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Sidney Lumet once named his 35 favourite films of all time

Sidney Lumet is one of the most acclaimed filmmakers in American history, known for making multiple masterpieces throughout a fascinating career. Ranging from his highly impactful debut feature Twelve Angry Men to his later investigations such as Dog Day Afternoon and Network, Lumet’s legacy is a formidable one.

Growing up in Manhattan, Lumet was involved in productions from a very early age since his father was also an actor and director. He started out as an actor as well but eventually graduated to directorial gigs involving off-Broadway projects and Television where he was truly able to apply his unique artistic vision.

“The first film that had a great impact on me and I feel I’m always trying to copy is Carol Reed’s Odd Man Out,” Lumet revealed. “The whole atmosphere, strangely enough, resembles very much my childhood city of Krakow, with the change of seasons that can happen in one day. That atmosphere seduced me, and then I thought of the acting, of the photography. And then I realised much later that there was something.”

Over the years, Lumet expressed admiration for a wide variety of filmmakers who impacted his work in various ways. While he was influenced by classic directors such as William Wyler and John Ford, Lumet was also appreciative of the contemporary directorial talents he saw during his own lifetime.

Talking about some of the new talent that emerged during that time, Lumet revealed he had two favourites when it came to American cinema: “I love Robert Zemeckis’ work. I think Steven Spielberg has become a great director. And I’m not using the word ‘great’ like Variety uses the word ‘great,’ I mean of all-time.”

Check out the full list below.

Sidney Lumet’s favourite films:

  1. The Best Years of Our Lives (William Wyler, 1946)
  2. Fanny and Alexander (Ingmar Bergman, 1982)
  3. The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972)
  4. The Grapes of Wrath (John Ford, 1940)
  5. Intolerance (D.W. Griffith, 1916)
  6. The Passion of Joan of Arc (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1928)
  7. Ran (Akira Kurosawa, 1985)
  8. Roma (Federico Fellini, 1972)
  9. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (Steven Spielberg, 1982)
  10. Singin’ in the Rain (Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, 1952)
  11. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)
  12. Zero de Conduite (Jean Vigo, 1933)
  13. The Godfather Part II (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)
  14. Odd Man Out (Carol Reed, 1947)
  15. The White Sheik (Federico Fellini, 1952)
  16. Winter Light (Ingmar Bergman, 1963)
  17. Dodsworth (William Wyler, 1936)
  18. Partie de Campagne (Jean Renoir, 1946)
  19. Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot (Jacques Tati, 1953)
  20. Schindler’s List (Steven Spielberg, 1993)
  21. Greed (Erich von Stroheim, 1924)
  22. The General (Clyde Bruckman and Buster Keaton, 1926)
  23. Amarcord (Federico Fellini, 1973)
  24. (Federico Fellini, 1963)
  25. Dumbo (Multiple directors, 1941)
  26. Bicycle Thieves (Vittorio De Sica, 1948)
  27. Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder, 1959)
  28. Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)
  29. Rome, Open City (Roberto Rossellini, 1945)
  30. The Public Enemy (William A. Wellman, 1931)
  31. Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942)
  32. The Maltese Falcon (John Huston, 1941)
  33. Ugetsu Monogatari (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1953)
  34. Rashomon (Akira Kurosawa, 1950)
  35. Modern Times (Charlie Chaplin, 1936)

Ranging from Federico Fellini and Akira Kurosawa to Billy Wilder and Charlie Chaplin, this list is definitely an impressive one which can provide a lot of inspiration to all film fans. Out of these classics, Lumet had some special affection for Spielberg’s work.

He said: “I think two of the greatest American movies ever made are E.T. and Schindler’s List. Those are two great movies in the classic sense of the word. E.T., even though it’s very different kind of movie in that it’s not ‘serious,’ is one of the most beautiful, perfectly-made movies I’ve ever seen. An extraordinary piece of work.”

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