K. K. Barrett’s Top 10

K. K. Barrett’s Top10

“These are ten films that tickle me in the right places,” says Academy Award–nominated production designer K. K. Barrett, who’s helped visualize the worlds of such films as Being John Malkovich, Lost in Translation, Where the Wild Things Are, and Her.

Jun 26, 2014
  • 1

    Charles Laughton

    The Night of the Hunter

    A very theatrical construct of noir. Black humor, nursery rhymes, expressionist lighting, a zoological boat ride, Shelly Winters underwater, and Robert Mitchum cackling when getting shot. I can hear Charles Laughton chuckling in every scene. Best use of frightening artifice. If Mitchum only acted in one movie, if Gish only appeared in one movie, they should be proud for this to be the one. As it is, Laughton only directed one.

  • 2

    John Huston

    Wise Blood

    John Huston had an incomparable late run—The Misfits, Fat City, Under the Volcano, Prizzi’s Honor—but Wise Blood is my favorite. William Hickey, Harry Dean Stanton, and Brad Dourif kill it with a baby Jesus; bent religious fervor second only to Ken Russell’s The Devils.

  • 3

    Lars von Trier

    The Element of Crime

    My introduction to Lars von Trier, a breath of stale, musky air when I found it in 1990. A circular story in a sodden netherworld. Before his naturalism period, Lars explores studio trickery, and, as always, with guilt and repression bubbling under the surface.

  • 4

    William Klein

    Mr. Freedom

    William Klein, an expat photographer, looks at what drives the USA, a cocky hubris. Delirious colors and comic realities of the American way. Serge Gainsbourg music! A riotous pop art telling of the George W. Bush era long before it came to be.

  • 5

    Koreyoshi Kurahara

    The Warped Ones

    Pure maniacal energy and hoodlum spunk with a spinning moral compass. Looks like it was shot in a day. Under-wrought in the best ways. Just keeps me laughing. Dumb swagger to spare. Godard dialed to eleven.

  • 6

    Michelangelo Antonioni

    Red Desert

    I love too many Antonioni films, but this is my favorite. La notte is second. The power of slow observation. Here he massages color, industry, and fog as antagonists to femme urban madness. My favorite use of Design by Location Curation. An opposite influence for me on Her. A companion piece to Todd Haynes’s Safe.

  • 7

    G. W. Pabst

    Pandora’s Box

    Louise Brooks defines screen presence. She is so mesmerizing, vulnerable, beautiful, and strong/silent that I had to seek out every one of her performances. There is no other like her, as there is no other Marcello Mastroianni. Diary of a Lost Girl may be even better. If you need to coax a friend to lose their dramatic silent film virginity, start with these . . . and then move to Greed.

  • 8

    Monte Hellman

    Two-Lane Blacktop

    Some films are peculiarly unique to their era. Where did actors like Warren Oates come from? Like with his solo burn in Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, he conducts this symphony of a race to nowhere all by himself.

  • 9

    Paul Schrader

    Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters

    I rarely single a film out solely for production design, but this is an exception. It influenced me before I worked in film. The stage sets by Eiko Ishioka of the Temple of the Golden Pavilion alone are striking. Inspired use of nonlinear storytelling and

    cinematic poetry.

  • 10 (tie)

    Lynne Ramsay


  • Věra Chytilová


  • John Frankenheimer


  • Gus Van Sant

    Mala Noche

  • Wes Anderson

    Bottle Rocket

  • Mike Leigh


  • Víctor Erice

    The Spirit of the Beehive

    I’ve given all these films to friends for enlightenment.