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(Credit: Randy Reichardt)


Steely Dan's Donald Fagen named his 10 favourite films of all time

Donald Fagen, the lead singer of the iconic rock band Steely Dan, is naturally known for his incredible music career which has solidified his place in music history. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer created impactful work with his Steely Dan partner Walter Becker and they had a definitive influence on the cultural sensibilities of the 1970s.

Born in New Jersey, Fagen was interested in R&B and jazz music in his teenage years but he was also inspired by other sources of artistic expression. Fagen was also deeply moved by the pioneering figures of the Beat Generation, ranging from Jack Kerouac to Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti who inspired him to study literature at college.

In order to do so, Fagen attended classes at Bard College where he ended up meeting Becker and also collaborated with the likes of Chevy Chase who was also a member of their musical group. Although Fagen ran into Becker in 1967, Steely Dan was only formed in the summer of 1970 and gained a lot of artistic momentum during that decade.

Alongside his literary and musical influences, Fagen was also inspired by cinema. That’s exactly why he was very hesitant about choosing only 10 favourite films when Criterion asked him to do so during an interview and called the exercise “silly” but he went ahead anyway, curating a fantastic list of masterpieces that should definitely be essential viewing.

While describing why he chose Bruce Robinson’s 1987 gem Withnail and I, Fagen claimed that it was a hilarious work that had a crucial sociopolitical message: “Among other things, the best film about the demise of the sixties counterculture. With iconic performances by Richard E. Grant, Richard Griffiths, and the unbelievable Ralph Brown. Stupidly funny.”

Fagen is also evidently a fan of the unique artistic vision of Federico Fellini as two of the latter’s works occupy his list of favourite films. It is interesting to see that Fellini’s cinema has actually inspired a lot of musicians, including The Beatles who were almost cast in the Italian master’s 1969 masterpiece Satyricon alongside others such as Brigitte Bardot but none of those plans came to fruition.

Out of all these wonderful cinematic masterpieces, the one film that Fagen revisited the most was Carol Reed’s unforgettable 1949 classic The Third Man which is now considered to be among the greatest films ever made. “I’ve seen this picture a zillion times but always find something new to wonder about,” Fagen admitted.

Probably the greatest film noir ever made, The Third Man is bound to make the favourites lists of all those who see it. “Graham Greene, Carol Reed, Joseph Cotten, Orson Welles, Trevor Howard, Nazis, gangsters, Hitchcockian surrealism, innovative cinematography, a moody babe, Vienna, a zither for ear candy: it’s all here,” Fagen added.

Check out the list of films that influenced Donald Fagen below.

Donald Fagen’s favourite films:

  • (Federico Fellini, 1963)
  • Juliet of the Spirits (Federico Fellini, 1965)
  • My Man Godfrey (Gregory La Cava, 1936)
  • Billy Liar (John Schlesinger, 1963)
  • Fanny and Alexander (Ingmar Bergman, 1982)
  • Day of Wrath (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1943)
  • On the Waterfront (Elia Kazan, 1954)
  • The Third Man (Carol Reed, 1949)
  • Topsy-Turvy (Mike Leigh, 1999)
  • Withnail and I (Bruce Robinson, 1987)