Lynch's films are known for their elements of surrealism, their nightmarish and dreamlike sequences, their stark and strange images, and their meticulously crafted audio. Often his work explores the seedy underside of small-town U.S.A. (e.g. Blue Velvet and the Twin Peaks television series) or sprawling metropolises (Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive). Due to his peculiar style and focus on the American psyche, comedian Mel Brooks once called Lynch "Jimmy Stewart from Mars.
Lynch has twice won France's César Award for Best Foreign Film and served as President of the jury at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival, where he had previously won the Palme d'Or in 1990. He was also honored in 2002 by the French government with the Legion of Honor. On September 6, 2006 Lynch received a Golden Lion award for lifetime achievement at the Venice Film Festival.
In 2002, Lynch created a series of online shorts entitled Dumb Land. Intentionally crude both in content and execution, the eight-episode series was later released on DVD.
Lynch is notoriously evasive and cagey in interviews, and refuses to discuss the plot details and "true meanings" of his films, preferring viewers to come away with their own interpretations. None of his films released on DVD have director commentary tracks, and some (rather unusually) do not even have chapter selections. This is due, at least in part, to his belief that a film should be viewed from beginning to end without interruption or distraction.
Film critic Roger Ebert has been notoriously unfavorable towards Lynch, even accusing him of misogyny in his reviews of Blue Velvet and Wild at Heart. Ebert was one of few major critics to dislike Blue Velvet.
In the 1980s Lynch was an admirer of Ronald Reagan and had dinner with the Reagans at the White House. Years later when someone made a disparaging comment about Nancy Reagan he spoke up and defended her.
George Lucas, a fan of Eraserhead, offered Lynch the opportunity to direct Return of the Jedi, which he refused, feeling that it would be more Lucas' vision than his own.