Movies & TV / Columns

Top 10 Kevin Smith Movies

January 22, 2015 | Posted by Jason Chamberlain

I’ve been a big fan of Kevin Smith and his movies ever since I was introduced to Mallrats back in high school. Since then I’ve followed the Fat Man (on Batman) through his various projects, from movies and comic books to podcasts to the criminally short-lived Clerks: The Animated Series.

His first five (and later, seventh) movies are part of a shared “View Askewniverse” and those are far and away my favorites, as you’ll see in my list. Not to say I don’t appreciate his attempts at diversifying his body of work; I’m just fond of the earlier stuff. I haven’t seen his latest film, Tusk, hence its absence from the list, but I look forward to checking it out, along with his upcoming flick Yoga Hosers.

For now, here is my top ten list of Kevin Smith films.

10) Red State

Smith’s first foray into the horror genre was certainly a curve ball from a filmmaker known primarily for weed jokes and comic book references. Whether you like the movie or not, you have to respect him for stepping out of his comfort zone.

I don’t really like horror movies, so this was never going to be one of my favorites. But it is a pretty haunting look at religious fanaticism. Smith has said that while writing the script, every time he thought he knew where the story was going, he took a left turn and shook things up, and that shows as the movie keeps you guessing from start to finish.

9) Cop Out

This film marked the only time that Kev directed a movie he didn’t write. Cop Out (originally A Couple of Dicks, a way better title) is a much-maligned item on his CV. I’ve only seen it once and I can’t say I found it very memorable. I love a buddy cop movie done right, and I have no doubt Smith and Tracy Morgan tried, but it didn’t translate to the screen all that well.

Aside from the disappointing box office, Smith has since told many stories of a combative and disinterested Bruce Willis bringing the film down. True or not, it definitely wasn’t one of Bruce’s better performances.

8) Jersey Girl

This movie is often cited when people look back on that infamously lambasted ‘Bennifer’ period of Ben Affleck’s career. It was Smith’s first time trying something outside of his established cinematic universe and ‘stoner comedy’ genre. This was a story about Ben Affleck’s widowed single father trying to raise his kid and struggling with his decision to give up his own dreams to do so.

For me the highlight of this one is George Carlin showing off his acting chops as Affleck’s father. Will Smith has a fun cameo and Liv Tyler is always great, so there’s that.

7) Zack and Miri Make a Porno

Once again venturing outside of his View Askewniverse, Smith at least stuck to comedy for this story of two struggling friends who decide to raise money by… well it’s right there in the title.

Low brow humor? Absolutely, but I found myself laughing plenty of times throughout this movie. Seth Rogen and Craig Robinson keep the laughs coming while Justin Long and Brandon Routh are great in cameos. A couple real-life porn stars find their way into the movie as well.

This was expected to be more of a hit due to Rogen’s box office cred, but the figures disappointed and set Smith on his current path of independent, low-budget films (well, lower than usual).

6) Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back

Finally we arrive in the View Askewniverse! This movie was Smith’s first attempt at a swan song for said cinematic universe (years before Marvel’s, and with stoners instead of superheroes). It’s a goofy road movie with the supporting characters of Jay and Silent Bob taking centre stage and featuring cameos by characters from all of his previous movies. By definition it’s a bit of a jumble, but there’s some gold in here, from George Carlin’s crafty hitchhiker to Will Ferrell’s remarkably incompetent wildlife ranger. The cameos come fast and furious, my favorite probably being Affleck, Matt Damon and Gus Van Sant selling out to make Good Will Hunting 2 (Hunting Season!).

5) Dogma

Yes, this is the movie with a rubber poop monster in it, and Smith received plenty of death threats for this celebration/send-up of the Catholic faith.

Look past the dick jokes though and there’s actually an interesting story here about a pair of banished angels desperately trying to find their way back into heaven, and the effect their prolonged exile has had on them. Ben Affleck delivered one of his best performances as the disillusioned Bartleby and Matt Damon is great here too. The always awesome Alan Rickman brings class to the proceedings and Chris Rock brings his A-game to the role of Rufus, the forgotten apostle. Plus you’ve got Jay and Silent Bob, Carlin’s Cardinal Glick and Buddy Christ!
4) Chasing Amy

A lot of people say this is Smith’s best movie, and I’m not going to argue with them. It’s definitely up there. This was the first time Smith really tried to mix in some dramatic elements with his comedy and it came out just about perfectly.

A very unlikely love story is the focus of this movie, but the relationship between Affeck’s Holden and Jason Lee’s Banky is equally important. After killing it as the comedic lead in Mallrats, Lee proved he could handle dramatic material just as well here.

Arguably stealing the movie is Dwight Ewell as Hooper, the outwardly militant comic book writer who is actually a rather effeminate gay man. Of course the movie turns on Joey Lauren Adam’s character (not named Amy, incidentally) and she delivers in the role.

3) Clerks

Smith’s first movie is great for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is its note perfect recreation of the drudgery of working retail, specifically at convenience stores. “Just because they serve you doesn’t mean they like you” indeed!

It’s also a great snapshot of that post-college period where you get out into the real world, look around and say, “is this it?” Dante and Randal are two young guys with no plans who are going nowhere, and I think all of us have felt like that at some point (heck, some of us still do!)

Smith will be the first to admit it looks like crap, but what it lacks in visuals it more than makes up for in memorable moments and quotes, from Dante and Randal’s breakdown of the eternal Empire Strikes Back/Return of the Jedi argument and Randal’s systematic destruction of every customer unfortunate enough to enter his video store to the hockey game on the roof and the unforgettable song that is Berserker.

2) Clerks 2

A lot of eyebrows were raised when Smith re-opened his presumably completed Askewniverse to make this sequel to Clerks. I’m glad he did because it resulted in one of his best movies.

It’s been a decade and Dante and Randal are still working at their dead-end jobs. When a careless Randal accidentally burns down the stores they fall even further, picking up a job at the local fast food joint. Now, I’ve done my share of time at such establishments so I certainly felt their pain. This movie brings the funny with great moments like Randal’s deconstruction of the Lord of the Rings trilogy (“Even the trees walked in those movies!”) and torturing of the innocent Elias, not to mention the donkey show…

It’s not all dirty talk and sight gags, as Smith explores close friendships and how they change as years go by, as well as that place in your life where you feel like you’ve fallen too far behind to ever catch up to the world around you.

1) Mallrats

Maybe it’s because I saw this one first, but this has always been my favorite of Smith’s movies and probably always will be. It’s goofy and unlike most of his other films there’s no attempt at including any kind of a message; it’s just a comedy about a couple guys spending the day at a mall and talking about girls and comic books.

There are so many classic moments in this one, like Jay and Silent Bob’s disastrous attempts to off an intimidating security guard and beating up the Easter Bunny in full view of a bunch of traumatized children. A then-unknown Ben Affleck plays a very convincing asshole with very specific tastes in the bedroom. Michael Rooker is fantastic as the evil Mr. Svenning. Oh, and that darn sailboat picture.

But the movie belongs to Jason Lee’s Brodie, easily my favorite of Smith’s many characters and one I wish we could see again. An unapologetic slacker and comic book nerd with no shortage of (largely unearned) confidence and swagger, Brodie spends the movie dishing out not-so-sage advice to his friend T.S. and trying to get over his recent breakup, all while arguing the true definition of a food court and the parameters of Superman’s sex life. Brodie rules.

Also, Stan Lee has an awesome cameo.

What Kevin Smith movies do you like? Or are you not a fan at all?