ to ‘Challengers’ (2024)

A curious thing happened when the first trailer for “Challengers” came out: People started getting really, really weird online about the suggestion that the three main characters — played by Zendaya, Mike Faist, and Josh O’Connor — have a threesome. It prompted memes and hand-wringing alike, as if this was the first time any actor in film history had ever pretended to engage in sex onscreen — never mind that the film ultimately doesn’t have an actual sex scene at all, instead withholding from the audience in order to build up the lingering sexual tension that eats away at all sides of its love triangle. The fervor around the possibility of sex in “Challengers” affirmed something that has been obvious for years now: Cinema, especially American cinema, is starved for films that sizzle with genuine sensuality.

So thank god that Luca Guadagnino is around. A hit or miss filmmaker, Guadagnino is nonetheless one of the few directors working today who prioritizes making seductive films about lust and carnal desire. The people in his films are beautiful, and they are definitely horny. The Italian director’s lush visuals bathe his actors in glowing light and glistening sweat that makes them look like gods, from Timothée Chalamet’s ingenue in queer romantic drama “Call Me By Your Name” to O’Connor and Faist’s slippery hunks in “Challengers.” Occasionally, those gorgeous visuals are all his films have to offer, but at his most successful, Guadagnino pairs them with his preoccupation with emotionally complex stories about the illogical, unknowable nature of love. And even at his weakest, Guadagnino is still supplying Hollywood with the type of ambitious, adult, and, yes, sexy dramas that have become scant at the cinema.

Since fully breaking out as an auteur with 2017’s “Call Me By Your Name,” Guadagnino has become a bit notorious for overpromising when it comes to his output — at this point, there are likely more films he’s promised to make (a “Call Me By Your Name” sequel, a new “Lord of the Flies” adaptation, a biopic about Hollywood hustler Scotty Bowers, to name a few) than films he’s actually made. But he’s been productive of late, between “Challengers” and this year’s upcoming “Queer,” a romantic drama starring Daniel Craig as an American expat in Mexico City who becomes infatuated with a younger man; both movies share a screenwriter in Justin Kuritzkes. Add in news of a Julia Roberts thriller coming up next, and we’ll be seeing a lot more of Guadagnino’s films for a while longer.

Now that “Challengers” is out in theaters, IndieWire is taking stock of Guadagnino’s filmography to determine what measures up as the director’s best work. This ranking does not include the Italian filmmaker’s first two feature films “The Protagonists” and “Melissa P.,” which only released in his home country and are unavailable in the United States. It also doesn’t include some of his documentary work, including 2020’s “Salvatore: Shoemaker of Dreams.” With that said, read on for Guadagnino’s filmography, ranked.

With editorial contributions from David Ehrlich.

  • 6. ‘Bones and All’ (2022)

    Every Luca Guadagnino Film Ranked, From ‘I Am Love’ to ‘Challengers’ (1)

    Guadagnino’s ‘Bones and All’ isn’t a complete failure by any means. If nothing else, Taylor Russell’s brilliant performance as the enigmatic and romantic young cannibal at the center is enough to make it worth watching. On the whole, though, the adaptation of Camille DeAngelis’ novel feels surprisingly cold and distant for a film from Guandagnino, lacking the swoony romanticism needed to make the love story between the two young cannibals traveling the United States worth investing in. Part of the problem may be how shallow the world the film builds out — where cannibals roam the late ’80s landscape and their thirst is something of a code that bonds them together — feels, with little dimension beyond the surface-level shock. There’s much to admire technically, but ‘Bones and All’ feels curiously bloodless for a movie with this much blood in it.

  • 5. ‘I Am Love’ (2009)

    Every Luca Guadagnino Film Ranked, From ‘I Am Love’ to ‘Challengers’ (2)

    Guadagnino’s first film in his self-described ‘Desire’ trilogy went more under the radar compared to ‘A Bigger Splash’ and ‘Call Me By Your Name,’ and is decidedly paler and less sumptuous than Guadagnino’s future works. And yet ‘I Am Love’ is still a worthwhile watch, thanks to the always great Tilda Swinton’s lead role as the unhappy Emma, who risks her marriage to a wealthy textile manufacturer for an affair with chef Antonio (Edoardo Gabbriellini). Their affair often leans toward melodrama that’s a bit too suffocating for the film’s own good, but Swinton’s moving performance gives the story of a woman caught between tradition and desire real emotion.

  • 4. ‘Suspiria’ (2018)

    Every Luca Guadagnino Film Ranked, From ‘I Am Love’ to ‘Challengers’ (3)

    Remaking any classic horror movie for the modern day is a tall order, especially a defining classic like Dario Argento’s witchy giallo-influenced classic ‘Suspiria.’ That’s not what Guadagnino ended up doing with his 2018 spin on the landmark Italian film, which takes the basic premise of a German dance academy run by witches and turns it into a completely different film. Visually, it’s completely distinct: Guadagnino strips the lurid colors signature to Argento’s work in favor of a starker, colder look that feels decidedly more alien, complemented by Damien Jalet’s unnerving stylized dance sequences. The swing makes for a gratifyingly different work than the original, and while Guadagnino’s take doesn’t enchant nearly as much as Argento’s original twisted fairy tale, it still contains enough audacious imagery and scares to linger in your imagination.

  • 3. ‘A Bigger Splash’ (2015)

    Every Luca Guadagnino Film Ranked, From ‘I Am Love’ to ‘Challengers’ (4)

    Guadagnino’s first remake of an earlier film, ‘A Bigger Splash’ loosely takes the story of Jacques Deray’s psychological thriller ‘La Piscine’ and adopts his languid, lush approach to the story of a love quartet between four acquaintances vacationing in an island villa. Which is not to say that ‘A Bigger Splash’ lacks the thrills or violence of ‘La Piscine;’ part of what makes the film work is how the simmering jealously and rage lingers beneath its inviting and sensual exterior. Tilda Swinton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Ralph Fiennes, and Dakota Johnson have maybe never been more hot — all of them — than they are here, trading slights and petty squabbles as well as inviting glances. Despite all of the ugliness on display, ‘A Bigger Splash’ is a vacation too intoxicating to resist.

  • 2. ‘Challengers’ (2024)

    Every Luca Guadagnino Film Ranked, From ‘I Am Love’ to ‘Challengers’ (5)

    If, as Blanche Dubois once said, ‘The opposite of death is desire,’ then Luca Guadagnino will live forever, and his latest film — a transcendently sweaty tennis love triangle so turned on by the heat of competition that its sex scenes feel like foreplay and its rallies feel like p*rn — is possibly the most unbridled portrait of resurrection since ‘The Passion of the Christ.’

    It’s definitely the hornie*st story ever set within the purgatorial concrete nothing of New Rochelle, NY, which is where this movie’s three main characters all happen to cross paths during the final match of a dingy U.S. Open qualifier that’s being sponsored by a local tire store. They’ve been f*cking each other on and off the court for more than a decade by the time ‘Challengers’ unleashes its first serve, and yet, despite winning on every level of their chosen sport, these long-limbed athletes have lost their lust for life at some point along the way. At this point, their lust for each other might be the only force on Earth powerful enough to get their heads back in the game.

    That might sound like the set-up for a relatively straightforward — if refreshingly bi-curious — romantic comedy, but ‘Challengers’ is a far cry from ‘Wimbledon,’ and Guadagnino couldn’t give less of a sh*t about who comes out on top at the end. On the contrary, the ‘Call Me by Your Name’ director was likely turned on by the sensual backspin of Justin Kuritzkes’ script, which subverts the typical stakes of each match in order to focus on the animating thrill of wanting something with every flooded sweat gland on your body.

    Here is a glistening, red-blooded, semi-American sports film where nobody wants to win at love because victory itself runs a distant second to the psychosexual ecstasy of having something worthwhile to play for, a reward that ultimately proves even more valuable than a USTA championship or Zendaya’s phone number. If org*sms are little deaths, then it’s fitting that nobody in ‘Challengers’ ever has one on screen. These competitors only feel alive when they’re bound together by the mutual intimacy of being edged to the break points of their desire, and Guadagnino’s deliriously enjoyable movie doesn’t let any of its characters get off until even the most sophisticated Hawk-Eye line-calling technology on Earth would be unable to pinpoint the exact spot where tennis ends and sex begins.—DE

    Read IndieWire’s complete review of ‘Challengers.’

  • 1. ‘Call Me By Your Name’ (2017)

    Every Luca Guadagnino Film Ranked, From ‘I Am Love’ to ‘Challengers’ (6)

    Guadagnino sometimes struggles to match his films’ beauty with real emotion. So it’s perhaps no surprise that his most successful effort is the one that strongly pairs his aesthetic skills with a deeply empathetic coming-of-age story. By now an iconic part of the queer canon, ‘Call Me By Your Name’ and its depiction of a romance between a teenager with a young adult has prompted some accusations of glamorization. But Guadagnino’s adaptation of André Aciman’s novel works because it considers this formative relationship for its lead Elio (Timothée Chalamet in his star-making role) with nuance, looking at how it opens his world up and crushes him when it’s left as just a short summer dream. Everything about ‘Call Me By Your Name’ — from the actors to the luscious Italian surrounding, to the sun-drenched cinematography — is jaw-droppingly beautiful, and its all the more heartbreaking that the beauty is so fleeting.

Every Luca Guadagnino Film Ranked, From ‘I Am Love’ to ‘Challengers’ (2024)


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