Punch-Drunk Love (2002) marks a clear dividing line in the filmography of Paul Thomas Anderson. It is unlike anything he made before or after, and it seems to have broken him out of old habits and helped him forge a vision entirely his own.
On the three films before this one, Anderson wore his influences on his sleeve, delivering his spin on the styles of Scorsese, Tarantino, Altman and Demme. Punch-Drunk Love is his first film that feels in no way derivative.
That doesn’t make it a better movie than its predecessors, necessarily, but it makes it a key step in the maturation of one of our greatest auteurs.