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From Ozu Yasujiro to Jean Cocteau: Tilda Swinton's nine favourite films of all time


Easily regarded as one of the finest working actors in all of Hollywood, Tilda Swinton is a tour de force of the screen, taking each and every one of her characters to unexpected places with deep, excavating performances that cause thrill and fear in equal measure. Having worked with the likes of Bong Joon-ho, Wes Anderson, Lynne Ramsay and the Coen brothers, Swinton has managed to dominate both mainstream and independent filmmaking throughout her 35 years in the film industry. 

Having won her first and only Academy Award in 2007 for her supporting role in Michael Clayton, directed by Tony Gilroy, Swinton has enjoyed a career glittering with awards and success from her very first debut role in Derek Jarman’s Caravaggio. Starting her career as a strong dramatic actor thanks to roles in Orlando and The Deep End, more recently Swinton has seen an increase in strong character roles starring as an eccentric oppressor in Snowpiercer and a colourful lecturer in The French Dispatch

Held in high regard throughout the world of film and television, there are very few actors working today that match the professionalism and dedication of Tilda Swinton. With almost 100 film credits to her name, we’ve whittled her filmography down to analyse ten of her finest screen performances. 

Naturally, finding something so trivial as a ‘favourite films’ list from one of the most ethereal and alien artists Hollywood has seen in decades has provided us with a much needed cheap thrill. When speaking to BFI early in 2021, Swinton shared her love of classic cinema, shying away from heaps of glamour or awards and, instead, focusing on the true artist and forgotten heroes of cinema. Below, you can find the list of Tilda Swinton’s favourite films.

Never one to shy away from world cinema, Swinton’s collection of picks travels the globe and touches down in Japanese cinema twice — both times for works by Ozu Yasujiro. Picking out his “wee silent masterpiece” I Was Born, but…, Swinton explains the film is “about childhood, brotherhood and learning about how to negotiate fathers and learn the rules of the game.”

Swinton also noted Yasujiro’s other phenomenal work, Tokyo Story, about which the actor shared: “Possibly Ozu’s most famous work. Magisterial. The final journey of elderly parents to each of their grown children in turn. The heartbreak of generational disconnection and the inescapable tenderness of familial bonds, the comfort of human ritual and the inevitable turn of the Great Wheel. Profoundly moving.”

It speaks highly of Swinton’s devotion to the art that, perhaps quite naturally, her list doesn’t feature any blockbuster hits. But perhaps even more noteworthy is that her collection of favourite films doesn’t even reside in the areas one might consider traditionally leftfield or ‘cool’. Instead, Swinton picks show an honest and connected artist, one that values form and focus, above all else.

There is, however, space in Swinton’s list for two icons of cinema’s golden age, with director Robert Rosselini’s magic piece Journey to Italy finding room, as well as Jean Cocteau’s influential gem La Belle et la Bête, about which Swinton said: “Cocteau’s resplendent fairy tale. Images you will never forget. The chandelier arms, the transcendent beauty of Jean Marais, the pearl of a drop of dew on a rose. Pure magic.”

It acts as perhaps the most traditional moment of an otherwise supremely fascinating list of favourite films. If you ever wanted to have the briefest insight into the mind of such an artist as Swinton then, by watching all of these films, you may just have a chance.

Below you can find the full list of Tilda Swinton’s favourite fils of all time as well as read on the full interview here.

Tilda Swinton’s favourite films of all time:

  • I was Born, but… – Ozu Yasujiro (1932)
  • Journey to Italy – Roberto Rosselini (1954)
  • La Belle et la Bête – Jean Cocteau (1946)
  • M – Fritz Lang (1931)
  • Medea – Pier Paolo Pasolini (1970)
  • My Childhood / My Ain Folk / My Way Home – Bill Douglas (1973, ’74, ’79)
  • Stranger by the Lake – Alain Guiraudie (2013)
  • Tokyo Story – Ozu Yasujiro (1953)
  • Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives – Apichatpong Weerasethakul (2010)