The 8 Best Movies Directed by Alfonso Cuarón, Ranked

Alfonso Cuarón isn't just a great Mexican director. He's one of the best movie directors of our time, and these movies speak for him.

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Despite a relatively short list of films under his belt, Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón has already cemented himself as one of the greatest living directors currently working in Hollywood.

Cuarón holds the record as one of only four people to have been nominated for Academy Awards in six different categories, and he was the first Mexican-born filmmaker to win the Oscar for Best Director.

Over the course of 30 years, Cuarón has delved into and made his mark across numerous film genres, from fantasy to sci-fi, from romantic drama and coming-of-age stories, with many more to come.

Here's our take on the best movies directed by Alfonso Cuarón, how they rank against each other, and why they're remarkable.

8. Great Expectations (1998)

Great Expectations is a romantic drama film based on the classic 1861 Charles Dickens novel of the same name. Starring Ethan Hawke and Gwyneth Paltrow, this contemporary adaptation remains Cuarón's weakest film.

Not only did Emmanuel Lubezki—Cuarón's frequent collaborator and one of the best cinematographers in the world—refer to it as the least satisfying of their movies, but the director himself even went as far as calling it "a complete failed film."

While Great Expectations contains beautiful shots, solid acting, and a remarkable production design, unfortunately that's all it has. There's no depth or emotion, the definition of style over substance.

It deals with some themes that would later become staples of Cuarón's filmography—such as class differences and memory—but ultimately it feels like a movie that could have been directed by anyone, not by someone who would become one of Hollywood's most celebrated auteurs.

7. Sólo Con Tu Pareja (1991)

Sólo Con Tu Pareja was Cuarón's first full-feature film, a sex comedy about a womanizing man who's falsely diagnosed with AIDS by a jealous lover, which leads him to re-evaluate his priorities and behavior.

Despite being produced with funding from the Mexican government, the government initially refused to distribute it. However, after a successful run through international film festivals, they changed their minds—and the movie ended up becoming a box office hit in Mexico.

With this film, Cuarón—who also produced, co-wrote, and co-edited the movie—demonstrated his ability to manage spaces, create well-defined characters, and write sharp and witty dialogue.

6. A Little Princess (1995)

Based on Frances Hodgson Burnett's novel of the same name, A Little Princess is set in New York City during World War I, where a little girl named Sara is relegated to a life of servitude in her boarding school after her father is presumably killed in combat.

A Little Princess was Cuarón's second feature film and his first one produced in the United States. Although not a box office success, the film was a critical hit that managed to be nominated for two Academy Awards, including Lubezki's first nomination for Best Cinematography.

With this film, Cuarón managed to brilliantly capture what it feels like to be a kid through fantastical set pieces and magical realism, and in the process, he created one of the best family films of the 21st century.

5. Gravity (2013)

Starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, Gravity revolves around two American astronauts who try to survive after an accident leaves them stranded in space.

Gravity was the movie that cemented Alfonso Cuarón as one of the best film directors of the 21st century. The first 20 minutes alone masterfully show a director in total control of his craft, presenting us with one of the most impressive and visually stunning long takes in cinema history.

Sadly, while Gravity is an absolute technical masterpiece, its story and script are somewhat lackluster, hence its middling rank on our list.

With Gravity, Cuarón made history by becoming the first Mexican filmmaker to ever win an Oscar for Best Director, an achievement which would later be replicated by his fellow Mexican friends Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu and Guillermo del Toro.

Grossing over $720 million, Gravity is Cuarón's second-most financially successful movie. And, surprisingly, it's also the biggest box office hit of both Bullock and Clooney's careers.

4. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

Widely regarded as the best Harry Potter movie, Prisoner of Azkaban was the first film in the franchise to step away from Christopher Columbus (who directed the first two movies and did a great job introducing us to the wizarding world and its characters).

Alfonso Cuarón took everything that was established by Columbus, then elevated it all to an entirely new level. He raised the stakes, fleshed out the characters, and set a darker tone for the rest of the movies.

Cuarón didn't just successfully handle a big-budget adaptation of one of the biggest franchises in cinema industry, but he also managed to infuse this movie with his personal style that included characteristic long takes, darker visuals, and a more mature-yet-emotional atmosphere.

3. Roma (2018)

As of this writing, Roma is Alfonso Cuarón's most recent film. It's a semi-autobiographical black-and-white movie about Cleo, the housekeeper of an upper-middle-class family in the 1970s.

Perhaps his most personal film to date, Roma saw Cuarón return to his native country of Mexico and use all his talent and experience to craft a movie so emotionally powerful and visually stunning that it's now widely regarded as one of the best films of the 2010s. 

With Roma, Cuarón became the first person to ever win the Academy Awards for Best Director and Best Cinematography on the same night. Furthermore, he also made history by giving Mexico its first win in the Best Foreign Language Film category.

2. Y Tu Mamá También (2001)

Y Tu Mamá También was the movie that put Alfonso Cuarón on the map. After the critical and financial disaster of Great Expectations, he went back to Mexico to get away from Hollywood for a bit and return to his roots.

The result was a coming-of-age road trip movie that explored the geographical, political, and cultural landscape of Mexico and established the distinct filmmaking style of this talented director.

Y Tu Mamá También centers on two teenage friends (played by Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal) who decide to take a road trip to a paradise beach with a woman older than them (played by Maribel Verdú).

With its intimate storytelling, well-rounded characters, sociopolitical commentary, breathtaking imagery, and enthralling long takes, Y Tu Mamá También became one of the defining movies of the so-called "New Mexican Cinema" and is widely considered one of the best Mexican films ever.

1. Children of Men (2006)

Based on the 1992 novel of the same name, Children of Men is a dystopian science fiction movie set in the year 2027, two decades after widespread human infertility strikes the world and threatens societal collapse.

The film revolves around Theo Faron (Clive Owen), a cynical bureaucrat who must escort a miraculously pregnant refugee to safety.

Children of Men is the rare film where every aspect of the movie works perfectly. The acting, direction, writing, cinematography, and production design are impressive on their own; together, they form a masterpiece.

Alfonso Cuarón and Emmanuel Lubezki's notoriety for their impressive long takes all started here, as this film contains two of the most stunning and perfectly choreographed long takes in cinema history.

In sum, Children of Men is not only the best movie in Cuarón's filmography, but easily one of the best movies ever made.

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