Alienation, dark humour, and the usage (and abuse) of narcotics are all threads that run through Gus Van Sant’s varied career. The interactions between men, both sexual and platonic, are perhaps the most essential feature of his filmography. A prostitute and her wealthy friend, a disturbed genius and his psychologist. Also, two high school students about to commit a heinous crime. Van Sant, a gay man, is regarded as a forerunner of the New Queer Cinema movement, and his compassionate knowledge of his frequently disadvantaged and damaged people extends even to his most commercial films. We’ve put together a list of his top seven films.

1. My Own Private Idaho (1991)

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Cast- River Phoenix, Keanu Reeves, William Rechert

Mike and Scott, two male hustlers in Portland, Oregon, form an unlikely bond. They are homeless, drug addicts, and sell themselves to men and women. Mike is shy, gay, and narcoleptic. He was abandoned as a child and is now preoccupied with finding his missing mother. Scott is the disobedient son of a powerful family who lives to embarrass his father. Mike is head over heels in love with Scott, who insists on remaining straight and that his crazy lifestyle on the streets is only for a short time. They set out on a journey to discover Mike’s mother. It takes them from Portland to Idaho to Italy, with Scott picking up a lovely girl along the way.

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2. Drugstore Cowboy (1989)

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Cast- Matt Dillon, Kelly Lynch, James Le Gros

A tiny band of nomadic drug smugglers led by Bob who make a living by selling what they don’t use. Drugstore Cowboy doesn’t wallow in misery, despite its harsh subject and bleak Pacific Northwest surroundings. Between heists, there’s a shaggy hangout-movie air, and there’s a darkly comedic and nerve-jangling sequence with a dead body and a deputy sheriff’s convention. Even still, a scary encounter with a decrepit old junkie and the bad omen of a hat on a bed serve as reminders that every high is followed by a hard, confusing crash.

3. Good Will Hunting (1997)

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Cast- Matt Damon, Robin Williams, Ben Affleck

Will Hunting, a janitor at MIT, has a genius for math and chemistry that may propel him far above his blue-collar background, but he is unaware of his potential and refuses to leave his childhood Boston South End neighbourhood, his construction work, or his best buddy. A bright math professor recognises, even envies, Will’s skills, a sympathetic shrink who relates with Will’s blue-collar beginnings, and a gorgeous, gifted pre-med student who shows him, for the first time in his life, the prospect of love, all complicate the situation.

4. To Die For (1995)

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Cast- Nicole Kidman, Joaquin Phoenix, Matt Dillon

Suzanne Stone, a stunning and sexy aspiring TV personality from Little Hope, New Hampshire, wants to be famous. She marries Larry Maretto, whose father runs a restaurant, and persuades him to spend his savings to buy a Mustang for her and an apartment for the university. Then she accepts a minimum-wage job at a local station, allowing her to work on her own projects, including one with students at a public school. She meets the punks Jimmy Emmett, Russell Hines, and Lydia Mertz and interviews them for hours on tape. Suzanne senses a threat to her intended career when Larry offers her to work at the restaurant in a talent show that he wants to launch. She decides to divorce her husband. She seduces Jimmy and persuades him that she adores him. Then she informs Jimmy that Larry is a ruthless man, and Jimmy resolves to assassinate him.

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5. Milk (2008)

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Cast- Sean Penn, James Franco, Josh Brolin

Harvey Milk, a forty-year-old gay activist in San Francisco’s Castro neighbourhood, acquires focus in his life as a gay activist after arriving to the city from New York City in 1972. As Milk realises that he can be a more effective spokesperson for the gay community as a politician, whether elected or not, gay rights movement transforms into political activity. When Milk wins a San Francisco supervisor position in 1977, after many contests and losses for both a municipal seat and a state assembly seat, he becomes the first openly gay male in the United States to be elected to political office. A national anti-gay Save the Children crusade, led and headlined by singer Anita Bryant, is one of his many political battlegrounds. Closer to home, Milk is still at odds with his coworker, Dan White, a fervent social conservative.

6. Last Days (2005)

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Cast- Michael Pitt, Lukas Haas, Asia Argento

Artist who is self-aware Blake is buckling under the pressures of celebrity, professional duties, and a growing sense of loneliness. Blake makes his way through deep forests, dwarfed by tall trees. He scrambles down an embankment to a fresh spring and removes his clothes for a quick swim. He returns to his home the next morning, an exquisite, if neglected, stone mansion. Blake’s friends, managers, and record label, as well as a private investigator, are all seeking for him, but he does not want to be discovered. Blake will spend the majority of his time alone in the haze of his final hours. He avoids the people that live in his house and only approach him when they need something, whether it’s money or assistance with a song.

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Blake runs away from one worried friend and ignores another. He strikes up a friendly conversation with a stranger from the Yellow Pages sales department before disappearing into an underground rock club. He wanders through the woods, playing a new song, one last blast of rock and roll. Blake will finally be alone in the greenhouse, looking and listening—and seeking relief.

7. Elephant (2003)

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Cast- Alex Frost, Eric Deulen, John Robinson

A group of teenagers at a suburban high school go about their daily routines until two kids arrive with deadly intentions. Alex (Alex Frost) and Eric (Eric Deulen) have devised sophisticated plans to break into their school and assassinate as many of their classmates as they can. Despite the fact that Alex and Eric are bullied and have meticulously planned their attack, the most of the violence is conducted with a detached sense of randomness.