Mulholland Drive (stylized onscreen as Mulholland Dr.) is a 2001 American neo-noir mystery film written and directed by David Lynch and starring Justin Theroux, Naomi Watts, Laura Harring, Ann Miller, and Robert Forster. It tells the story of an aspiring actress named Betty Elms (Watts), newly arrived in Los Angeles, California, who meets and befriends an amnesic woman (Harring) hiding in an apartment that belongs to Betty’s aunt. The story includes several other seemingly unrelated vignettes that eventually connect in various ways, as well as some surreal and darkly comic scenes and images that relate to the cryptic narrative.
Originally conceived as a television pilot, a large portion of the film was shot in 1999 with Lynch’s plan to keep it open-ended for a potential series. After viewing Lynch’s version, however, television executives decided to reject it. Lynch then provided an ending to the project, making it a feature film. The half-pilot, half-feature result, along with Lynch’s characteristic style, has left the general meaning of the movie’s events open to interpretation. Lynch has declined to offer an explanation of his intentions for the narrative, leaving audiences, critics, and cast members to speculate on what transpires. He gave the film the tagline “A love story in the city of dreams”.
Categorized as a psychological thriller, the film was highly acclaimed by many critics and earned Lynch the Prix de la mise en scène (Best Director Award) at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival, as well as an Oscar nomination for Best Director. Mulholland Drive launched the careers of Watts and Harring and was the last feature film to star veteran Hollywood actress Ann Miller. The film is widely regarded as one of Lynch’s finest works, alongside Eraserhead (1977) and Blue Velvet (1986), and was chosen by 40 critics as one of the greatest films of all time in the British Film Institute‘s decennial Sight & Sound poll. A. O. Scott of The New York Times writes that while some might consider the plot an “offense against narrative order … the film is an intoxicating liberation from sense, with moments of feeling all the more powerful for seeming to emerge from the murky night world of the unconscious.”