Every Michael Mann Movie, Ranked

Movies


With a career in the filmmaking world that spans well over four decades, Michael Mann may not have made as many feature films as you might expect, but what’s important is they are generally of high quality. Additionally, he’s known for executive producing and occasionally writing/directing for TV shows like Miami Vice, Crime Story, and Tokyo Vice, all of which can be described as crime/thriller shows, which are probably the two genres Mann’s filmography gets most often associated with.


But looking through his entire body of work, it becomes apparent that Michael Mann is capable of much more than just directing stories about criminals and/or police officers. He’s also tried his hand at horror, and has made some biographical/historical dramas that are a little outside his usual wheelhouse, including, most recently, Ferrari. What follows is a ranking of all his feature-length films (including a couple of TV movies), starting with the decent and ending with the all-time classics he’s directed.


14 ‘Blackhat’ (2015)

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Tang Wei, Viola Davis

Image via Universal Pictures

Michael Mann has an uncompromising style and a willingness to experiment with new technology that sometimes resonates with viewers, and sometimes alienates large numbers of them. Blackhat stands as perhaps his most divisive and notoriously alienating, though it’s not without its merits and is certainly interesting, at the very least. There could well be a case made that eventually (or perhaps sooner rather than later), it’s worthy of some critical re-evaluation.

It’s one of Chris Hemsworth’s most notable non-Thor leading roles, and sees him playing a hacker who’s released from prison so he can assist authorities in taking down an even more dangerous cybercriminal who’s at large. It’s got an odd look to it, thanks to being shot in an entirely digital way (a look numerous Mann films from throughout the 2000s had), and isn’t super well-paced overall. However, Mann himself said that maybe aspects of it were ahead of their time, and given certain films of his have aged better than expected before, it’s not unreasonable to think that Blackhat might be seen in a better light one day in the future.

Blackhat

Release Date
January 13, 2015

Director
Michael Mann

Rating
R

Runtime
135

Watch on Netflix

13 ‘The Keep’ (1983)

Starring: Scott Glenn, Jürgen Prochnow, Ian McKellen

The Keep - 1983
Image via Paramount Pictures

When looking at Michael Mann’s filmography in terms of genre, nothing stands out quite as much as one of his earliest and strangest films, The Keep. There are no crime, action, or biographical elements here, as it’s instead a supernatural horror movie set during World War II, and revolving around an unusual fortress. Nazi soldiers take it over and end up clashing with some kind of ghostly presence inside, which leads to chaos and death.

It’s hard to work out what’s going on a great deal of the time, because The Keep was unfortunately edited down significantly before release, and this results in what sometimes feels like a nonsensical movie. It’s also hard to find it in decent quality, because it’s had limited post-theatrical releases, especially when it comes to home media. It is an interesting and bold-looking movie, and could one day be something great if it was remastered/restored, but for now, it’s mostly just a heavily flawed curiosity.

Rent on Apple TV

12 ‘Public Enemies’ (2009)

Starring: Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard

PublicEnemiesBale
Image via Universal Pictures

Public Enemies might be the most high-profile movie about notorious Great Depression-era bank robber John Dillinger, but it’s certainly not the best (the underrated Dillinger from 1945 is arguably superior). Johnny Depp and Christian Bale do their best in the lead roles – the former as Dillinger, and the latter as Melvin Purvis, the agent assigned to take him down – but neither do career-best work here, by any means.

After plenty of contemporary action/crime movies that usually felt slick and modern, the idea of seeing Mann travel decades into the past for a cops vs. robbers story did sound intriguing. Public Enemies isn’t a total disaster, and delivers a handful of good scenes here and there while also being impressively handled from a production standpoint, in terms of recreating the era. But it does also feel a bit overlong and messy, and doesn’t come together entirely, feeling a little less than the sum of its parts.

Public Enemies

Release Date
July 1, 2009

Director
Michael Mann

Rating
R

Runtime
143

Main Genre
Biography

Watch on DirecTV

11 ‘The Jericho Mile’ (1979)

Starring: Peter Strauss, Roger E. Mosley, Richard Lawson

The Jericho Mile - 1979
Image via ABC Circle Films

Michael Mann’s first film was a TV movie called The Jericho Mile, which was notably a sports movie that largely took place inside a prison setting. It adds authenticity to the proceedings by actually being shot inside Folsom Prison, and has a narrative that revolves around one prisoner who’s there for life, but still aspires to become a world-renowned runner.

He hopes he’ll be able to impress enough inside the prison walls to get a chance at receiving permission to compete at the Olympics, with the film following his life inside the prison, his training, and how he fights to achieve an unlikely dream. The Jericho Mile may have some limitations, owing to its status as a TV movie, but by the standards of films made for television in the 1970s, it’s of very high quality. It may have a reduced scope in some ways, but it clearly signifies Mann’s talents that would be further realized once he began making theatrically released movies.

10 ‘L.A. Takedown’ (1989)

Starring: Scott Plank, Alex McArthur, Michael Rooker

L.A. Takedown - 1989
Image via NBC

Is L.A. Takedown a great crime movie in the traditional sense? Maybe not, but for a down-and-dirty and gritty TV movie, it more than gets the job done, and will prove undeniably fascinating for fans of Michael Mann’s 1995 crime/action epic, Heat. After all, this is essentially a prototype for that later film, having a drastically reduced runtime yet still being incredibly similar when it comes to the basic narrative, characters, and much of the dialogue.

Some would say watching it might be redundant, now that Heat exists and is better in every way, but seeing the rough outline of what would one day be realized as a classic is fascinating. It’s also admirable for TV movie standards, even if the characters aren’t fully rounded and there are some iffy performances here and there. What is worthy of praise, however, is the big heist sequence/action scene, which is the highlight of L.A. Takedown much as the equivalent sequence in Heat is that film’s high point.

9 ‘Ali’ (2001)

Starring: Will Smith, Jamie Foxx, Jon Voight

Ali - 2001
Image via Sony Pictures Releasing

In some ways, Ali does feel like a fairly conventional biopic, albeit a well-acted one that also does a reasonably good job of capturing the life of its central figure. Said figure is the charismatic and sometimes controversial boxer born Cassius Clay, but known as Muhammad Ali, which he changed his name to shortly after establishing himself as a boxer to be reckoned with.

Will Smith gives one of the best performances of his career in the titular role, and the film captures a crucial decade in Ali’s life (approximately 1964 to 1974) very well. At over 2.5 hours long, it can feel a little drawn out at points, and the script might not be quite as tight or exciting as some other Michael Mann movies… yet it’s his assured touch as a director and the compelling performances from Smith and the supporting cast that end up making Ali worth watching.

Watch on Starz

8 ‘Ferrari’ (2023)

Starring: Adam Driver, Penélope Cruz, Shailene Woodley

Adam Driver as Enzo Ferrari leaning against a wall in Ferrari
Image via Neon

Michael Mann’s latest film is another biopic with a one-word title about a famous 20th-century figure: Enzo Ferrari. Ferrari stars Adam Driver in the titular role (the “Driver” jokes write themselves), and the film is relatively contained timeframe-wise for a biopic, being set in 1957, which was a particularly eventful year for the titular automotive mogul for a number of reasons.

It doesn’t redefine the biopic by any means, but does provide some interesting twists and insights into a series of events that have already happened, and will likely be known by a good many viewers ahead of time. Funnily enough, Mann was also involved with the last high-profile Hollywood movie to feature Enzo Ferrari in some capacity: James Mangold’s Ford v Ferrari, which Michael Mann was an executive producer for.

Ferrari

Release Date
December 25, 2023

Director
Michael Mann

Runtime
130 minutes

7 ‘Miami Vice’ (2006)

Starring: Colin Farrell, Jamie Foxx, Gong Li

Jamie Foxx as Rico Tubbs and Colin Farrell as Sonny Crockett in Miami Vice the movie
Image via Universal Pictures

Another once-divisive Michael Mann movie that’s been generally received better some years on from its release, Miami Vice takes the distinctively 1980s TV series of the same name and updates it for the 21st century. Where the TV show could be charmingly 1980s and quite in-your-face about it stylistically (particularly when watched today), 2006’s Miami Vice now, more than ever, feels similarly time capsule-esque, but for the 2000s as a decade.

It’s about two vice detectives, their personal bond, and the way they navigate both their personal lives and the stressful, high-octane nature of their chosen profession. It’s not quite a top-tier Michael Mann action/crime movie, but it scratches the same itch as his best ones do, and will likely satisfy anyone looking for a uniquely presented, stylish, and singular cop movie, with an interesting spin being put on a well-worn genre here.

Miami Vice

Release Date
July 27, 2006

Director
Michael Mann

Rating
R

Runtime
128

Rent on Apple TV

6 ‘Collateral’ (2004)

Starring: Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx, Jada Pinkett Smith

Tom Cruise in Collateral
Image via Paramount Pictures

The only thing better than Tom Cruise playing a typical Tom Cruise kind of character is when Tom Cruise goes out of his comfort (or danger) zone and does something unexpected. He did it twice in 1999, playing non-heroic and flawed characters in both Eyes Wide Shut and Magnolia, and then he did it again in 2004, playing a rare villainous role in another Michael Mann crime/thriller: Collateral.

Here, Cruise plays a ruthless hitman, while Jamie Foxx plays a cab driver who ends up having a hellish night when this hitman gets him to drive him from job to job, all in quick succession. Collateral works as a slow-burn thriller, and also proves tremendously atmospheric, thanks to the undeniably effective way Michael Mann shoots night scenes. It’s an enjoyably tense watch from start to finish, and benefits from having two great lead performances at its center.

Collateral

Release Date
August 4, 2004

Director
Michael Mann

Rating
R

Runtime
119

Main Genre
Crime

Watch on Paramount+

5 ‘Manhunter’ (1986)

Starring: William Petersen, Joan Allen, Brian Cox

William Petersen visits Brian Cox's Hannibal Lecktor in prison in Michael Mann's 'Manhunter'
Image via De Laurentiis Entertainment Group

Though it’s not quite as famous as a certain Best Picture-winning movie featuring the character of Hannibal Lecter, Manhunter does still contain a great depiction of him, courtesy of Brian Cox. It’s an adaptation of Red Dragon, an entry in an overall series that also includes The Silence of the Lambs, with Manhunter centering on an uneasy alliance between FBI Agent Will Graham and Lecter, with the former getting the latter’s help with tracking down another killer at large.

It might be the closest thing to a horror movie Michael Mann’s made besides The Keep, as Manhunter can get surprisingly unsettling and intense at times. Elsewhere, it sees Mann exercising his strengths as a crime/thriller filmmaker, and the entire thing proves to be exciting to watch throughout. It’s slick and well-made, and foreshadows the sorts of great movies Mann would make in the following decade, when he was arguably at his peak as a director.

Manhunter

Release Date
August 14, 1986

Director
Michael Mann

Rating
R

Runtime
119

Genres
Crime , Horror , Mystery , Thriller

Rent on Apple TV

4 ‘The Last of the Mohicans’ (1992)

Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Madeleine Stowe, Wes Studi

the last of the mohicans0
Image via Warner Bros.

Another non-crime-related Michael Mann movie, The Last of the Mohicans is instead a sweeping historical action/drama film, and boasts a typically great Daniel Day-Lewis performance at its center. It’s a film that shows how if Michael Mann had wanted to make more movies set in centuries past, he could well have made that his specialty, as The Last of the Mohicans is a seriously impressive epic.

It’s set during the 1700s, and revolves around an ongoing conflict between French and British soldiers in America, and how that war affects the lives of various people of differing backgrounds, including the Native American Mohicans. It’s an exciting and emotional movie, having a surprisingly fast pace and plenty of action, romance, and adventure elements told within its broader war/drama story. It’s ambitious, but it all comes together surprisingly well, and is easily the best historical film Mann’s directed.

The Last of the Mohicans

Release Date
September 25, 1992

Director
Michael Mann

Cast
daniel day-lewis , Madeleine Stowe , Russell Means , Eric Schweig , Jodhi May , Steven Waddington

Rating
R

Runtime
112 minutes

Rent on Apple TV

3 ‘Thief’ (1981)

Starring: James Caan, Tuesday Weld, Robert Prosky

James Caan as Frank looking out the window of a car in the film Thief (1981)
James Caan in ‘Thief’ 

Starring James Caan in one of his best leading roles, Thief has a simple title that matches its similarly simple premise. It’s a heist movie about one man who’s extremely good at his job, but like many master thieves in cinema, has plans to retire sooner rather than later. As such, he prepares a fabled “one final job,” with the movie being about the build-up to – and eventual execution of – the heist of his life.

After the successful TV movie that was The Jericho Mile, Thief marked Michael Mann’s theatrical directorial debut, and he certainly didn’t disappoint. It’s not as bombastic or action-packed as some of his later crime movies, but it establishes all the typical Mann-isms he’d come to be known for brilliantly, and stands as quite an astounding theatrical feature film debut. It takes a well-worn premise and does wonders with it, and is a must-watch film for anyone who enjoys a good heist movie every now and then.

Watch on Hoopla

2 ‘The Insider’ (1999)

Starring: Al Pacino, Russell Crowe, Christopher Plummer

Al Pacino and Russell Crowe in 'The Insider'
Image via Buena Vista Pictures Distribution

Re-teaming with Al Pacino just a few years on from Heat, The Insider and that 1995 film make it clear that perhaps Pacino is Mann’s cinematic silver bullet. He stars alongside an also excellent Russell Crowe here, with the premise centering on a real-life story that involved a dramatic expose on the tobacco industry in America, courtesy of the TV series 60 Minutes.

Focusing on journalists going up against a massive industry, The Insider works as a surprisingly great underdog movie, and moves incredibly well for something that has a runtime of almost 2 hours and 40 minutes. It might not sound hugely exciting on paper, but it’s all in the execution and the acting, with everyone in front of and behind the camera firing on all cylinders, ensuring The Insider is riveting and deserving of being considered one of Mann’s best. It even got him three Oscar nominations: one for Best Director, one for Best Adapted Screenplay (shared with Eric Roth), and one for Best Picture (shared with Pieter Jan Brugge).

Rent on Apple TV

1 ‘Heat’ (1995)

Starring: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer

Heat - 1995 (2)
Image via Warner Bros.

Putting Al Pacino and Robert De Niro in the same movie is almost always a recipe for success. Disregarding the not-very-good Righteous Kill, they were both excellent in The Godfather: Part II (though didn’t share any scenes) and were also exceptionally good in The Irishman (and did share many scenes). They both star in Heat, too, on opposite sides of the law, and though they only interact within the same scene a couple of times, it’s a real thrill to watch here whenever they do.

Heat takes the same cat-and-mouse premise of L.A. Takedown and makes it a true modern epic, with Heat’s runtime coming close to three hours and expertly balancing many characters, numerous dramatic events, and showcasing some great action. It’s got everything you could want and more out of a large-scale American crime movie, and when it’s at its most intense and action-packed, it still holds up unbelievably well. It’s considered Mann’s greatest work for good reason, largely because it offers the most out of any of his movies, and offers it all in a way that’s hard to resist for fans of intense action/crime movies.

Heat

Release Date
December 15, 1995

Director
Michael Mann

Rating
R

Runtime
170 minutes

Watch on Netflix

NEXT: Michael Mann’s Favorite Movies, Ranked



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