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I think Kubrick would have loved The Criterion Collection if he was still alive today and quite a lot of the films that have been cited as his favorites are in the collection.
Since Kubrick was such a famously reclusive (or "private" as he preferred to call it) and rarely interviewed person, it's very interesting to get a glimpse what kind of films that inspired and entertained him.
(I've compiled most of the information on this list from interviews with Kubrick's family, friends and colleagues, an interview he did in 1957 for Cahiers du cinéma as well as an interview in 1963 for Cinema magazine and the 'Master list' by the BFI.)
I have presented these films here in no particular order.
Cited films that aren't in the collection: Eraserhead, Citizen Kane, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Godfather, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Dog Day Afternoon, Roxie Hart, Hell's Angels, An American Werewolf in London, E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Metropolis, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Abigail's Party, Roger & Me and oddly enough Mary Poppins, White Men Can't Jump, Modern Romance and The Jerk.
(sources: http://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/sight-sound-magazine/polls-surveys/stanley-kubrick-cinephile, http://www.visual-memory.co.uk/faq/index3.html, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XLSWR2EnHEs, http://www.lettersofnote.com/2011/07/you-are-greatest-film-maker-at-work.html, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/If)
I've given this list a sort of 'revision' in the light of the 'Master List' that was recently published by the BFI (25 October 2013). This list is now more than twice as big as it used to be thanks to all the new information found in their interviews with Jan Harland and Anthony Freewin.
Since Kubrick actually worked with Olivier during the making of Spartacus in 1959 I think that most people will be fascinated to learn that he listed Henry V as one of his favorite films during an interview he did in 1963 for Cinema magazine. Looking back at Kubrick's films now one suddenly notice what an important influence Olivier was on his early films.
A young Stanley Kubrick, in addition to his other great love at the time – chess, which he played daily – “assiduously attended screenings at the Museum of Modern Art”, in the words of Michel Ciment. Here he saw the great films of the silent era, amongst others. His high-school friend and early collaborator Alex Singer particularly remembers them both going to see Alexander Nevsky (1938) - because immediately afterwards Kubrick bought an LP of the Prokofiev score and played it continuously, until he drove his younger sister so crazy she smashed the LP on his head.
"Highest of all I would rate Max Ophuls, who for me possessed every possible quality. He has an exceptional flair for sniffing out good subjects, and he got the most out of them. He was also a marvellous director of actors." - "I particularly admired his fluid camera techniques." - excerpt from an interview by Cinema magazine in 1963.
On March 25, 1957 Kubrick was shooting a scene for Paths of Glory which consisted of a single long tracking shot. The shot was apparently quite a strain for the actors and after they had finished for the day Kubrick confided to one of them that he had done it as a tribute to Max Ophuls who had died earlier that day.
(The play La Ronde was based on was written by Arthur Schnitzler who also wrote Traumnovelle ('Dream Story') which was the basis for Kubrick's last film Eyes Wide Shut.)
"Madame de… with Danielle Darrieux - Stanley loved it.” - Jan Harlan
“The filmmaker I admire the most after Max Ophuls is without a doubt Ingmar Bergman, whose every film I’ve seen. I like enormously Smiles of a Summer Night” - Kubrick interviewed by Raymond Haine, Cahiers du cinéma, July 1957
"Your vision of life has moved me deeply, much more deeply than I have ever been moved by any films. I believe you are the greatest film-maker at work today" - appraisal from Kubrick in a letter sent to Ingmar Bergman in February 1960.
(The whole letter can be read at Lettersofnote.com)
Jan Harlan, Kubrick's brother-in-law and the producer for several of his films, had this to say about Bergman's Cries and Whispers:
“He was very impressed and depressed by Cries and Whispers – he could barely finish it. I was with him.”
“I know only La Strada [of Fellini’s films] but that is amply sufficient to see in him the most interesting poetic personality of the Italian cinema.” - Kubrick interviewed by Raymond Haine, Cahiers du cinéma, July 1957
During his interview with Cinema magazine in 1963 Kubrick listed I Vitelloni among his top 10 favorite films.
Kubrick allegedly decided to cast Malcolm McDowell for A Clockwork Orange immediately after he saw If.... and wouldn't make the film unless he could get him for the role.
Kubrick also refused to give McDowell any advice on how to play his character and would simply tell him "acting's your job, not mine". McDowell then called Lindsay Anderson to get advice and relates the story as such: "[Anderson] said 'Malcolm, this is how you play the part: there is a scene of you, a close-up in if...., where you open the doors to the gymnasium, to be beaten. You get a close-up.' He said 'do you remember...' I said 'yes. I smiled'. He said 'that's right. You gave them that smile. That sort of ironic smile, and that's how you play Alex'."
Anthony Frewin, Kubrick's personal assistant for several decades, had this to say about Kubrick's love for Kurosawa's films:
“What struck me immediately while looking through this ‘Master List’ (referring to a list made by the BFI) was the conspicuous absence of Akira Kurosawa. Stanley thought Kurosawa was one of the great film directors and followed him closely. In fact I cannot think of any other director he spoke so consistently and admiringly about. So, if Kubrick was cast away on a desert island and could only take a few films, what would they be? My money would be on The Battle of Algiers, Danton, Rashomon, Seven Samurai and Throne of Blood…
“Talking of Kurosawa, a poignant tale: Stanley received a fan letter from Kurosawa in the late 1990s and was so touched by it. It meant more to him than any Oscar would. He agonized over how to reply, wrote innumerable drafts, but somehow couldn't quite get the tenor and tone right. Weeks went by, and then months, still agonizing. Then he decided enough was enough, the reply had to go, and before the letter was sent Kurosawa died. Stanley was deeply upset.”
“All films are, in a sense, false documentaries. One tries to approach reality as much as possible, only it’s not reality. There are people who do very clever things, which have completely fascinated and fooled me. For example, The Battle of Algiers. It’s very impressive.” - Kubrick interviewed by Renaud Walter in Positif
Anthony Frewin had this to say about Kubrick's fascination with The Battle of Algiers when interviewed by the BFI: “Stanley raved (or what passed as raving with him!) about The Battle of Algiers, and Wajda’s Danton, over a lengthy period of time. When I started work for Stanley in September 1965 he told me that I couldn't really understand what cinema was capable of without seeing The Battle of Algiers. He was still enthusing about it prior to his death.”
Tarkovsky supposedly made Solaris in an attempt to one up on Kubrick after he had seen 2001: A Space Odyssey (which he referred to as cold and sterile). Interestingly enough Kubrick apparently really liked Solaris and I'm sure he found it amusing that it was marketed as the "the Russian answer to 2001".
In a really odd reversal the scene where Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) in The Shining chops through a bathroom door with and ax in an attempt to reach his wife and son so he can murder them is a direct tribute to a scene in The Phantom Carriage where David Holm (Sjöström) does the same to get through a locked door to reach his frightened wife and children.
What's really funny is that the scene in The Phantom Carriage was already a tribute to D. W. Griffith's Broken Blossoms where a man breaks through a closet door with a hatchet to reach his daughter who is hiding from him.
According to Kubrick's biographer; John Baxter, Kubrick decided to make The Shining after he had seen Rosemary's Baby and The Exorcist, because he didn't like the idea of someone making such good horror films without having been allowed to make one himself to prove that he could do it just as well, if not better.
"If something is really happening on the screen, it isn't crucial how it's shot. Chaplin had such a simple cinematic style that it was almost like I Love Lucy, but you were always hypnotized by what was going on, unaware of the essentially non-cinematic style. He frequently used cheap sets, routine lighting and so forth, but he made great films. His films will probably last longer than anyone else's." - Kubrick on Chaplin's style as a director.
During his interview with Cinema magazine in 1963 Kubrick listed City Lights among his top 10 favorite films.
“Stanley thought Danton was very nearly beyond criticism and ‘perhaps the finest historical film ever made’. He loved everything about it and said he would never tire of watching the scenes with Gérard Depardieu and Wojciech Pszoniak (‘I’d love to use that Polish actor in something’).” - Anthony Frewin interviewed by the BFI.
Kubrick watched it three times and told Sluizer that it was “the most horrifying film I’ve ever seen”. Sluizer asked; “even moreso than The Shining?”. Kubrick replied that he thought it was.
“The perfect crime film” according to Kubrick.