From Claire Denis to The Safdie Brothers: Jim Jarmusch lists his top 5 favourite films
“Life has no plot, why must films or fiction?” — Jim Jarmusch
Jim Jarmusch, the critically acclaimed director, screenwriter and actor, has built a formidable career in the film industry by solidifying his presence in independent cinema since the 1980s.
The director has been at the helm of some now-iconic pictures, the likes of Stranger Than Paradise, Dead Man, Coffee and Cigarettes and, more recently, Paterson, all of which have helped forge a prolifically unique and creative portfolio.
Having always surrounded himself with free-thinking creatives, Jarmusch has never been shy when discussing his sources of inspiration and, a few years ago, the filmmaker said: “Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination.”
“Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows,” he added when asked about how he explores culture around him.
While Jarmusch has always remained committed to the direction of his work, the filmmaker has also forged strong working relationships with some of the biggest names within the industry who, in turn, have helped shape his vision. “The key, I think, to Jim, is that he went grey when he was 15. As a result, he always felt like an immigrant in the teenage world,” Tom Waits once famously said.
Waits added: “He’s been an immigrant—a benign, fascinated foreigner—ever since. And all his films are about that.”
Reflecting on some of the films and directors who have helped inspire his own work, Jarmusch sat down with Rotten Tomatoes to detail five films that, at this moment, he considers to be his favourite.
See the full list, below.
Jim Jarmusch’s 5 Favourite Films:
5 – Female Trouble – John Waters, 1974
Working relentlessly on his dark comedy, John Waters acted as director, co-composer, co-editor, producer when creating Female Trouble. Typically, the film features the likes of Divine, David Lochary, Mary Vivian Pearce and Mink Stole who Waters created strong working relationships with.
“This may be my very favourite John Waters film,” Jarmusch told Rotten Tomatoes. “As time goes by, for me, John Waters becomes more and more important as his work echoes through our culture. What is so particular and striking for me about John Waters is that no matter how perverse and weird his themes and characters may be, his films are never ever mean spirited.”
Official Film Synopsis: “A spoiled schoolgirl runs away from home, gets pregnant while hitch-hiking, and ends up as a fashion model for a pair of beauticians who like to photograph women committing crimes.”
4 – Atomic Blonde – David Leitch, 2017
Based on the 2012 graphic novel The Coldest City, David Leitch managed to successfully combine all elements or an action spy film with a female lead. Released to positive realists, Atomic Blonde was a huge hit at the box office and grossed well over £100million in what was Leitch’s directional debut.
“I’ve seen it three times,” Jarmusch begins when speaking about the film. “This is my idea of the ultimate feminist action movie. Wonder Woman, I’m sorry, just didn’t do it for me, but Charlize Theron is definitely my idea of a female superhero somehow.”
Official Film Synopsis: “Sensual and savage, Lorraine Broughton is the most elite spy in MI6, an agent who’s willing to use all of her lethal skills to stay alive during an impossible mission. With the Berlin Wall about to fall, she travels into the heart of the city to retrieve a priceless dossier and take down a ruthless espionage ring.
“Once there, she teams up with an embedded station chief to navigate her way through the deadliest game of spies.”
3 – Let the Sunshine In – Claire Denis, 2017
Given its premiere as part of the ‘Directors Fortnight’ section of the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, Denis’ film Let the Sunshine In is an adaptation of Roland Barthes’s 1977 text A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments with a comedic edge.
“Starring the always fascinating Juliette Binoche as a Parisian artist who’s kind of looking for love in all the wrong places,” Jarmusch says. “I found myself laughing at many subtle moments — her misjudgments and misadventures. It also includes some great characters also portrayed by Alex Descas, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, and Gerard Depardieu in a great scene at the end.”
Official Film Synopsis: “Following Isabelle, a middle-aged Parisian artist and divorced mother, as she looks for love and meets different characters.”
2 – Heaven Knows What – Ben and Joshua Safdie, 2015
Based on Mad Love in New York City, the unpublished memoir Arielle Holmes’ life as a homeless heroin addict living on the streets of New York City, Ben and Joshua Safdie delivered a cinematic experience which delves deeper and more harrowingly into the life of a drug addict like no other.
With Holmes herself appearing in the film, Heaven Knows What includes the likes of Buddy Duress, Ron Braunstein and Eleonore Hendricks as part of its cast with the score being created by the brilliant Ariel Pink.
“Heaven Knows What is such a disturbing story about unrequited love, heroin addiction, and suicidal tendencies that somehow evades being only completely weighed down by desperation,” Jarmusch said of the film. “Even though the death-like weight of the all-out junkie life is detailed and harrowing, it’s also a really interestingly made film in the way it’s shot.”
Official Film Synopsis: “A young heroin addict roams the streets of New York to panhandle and get her next fix, while her unstable boyfriend drifts in and out of her life at random.”
1 – American Psycho – Mary Harron, 2000
Mary Harron’s neo-noir psychological horror was released in 2000 to positive reviews and impressive box office results. With a cast containing the likes of Christian Bale, Willem Dafoe, Jared Leto, Chloë Sevigny, Reece Witherspoon and more, the film’s legacy has only grown stronger in the years that have gone by.
“My number one is American Psycho, 2000,” Jarmusch tells Rotten Tomatoes. “A masterful adaptation of words to cinema by Mary Harron, an important American director, and writer. I think that the film resonates even more now than when it was made almost 20 years ago.
“Christian Bale’s performance is brutally riveting, and the entire cast– Willem Dafoe, Chloe Sevigny, Reese Witherspoon, and Jared Leto – are all just really good. There’s also an uncut ‘Killer Collections’ edition, which I would strongly recommend. It’s a great film.”
Official Film Synopsis: “In New York City in 1987, a handsome, young urban professional, Patrick Bateman, lives a second life as a gruesome serial killer by night. The cast is filled by the detective, the fiancé, the mistress, the coworker, and the secretary. This is a biting, wry comedy examining the elements that make a man a monster.”