Since the beginning of his career, Todd Haynes has made films about two things: fame and transgression. Born in 1961 to a Los Angeles family, Haynes received his BFA in film from Bard College, where he made a short that set the tone for his filmography. Acted out using Barbie dolls, “Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story” is an unauthorized story of the real-life pop singer and her struggles with anorexia, which is permanently out of circulation thanks to a music copyright lawsuit. Looking at it today through bootleg, the movie’s study of the crushing effects of fame — and hiding misery and suffering behind a happy, plastic façade — feels like the crucible for the artist’s later fixations.

As Haynes graduated from shorts and moved to feature filmmaking, his work began splitting into two types of films. The first type can be described as the movies about ordinary people whose unhappiness in their ordinary lives cause them to break social taboos, or in the case of his breakout movie “Safe,” leave society altogether. His characters’ transgressions are often sexual in nature, between the queer sci-fi experiment of “Poison,” the thwarted interracial love of “Far From Heaven,” or the lush sapphic romance of “Carol.” Then there are Haynes’ rockstar movies, like “Velvet Goldmine,” “I’m Not There,” or his “Velvet Underground” documentary, about mavericks and alternative figures whose very images become embedded in culture.

Haynes’ latest work is another movie that pairs his two twin themes of fame and transgression together, and takes a far more queasy look at the concepts. Based loosely on the Mary Kay Letourneau case, “May December” stars the director’s frequent collaborator Julianne Moore as Gracie, a woman who became a tabloid obsession after she was charged with statutory rape while pregnant with the twins of a 13 year-old boy. Once out of jail, she and the father, Joe (Charles Melton), remained together. 20 years later, they’re living a quiet life away from the spotlight — about to send their kids off to college. But when an actress Elizabeth (Natalie Portman) arrives at their home to do some research for a biopic, her presence opens up old wounds and punctures long-held delusions about the nature of Gracie and Joe’s relationship. The film received excellent reviews out of its Cannes Film Festival premiere, and has been hailed as one of the best movies of the year.

With “May December” beginning its limited theatrical run this week, IndieWire rounded up every feature film from the great director in an effort to determine the best of the best. This ranking includes Haynes’ 10 feature-length movies, but we also threw in “Superstar: the Karen Carpenter Story,” which still ranks up there with his greatest works. Read on for our ranking of all 11 Todd Haynes’ movies, ranked in ascending order.

With editorial contributions from David Ehrlich.

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