From Quentin Tarantino to Martin Scorsese: John Cho’s 5 favourite films of all time
Where many stoner comedies wheeze there way into cinemas before collapsing out the other side, John Cho’s leading role in the Harold and Kumar trilogy seemed to grab ahold of a strange gap in the market for Hollywood. It helped that despite the trilogies obvious puerile nature and fondness for easy weed gags, they were strangely charming and clearly had some degree of thought behind them.
This propelled him to a role aboard the Starship Enterprise in the Star Trek universe, as well as several other leading positions in film and television. Most notably his performance in the surprisingly inventive desktop thriller Searchingwas particularly impressive and has now somehow received a heads up for a sequel. He’s one of Hollywood’s many untapped talents who consistently delivers impressive performances on the small and big screen.
Let’s take a look at his five favourite films:
John Cho’s 5 favourite films:
Sideways – Alexander Payne (2004)
Alexander Payne’s first true commercial and critical success elevated him into the Hollywood elite where he now resides. Following two middle-aged men who take a trip through California’s wine country as ‘one last hurrah’ before one of them walks down the aisle, Payne’s film is quite painfully authentic. Based on the novel by Rex Pickett, this mature road movie tailing two flawed central characters is delicately crafted. It couldn’t be further from the road movies of Harold and Kumar.
Speaking about his love for the film, Cho commented in an interview with Rotten Tomatoes: “I hadn’t seen Sideways in a number of years, and recently saw it again, and sat down with it and was overwhelmed at how much more meaningful it had become in the years since I had seen it… it was so lyrical and so authentic in every moment. Stories about failure, to me, are more meaningful as I get older.”
The Big Lebowski – The Coen Brothers (1998)
A cult classic of ’90s cinema, ‘the dude’ has become a noun for every university student with the poster plastered to their wall.
The Coen Brothers’ Big Lebowski is a truly unique piece of cinema, and confidently the most clever stoner comedy there is. Though, to call it that seems a bit of a disservice. A frantic, psychedelic tour through the enigmatic streets of LA, the plot seems somewhat immaterial following Jeff Bridges’ ‘Dude’ seeking compensation for his ruined rug, the pleasure is to simply be in his company.
It’s a fun, comforting watch, as Cho observes: “The Big Lebowski is like a bowl of noodles I could eat every single day, and it would be endlessly emitting new flavours. It’s just incredible.”
Goodfellas – Martin Scorsese (1990)
The palpable pace and sheer enjoyment of Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece, Goodfellas, is unparalleled in the sub-genre of gangster moviemaking. An intense observation of the Italian-American culture, it’s a sharp, complex and manic piece of filmmaking widely recognised as Scorsese’s very best.
Recounting the barely fictionalised rise of real-life mobster Henry Hill and his relationship with the Lucchese crime family of New York City, fantastic performances from Robert Deniro and Joe Pesci bring this tale to life.
Released in Cho’s teenage years, he commented of the film: “There’s more propulsion to that movie than any movie that’s ever been made, it feels like. It’s just so fast. It’s like a car accelerating, and it just never stops accelerating.”
Pulp Fiction – Quentin Tarantino (1994)
Possibly one of the most influential films ever made, drawing from, then-contemporary, music, cinema, art and fashion, only to form its own style and influence in its own right. Pulp Fiction remains Quentin Tarantino’s finest three hours, an oozing hot pot of style and charisma. Playful in its approach, the story twists around a non-linear format, merging seductive romance, slick crime and dark comedy to tell the tale of intertwining lives, bookended by a divine shining suitcase.
Much like any young adult at the time of release, Pulp Fiction had a significant impact on John Cho: “It was what, as a young actor, [showed me] this is what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to be this vital. We’re trying to be this fun. We’re trying to break the rules this much. I think it changed American independent filmmaking.”
The darling of cult cinema shines in the most subdued way possible in Sofia Coppola’s fantastic low budget tale of romance and loss. Murray plays a faded actor in career disarray who stumbles disorientated around Tokyo, stumbling into the equally dissatisfied Scarlett Johansson where they spark a strange romantic bond, held together by a delicate shared introspection.
It’s a naturally moving film, that feels effortlessly put together, as Cho comments: “I think it’s the single coolest movie I’ve ever seen. I haven’t revisited it in a long time, it just meant a lot to me at the time. Perhaps it really is psychologically a commentary on me feeling Asian in white America, but I identified with that situation in a very personal way. It always meant more to me than I think the film should have”