Steven Soderbergh has formally announced his retirement from filmmaking in order to concentrate on other pursuits. Hollywood is losing one of its most unapologetic, brave and talented artists.
In a recent review of Side Effects (2013), the New Yorker magazine described him as one of modern cinema’s great enigmas. I could think of no other director who has worked in as many genres as Soderbergh has. Soderbergh’s great attribute is his refusal to embrace the Hollywood formula.
He has worked in commercial films (Oceans series, Erin Brockovich), action (Haywire), high drama (Contagion, Traffic), corporate exposé (The Informant!), historical drama (Che: Part 1 and 2) and his latest Side Effects could be described in several ways.
Here now is a list of Steven Soderbergh’s best films:
Never stepping away from controversial subjects, Soderbergh constructs a brilliantly crafted drama about the war on drugs using four different overlapping storylines. This film includes an excellent cast including Benicio Del Toro in a breakthrough role. It won Soderbergh’s only Oscar for Best Director and remains his best film.
Erin Brockovich (2000)
Soderbergh had two nominations for Best Director in 2001. Erin Brockovich is a less ambitious film, but more than deserving of its reputation. Megastar Julia Roberts is terrific as a single mother who discovers that a company is polluting a town’s water supply.
Sex, Lies and Videotape (1989)
The film that began his great career. It won three prizes at Cannes and gave Soderbergh his first Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. Andie MacDowell plays a woman whose husband (Peter Gallagher) is having an affair with her sister. Their lives are even more complicated when his friend Graham (James Spader) enters into the picture.
Contagion is about a global epidemic and the team of doctors racing against time to stop it. There is a lot going on in this film, but Soderbergh keeps everything relevant and interesting. Jude Law is excellent as a journalist who is trying to exploit the tragedy for his own gain. Also starring Kate Winslet, Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon and Marion Cotillard.
Side Effects (2013)
Soderbergh’s most recent triumph. Rooney Mara plays a young woman whose life is turned upside down after a drug prescribed by her psychiatrist has some serious repercussions. This film is an interesting experiment that largely succeeds. The first half is a psychological mystery, while the second half it becomes a crime thriller.
The Informant! (2009)
Soderbergh tackles corporate mischief again, in this quiet hit about a agri-business executive (Matt Damon) who blows the whistle on price-fixing in the industry. Smart, funny and with an excellent performance by Damon, it remains one of his most underrated films.
Magic Mike (2012)
Channing Tatum plays a small-time strip club promoter who introduces Alex Pettyfer’s character to a life of parties, women and easy money. In his private life, Tatum’s character Magic Mike is trying to fund a furniture-making business but the ongoing financial crisis has made it harder for him to get a loan from the bank. It is a brilliant allegory of exploitation.
Former mixed martial arts fighter Gina Carano plays a special ops soldier who seeks revenge after she is betrayed during a secret mission. Haywire is a high energy, international thriller that will keep you guessing until the very end. Also, starring Channing Tatum, Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor and Michael Douglas.