After rising to prominence due to his work on the extremely popular television show The Walking Dead, Steven Yeun has established himself as one of the most promising actors of his generation. Known for his powerhouse performances in modern masterpieces such as Burning and Minari, Yeun has proven time and time again that he has what it takes to enter the pantheon of great artists.
In an interview with Variety, Yeun revealed that his childhood played a major part in defining his professional work later on: “I was never really living a truthfulness to my life. I don’t think many kids are at that age, but for me it was like an extra layer. I couldn’t access the feeling of fullness that I was able to sometimes at my Korean church. I would say I was always kind of performing.”
He added: “I’m happy to serve a larger moment for the community. And I’m happy to push narratives and show who we are because I am that, too. I am an Asian American and the pride I have for that is immense. But also, for me, it’s really about carrying my space and myself through this life and making sure that I tell it true from my perspective. But it would be awesome, and I hope that we can have many more of those and that it won’t be an issue moving forward.”
For Criterion’s famous top 10 feature, Yeun was invited to choose some of his favourite films of all time. However, Yeun could not follow the only instruction for the feature and ended up choosing 12 masterpieces instead of 10 because of his boundless love for cinema. In doing so, he gave his fans a glimpse into the films that have shaped his own sensibilities as an actor.
“Mulholland Drive was probably the nerdiest experience I’ve had,” Yeun said. “Just watching the film and then thinking about it, listening to commentaries, then researching online what other connections I missed and seeing all these deeper themes and meanings, I realised that’s how you can make a film! This was the first Lynch film I ever saw. That Naomi Watts performance, and the performance within the performance, still haunts me.”
Continuing, “Being John Malkovich was another one of those formative films that expanded my horizons on what film can be, what it can comment on, how many layers you can attach, and how meta it can get. Mulholland Drive and Being John Malkovich came out around the time when I had already cemented in my mind what a movie was. Then for all that to just blow up in my face was really awesome.”
Including gems by masters such as the legendary Yasujirō Ozu as well as modern classics by contemporary pioneers like Wes Anderson and Paul Thomas Anderson, check out Steven Yeun’s list of his favourite films ever made in the history of cinema.
Steven Yeun’s 12 favourite films:
- Good Morning (Yasujirō Ozu, 1959)
- Tokyo Story (Yasujirō Ozu, 1953)
- Still Walking (Hirokazu Koreeda, 2008)
- Secret Sunshine (Lee Chang-dong, 2007)
- Chungking Express (Wong Kar-wai, 1994)
- Fantastic Mr. Fox (Wes Anderson, 2009)
- The Princess Bride (Rob Reiner, 1987)
- Punch-Drunk Love (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2002)
- Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001)
- Being John Malkovich (Spike Jonze, 1999)
- RoboCop (Paul Verhoeven, 1987)
- Hoop Dreams (Steve James, 1994)
While talking about Chungking Express, Yeun commented: “It’s so good—so subtle, truthful, and simple. This movie allows you to just look at human beings as human beings for a second. Wong Kar-wai is a master, and I have an admiration for his ability to direct your attention to certain things but not in an obvious way. I got to see Asian people as real people who could be flawed and make choices that are selfish and don’t take into account social graces all the time.”
Adding, “Being raised in a very Christian, traditional Korean household, you’re kind of just seeing the surface and what you’re supposed to be at all times. I remember growing up thinking all Korean people were church deacons, and then you see a Korean man driving a taxi and all of a sudden you’re like, what’s going on? This doesn’t make sense to me! Wong’s films are like travelling to Hong Kong without going to Hong Kong.”