Jordan Peele is unquestionably one of the most talented directors of the modern era. Having directed three critically acclaimed movies (all in the broader horror genre) since 2017, Peele has definitely proven himself as a major player in the game.
But what is Jordan Peele’s best movie? What about his worst? Well, I’m not even entirely sure myself. Some days I find myself leaning more into the genius symbolism of “NOPE” (2022), whereas other days I may prefer the plot twists and turns of his 2019 thriller “Us.” And of course, the social commentary of Peele’s debut horror film, “Get Out” (2017), is up there with some of the greatest movies of all-time in that regard.
In this article, I’ll take a category-based approach to answering the question “what is Jordan Peele’s best movie?” For every category, 1st place will win three points, 2nd place will earn two points, and the film in last place will earn just one point. The categories are as follows:
- Lead Performance
- Supporting Performances
Without further ado, let’s begin! (spoiler warnings for all three movies)
1st: Get Out wins the number one spot in terms of plot due to its linear plot progression and fascinating base concept for the plot. The movie progresses excellently, and there aren’t any glaring plot-holes leaving the viewer wondering.
2nd: Us comes in second place for its strong thriller plot. While the base idea of the movie isn’t as strong as Get Out, the idea of a tethered world is fascinating within the story, and the plot confusion can’t even compare to 3rd place.
3rd: NOPE sadly takes last place in the first section. While I think the plots of all three movies are strong, I believe that NOPE’s plot is easily the weakest. While, as I’ll address later, the general concept of the plot is strong, there are a lot of points that are unnecessary.
1st: Get Out takes the cake for the best lead performance from Daniel Kaluuya. Kaluuya kills in his role as Chris, especially in his scenes in the ‘sunken place’ and in his excellent portrayal of the slow realization that something is off with his girlfriend’s family.
2nd: NOPE may have a slight unfair advantage in this category. I see Daniel Kaluuya (Peele really likes this actor) and Keke Palmer as co-leads in this movie, giving NOPE an opportunity to double their lead performance. And this movie delivers, with the two leads bouncing off each other well, all while both going through compelling story arcs.
3rd: Us was originally my lock for this spot. I can’t say much bad about Lupita Nyong’o’s performance in this movie; it’s nothing short of fantastic. However, and this may be partially attributed to the writing, I don’t think we really get to see her grapple with the consequences of what she did in the fun house all those years ago.
1st: NOPE takes this spot for me due to the brilliant performances of multiple characters. While the other two films have one or two standouts, every supporting character in NOPE kills it for me. Brandon Perea performs a memorable character in the tech guy ‘Angel’, Michael Wincott brings so much drama in film legend ‘Antlers Holst’, and Steven Yeun seriously provides an Oscar-worthy performance with the deeply disturbed ‘Jupe’.
2nd: Get Out has a few great supporting cast performances. While I think that Rose’s brother (Caleb Landry Jones) is corny at times, Allison Williams as Rose does amazing in her role as Chris’ girlfriend, shocking the audience with the reveal that she’s in on her parents’ plan, and Chris’ best friend Rod (Lil Rel Howery) is straight-up hysterical. The already ‘sunken’ people kill their roles as well.
3rd: Us. The characters here just aren’t really anything special to me. Winston Duke as Gabe/Abraham is hilarious, but none of these characters really have compelling enough stories to shine in their roles. Pair this with half of the characters being child actors, and you have a flawed supporting cast.
1st: Nope. It seems only right that the movie so focused on the entertainment industry and the production of entertainment would have the best production value of all of Peele’s movies. The shots of Jean Jacket are jaw-dropping, the CGI for the monkey is fantastic, and the set is all-around phenomenal.
2nd: Us doesn’t attempt to do more than it needs to, but certain shots like those in the mirror maze are produced perfectly fine and look realistic enough.
3rd: Get Out. Because of the more psychological-based aspects of the horror in Get Out, Peele’s team didn’t really get to experiment with very many fantasy concepts. The one time they do, with the visuals of the ‘sunken place’, are actually pretty underwhelming in my opinion. Great concept, weaker execution.
1st: Us features one of the greatest plot twists I can remember ever seeing in theatres. While some found it obvious from the get-go, I didn’t, and so I will forever remember the jaw-dropping reveal that Adelaide was a Tethered. The family’s dynamic is also written realistically hilarious.
2nd: Get Out. Specific conversations in this movie like Chris’ first interaction with the blind man do a brilliant job at foreshadowing future events of the movie. The pretext in this movie also perfectly describes every character’s motives adequately.
3rd: NOPE is written pretty confusingly. Some of the dialogue is drawn out at times and some of it is straight-up unnecessary. There’s still lots to love here like the dynamic between OJ, Emerald, and Angel.
1st: Us easily features one of the best soundtracks in all of the horror genre. “I got 5 On It” works perfectly as a double between a fun rap song and a creepy instrumental, and songs like “F*** the Police” are always a treat”.
2nd: NOPE makes it to second place based on a combination of ambience and songs. A lot of the western style music slides in with the theme seamlessly, but the real best aspect of NOPE’s sound design is the chilling ambience that perfectly encapsulates an alien mystery movie.
3rd: Get Out doesn’t really do much special in terms of sound to be honest. Outside of “Redbone” by Childish Gambino, there’s almost nothing standout about the soundtrack or the sound design of this film.
1st: NOPE, and it isn’t remotely close. If I could give NOPE 5 points and the other two movies 0 in this section, I would. NOPE’s symbolism is what makes this movie what it is. It’s all about exploitation in Hollywood, ‘miracles’, and the delusion that comes with entertainment. For example, on a surface value, the film tries to make the TMZ guy and Jude look dumb in how they die, but Antlers dies for the exact same cause. There’s no moral high-ground in “getting the perfect shot”.
2nd: Us. I lied for dramatic effect while talking about NOPE. Us has pretty great symbolism too. The whole concept behind the Tethered world and the bunnies, the bible verse guy, an actual freaking mirror maze! There’s a lot to be loved here.
3rd: Get Out. Unfortunately, this movie drew a difficult competition for this section. When you’re up against two of the most symbolically rich films of the 21st century and are only just okay symbolically, there’s no conversation to be had. The other two movies are just more symbol-driven, whereas Get Out is more plot-driven.
1st: NOPE. When I think about hard-hitting emotional highs and lows in these movies, I think about NOPE. Jupe’s facial expression after the Gordy’s Birthday flashback was genuinely one of the biggest gut-punches I can remember feeling on my first watch. Combined with meaningful character deaths, NOPE made me feel the strongest out of these three movies.
2nd: Get Out does a phenomenal job at getting the viewer emotionally invested in Chris’ story. The friendship between Rod and Chris just adds on to this. The flashes of the people trying to escape the ‘sunken place’ also elicit strong emotional reactions from me every time.
3rd: Us. The stakes are high, but I just don’t get as emotionally invested in these characters as the other two. You want to see the family succeed, but they never come particularly close to death, so there’s never a true moment of connection and hope.
1st: Us is an incredibly fun movie. From the funny family dynamic, to the already discussed blast of a soundtrack, to the fast-paced thriller aspect of the film, there’s never a dull moment in Us (save Red’s speech. But that’s a masterpiece in its own right).
2nd: Get Out has some of the same fun that makes Us so great. Rod’s character is hilarious in a way that keeps me engaged, and it is so hard to take my eyes off of the screen with how enjoyable of a setting Peele set up in Rose’s parents’ house party.
3rd: NOPE. It really pains me to put NOPE in last place here; I think NOPE is also an incredibly enjoyable film. Angel and Jupe specifically do a great job at keeping the viewer entertained. The former through comedy and the latter through compelling flashbacks. But NOPE is slightly boring and redundant at times, putting it slightly below the two perfectly enjoyable films.
1st: Get Out. The concept of Get Out is so unbelievably chilling. I don’t know about you all, but I quite enjoy my bodily autonomy, so the thought of permanently being in the backseat of my own mind is pretty terrifying to me. Georgina and the other sunken people are also so eerie in how clearly disconnected they are from themselves.
2nd: Us is a pretty regular thriller with a twist. The movie could just be scary in the way that any thriller is: there are people trying to kill us. But wait, the people trying to kill us ARE us?? But wait! The real me got sent to the shadow realm where I’ve had to suffer for 30 years? Yeah, it’s a spooky concept.
3rd: NOPE. This category, as others have been to the other two movies, is just unfair to NOPE. The film is kind of a horror movie, but outside of the freakiness behind a chimp going ballistic, I don’t really remember being scared while watching NOPE.
1st: NOPE ends in a sort of ambiguous, up-for-interpretation kind of way, but not in a way that seems lazy. They got the perfect shot, but was it even worth it? People showed up right when they got the shot, so will they get the credit? For a movie that showed at lengths how common failure is in chasing Hollywood fame, this ending perfectly encapsulates a ‘success’ story.
2nd: Us ends with some of the greatest cinematography I’ve ever seen. Going straight from Red being able to perfectly dodge all of Adelaide’s hits, to Red being killed, to the reveal that they were switched, to the ending shot of all the Tethered, Us’ ending is nothing short of cinematographic mastery.
3rd: Get Out. For a story that has me wanting desperately for Chris to win, the payoff is a little lacklustre; it seems just like an average horror “we killed the bad guys” ending. Sure, Rod showing up in the TSA car was a great moment, but it just doesn’t feel as impactful as it should’ve.
NOPE: 23 PTS
Us: 22 PTS
Get Out: 21 PTS
Well gosh, this list was like one different decision away from being a three-way tie and a 2000 word waste of time. But I guess, as my methodology has decided, NOPE is the grand winner, with Us and Get Out following closely behind.
Do I agree with this? Well, maybe. See, NOPE is definitely my personal favourite of the three, but my personal favourite is different from what I would consider the best as a critic. I understand that the complex symbolism of NOPE isn’t for everyone, and that some people may opt for the social commentary of Get Out or the fun dynamic of Us.
While my method has decided that NOPE is the best movie of the three, I don’t necessarily think there’s a clear cut best out of the three. All three of them are modern classics, and the best can switch for me on a dime. This was but a fun thought experiment. Thanks all for reading!