Alright then Snootchie Boochies, the time has come: let’s rank every live-action movie and TV episode that Kevin Smith has ever directed. In the years since he burst onto the scene and maxed out a lot of credit cards with Clerks, Smith has diversified his resumé in a big bad way.
He’s got two shared universes all of his own (the original ‘View Askewniverse’ and the parallel world of the True North trilogy), and he’s even played around in the DC sandbox thanks to The CW’s The Flash and Supergirl. He’s also done rom-coms, a supernatural telly pilot and a sitcom episode. And who could forget the time he delivered a star-studded masterpiece about two cast-out angels attempting to sneak back into heaven?
Since Smith is in development mode at the mo, squirrelling away on Jay And Silent Bob Reboot, Moose Jaws and the Sam And Twitch TV series, now seems like the ideal time to look back on the work he’s given us so far, and how it all stacks up. Without further ado, then, here’s Every Movie And TV Show Directed By Kevin Smith, Ranked Worst To Best…
16. Cop Out
Every piece of Kevin Smith output has its moments of awesomeness, but it’s hardest to find them in Cop Out, the 2010 buddy cop comedy starring Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan. The latter of those stars does manage to squeeze in his natural charm at points, but Willis’ disinterested performance and an uninspiring script from Robb Cullen and Mark Cullen combine to make this a real damp squib of a viewing experience.
To get all hyperbolic about it: there’s nothing worse than watching an unfunny comedy that Kevin Smith directed but didn’t write. Smith is a man that can easily raise a chuckle just by rambling on in an otherwise empty room, and he was right there on set for the whole thing! Couldn’t just a teeny bit of his comedic genius rub off on Bruce Willis?! Unfortunately not.
The behind-the-scenes stories of Cop Out are funnier than the film itself, which is pretty much everything you need to know. “I want to thank everyone who worked on the film,” Smith said at the wrap party, “except for Bruce Willis, who is a f*cking d*ck.”
15. Yoga Hosers
Yoga Hosers, the second flick in the True North trilogy, is the epitome of Kevin Smith’s post-taking-up-weed filmmaking era. It lurches from one scene to the next, repeating the words “basic” and “eh?” at every possible opportunity, displaying weird Instagram-style filters on the screen in lieu of proper jokes, and introducing weird new concepts at every turn. It’s like hanging out with a drugged up buddy who’s making themselves laugh more than anything else.
But, like that chum that you love even when they’re winding you up, Yoga Hosers still has its merits. A couple of the cameos are brilliant, and a string of impressions from Smith’s Hollywood Babble-On podcast co-host Ralph Garman really liven up the third act. Johnny Depp’s Guy Lapointe is also mildly amusing at times, but he was funnier in Tusk when he was more reigned in.
And the thing that really works about Yoga Hosers is the natural chemistry shared by Lily-Rose Depp and Harley Quinn Smith, Johnny Depp and Kevin Smith’s real-life daughters whose fictionalized (but obviously genuine) friendship ensures the film has a heart. It’s just a shame it’s funny bone is deformed.
14. The Goldbergs (The Dynamic Duo)
“The Dynamic Duo”, which Smith directed from a script by Andrew Secunda, is a perfectly serviceable episode of The Goldbergs. But it’s still an episode of The Goldbergs, which has been shot in the same way on the same sets for four years now, so it’s a bit difficult to detect Smith’s input while watching. Plus, it’s only twenty-something minutes long, so the chances of it being amazing enough to climb any higher on this list were always going to be slim.
The last couple of minutes are where the episode suddenly becomes more than ‘just another sitcom instalment’, because Smith is given some homemade Batman costumes and vehicles to play with. The way he shoots the bootleg Batmobile, and the Adam West-referencing final shot of the episode, is a lot of fun, and Smith lets his well-documented DC fandom shine through.
Here’s proof, if you needed any, that you can smoke weed every day and still produce interesting work. Tusk, which was born from a giggled-filled SModcast episode, is visually stylish, daringly dark and (at points) fiendishly funny. It might not have a comedy hit rate as high as Smith’s masterworks, but it’s still got a lot going for it.
At the top of the pile of reasons to love this film is Michael Parks, who puts in an absolutely stellar performance as a strange old man that wishes to turn a human being into a walrus. Justin Long also excels, playing the victim of this sadistic scheme with wide-eyed horror and a wry humour.
Johnny Depp has a small but important role a ‘legendary man-hunter’ from Quebec, who works with the same clerks that would later show up in Yoga Hosers to bring the walrus-themed carnage to an end. In the process, Depp turns in one of his weirdest performances ever, which is another reason to check this out if you haven’t already.
12. Reaper (Pilot)
Way back in 2007, Smith proved that he’s a natural at directing for TV, by shooting the first episode of the supernatural comedy series Reaper. Here, Smith showed once again that he can shoot things stylishly on a shoestring budget, and get great performances out of a cast. (Ray Wise’s Devil – who forces the protagonist to do his evil bidding – is the standout performer in this case.)
It’s astounding that it took so long for Smith to get more TV work from The CW, as the proof that he can do it is all right here. He frames the closing action of the episode impressively, and he also brings pace and energy to the standard-issue pilot episode set-up stuff that has to come before it. He already had plenty of experience shooting people talking, so that’s hardly a surprise.
11. Jersey Girl
It’s often maligned among Smith’s fan base, but Jersey Girl – in this writer’s opinion, at least – is actually a real treat, as long as you can accept the idea of Smith trying something totally different. This is a Kevin Smith writer-director project that doesn’t include d*ck jokes and pot dealers. It’s a rom-com about a grieving husband. Once you get past that jarring shift, there’s a lot to enjoy…
Not least a show-stopping third act cameo, which proves just how much star power Smith had at the time. Spoiling it here would be a shame for those of you who haven’t seen the film yet, but suffice it to say that the turning point towards the end is also a massive moment of payoff that plasters a grin onto your face.
The movie on either side of that brilliant scene has its ups and downs. The ups include the chemistry between Ben Affleck and pretty much everyone else (particularly his on-screen daughter Raquel Castro). The downs include a plodding pace and a slight shortage of big, gut-busting gags. But this film has a lot of charm, let it be said.
10. Supergirl (Supergirl Lives and Distant Sun)
The Maiden Of Might and The Man That Made Clerks make a wonderful match. There’s always been sentimentality and charm in Smith’s work, and The CW’s Supergirl show has both of those in abundance, plus epic superhero action and plenty of punching.
Kevin Smith’s first episode of Supergirl was season 2’s “Supergirl Lives”. The title alone was a joy-inducing Easter Egg, and the episode itself was stuffed with references and nods (most of them referring to Smith’s doomed Superman script from the ‘90s, Superman Lives). The writers of the show clearly have a lot of love for Smith, and he repaid them by bringing a very safe set of hands.
Strong direction was essential in this episode, since it took place on two different planets (well, one planet and one moon) and featured lots of moving parts. Thankfully, Smith handled this episode and his later one (“Distant Sun”) with panache. He really is becoming a very adept TV director, with his confidence with SFX and swooping cameras growing all the time.
9. The Flash (The Runaway Dinosaur and Killer Frost)
Smith’s first foray into the DC TV Multiverse is arguably still his best. “The Runaway Dinosaur”, one of the final episodes of The Flash season 2, was a perfect fit for him. The script saw Barry having heated discussions with angry copies of his loved ones, within a Speed Force hallucination thingy, and Smith shot everything in a way that really heightened the already-impressive material on the page.
Again, the thing that stands out about Smith’s DC directing is the way he doesn’t let the camera sit still. It’s like he’s got a hunger to get moving, swoop the camera around and frame stuff in interesting ways. Maybe he got bored of filming people sitting down in convenience stores and malls and the like.
Smith returned to The Flash for season 3’s “Killer Frost”, and was rewarded for his stellar dialogue-directing from the year before with a bevy of big action scenes. Smith’s joy at filming a proper superhero battle was palpable, with the whole thing feeling energetic and exciting. Hopefully he’ll return to the DC universe as part of the next fall season.
8. Red State
Red State was a real curveball from Smith. After the disappointment of directing someone else’s script and working with Bruce Willis on the studio suck-fest Cop Out, Smith opted to write and direct something straight from his own imagination. The result was a film about youngsters being tricked into a strange cult by the promise of sex. And it’s a very strong movie.
Michael Parks put in a top-notch performance as the cult’s leader, absolutely dripping with sinister charisma. (It’s no surprise that Smith called him back for Tusk.) John Goodman also puts in a decent shift at the federal agent investigating the cultish commune. The characters these two play are intriguing ones, and they’re certainly unique among Smith’s stable. The young characters are interesting enough as well, and there are a few genuinely scary moments for them.
However, although the action is solid enough when the cult and the government eventually collide, Red State does kind of fizzle out a bit. If the third act lived up the creepy intrigue of the film’s opening, and built to a strong pay-off, Red State could’ve climbed higher than this mid-table position on the list.
7. Zack And Miri Make A Porno
It may have been a box office flop, but Zack And Miri Make A Porno is a very impressive slice of comedy cinema. The cast is great, with Smith blending his View Askew chums (Jason Mewes, Jeff Anderson) with some big Hollywood names (Elizabeth Banks, Seth Rogen) to create what, on paper, should’ve been a cocktail that pleased both Smith’s long-time fans and mainstream moviegoers.
It’s a shame that the film didn’t do well (though it’s surely made some dollar across disc sales and streaming services in the years hence). It would’ve been cool to see Smith making more movies like this: comedy vehicles for big/upcoming stars, where he could still keep creative control and give roles to his mates as well.
But still, at least we have Zack And Miri, which has a really high gag rate thanks to all the porn parody, Star Wars references and cast chemistry. There’s some really sweet stuff about friendship and growing up without money in there too, and Craig Robinson threatens to steal the show despite starting in the generic position of ‘black best friend.’
6. Clerks II
Lightning rarely strikes twice for a filmmaker, but Smith managed to recapture the charm of Clerks very successfully with its twelve-years-later follow up. Both in terms of themes and funnies, Clerks II is one of Kevin Smith’s very best pictures.
Everything you loved about Clerks came back for its sequel, with the dialogue flitting between Brian O’Halloran’s Dante, Jeff Anderson’s Randal and Jason Mewes’ Jay continuing to provide razor sharp levels of hilarity.
The new stuff was great, too. Trevor Fehrman’s Elias was a solid addition as a cypher for geeks everywhere, Rosario Dawson brought a fun new angle, and the donkey show sequence at the end allowed the film to build up to the hugest of laughs.
But, of course, the ‘getting old is ruddy difficult’ theme is the thing that hits home the hardest with this one, especially when that trapped-in-prison-espousing-home-truths scene plays out near the end. It may lack the originality of its predecessor, but this is a comedy sequel that actually developed its characters and pushed their lives forward, without sacrificing the belly laughs. That’s a real achievement.
5. Chasing Amy
Man, the Ben Affleck segment of Kevin Smith’s career was great. And even though Jersey Girl is a point of contention among Smith fans, there’s pretty much a consensus that Chasing Amy is right up there on the league table of his output. Perhaps most impressively, it manages to be both a film about nerds and a love story without being cheesy and naff.
Affleck and Alyssa Jones make a great on-screen pair (as do Affleck and Jason Lee), and the idea of a man falling for a lesbian gives this film a really unique hook, on which Smith hangs both gags and emotional development.
There’s also something to be said about the braveness of this film’s ending, in the sense that it doesn’t give you the satisfaction of the leads staying together and living happily ever after. Chasing Amy an honest look at an unconventional relationship, which explores how falling in love rarely gets you a big Hollywood ending in the real world.
Plus, the scene where Silent Bob discusses a past relationship and sets Holden on the right path is one of the mostly-mute coat-wearer’s finest monologues. For that, and many other reasons, Chasing Amy earns a high ranking on this list.
4. Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back
You can just tell that everyone involved had so much fun with Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back. Smith clearly wasn’t holding back here. He was calling in every ridiculous cameo he could and gushing every weird concept he could imagine onto the page. One can only assume that the production meetings went a bit like this…
Carrie Fisher as a nun? Why not! A pet monkey? Sure! Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting 2: Hunting Season? Let’s do it! Mark Hamill as the Cock-Knocker? Great! Will Ferrell as a wildlife marshal? Fine! Ben Affleck (as Holden from Chasing Amy) explains the internet and talks about Ben Affleck being in lots of Miramax movies, and then Ben Affleck also shows up later as Ben Affleck in a Miramax movie within a Miramax movie? YES! TAKE OUR MONEY AND MAKE THAT INSANE FILM, KEVIN.
The resultant movie is just a joyride of strange stuff, madcap cameos and humungous laughs. It may not be smart, but it never fails to raise a chuckle. If you counted up all the decent gags in all of Smith’s movies, this one could well have the most. Applesauce, bitch.
Mallrats is similar to Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back in the sense that Smith let a little loose with it, and found big laughs a result. Riding on the success of Clerks, he upped the ante to a whole mall’s worth of stores, majorly increased the oddness of the set pieces and continued to mine everyday discussions for comedy gold.
Mallrats is the movie that gave us Stan Lee discussing superhero genitalia, Silent Bob dressed as Batman swinging on rope into a women’s changing room, and a running gag about a Magic Eye poster. The laughs come thick and fast with this one, even though the stakes are never much higher than a dating show going badly.
All the performances rule in this one too, from Jason Lee as the singleton loser at the top of the bill to Michael Rooker as a weird dad and Ben Affleck as a nasty store clerk. Although its cult classic status doesn’t quite match that of Clerks, Mallrats is a very fun way to spend two hours. It’s a shame that sequel isn’t happening anymore.
Easily Kevin Smith’s deepest and most thoughtful film, Dogma is an absolute gem that deserves more praise than it gets these days. Not only does it feature an impressive cast consisting of Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Salma Hayek, Jason Lee, Linda Fiorentino, Alan Rickman, and Chris Rock, but it also touches on some truly massive topics.
It’s a marvel that Smith even managed to get this premise – an abortion clinic worker takes on two asshole angels, with the help of Jay and Silent Bob, and the future of existence is at stake! – off the ground. The fact he managed to take that madcap idea and turn it into something that actually works as a drama, a comedy, a character piece and an action movie is nothing short of a miracle.
The Catholic Church denounced it and Smith received death threats, but to those of us who weren’t offended by the film’s very existence, Dogma became a bona fide cult classic. It’s funny, it’s heavy, and it ends with a bloodbath and a miraculous conception. What more could you want?
Of course, there could only be one winner: although Dogma and Mallrats are classics, and everything Smith’s ever done has it moments, nothing he’s produced – or, most likely, ever will – can match the sheer unparalleled excellence of Clerks.
The set up is so simple, but the execution so flawless. It’s only a couple of clerks and a couple of stoners getting into some weird situations, but Clerks captured a moment in time. It was a guy shooting some stuff he thought would be funny, after hours in his own place of work, with a camera he could only afford by maxing out credit cards. It was a passion for filmmaking and comedy blurred with a young man’s actual life.
Clerks is mostly people sitting around and talking about stuff, but instead of being bored by the lack of action, film fans were engaged. They were laughing. They were wishing they could be up there on the roof playing hockey, or trying to buy a video from Randal, or leaning on a wall with Jay and Bob.
That’s the magic of Smith’s script. It’s so funny and so relatable that it doesn’t matter that the film is black and white, or that the cast were all random unknowns. This film is so easy to watch and enjoy, which has made it a gateway drug into indie movies for a lot of people. Watching Clerks is like making a friend that you want to meet up with again and again, even when he gets high and rants about Canadian yoga enthusiasts for hours…