The canon of great auteurs for your average cinephile includes a very fixed set of respected heterosexual artists: Kubrick, Tarantino, Eastwood, Scorsese, Nolan, etc… But if your knowledge of film history only goes that far you’re truly depriving yourself of some of the best movies ever made. While there’s no doubting the talent of that aforementioned list, real, subversive and experimental cinema often falls to the wayside.
John Waters, sometimes called The Pope of Trash or the Prince of Puke, offers an entirely different lens through which cinema can be viewed: Instead of offering aesthetic beauty or emotional catharsis, Waters aims for shock and disgust. This transversal of cinematic values runs counter to centuries of both middlebrow and highbrow art criticism, and has garnered him a devoted cult following who embrace the grotesque.
Waters, who debuted his first feature-length film in 1969, has divided critics for decades with his unapologetic depictions of a kind of homosexual underground filled with criminals and sexual deviants. His regular troupe of actors, known as the Dreamlanders, have since been immortalized as queer icons: Especially the drag queen Divine, whose starkly and purposefully ugly look have ironically since become a paradigm of alternative beauty.
But not all Waters movies are created equally, especially as mainstream studios attempted to co-opt his brand of offbeat brand of aberrance. What movies are worth watching and what can be skipped? We’ve ranked the Godfather of Filth’s filmography to help you figure that out:
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