(Credit: Gage Skidmore)

From Kubrick to Scorsese: Alfonso Cuarón lists his favourite films of all time

“I knew early on that I was a nerd and that films were my refuge. Those first few minutes before the lights went off, and you’re alone in the theatre waiting, were really pleasurable.” – Alfonso Cuarón

Alfonso Cuarón has to be one of the most talented and distinguished filmmakers to have graced the world of cinema. First up, he has been nominated for eleven Academy Awards, winning four of them, including two Best Director awards for Gravity and Roma. He has also received Academy Awards for Best Film Editing for Gravity and Best Cinematography for the Netflix produced film, Roma. Cuarón has been nominated for Academy Awards in six different categories all told, an astounding record that he shares with the likes of Walt Disney and George Clooney.

After the success of his debut feature in Mexico, Sólo con tu pareja, he soon found his way to the United States, making his name with films like A Little Princess and Great Expectations. In 2001, Cuarón returned to Mexico with a Spanish-speaking cast to film Y tu mamá también, starring Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna and Maribel Verdú. It was a provocative and controversial road comedy about two sexually obsessed teenagers who take an extended road-trip with an attractive married woman who is much older than them. The film’s open portrayal of sexuality and frequent rude humour, as well as the politically and socially relevant asides, made the film an international hit and a major success with critics.

Post-Y tu mamá también, Cuarón continued making films in the United States with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and the critically acclaimed Children of Men. In 2014, Alfonso accepted the Golden Globe Award in the category of Best Director for his space-drama, Gravity. The film received ten Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director. Cuarón won for Best Directing, becoming the first Latin American to win the award.

Four years later, Cuarón made his eighth film, and his most personal work till date: Roma, a tale of a housekeeper for a middle-class Mexican family in 1970s Mexico City, based on the life of his family’s longtime maid, Liberia Rodríguez. Roma was steeped in the highest accolades, and Cuarón became the first filmmaker to win the Best Director and Best Cinematography Oscars in the same year.

Cuarón’s films seep with his many signature visual, thematic, and structural elements. Most notable is the director’s use of long takes, and his constantly moving camera. These tendencies create the feeling of real-time and real-space within the worlds he explores. Elaborating on this the director states, “For Children of Men, we wanted to take advantage of the element of real-time. It’s a documentary approach. As if you were just following characters around with your own digital camera in the year 2027.”

In his films, camera movement acts as an extension of character emotion. Crediting his experience growing up watching films from the masters of cinema as extremely crucial, he says: “I’m more of a cinephile than a filmmaker. For me it’s not about making movies, it’s about getting older and taking on more responsibilities — family and stuff — so when I was in my youth I’d go to the movies every single day. Sometimes twice a day. Eventually, you don’t have the time for that. But I definitely still watch it whenever I can. It’s almost like a need for me to be connecting with cinema.”

Forever learning, he explains that he likes to continuously learn more from both the ‘old masters’ and the ‘new masters’: “I like to learn from the new masters, though I do like to revisit old films. There’s only so much you can learn from the old masters,” he said. “There’s a point where you have to connect to the younger masters because they’re bringing the refreshing cinema. If you don’t learn from the young masters you’ll become stale.”

Adding: “And I have eclectic taste, I like a good fun movie too, but it has to have something. I don’t like generic films, they bore me to tears. The original Poseidon Adventure is one of my favourite films. I love that film. But then I also love Tarkovsky. When I saw The Poseidon Adventures as a kid I was surprised. I’ve seen it many times in my life now and every time it feels like an original film. There’s something specific about it that I truly enjoy.”

Here, Fav Favorites have curated all the films that influenced the filmmaking of the great Alfonso Cuarón in one long list.

Alfonso Cuarón’s favourite films:

  • Lost in Space (Irwin Allen – 1965)
  • Bicycle Thieves (Vittorio De Sica – 1948)
  • A Trip to the Moon (Georges Méliès – 1902)
  • Woman in the Moon (Fritz Lang – 1929)
  • Her (Spike Jonze – 2014)
  • Annie Hall (Woody Allen – 1977)
  • Marooned (John Sturges – 1969)
  • The Great Beauty (Paolo Sorrentino – 2013)
  • The Right Stuff (Philip Kaufman – 1983)
  • Apollo 13 (Ron Howard – 1995)
  • The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola – 1972)
  • Jaws (Steven Spielberg – 1975)
  • The Conversation (Francis Ford Coppola – 1974)
  • Mean Streets (Martin Scorsese – 1973)
  • Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese – 1976)
  • Avanti! (Billy Wilder – 1972)
  • Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder – 1959)
  • I Don’t Want to Be a Man (Ernst Lubitsch – 1918)
  • That Uncertain Feeling (Ernst Lubitsch – 1941)
  • Trouble in Paradise (Ernst Lubitsch – 1932)
  • The Horse Soldiers (John Ford – 1959)
  • December 7th (John Ford, Gregg Toland – 1943)
  • Stagecoach (John Ford – 1939)
  • The Long Voyage Home (John Ford – 1940)
  • Mouchette (Robert Bresson – 1967)
  • A Man Escaped (Robert Bresson – 1956)
  • Faust (F. W. Murnau – 1926)
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick – 1968)
  • Lolita (Stanley Kubrick – 1962)
  • Light Years Away (Alain Tanner – 1981)
  • Jonah Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000 (Alain Tanner – 1976)
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