Orson Welles is remembered as one of the greatest pioneers of the cinematic medium, known for his revolutionary work on unforgettable masterpieces such as the iconic Citizen Kane and F for Fake among others. His approach to cinema had a huge impact on the auteur theory which later sparked the French New Wave.
Throughout his life, Welles often expressed his displeasure at the works of his contemporaries such as Woody Allen. He even referred to Alfred Hitchcock as a “senile” old man and claimed that some of Hitchcock’s most celebrated works – Read Window and Vertigo – were actually terrible films by a “mentally impaired” director.
Although younger filmmakers such as Jean-Luc Godard drew inspiration from Welles, the American auteur wasn’t impressed by the French New Wave. Instead, when it came to Welles’ taste in cinema, he was fond of American classics as well as influential masterpieces from global cinema such as The Battleship Potemkin.
Welles was also particularly fond of John Ford’s vision of cinema and Ford’s work was a huge source of inspiration for Citizen Kane. According to Welles’ biographer, the director watched Ford’s Stagecoach at least 40 times before embarking on the production of Citizen Kane with various technicians and crew members.
When asked about it, Welles expressed his admiration for Ford by insisting that he was one of the greatest filmmakers to have ever worked: “Well, I prefer the old masters, by which I mean John Ford, John Ford and John Ford. He’s a poet and a comedian. With Ford at his best, you get a sense of what the earth is made of.”
Check out a list of Orson Welles’ favourite gems below.
Orson Welles’ favourite films:
- City Lights (Charlie Chaplin, 1931)
- Greed (Erich von Stroheim, 1924)
- Intolerance (D.W. Griffith, 1916)
- Nanook of the North (Robert Flaherty, 1922)
- Shoe Shine (Vittorio De Sica, 1946)
- The Battleship Potemkin (Sergei Eisenstein, 1925)
- La Femme du Boulanger (Marcel Pagnol, 1938)
- Grand Illusion (Jean Renoir, 1937)
- Stagecoach (John Ford, 1939)
- Our Daily Bread (King Vidor, 1934)
Although Welles included a Charlie Chaplin masterpiece on his list, the two had a falling out. Welles claimed that Chaplin stole his idea for Monsieur Verdoux but their accounts about that incident differ vastly even though Chaplin admitted that the initial idea belonged to Welles.
Describing Chaplin in a conversation, Welles claimed that “Chaplin was deeply dumb in some ways” but there were “shafts of genius” present throughout his body of work. Despite considering City Lights to be a masterpiece, Welles was critical of Modern Times and said “it doesn’t have a good moment in it.”