Billy Wilder is counted among the greatest filmmakers in the vast history of Hollywood, known for his unforgettable classics such as Double Indemnity and Sunset Boulevard among many others. Having directed some of the greatest American films ever made, Wilder’s legacy lives on in the hearts and minds of newer generations of film fans.
Before venturing into the world of cinema, Wilder worked as a taxi dancer while also reporting crime and sports news for newspapers. Due to his interest in films, he later attempted to become a screenwriter and collaborated with other burgeoning figures on a wide variety of projects including People on Sunday.
In order to follow his dreams and to avoid the dark political developments taking place in Europe at the time, Wilder moved to Hollywood where he continued working as a screenwriter. His first breakthrough came when he worked with the illustrious Ernst Lubitsch on the wonderful 1939 romantic comedy Ninotchka.
Recalling his first experiences in the US, Wilder revealed: “There were some excellent German directors, led by Mr. Lubitsch, but I simply met him and shook his hand; he had no interest in me when I arrived. In fact, he was very reluctant to give jobs to Germans; it was only four years later that he hired me.”
Over the years, Wilder was influenced by a lot of films which definitely had a huge impact on his own artistic sensibilities but he managed to maintain his own style. When asked about his favourite films of all time, Wilder curated an eclectic list containing indispensable classics by the likes of David Lean and Federico Fellini.
Check the full list below.
Billy Wilder’s favourite films:
- The Best Years of Our Lives (William Wyler, 1946)
- Bicycle Thieves (Vittorio De Sica, 1948)
- The Bridge on the River Kwai (David Lean, 1957)
- The Conformist (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1970)
- Les Diaboliques (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1955)
- La Dolce Vita (Federico Fellini, 1960)
- 42nd Street (Lloyd Bacon, 1933)
- La Grande Illusion (Jean Renoir, 1937)
- Seduced and Abandoned (Pietro Germi, 1964)
- The Shop Around the Corner (Ernst Lubitsch, 1940)
In addition to the brilliant filmmakers mentioned above, Wilder was also particularly influenced by the enigmatic vision of Erich von Stroheim. Cited as one of the first auteurs in the history of cinema, con Stroheim’s innovative approach to cinema encouraged Wilder to be original as well.
Wilder said: “He was fascinating, le grand seigneur at all times. There was something very noble about him, although he wasn’t a ‘von’ at all, his accent belonged to one of the rougher suburbs of Vienna. Of course, he influenced me greatly as a director: I always think of my style as a curious cross between Lubitsch and Stroheim.”