Leon Vitali, Stanley Kubrick
True Studio Media/Kobal/Shutterstock

10 Great Filmmakers’ Top 10 Favorite Movies


It’s a big week for finding out the movies that your favorite moviemakers love. First, the fine folks at the BFI unearthed the only known list Stanley Kubrick ever made of his favorite films; it dates to 1963, so it was by no means definitive, but it’s still fascinating. Meanwhile, to help boost interest in his Kickstarter project, Spike Lee released his list of the 25 films he considers essential for young filmmakers. And on top of all that, the Criterion Collection put out its latest list of film fans’ favorite Criterion titles — this time from the notorious Roger Corman. Between Criterion’s lists and the BFI’s Sight & Sound polls, it’s not hard to find out what films are most prized by both the revered masters of films and the most exciting up and comers; check out some of their recommendations after the jump.

Stanley Kubrick

I Vitelloni (Fellini, 1953), Wild Strawberries (Bergman, 1957), Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941), The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (Huston, 1948), City Lights (Chaplin, 1931), Henry V (Olivier, 1944), La notte (Antonioni, 1961), The Bank Dick (Fields, 1940), Roxie Hart (Wellman, 1942), Hell’s Angels (Hughes, 1930)

What’s most fun about this list may well be the final three entries: a roughhouse W.C. Fields comedy, a freewheeling Ginger Rogers picture, and Howard Hughes’ soapy war movie. In other words, Kubrick was far from the dour, “art for art’s sake” type that his followers tend to presume (and emulate), though you wouldn’t guess it from the shocked responses to the recent revelation that he all-out loved The Jerk, Modern Romance, and White Men Can’t Jump.

Martin Scorsese

2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick, 1968), 8 ½ (Fellini, 1963), Ashes and Diamonds (Wadja, 1958), Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941), The Leopard (Visconti, 1963), Paisa (Rossellini, 1946), The Red Shoes (Powell/Pressburger, 1948), The River (Renoir, 1951), Salvatore Giuliano (Rosi, 1962), The Searchers (Ford, 1956), Ugetsu Monogatari (Kenji, 1953), Vertigo (Hitchcock, 1958)

Through years of film preservation efforts, documentaries, and spontaneously generated lists, Martin Scorsese has never hesitated to share recommendations from his encyclopedic knowledge of film history. When he had to narrow it down to only ten titles for the 2012 BFI Sight and Sound poll, he came up with a pretty efficient summary of his interests: a Kubrick, a Hitchcock, a Welles, a Western (The Searchers, the oft-acknowledged inspiration for Taxi Driver), a Powell/Pressburger, and lots of Italian cinema.

Woody Allen

The 400 Blows (Truffaut, 1959), 8 ½ (Fellini, 1963), Amarcord (Fellini, 1972), The Bicycle Thieves (de Sica, 1948), Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941), The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (Bunuel, 1972), Grand Illusion (Renoir, 1937), Paths of Glory (Kubrick, 1957), Rashomon (Kurosawa, 1950), The Seventh Seal (Bergman, 1957)

Unsurprisingly, the creator of some of his generation’s funniest films doesn’t include one outright comedy on his Sight and Sound list (though he’s often acknowledged his love for the movies of Bob Hope, the Marx Brothers, W.C. Fields, Charlie Chaplin, and Buster Keaton). That said, there aren’t too many surprises on this list: he name-drops Grand Illusion in Manhattan, sends up Seventh Seal in Love and Death, and pays rather explicit homage to 8 ½ in Stardust Memories.

Francis Ford Coppola

The Apartment (Wilder, 1960), Ashes and Diamonds (Wajda, 1958), The Bad Sleep Well (Kurosawa, 1960), The Best Years of Our Lives (Wyler, 1946), I Vitelloni (Fellini, 1953), The King of Comedy (Scorsese, 1983), Raging Bull (Scorsese, 1980), Singin’ in the Rain (Donen/Kelley, 1952), Sunrise (Murnau, 1927), Yojimbo (Kurosawa, 1961)

When confined to ten movies, most directors tend to spread the praise a little bit, but not Coppola: he picks two films each by the great Kurosawa and his friend Scorsese. Those double-plays notwithstanding, there’s a wide range of styles and genres on display here, which speaks to the variety of both Coppola’s taste and his filmography; about the only film here with a direct line of influence to a Coppola picture is Singin’ in the Rain, which seems to have partially inspired his notorious flop musical One from the Heart.

Quentin Tarantino

Apocalypse Now (Coppola, 1979), The Bad News Bears (Ritchie, 1976), Carrie (de Palma, 1976), Dazed and Confused (Linklater, 1993), The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly (Leone, 1966), The Great Escape (Sturges, 1963), His Girl Friday (Hawkes, 1939), Jaws (Spielberg, 1975), Pretty Maids All in a Row (Vadim, 1971), Rolling Thunder (Flynn, 1977), Sorcerer (Friedkin, 1977), Taxi Driver (Scorsese, 1976)

Tarantino’s eclectic taste is well-known — hell, it’s part of his persona. On his 2012 Sight and Sound list, there are some no brainers: Inglourious Basterds was inspired by WWII men-on-a-mission flicks like The Great Escape, Pulp Fiction’s includes explicit instructions to replicate the overlapping dialogue style of His Girl Friday, and Tarantino apes Taxi Driver’s overhead shot surveying Travis Bickle’s carnage at the conclusion of Django Unchained’s similarly stylish bloodbath. But there’s a couple of puzzlers on here, too — most notably the rather skeezy high-school-teachers-sleeping-with-students murder mystery Pretty Maids (penned by, of all people, Star Trek creator Gene Rodenberry). Conspicuous in its absence is Rio Bravo, which Tarantino once said he shows to any girl he’s dating, “and she’d better fucking like it.”

Edgar Wright

2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick, 1968), An American Werewolf in London (Landis, 1981), Carrie (de Palma, 1976), Dames (Enright/Berkeley, 1934), Don’t Look Now (Roeg, 1973), Duck Soup (McCarey, 1933), Psycho (Hitchcock, 1960), Raising Arizona (Coen, 1987), Taxi Driver (Scorsese, 1976), The Wild Bunch (Peckinpah, 1969)

The director of Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and the forthcoming The World’s End shares Tarantino’s populist (and genre-infused) taste, and even two of the same titles. His least surprising inclusion: the horror/comedy An American Werewolf in London, a rather obvious influence on Shaun of the Dead. Most surprising: Dames, a 1930s musical comedy featuring musical numbers by Busby Berkeley. Who’da thunk?

Guillermo del Toro

8 ½ (Fellini, 1963), La Belle et la Bete (Cocteau, 1946), Frankenstein (Whale, 1931), Freaks (Browning, 1932), Goodfellas (Scorsese, 1990), Greed (von Stroheim, 1925), Los Olvidados (Bunuel, 1950), Modern Times (Chaplin, 1936), Nosferatu (Murnau, 1922), Shadow of a Doubt (Hitchcock, 1943)

Unsurprisingly, horror and sci-fi master del Toro has a few more genre efforts on his list than most: Hitchcock’s small-town thriller Shadow of a Doubt, Browning’s horrifying Freaks, and the monster classics Nosferatu and Frankenstein — though it’s a little surprising to see those films on there instead of Godzilla (considering how much time and energy he spent on Pacific Rim).

Lena Dunham

Fish Tank (Arnold, 2009), Days of Heaven (Malick, 1978), Broadcast News (Brooks, 1987), Weekend (Haigh, 2011), (tie) La Pointe Coure, Cleo from 5 to 7, Le bonheur, Vagabond (Varda), (tie) The Marriage of Maria Braun, Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (Fassbinder), Picnic at Hanging Rock (Weir, 1975), (tie) Straw Dogs (Peckinpah, 1971), Dead Ringers (Cronenberg, 1988), Through a Glass Darkly (Bergman, 1961) The War Room (Hegedus/Pennebaker, 1993)

Our last three filmmakers didn’t participate in the Sight & Sound poll, so their picks are pulled from their Criterion lists — which confines them to that film’s collection, but that’s not a bad restriction to have. Even so, Girls creator/star Dunham still cheats and does three ties, inflating her list to 14 titles. Two of those ties are dictated by a shared director, but the reasoning for the Straw Dogs/Dead Ringers pairing is the best: “These are both movies I made out to in college and later felt had been inappropriate choices for setting a romantic mood. I will never forget watching one of two Jeremy Ironses finger his satanic gynecological equipment while a guy named Phil sort of touched my boob. Straw Dogs makes you feel really awkward about removing your leggings, so you just don’t.”

Rian Johnson

8 ½ (Fellini, 1963), Brazil (Gilliam, 1985), F for Fake (Welles, 1975), Amarcord (Fellini, 1972), Fanny and Alexander (Bergman, 1982), M. Hulot’s Holiday (Tati, 1953), Scenes from a Marriage (Bergman, 1973), The Thin Man (Reed, 1949), The Bad Sleep Well (Kurosawa, 1960), Down by Law (Jarmusch, 1986)

The director of Looper and Brick has a Criterion list that’s heavy on Fellini and Bergman, but with a welcome nod to Jarmusch, Welles’ most underrated film, and this tidbit about the Collection’s epic three-disc treatment of Terry Gilliam’s dark (and troubled) masterpiece Brazil: “For our little group of starving filmmaker friends muddling through our twenties, this particular box set was sort of a holy grail. I’m barely exaggerating when I say that it was mythic — like Harry Smith’s Anthology in the West Village folk scene in the sixties. If somebody had the Criterion Brazil at their apartment, it would draw a crowd. A beautiful transfer, exhaustive supplements, and the ‘Love Conquers All’ cut is a holy terror of a revelation.”

Christopher Nolan

The Hit (Frears, 1984), Twelve Angry Men (Lumet, 1957), The Thin Red Line (Malick, 1998), The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (Lang, 1933), Bad Timing (Roeg, 1980), Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (Oshima, 1983), For All Mankind (Reinert, 1989), Koyaanisqatsi (Reggio, 1983), Mr. Arkadin (Welles, 1955), Greed (von Stroheim, 1925)

Dark Knight director Nolan, whose debut feature Following was recently added to the Criterion Collection, crafts a list that is (predictably enough) heavy on visual feasts and psychological intensity. And he bends the rules with his last entry, Greed, “von Stroheim’s lost work of absolute genius,” a film that is “not available on Criterion. Yet. Here’s hoping.”