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(Credit: Activités culturelles UdeM)

From Stanley Kubrick to Andrei Tarkovsky: Taika Waititi's 5 favourite films of all time

One of the most popular names in Hollywood, Taika Waititi has become a hot property ever since his comedy feature What We Do In The Shadows, Marvel blockbuster Thor: Ragnarok, and the brilliant Oscar-winning feature Jojo Rabbit. His list of upcoming projects is also growing, working on the likes of comedy, sports drama Next Goal Wins, a remake of Flash Gordon, as well as a brand new mini-series Reservation Dogs.

With his unique brand of dry Kiwi comedy, the multi-faceted filmmaker is well established in the satirical circuit, having worked with Jemaine Clement, James Bobin and recently-minted Oscar-winner Bret McKenzie on multiple projects. Colourful and quirky, Waititi’s films are inspired by the visual identity of Wes Anderson along with the eclectic identity of eccentric 1980s filmmaking. 

His list of favourite films doesn’t quite match with his quirky sensibilities; however, hinting toward a more sincere side to the director, we have glimpsed in 2016s Hunt for the Wilderpeople and Jojo Rabbit. The first film on his list is Stanley Kubrick’s classic wartime satire Dr. Strangelove, stating, in conversation with Rotten Tomatoes“I think purely because of Peter Sellers. I love his characters; he’s just having so much fun”. 

Complex and refined, Seller’s three performances showcased the full extent of his comic genius, with each character requiring a different persona and demeanour. “I love Kubrick’s films, but that for me is also a very different Kubrick film. People either get it or they don’t,” he concluded. 

Mike Nichols’ The Graduate joins Kubrick’s comedy masterpiece, with Taika Waititi explaining, “The Graduate is always a good one to have on my list. It’s hilarious, but also has that element of treading between comedy and drama and doing it so well, and actually being about something”. Featuring one of the greatest endings in the history of cinema starring Dustin Hoffman and Katharine Ross, Waititi notes: “For me, it’s just fresh. There’s also the energy of the actors: Hoffman, just young and going for it; he hasn’t become jaded”.

Working to explain Waititi’s love of science fiction, his third choice is Andrei Tarkovsky film Stalkerwith the filmmaker commenting: “For me, I think visually there’s something about that film that manages to get inside your head and touch you on your emotional synapses or something; it somehow just gets in there”. A true visionary, Tarkovsky’s film is among the very best of genre cinema if you can even pigeonhole its existence at all, eliciting a particular power that is truly unmatched throughout the history of film. As Taika Waititi rightfully states: “They’re called masters because they’re still the best that ever were. It’s the same with Kurosawa and Ozu and Tarkovsky: if you look at their films and what they were doing, you kind of feel safe watching those films”.

Hal Ashby is a further favourite of Waititi, describing his 1978 film Coming Home as “something, amazing emotional stuff, and it’s just about people — people trying to connect”. Ashby’s film stars Jane Fonda, Bruce Dern and Jon Voight, and tracks the story of a woman who falls in love with a war veteran whilst her own husband is serving in Vietnam, as the filmmaker adds: “There’s a simplicity to it, but it’s really engaging the entire time”. 

Commenting on the film’s eclectic cast, he notes” “Jon Voight went and lived with paraplegics and war vets who had been injured and stayed in his wheelchair the entire time. It was just a good commitment to making a film, you know, whereas these days it’s like, “I’ll get my double to do it.” I feel like that was made at a time when people still had passion”.

Find the full list of Taika Waititi’s five favourite films below.

Taika Waititi’s five favourite films

  • Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Stanley Kubrick, 1964)
  • The Graduate (Mike Nichols, 1967)
  • Stalker (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1979)
  • Coming Home (Hal Ashby, 1978)
  • Badlands (Terrence Malick, 1973) & Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (Martin Scorsese, 1974)

With his final choice is really two choices, Waititi explains: “I’m sort of torn on my last film between Badlands and Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. I’m on the fence — I love both of those films”.

Starting with Terrence Malick’s classic debut, Waititi notes: “Badlands, for me, is a very important film because I feel like a lot of the time it’s the kind of film I would love to make, if I could just make one. It’s so small, but really perfect”. 

As for Martin Scorsese’s lesser-discussed film, Taika Waititi has high praise, recognising Ellen Burstyn as “one of the greatest performances of a woman”. Noting quite why he loves the film, the director comments: “That’s again a great mixture of drama and comedy, like when Harvey Keitel threatens to kill her and breaks up the motel room, and then a hard cut to one of the most hilarious scenes in the film where they’re trying to pack up and get out of the room”.

Take a look at the trailer for the Martin Scorsese picture below.

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