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From Stanley Kubrick to Christopher Nolan: Steven Spielberg named his 20 favourite films of all time


“I don’t dream at night, I dream at day, I dream all day; I’m dreaming for a living.” – Steven Spielberg

Steven Spielberg, the iconic director behind famed movies such as Raiders of the Lost ArkE.T. and Jurassic Park, once picked out 20 films that he considers to be the all-time greats.

Spielberg, considered by many to be one of the founding pioneers of the New Hollywood era, has enjoyed well over 50 years active in the film industry and has claimed victory in the ‘Best Director’ category at Academy Awards twice. “Whether in success or in failure, I’m proud of every single movie I’ve directed,” he once said in what is the clearest indicator of his approach to filmmaking.

He added: “I’ve always been very hopeful which I guess isn’t strange coming from me. I don’t want to call myself an optimist. I want to say that I’ve always been full of hope. I’ve never lost that. I have a lot of hope for this country and for the entire world”.

It is in his optimism that Spielberg has always found the motives for his projects. Hovering between science fiction, fantasy, thriller and drama consistently, the director has pioneered a number of now-pivotal filmmaking techniques with his desire to relentlessly move the camera in every which direction at veracious speed being his trademark.

While Spielberg has always attempted to look forward in his pursuit of perfection, he has also never been shy to pay homage to those that have influenced his creative vision. In an interview with the AFI, Spielberg once explained: “I try to rent a John Ford film before I start every movie, simply because he inspires me. He’s like a classic painter, he celebrates the frame, not just what’s inside it.” With that in mind, it should come as little surprise that John Ford’s 1956 picture The Searchers is included in a list of his favourites.

Like many of the world’s leading filmmakers, Stanley Kubrick appears proudly within a list of inspirations. While many have debated what Kubricks’ finest achievement may be, almost all come to the agreement that his sci-fi epic 2001: A Space Odyssey remains a total masterpiece. In fact, when sitting down for a wide-ranging conversation with his colleague Michael Apted some time ago, Speilberg compared the brilliance of 2001 to that of a religious experience. “I’m still living off the adrenalin that,” he said, adding: “I experienced watching that film for the first time”.

Throughout his career, Spielberg has paid homage to David Lean and his works, citing them as a major influence on his own creations and, of course, the English filmmaker is represented in his favourites list. “Lawrence of Arabia was the film that set me on my journey,” Spielberg said.

Adding: “I look at that picture as a major miracle…it just uplifted me. It was little things that provoked me to wanna know more about how movies are made. Lean was able to tell such small stories, intimate portraits and he’d make you just as sensitive and close to the life that T.E. Lawrence was living and surviving”.

With the likes of David Lean, James Gunn, Francis Ford Coppola, Walt Disney and many more, see the full list, below.

Steven Spielberg’s 20 favourite movies:

  1. It’s a Wonderful Life – Frank Capra (1946)
  2. The Godfather – Francis Ford Coppola (1972)
  3. Fantasia -Walt Disney (1940)
  4. A Guy Named Joe – Victor Fleming (1943)
  5. Guardians of the Galaxy – James Gunn (2014)
  6. War of the Worlds – Byron Haskin (1953)
  7. Psycho – Alfred Hitchcock (1960)
  8. 2001: A Space Odyssey – Stanley Kubrick (1968)
  9. Lawrence of ArabiaDavid Lean (1962)
  10. Untouchable – Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano (2011)
  11. The Dark Knight – Christopher Nolan (2008)
  12. The 400 Blows – François Truffaut (1959)
  13. Day for Night – François Truffaut (1973)
  14. Citizen KaneOrson Welles (1941)
  15. Captains Courageous – Victor Fleming (1937)
  16. The Best Years of Our Lives – William Wyler (1946)
  17. The Searchers – John Ford (1956)
  18. Tootsie – Sydney Pollack (1982)
  19. Seven SamuraiAkira Kurosawa (1954)
  20. Dumbo – Walt Disney (1941)

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