Three-time Oscar winner Oliver Stone has courted controversy with a series of technically ambitious, rabble rousing political dramas, chronicling the highs and lows of American history. But how many of his titles remain classics? In honor of his birthday, let’s take a look back at all 20 of his films, ranked worst to best.
Born in 1946, Stone served in the Vietnam War before enrolling in NYU film school. He first came to prominence as a screenwriter, winning an Oscar for penning “Midnight Express” (Best Original Screenplay in 1978) before writing “Conan the Barbarian” (1982), “Scarface” (1983) and “Year of the Dragon” (1985). During this same period, he directed the low-budget horror films “Seizure” (1974) and “The Hand” (1981).
He emerged as a an A-list director when he was 40 years old with a pair of acclaimed war dramas released in 1986: “Salvador” and “Platoon.” Both earned him Best Original Screenplay nominations, while “Platoon,” which was based on his own experiences as a soldier in Vietnam, earned him his first Best Director prize (it won three additional awards, including Best Picture). He took home his second directing award just three years later for another Vietnam War drama, “Born on the Fourth of July” (1989), for which he also reaped bids in Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay.
Stone returned to the Oscar race with “JFK” (1991), an ambitious and controversial examination of the conspiracy theories surrounding the Kennedy assassination. Despite receiving criticism for its dubious handling of facts, the film still reaped Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay bids for Stone. He earned his last nomination in Best Original Screenplay for “Nixon” (1995), a biographical drama of disgraced former President Richard Nixon (Anthony Hopkins).
In addition to his Oscar success, Stone won Golden Globes for directing “Platoon,” “Born on the Fourth of July” and “JFK” and for writing “Midnight Express” and “Born on the Fourth of July,” earning additional bids for penning “Platoon” and “JFK” and for directing “Natural Born Killers” (1994). He took home DGA Awards for “Platoon” and “Born on the Fourth of July,” reaping a third nomination for “JFK.” He won a BAFTA for directing “Platoon” and competed for writing “Born on the Fourth of July,” “JFK” and “Evita” (1996), directed by “Midnight Express” helmer Alan Parker. On the TV side, he received an Emmy for producing “Indictment: The McMartin Trial” (1995).
Stone has also worked on a number of expansive and controversial documentaries, most notably the multi-part series “The Untold History of the United States.” He made three nonfiction films about Fidel Castro (2003’s “Comandante,” 2004’s “Looking for Fidel” and 2012’s “Castro in Winter) and one series on Vladimir Putin (2017’s “The Putin Interviews”).
Tour our photo gallery of Stone’s 20 films as a director, including the titles listed above, as well as “Wall Street” (1987), “The Doors” (1991), “W.” (2008) and more.
– Original text and gallery published in September 2019.