Elton John has refused to rest on his laurels throughout his career and constantly foraged into the new fertile creative ground. Not content with having produced more pop hits than a soft drinks manufacturer, he has also tried his hand at scoring, producing and even starring in movies. The enduring creative spirit of the colourful songsmith makes the films that inspire him all the more noteworthy and intriguing.
One of John’s cinematic involvements was on the animated comedy Gnomeo and Juliet, which represented something of a passion project for the musician who took on an Executive-producer role for the project lent it many of his biggest hits and even collaborated with Lady Gaga for the featured duet ‘Hello, Hello’. Upon the release of the Shakespeare-Gnome crossover, John revealed his five favourite films of all time in an interview with Rotten Tomatoes.
The first film that he chose to discuss was The Godfather Part II. “Just riveting,” he said of Francis Ford Coppola’s second gangster epic. “It’s just incredible. At that time, there weren’t usually sequels to films, and when they did Godfather II, when they said they were going to do Godfather II, I groaned.” In the sequel-saturated modern era, it is hard to imagine a time when film franchises were a novelty, and in some ways, it is the reverse-silver-lining curse of the Godfather follow-up that it inadvertently spawned some of the hapless cash grabs that have followed in its wake.
For many, whether it is better than Part I is an endless debate, but clearly, John favours the sophomore effort, stating: “It was better, I think, than Godfather I. I think it’s an amazing, amazing piece of filmmaking. He was an amazing director, Coppola.”
For his second choice, the hitmaker delved back into Hollywood’s golden era for the 1950 Joseph L. Mankiewicz classic All About Eve starring Bette Davis, Anne Baxter and George Sanders. “I just think the dialogue in that film is incredible and so brilliant, and I never get fed up with watching it,” John declared regarding the typically silver-tongued stylings of the time. “It’s just brilliantly acted,” John added, “it’s bitchiness at its best.”
While John’s involvement in films like Gnomeo and Juliet may have implied a penchant for the lighter side of cinema, his selected five seem to refute this assumption and none assert this firmer than The Exorcist. “It frightens the shit out of me,” John humorously declared of the William Friedkin-directed head-spinning horror classic.
“I remember going to see it in London,” John recalled. ‘I went with a friend – and I said, “Well, that wasn’t too bad after all, was it?’ And we both said, ‘Well, I don’t want to go home quite yet.’ So, we went out for a meal. That is an incredible movie.” If the measure of a horror movie is its ability to perturb then you can’t say it fairer than forcing audiences into post-viewing meals of regathered composure.
It wouldn’t seem right if the eternally jokey Elton John didn’t at least delve into the comedic side of cinema for one of his picks, thus Blazing Saddles is perhaps one of the more predictable choices on the list. And John even brought attention to his need for humour himself. “Let me choose a comedy,” he said. “Let me choose Blazing Saddles, because I just thought, at the time when that came out, it was just so ahead of its time. I mean, you couldn’t get away with that now. There’s no fucking way you could get away with it.”
Rounding up the widely eclectic list is Oscar-winning German feature, The Lives of Others. The psychological thriller that mingles espionage with romantic obsessions was one of the most critically acclaimed films of the 2000s and it propelled German cinema onto John’s radar. “The Lives of Others would go in there. It’s just an amazing movie,” he said.
“It was just a beautiful film. So many great movies coming out of Germany, like… Well, The Reader was a Stephen Daldry film, but it was all about coming to terms with their past. And also, Downfall was as well. God, I could continue forever because I love movies.”
Elton John’s five favourite films of all time:
- The Godfather Part II
- All About Eve
- The Exorcist
- Blazing Saddles
- The Lives of Others