Denis Villeneuve has entered a new stage in his career after helming one of the biggest cinematic epics in recent memory: Dune. While the director had previously produced masterpieces such as Incendies and Polytechnique, Villeneuve has been slowly drifting into the mainstream consciousness and has now emerged as an indispensable part of it.
Villeneuve’s journey towards becoming one of the most prominent filmmakers of our time has also coincided with his entry into the sci-fi journey. Starting with his 2016 hit Arrival, Villeneuve has gone on to make other acclaimed sci-fi projects such as Blade Runner 2049 and he recently reinforced that run with Dune.
Due to the enormous success of Dune, Villeneuve has already started working on the follow-up to the first part of his grand Frank Herbert adaptation. Dune has also picked up several prestigious accolades, including a wide range of Oscar nominations in major categories such as Best Picture and Best Cinematography but with a criminal snub for Villeneuve in the Best Director category.
Although many filmmakers were hesitant to take on the enormous task of adapting Dune for the big screen after David Lynch’s bizarre effort in 1984, Villeneuve did not hesitate and trusted his own artistic vision. While he was enormously influenced by David Lynch on his own cinematic journey, he consciously stayed away from the previous Dune.
Over the course of his life, Villeneuve had many formative cinematic experiences which renewed his love and passion for the cinematic medium. These films include classics such as Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 magnum opus 2001: A Space Odyssey which Villeneuve first watched when he was a child from the staircase of his home.
“Then I saw the entire film on television and was struck by the sense of vertigo that he managed to create,” the director recalled. “It became my favourite film. Rediscovering it at the festival, in 70mm, was a special moment for me…Science fiction appeals to me because it allows you to tackle difficult subjects such as religion, or other aspects of society that are off-limits, with a great deal of freedom and distance.”
He has also expressed his love for modern pioneers as well, especially Christopher Nolan. Villeneuve has always been full of praise for Nolan’s work and has even claimed that his latest project Tenet was a masterpiece even though it garnered a mixed response from fans. That’s exactly why multiple Nolan films feature on Villeneuve’s selection of his favourite cinematic gems.
Check out the full list below.
Denis Villeneuve’s 20 favourite films:
- Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)
- No Country For Old Men (Coen brothers, 2007)
- 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)
- Children of Men (Alfonso Cuarón, 2006)
- Dead Ringers (David Cronenberg, 1988)
- The Square (Ruben Östlund, 2017)
- There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)
- mother! (Darren Aronofsky, 2017)
- A Star Is Born (Bradley Cooper, 2018)
- Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa, 1954)
- The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola, 2017)
- Inception (Christopher Nolan, 2010)
- Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982)
- Amores Perros (Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2000)
- Dogtooth (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2009)
- Dogville (Lars von Trier, 2003)
- Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Steven Spielberg, 1977)
- Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer, 2013)
- A Prophet (Jacques Audiard, 2009)
- Dunkirk (Christopher Nolan, 2017)
Among these pioneering works, Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai had a profound impact on Villeneuve who used it as a source of reference while making his 2015 crime thriller Sicario. Kurosawa taught Villeneuve how to maintain cinematic tension by amplifying the anticipation of action.
“For me, it was my reference as I was doing Sicario,” Villeneuve revealed. “The pressure of time, to stretch time just long enough so you create the necessary tension. The thing I love is that, when you look at it from a certain angle, there are moments where people are on the edge of their seat when watching Sicario — but nothing is happening!”