“The screen is a magic medium. It has such power that it can retain interest as it conveys emotions and moods that no other art form can hope to tackle.”—Stanley Kubrick.
From the moment Stanley Kubrick released his first short film in 1951 he didn’t look back, forging a career in cinema like no other and, to this day, maintains a legacy as one of the most influential filmmakers in cinematic history. After releasing a series of shorts on a shoestring budget, United Artists Film Studios handed Kubrick his first major Hollywood opportunity, funding his 1956 film noir project The Killing. The picture would become the solid foundations that allowed Kubrick to go on and create modern classics such as Spartacus, Dr. Strangelove, A Clockwork Orange, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Shining and more.
Kubrick, who was not only fascinated by cinema and the deeper workings of the industry, also considered himself to be a true cinephile and studied the work of his colleagues with a feverish desire. While he rarely commented on some of his favourite films and directors, a master list of 93 movies which he considered to be the greatest was curated through a number of reliable sources.
In an article by Nick Wrigley for the British Film Institute, a deep study of Kubrick’s favourite pictures was collected with the help of the director’s right-hand man, Jan Harlan. In a separate list, one compiled by The Criterion Collection with the help of Kubrick’s daughter Katharina Kubrick-Hobbs, 93 films have been collected which are understood to be Kubrick’s all-time favourites.
“Highest of all I would rate Max Ophuls, who for me possessed every possible quality,” Kubrick once said in an interview with Cahiers du cinéma in 1957. “He has an exceptional flair for sniffing out good subjects, and he got the most out of them. He was also a marvellous director of actors.”
Discussing his own work and the profession in which he specialises, Kubrick added: “In terms of working with actors, a director’s job more closely resembles that of a novelist than of a Svengali. One assumes that one hires actors who are great virtuosos. It is too late to start running an acting class in front of the cameras, and essentially what the director must do is to provide the right ideas for the scene, the right adverb, the right adjective”.
“The director must always be the arbiter of esthetic taste,” he continued. “The questions always arise: Is it believable, is it interesting, is it appropriate? Only the director can decide this.”
Three years later, after studying his field in more detail, Kubrick discovered more work from his colleagues and adapted his outlook on who he considered to be some of the greatest in history: “I believe Bergman, De Sica and Fellini are the only three filmmakers in the world who are not just artistic opportunists,” he added in an interview dating back to 1960. “By this I mean they don’t just sit and wait for a good story to come along and then make it. They have a point of view which is expressed over and over and over again in their films, and they themselves write or have original material written for them.”
Kubrick’s public comments on directors, actors and the films he admired remained a rare commodity but when he did, his words remained loyal to some of his greatest inspirations. Six laters later, in 1966, he added: “There are very few directors, about whom you’d say you automatically have to see everything they do. I’d put Fellini, Bergman and David Lean at the head of my first list, and Truffaut at the head of the next level.”
It comes as little surprise, then, that a list of Kubrick’s favourite films is comprised of two selections from Federico Fellini and three from Ingmar Bergman. The interesting inclusions, however, features numerous works from the likes of Woody Allen, Steven Spielberg, David Lynch and more.
See the full list, below.
Stanley Kubrick’s 93 Favourite Films:
- Annie Hall – Woody Allen, 1977.
- Husbands and Wives – Woody Allen, 1992.
- Manhattan – Woody Allen, 1979.
- Radio Days – Woody Allen, 1987.
- McCabe & Mrs. Miller – Robert Altman, 1971.
- If… – Lindsay Anderson, 1968.
- Boogie Nights – Paul Thomas Anderson, 1998.
- La notte – Michelangelo Antonioni, 1961.
- Harold and Maude – Hal Ashby, 1971.
- Pelle the Conqueror – Bille August, 1987.
- Babette’s Feast – Gabriel Axel, 1987.
- Casque d’Or – Jacques Becker, 1952.
- Édouard et Caroline – Jacques Becker, 1951.
- Cries and Whispers – Ingmar Bergman, 1972.
- Smiles of a Summer Night – Ingmar Bergman, 1955.
- Wild Strawberries – Ingmar Bergman, 1972.
- Deliverance – John Boorman, 1972.
- Henry V – Kenneth Branagh, 1989.
- Modern Romance – Albert Brooks, 1981.
- Children of Paradise – Marcel Carné, 1945.
- City Lights – Charles Chaplin, 1931.
- The Bank Dick – Edward Cline, 1940.
- Beauty and the Beast – Jean Cocteau, 1946.
- Apocalypse Now – Francis Ford Coppola, 1979.
- The Godfather – Francis Ford Coppola, 1972.
- The Silence of the Lambs – Jonathan Demme, 1991.
- Alexander Nevsky – Sergei Eisenstein, 1938.
- The Spirit of the Beehive – Victor Erice, 1973.
- La Strada – Federico Fellini, 1954.
- I Vitelloni – Federico Fellini, 1953.
- La Kermesse Héroïque – Jacques Feyder, 1935.
- Tora! Tora! Tora! – Richard Fleischer, 1970.
- The Fireman’s Ball – Miloš Forman, 1967.
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Milos Forman, 1975.
- Cabaret – Bob Fosse, 1972.
- The Exorcist – William Friedkin, 1973.
- Get Carter – Mike Hodges, 1971.
- The Terminal Man – Mike Hodges, 1974.
- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – Tobe Hooper, 1974.
- Hell’s Angels – Howard Hughes, 1930.
- The Treasure of Sierra Madre – John Huston, 1947.
- Dekalog – Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1990.
- Rashomon – Akira Kurosawa, 1950.
- Seven Samurai – Akira Kurosawa, 1954.
- Throne of Blood – Akira Kurosawa, 1957.
- Metropolis – Fritz Lang, 1927.
- An American Werewolf in London – John Landis, 1981.
- Abigail’s Party – Mike Leigh, 1977.
- La bonne année – Claude Lelouch, 1973.
- Once Upon a Time in the West – Sergio Leone, 1968.
- Very Nice, Very Nice – Arthur Lipsett, 1961.
- American Graffiti – George Lucas, 1973.
- Dog Day Afternoon – Sidney Lumet, 1975.
- Eraserhead – David Lynch, 1976.
- House of Games – David Mamet, 1987.
- The Red Squirrel – Julio Medem, 1993.
- Bob le flambeur – Jean-Pierre Melville, 1956.
- Closely Watched Trains – Jiří Menzel, 1966.
- Pacific 231 – Jean Mitry, 1949.
- Roger & Me – Michael Moore, 1989.
- Henry V – Laurence Olivier, 1944.
- The Earrings of Madame de… – Max Ophuls, 1953.
- Le Plaisir – Max Ophuls, 1951.
- La Ronde – Max Ophuls, 1950.
- Rosemary’s Baby – Roman Polanski, 1968.
- The Battle of Algiers – Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966.
- Heimat – Edgar Reitz, 1984.
- Blood Wedding – Carlos Saura, 1981.
- Cría Cuervos – Carlos Saura, 1975.
- Peppermint Frappé – Carlos Saura, 1967.
- Alien – Ridley Scott, 1977.
- The Anderson Platoon – Pierre Schoendoerffer, 1967.
- White Men Can’t Jump – Ron Shelton, 1992.
- Miss Julie – Alf Sjöberg, 1951.
- The Phantom Carriage – Victor Sjöström, 1921.
- The Vanishing – George Sluizer, 1988.
- Close Encounters of the Third Kind – Steven Spielberg, 1977.
- E.T. the Extra-terrestrial – Steven Spielberg, 1982.
- Mary Poppins – Robert Stevenson, 1964.
- Platoon – Oliver Stone, 1986.
- Pulp Fiction – Quentin Tarantino, 1994.
- The Sacrifice – Andrei Tarkovsky, 1986.
- Solaris – Andrei Tarkovsky, 1972.
- The Emigrants – Jan Troell, 1970.
- The Blue Angel – Josef von Sternberg, 1930.
- Danton – Andrzej Wajda, 1984.
- Girl Friends – Claudia Weill, 1978.
- The Cars that Ate Paris – Peter Weir, 1974.
- Picnic at Hanging Rock – Peter Weir, 1975.
- Citizen Kane – Orson Welles, 1941.
- Roxie Hart – William Wellman, 1942.
- Ådalen 31 – Bo Widerberg, 1969.
- The Siege of Manchester – Herbert Wise, 1965.