Following a career in cinema which lasted almost half a century, it’s safe to say the great Stanley Kubrick managed to pick up a thing or two about film.
After making his first short documentary in 1951 and his last feature in 1999, Kubrick managed to fill the gap with films such as Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, The Shining and more.
Frequently cited as one of the greatest and most influential filmmakers in cinematic history, Kubrick’s legacy is longstanding and, in reflection, film historian Michel Ciment described Kubrick as being “among the most important contributions to world cinema in the twentieth century.”
While Kubrick’s filmmaking style was pioneering and his approach to cinema was unwavering. Throughout his career he believed in his ideas and, while he continued to gain mainstream success, Kubrick was always quick to point out those that had inspired him take, for example, the complex, fluid camerawork of the director Max Ophüls who inspired him greatly. On top Ophüls, Kubrick never hid his admiration for the likes of Elia Kazan, G. W. Pabst and more.
With that in mind, Kubrick almost always refused to be drawn into conversations about his ‘favourite films of all time’. However, on one occasion, the great filmmaker did divulge some of his favourites in conversation with a publication entitled Cinema.
“The first and only (as far as we know) Top 10 list Kubrick submitted to anyone was in 1963 to a fledgling American magazine named Cinema (which had been founded the previous year and ceased publication in 1976),” the BFI’s Nick Wrigley wrote in reflection.
In that conversation, Kubrick listed the following films:
- I Vitelloni (Fellini, 1953)
- Wild Strawberries (Bergman, 1957)
- Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941)
- The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (Huston, 1948)
- City Lights (Chaplin, 1931)
- Henry V (Olivier, 1944)
- La notte (Antonioni, 1961)
- The Bank Dick (Fields, 1940—above)
- Roxie Hart (Wellman, 1942)
- Hell’s Angels (Hughes, 1930)
While the list remains diverse, Kubrick’s right-hand man, Jan Harlan would later explain that, “Stanley would have seriously revised this 1963 list in later years, though Wild Strawberries, Citizen Kane and City Lights would remain, but he liked Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V much better than the old and old-fashioned Olivier version.”
It’s worth mentioning Kubrick, who we know refused to take lists too seriously, has handed out great praise to various filmmakers who are absent from this list, take for example, an early interview with Cahiers du cinéma in 1957, Kubrick said: “Highest of all I would rate Max Ophuls, who for me possessed every possible quality. 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.”
Following that, similarly in 1957, Kubrick said of Kazan: “without question the best director we have in America. And he’s capable of performing miracles with the actors he uses.”
For a little more information into Kubrick’s favourite filmmakers, he said in a 1960 interview: “I believe Bergman, De Sica and Fellini are the only three filmmakers in the world who are not just artistic opportunists. By this I mean they don’t just sit and wait for a good story to come along and then make it.
He added: “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.”
With that in mind, you might want to take the list with a pinch of salt. It is without doubt, however, that the aforementioned films are pictures that Kubrick held close to his heart.