2. 'Boogie Nights' (1997)
The movie that put Anderson on the map is also one of his most purely enjoyable features, a glittery whirling disco ball of emotion, violence, sex and music. In fact, looking back on "Boogie Nights," it's hard to imagine that Anderson -- now known for his patience and long, drawn out sequences of eerie stillness -- is the same filmmaker behind all of these swirling camera moves and feverish whip pans. In what is essentially an unauthorized and fictionalized biography of porn star John Holmes, Mark Wahlberg stars as Dirk Diggler, a kid who rises in the seedy 1970's adult film industry before crashing (spectacularly) as the industry changed.
PTA brought vivid life to a period and setting that, at the time, was nearly threadbare, packing the story with exuberance and emphasis on character (the unbelievably starry cast includes Burt Reynolds, Don Cheadle, John C. Reilly, William H. Macy, Julianne Moore, Heather Graham, Philip Seymour Hoffman). The only time "Boogie Nights" feels less-than-spectacular is when Anderson's reference points become too explicit and you start playing "where'd he steal that shot from?"