Darren Aronofsky has developed an intense reputation for producing enigmatic films which oscillate between the realms of arthouse and impenetrable. While his works are certainly considered to be an acquired taste, Aronofsky has made some of the most unapologetically original masterpieces in recent memory including Pi and Requiem for a Dream.
In an insightful interview, Aronofsky recalled: “From watching eight hours of TV a day as a kid, I’ve just watched enough of those formulas there’s somewhere deep in my head of how to sort of deliver visual information to an audience. And maybe that’s what I got out of it. I don’t know if I was born with that, or if I just, or if I, you know, just from too much TV. But it’s probably a combination of something. I think everything’s learned, I don’t think you’re born with much.”
He also mentioned: “I think the visual component comes afterwards. I mean, of course, when you read a story, I think there are certain stories that are better for the visual medium of film. But there’s always a way to tell a story visually. One of my mentors, Stuart Rosenberg, who directed Cool Hand Luke (1967) and Pope of Greenwich Village (1984), great director, he would tell me that certain things don’t translate well to the screen, certain things are better as novels or books. And I think I agree.”
Throughout his career, Aronofsky has always been asked about the films that influenced him the most while he was growing up. This is a collated list of the director’s favourite films which provide fascinating insights about how his own filmmaking sensibilities were shaped by the works of other pioneers who ended up changing cinema forever.
Aronofsky includes Spike Lee’s incredibly important opus Do The Right Thing: “It was a major film when it came out for all of us, because New York was in a very different place than it was in 1977. Race relations were really boiling over, and Spike Lee completely tapped into what was in everyone’s head every time you got on the subway, every time you walked down the street. He just made it a timeless tale.”
He also paid a tribute to one of the old masters of world cinema – Japanese auteur Akira Kurosawa: It’s this idea of using music to enter a new chapter by going back to the main refrain, like the moment with Toshiro Mifune in Yojimbo where suddenly he’s the bad-ass in town, and the most valuable chess player on the board. Now, it’s all about how that chess piece is going to be moved.”
Check out the list of Darren Aronofsky’s favourite films of all time, ranging from hallucinatory masterpieces by Terry Gilliam to politically charged commentaries by Spike Lee.
See the entire selection below.
Darren Aronofsky names his 11 favourite films of all time:
- Angel Heart (Alan Parker, 1987)
- Brazil (Terry Gilliam, 1985)
- Time Bandits (Terry Gilliam, 1981)
- Breaking Away (Peter Yates, 1979)
- Once Upon A Time In The West (Sergio Leone, 1968)
- The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (Sergio Leone, 1966)
- Yojimbo (Akira Kurosawa, 1961)
- Saturday Night Fever (John Badham, 1977)
- Do The Right Thing (Spike Lee, 1989)
- Full Metal Jacket (Stanley Kubrick, 1987)
- West Side Story (Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins, 1961)
While describing the genius of Stanley Kubrick’s iconic war epic, Aronofsky commented: “The first half of Full Metal Jacket is all about order, and turning these human beings into machines, but there’s this one piece of chaos, which is this overweight soldier, who is just slowly picked on until he eventually explodes. Then, it’s all about bringing these machines and this order into chaos. “
Continuing, “Suddenly, the whole shooting style changes, and it’s a completely different movie. I think that final shot of the movie is all about taking the grid of that order and sticking it over that chaos, while they’re in hell, literally. They’re in this destroyed landscape, yet they’re perfectly ordered in a grid, singing the great theme song of America, trying to stamp this grid across chaos.”