Modern film fans know Albert Brooks as an actor, of course. Out of Sight, Finding Nemo, Drive, This Is 40, and Concussion have seen to that, and both Taxi Driver and Broadcast News are staples for even novice cinephiles. But Brooks’ true impact has come as a storyteller who helped Saturday Night Live find its initial success with a series of imaginative short films before jumping to a string of remarkable features.
While that body of work — a collection of unpretentious examinations of the kinds of small tortures and big struggles we’re all familiar with as told through the struggles of a semi-autobiographical neurotic everyman — is celebrated by many comedy nerds and critics, it isn’t as ubiquitous as a lot of lesser comedies. Part of the reason for this is because Brooks’ films have been (by modern standards) hard to find thanks to their absence from streaming services like Netflix. As you may have heard, that barrier is set to fall on July 1 thanks to Netflix’s decision to make available all of Brooks’ work as a writer/director.
If you’ve seen all of Brooks’ films, then you surely know what to do — particularly as you look at your calendar and see only overdone hot dogs and wimpy backyard fireworks on the agenda for this long weekend. If you’re eager to explore or happy to complete your tour of Brooks’ filmography, though, we wanted to suggest a playlist for you that briefly explains the majesty of these films and which puts them in a better order. After all, what need is there to go in blind or go chronological when there are more vibrant traits that connect these films than the order they were made? In this case, those traits are clearly marked to demonstrate Brooks’ take on Discovery, Fame and Success, Relationships, and The Meaning of Life.