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SYFY WIRE Shaun of the Dead

Edgar Wright's best movies, ranked

Did we rank Edgar Wright movies in honor of Hot Fuzz's 15th anniversary? Yarp!

By James Grebey
Michael Cera in Scott Pilgrim Vs The World (2010), Simon Pegg in Hot Fuzz (2007) andShawn Of The Dead (2004), and Anya Taylor-Joy in Last Night In Soho (2021)

A decade and a half ago this week, PC Nicholas Angel took down a corrupt, shadowy criminal conspiracy in the suspiciously perfect town of Sandford, Gloucestershire. Perhaps just as importantly, he also tracked down a missing swan.

Hot Fuzz, the second of Edgar Wright’s three films in his thematically connected Cornetto Trilogy, hit American theaters on April 20, 2007. And while 15 years isn’t the most important anniversary out there, we couldn’t wait until Hot Fuzz turned 20 or even — gasp — 25 before celebrating it as one of the beloved director’s best films. Perhaps even his best.

In honor of Hot Fuzz, we’re ranking most of Egar Wright’s movies. Why most? Well, because one of the two movies he released last year, The Sparks Brothers, is a documentary. The film, which is about the art-pop duo Sparks, is wonderful, but somewhat outside what we normally rank here at SYFY WIRE. The other omission is A Fistful of Fingers, Wright’s 1995 debut film. A British Western (a bit of an oxymoron if there ever was one), has not been released commercially and it’s nigh-impossible to watch legally and difficult to find via… other… methods. SYFY WIRE won’t be resorting to those methods because we don’t want PC Angel to come down on us. 

6. Last Night in Soho (2021)

As a movie, Last Night in Soho doesn’t quite work. Thomasin Mckenzie plays an aspiring fashion designer who dreams about London’s 1960s heyday — and then literally starts dreaming about it. And, in those dreams, she’s seemingly being transported back to the past and living the life of an aspiring singer played by Anya Taylor-Joy. However, there’s darkness lurking underneath the glitz and glamor, leading to a time-traveling mystery, evil men, and ultimately a message about female victimhood and agency that’s confused at best. 

So, yes, as a movie, Last Night in Soho doesn’t stand up with Wright’s other efforts. But, as a vibe? Last Night in Soho is great, to the point where you almost worry it undermines its premise. The good old days weren’t actually that good, but damned if Wright doesn’t make ‘60s Soho seem fun.

5. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010)

Bryan Lee O'Malley’s Scott Pilgrim comic series was truly unique, a blend of indie comic style, video game-inspired storytelling, and a somewhat crushing story about young adult ennui and the necessary challenges of growing the hell up. It’s a very specific style, one that works best on the comics page and might not translate so well to film. Wright was quite possibly the best person to take that challenge on, and his 2010 film has rightfully become something of a cult classic in its own right, even if it can’t quite capture what made O’Malley’s comics so fresh. 

That’s not the worst thing in the world, as although Wright’s Scott Pilgrim can’t do everything the comics did, the director really makes sure that his film adaptation is cinematic. The battle scenes are dynamic and fun, the cast is stellar (Michael Cera is perhaps slightly miscast, though he acquits himself well), and the whole movie feels so oddly specific. Even though Scott Pilgrim’s fans are numerous, the movie still feels like something that was, improbably, made for each of them, specifically. That’s great — regardless of whether or not the comic captured the tone a little better. 

4. The World’s End (2013)

The third film in the Cornetto Trilogy is also the third-best, but that’s not a knock against World's End, which might be the most complex and mature film Wright’s ever made. While several of his movies are about growing up — characters who are just over the edge of adulthood and need to catch up and take some responsibility — Simon Pegg’s character in The World’s End, Gary King, is depressingly old. King isn’t a late bloomer, he’s a full-fledged, middle-aged man who has stunted his growth through alcoholism and he doesn’t realize that not even a redo of an epic pub crawl from 23 years ago can recapture the magic of youth and rekindle old friendships. Actually, an epic pub crawl redo is the absolute worst thing he could’ve tried — and that’s before the alien robot invasion. 

The World’s End refers to the pub that marks the last stop of the ill-fated crawl, and it refers to the literal end of the world due to the alien invasion. But, what makes The World’s End so heavy (and great) is that it’s really referring to the too-late collapse of the world that Gary thinks he lives in. And, of course, there are some killer jokes and inventive fight scenes in there, too.

3. Baby Driver (2017)

Wright’s 2017 sleeper hit was a welcome addition to the caper genre, with its anti-shaky cam approach to its inventive car chases that unfold more as blockbuster music videos than just Fast & Furious-esque muscle car porn. Baby Driver affords the writer-director a chance to showcase his love for music and his effortless ability to craft complex-but-never-confusing action scenes with arguably his most romantic film yet. And the whole feature-length music video vibe is intentional; every entrance, every sharp turn, is timed to whatever music governs the scene. With that in mind, on a technical level, the movie rewards Film Twitter’s members with near-constant “how did they do that?” discourse, without the discussion of craft getting in the way of appreciating the movie’s emotional payload. Yes, there’s tons of gunplay and double and triple crosses, but there’s also a strong dose of big emotional stakes coursing through this ambitious movie’s storylines — like the adrenaline through our veins — as we watch the very game ensemble of Lily James, Ansel Elgort, Jamie Foxx and Jon Hamm (as a very punchable villain) elevate Baby Driver to rank among one of the most rewatchable summer movies of the last decade.

2. Hot Fuzz (2007)

The middle entry in the Cornetto Trilogy is by far the lightest of the three. Wright’s spoof of action-cop movies doesn’t have as much to get off its chest as Shaun of the Dead or The World’s End. (That’s not to say it’s a movie about nothing, though. The satire of small-town living and imperfect send-up of hero-cops are quite clever.)

And yet… Hot Fuzz is so frickin' funny. It’s a perfect joke machine, with set-ups nestled into callbacks that slot right into incredible sight gags and wordplay. The swan! Timothy Dalton playing the smarmiest man alive! Nick Frost pulling a Keanu! "Yarp!" Ultimately, though, Hot Fuzz doesn’t need to be too much more than what it is — an incredible action-comedy. That the darker parts of Wright’s oeuvre are largely absent is just for the greater good. 

1. Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Horror-comedy, as a genre, tends to tip its hand in one direction more than the other. Maybe you’ll get a more traditional horror movie with some comic relief. More frequently you’ll get a funny romp with some genre trappings and maybe even a legitimately scary scene or two. Rarely, though, are horror comedies horrifying. Shaun of the Dead is horrifying, and it’s because of how hysterically funny Wright’s 2005 zombie pastiche that the darker parts chill as much as they do.

Shaun of the Dead is such a masterful blending of genre that, while it’s a bit jarring that these two boys who debated which records to ineffectually throw at a zombie are now dying in each other’s arms as everything goes to hell, the trajectory of the story isn’t some bait-and-switch tonal shift. Shaun of the Dead is pure comedy and pure horror, at once. Not too many movies can say the same.