The 10 Greatest David Lynch Moments

**Contains mild spoilers**

Imagine you have a chart that shows all of the world’s movie directors.

One axis of the chart rates each director in terms of his/her long-term success and the other axis rates the weirdness of their films. Somewhere in the top right corner – the corner reserved for only the most successful weirdos – you’d notice a single dot all on its own.

That dot would be David Lynch.

lynch chart

The man has given us some of the most mind-boggling movies around. Numbers simply don’t go high enough to count how many people have exclaimed “what the f*** was that?” while the credits rolled on one of his movies or TV episodes.  Yet his career has spanned decades (6 of them if you count his early short films) and he has somehow maintained a comfortable level of critical and financial success ever since his breakthrough with The Elephant Man in 1980. It’s a balancing act so very few others have managed successfully.

Of course that doesn’t mean watching a Lynch movie is everyone’s idea of a good time. Many loathe his work, often claiming that all the befuddling insanity is just a way to distract impressionable viewers from the lack of meaning and substance beneath. And to be honest, sometimes it is quite difficult to defend his work.

“You see, the rabbits represent society and the couch symbolises … umm … actually I give up.”

But when you look at individual scenes rather than whole movies, ignoring the hidden meanings and just considering how the images on-screen make you feel, even a cynic would have to admit that David Lynch has made some highly memorable cinema. So let’s look at 10 of the most intriguing, brain-melting moments of his career …

Eraserhead (1977) – Unwrapping the Baby

When you have some kind of disturbing, devil-child creature in your bedroom and it falls sick – don’t try to help. You’ll only make things much worse.

“I love you, honey, but I’m going to have to insist we get a paternity test.”

The Elephant Man (1980) –He’s Not an Animal

It’s the peak of the cruelty that we see throughout the film, but the simple shout of “I am not an animal! I am a human being!” is delivered with so much desperation and power that it also becomes a moment of redemption.

Interesting trivia: The guy under all that make-up is the chest-burster from Alien … well not the chest-burster itself, but the owner of the chest that is burst.

Blue Velvet (1986) – Trapped in the Closet

Here Dennis Hopper shows why he was Hollywood’s go-to guy whenever they needed a psychotic weirdo.

A closet door just isn’t enough to protect you from a raging Dennis Hopper. The only officially recognised safeguard is a foot-thick layer of reinforced steel.

Wild at Heart (1990) – Punk Rock Elvis

A heavy metal concert suddenly turns into Nicolas Cage crooning a tender Elvis ballad to his girlfriend. If you expected that turn of events you’re a lot harder to surprise than I am.

“Just a quick song this time, babe. I have to go make Ghost Rider 2.”

Twin Peaks (1990) – Cooper’s Dream

The most iconic Lynch scene isn’t actually found in any of his films, but in the third episode of his TV show. It’s just a flawless piece of surrealism, which is made slightly less insane by the fact it’s a dream sequence – unless you happened to be watching the strange alternate pilot of the show. That version puts the scene right at the end and claims that it’s “25 Years Later”, which adds a whole new level of trippiness.

“Let’s Rock! … and by that I mean, let’s all act really f***ing weird!”

Lost Highway (1997) – The Mystery Man at the Party

Chances are, if you ever met this guy at a party, it would be one of the creepiest moments of your life – and I just mean if he talked to you about American Idol or something. If you had the actual conversation shown in the film, the ensuing mind snap would surely have you in a padded cell within the hour.

“Hey guess what? I’m gonna haunt your nightmares for the rest of your life! LOL!!!”

The Straight Story (1999) – War Stories

The least Lynchian Lynch movie has plenty of touching moments but none more so than this scene where two old-timers end up sharing their painful memories of the war.

Alvin pretended not to notice that his friend was checking him out.

Mulholland Drive (2001) – The Alley Behind Winkie’s

It’s hard to say what this scene has to do with the rest of the film, but as a piece of suspense-filled surreal horror it is in a league of its own.

“I had this awful dream where the director put me in just one scene and my character never appears again. It was so horrible. But it was just a dream, right?”

Mulholland Drive (2001) – Club Silencio

Lynch’s ode to Hollywood is so crammed full of wonderful scenes that it has the honour of holding two places in the list. In this – the moment where the film really takes a turn for the bizarre – our two heroines visit a club that is apparently made of pure nightmares.

“It’s all an illusion! … Except that lady’s hair. That’s totes real.”

Inland Empire (2006) – Dying on the Streets of LA

After 2 hours of craziness where something or other happens, Laura Dern’s character is stabbed in the stomach with a screwdriver and dies on the street while the homeless people next to her talk about totally unrelated topics. It doesn’t sound so amazing when I say it like that, but it’s the most captivating scene of the film.

“Hey can you shut up about the bus to Pomona for one second and call an ambulance?! I’m kind of dying over here.”

So what do you think, Lynch lovers? Have I chosen well? Do you have any interesting theories about the meaning of these scenes?

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5 Responses to The 10 Greatest David Lynch Moments

  1. Kimberly says:

    I saw Eraserhead and an accompanying documentary on the making of that film in an Independent Cinema course. Both were mind-numbingly bizarre. Worse yet, I was required to write an essay on its meaning! Imagine any attempt to decipher meaning from that film.Thanks for making me revisit that. Wow.

    • Yeah that’d be quite a challenge. I have my own thoughts and theories about the meaning, but I wouldn’t be able to decode everything … and it’s probably more enjoyable to just go along with it without overanalysing anyway.
      An interesting companion piece for Eraserhead is Ed Wood’s infamously terrible film “Glen or Glenda”. As bad as it is, it’s quite fascinating because; a) Ed Wood is interesting, and b) I got the distinct feeling that it was a big inspiration for Eraserhead (actually the IMDB trivia kind of confirms it).

  2. Miss Lou says:

    I’ve not seen a single one of these films.

    Am I missing out? lol
    (I’m feeling safe not knowing)

    Miss Lou

    • I do think you’re missing out, but they aren’t films for everyone so maybe you’re okay to give them a miss. But if surreal horror sounds appealling – go for it!

      • Miss Lou says:

        lol I tend to steer clear of almost any horror!

        I don’t mind a good thriller, particularly political thriller, though stay away from anything spiritually focused. I’e Fallen with Denzel Washington – previously one of my favorite movies.

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