Whilst only the industry’s most popular directors become household names, it is rare, if not totally unprecedented, that a cinematographer experiences such fame. English cinematographer Roger Deakins is perhaps the most well-known of them all, however, having worked with the likes of Coen brothers, Denis Villeneuve and Sam Mendes on some of Hollywood’s biggest films.
With several prestigious accolades to his name including five BAFTA wins in the Best Cinematography category and two Academy Awards, Deakins has made a name for himself for his unforgettable constructions of brilliant visual narratives. Such classic film titles include the likes of Blade Runner 2049, Fargo, True Grit, Skyfall and The Big Lebowski.
In a discussion with Interview Magazine, Deakins once reflected: “I suppose everyone gets into it in a different way. I loved film when I was kid because I was in a film society in Torquay, which is near where I am now, down in Devon. And I used to go and watch films. I fell in love with movies. My dad was a builder, so I didn’t have any connection to the arts at all. I never really considered film as a career, but I knew I didn’t want to be a builder”.
With a passionate love for the arts, it is to little surprise that Roger Deakins’ list of his ten favourite films features an eclectic mix of genres and nationalities, from the wild west to the classic war dramas. His first choice is Sam Peckinpah’s classic western The Wild Bunch starring William Holden and Ernest Borgnine, follows an ageing group of outlaws who experience the deterioration of the classic American West. Shot by Lucien Ballard, The Wild Bunch is a classic of the revisionist western sub-genre.
Come and See is Roger Deakins’ second choice, a stark and deeply disturbing war drama following a young boy who joins the Soviet resistance and experiences the horrors of WWII firsthand. Directed by Elem Klimov is a classic war film from the Russian perspective, often finding itself onto lists of the very best films of the genre. Joining Come and See is another classic depiction of war in Dr. Strangelove, directed by Stanley Kubrick, taking a far more satirical stance than the aforementioned Russian film. Kubrick’s seventh feature-length project starred Peter Sellers in an iconic role that would go down as one of the very best of his illustrious career.
Federico Fellini’s classic of world cinema, La Dolce Vita makes the cinematographer’s fourth spot, being also a favourite film of the iconic director Martin Scorsese. Starring Marcello Mastroianni, the film itself is a series of stories following a week in the life of a tabloid journalist living in Rome. The film joins Jean-Pierre Melville’s 1967 neo-noir French masterpiece Le Samouraï as Deakins’ fifth choice, with Melville’s feature following a professional hitman who is spotted by witnesses and is forced to evade persecution.
A considerable fan of the French director Jean-Pierre Melville, Deakins also includes his 1969 film Army of Shadows on the list, a war drama following underground resistance fighters in Nazi-occupied France. The film outlines Deakins’ clear passion for European cinema, also including the Italian film Rocco and his Brothers as his seventh choice. Luchino Visconti’s 1960 drama follows an immigrant family falling to pieces as they travel from southern Italy to the north all whilst a prostitute comes between the protagonist and his brothers.
Joining his growing list of favourite western films, Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West makes the eighth spot on Deakins’ list as a true classic of the genre that follows a mysterious stranger protecting a beautiful widow from a ruthless assassin. A lover of vast landscapes and lone wanderers, Michelangelo Antonioni’s The Passenger joins the list for similar reasons to Leone’s classic, with the 1975 film starring Jack Nicholson as a man who assumes the identity of a dead businessman whilst working in Central Africa.
Take a look at the full list of Roger Deakins’ 10 favourite films below.
Roger Deakins’ 10 favourite films
- The Wild Bunch (Sam Peckinpah, 1969)
- Come and See (Elem Klimov, 1985)
- Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Stanley Kubrick, 1964)
- La Dolce Vita (Federico Fellini, 1960)
- Le Samouraï (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1971)
- Army of Shadows (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1978)
- Rocco and his Brothers (Luchino Visconti, 1960)
- Once Upon a Time in the West (Sergio Leone, 1969)
- The Passenger (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1975)
- Paris, Texas (Wim Wenders, 1984)
The final film on Roger Deakins’ list nicely bookends his taste in cinema, featuring a contemporary tale of the American nomad, emerging out of the wild west to assimilate into modern life.
Wim Wender’s landmark 1984 indie road movie, Paris, Texas stars Harry Dean Stanton as a lone wanderer who tries to reconnect with his wife and brother after years of absence. Tying together both European artistic vision and American spectacle, the film is a classic of cinema, and the most suitable film to round off Deakins’ list.