Like most things nowadays (especially in comic book or sci-fi fandoms), Kevin Smith is considered to be a divisive filmmaker. Despite his more recent cinematic endeavors that took a critical beating or quite simply bombed at the box office, Kevin Smith has a devout cult following thanks to his phenomenal success in the late ’90s.
Admittedly, I am one of his loyal followers enamored with his hilarious and controversial “View Askew-niverse,” but I am also very much inspired by his actual filmmaking journey. The behind-the-scenes story alone of his DIY feature-film debut Clerks is remarkable. Justifiably, that very film has recently been added to the National Film Registry.
From his bonkers horror-comedy affairs with Nazi bratwurst or grotesque animal creatures to his raunchy stoner escapades as Silent Bob, here’s a look at the best of Kevin Smith’s filmography.
5. Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back
Marketed as the grand finale to his View Askew cinematic universe that encompassed his first five films, Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back was quite an accomplishment as it united all four of his previous efforts into one giant and silly adventure.
Packed full of stars like Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Will Ferrell, and Chris Rock, the film featured absolutely ridiculous set-pieces and was definitely fun (although it may not be for everyone).
Pre-dating comic book films of today with loads of Easter eggs and fan service, many of the shining merits of Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back can unfortunately only be truly relished by die-hard fans of Smith’s movies. For general audiences, it’s a hilarious stoner romp that poked fun at the Internet, typecasting, movie cliches, and Hollywood itself–all with a wink and a smile.
Mallrats was Smith’s sophomore effort, and despite a poor box office showing has since become a cult classic thanks to its home video release and zany ’90s ensemble.
The aforementioned Jay & Silent Bob make their second film appearance and they are at their cartoon-ish, slapstick best as they try to sabotage a local TV broadcast being filmed at their mall.
Jason Lee steals the show as loud-mouthed comic book geek Brodie Bruce and his run in with the great Stan Lee ranks as one of my favorite cameos of all time, which is referenced in 2019’s Captain Marvel.
Ah. The one that started it all and some fans may argue deserves the no. 1 spot on this list, Clerks is one of the most incredible and successful feature-film debuts of all-time.
Made on a shoestring budget of only $27,000, the film eventually made more than $3 million. Using friends and family, as well as the convenience store Kevin Smith actually worked IRL, he miraculously fulfilled the kind of spur of the moment, DIY film creation nerds and cinephiles dream of producing.
Admittedly, the story is practically non-existent. And although some of the concepts haven’t aged well, the film is filled with iconic characters, funny quotes, and deserves a spot on any filmmaker’s must-watch list, even if only to marvel at how this movie even came together.
2. Chasing Amy
This is one of my favorite romantic stories of all-time for the plain fact of being so real and unconventional in its climax and premise. The third film in what was originally affectionately referred to as “The Jersey Trilogy,” we get Kevin Smith’s most intimate and well-written film he’s ever created: Chasing Amy.
After Clerks and Mallrats generally gave us raucous conversations and over-the-top comedic bits, Smith turns in a far more dramatic and serious turn here. Even his film counterpart that he plays himself, “Silent Bob” delivers a heartfelt and poignant speech about not taking love for granted. The graphic and comical dialogue remains, but for the first time, a film of Smith’s actually had something truly meaningful to say.
Where Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back served as an “Endgame” of sorts for his View Askew-niverse and Chasing Amy was his finest “serious” artistic achievement, Kevin Smith’s 1999 film Dogma was his grand blockbuster spectacle.
His first true “epic” and one of his highest grossing films, the star-studded affair was led by Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Alan Rickman, Linda Fiorentino, Salma Hayek, George Carlin, Jason Lee, and of course, Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith reprise their roles as the titular Jay & Silent Bob.
It was a refreshingly funny take on the constructs of religion, fulfilling one’s purpose, and also as a perfect snapshot of all of the things that Smith loves and artistically does well. It has the poop jokes, the wordy nerd-speak, fantastical lore, and a plethora of pop-culture adoration.
Whether its his long running podcast or directing his daughter in films like Yoga Hosers Kevin Smith has definitely stayed busy. I was lucky enough to attend his “Jay & Silent Bob Roadshow” where he premiered his latest film, Jay & Silent Bob Reboot, to live audiences across that country. It was hell of an experience, to say the least. The tour just finished its run at the end of February and the sold-out venues show that Smith still has lot to say as long as his dedicated fanbase is willing to listen.
His outlandish and sometimes juvenile geek-speak may not be for everyone, but open-minded film lovers should give a chance to the best Kevin Smith has to offer.
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