This Is Spinal Tap
Along with The Producers (the original), this film makes me laugh the loudest and the longest. Every scene is totally hilarious, and so many of the gags are now classic—the amplifier that “goes to 11”; “It’s okay—Boston’s not a big college town”; and “Yes, I could sell hats —what size are you?”
Ace in the Hole
I heard this film was the biggest flop of Billy Wilder’s career. It’s too bad, because I think it’s his best. I saw it on TV at the age of fifteen, when it was called The Big Carnival and I realized this is what film could be.
This is Terry Gilliam’s classic—his best film. The music, the visuals, the fantasy, the dark surrealism. It all works to make a haunting masterpiece. A bit of trivia: the hero’s boss, H. Kurtzman, is named after Harvey Kurtzman, the originator of Mad magazine, and Terry’s boss at Help magazine.
The Third Man
Carol Reed’s classic Iron Curtain murder-mystery—very dark, very visual and gritty. And of course, the famous zither music is perfect.
The Horse’s Mouth
Alec Guinness at his peak, as a mad, misanthropic artist living on a houseboat. Very funny satire on the “art” industry.
The Wages of Fear
Another very dark, cynical film that keeps you sweating all the way through. The most horrific film I’ve ever seen, right up there with Jaws.
The Bank Dick
A lot of my critics say my films lack strong, concise storylines. They complain that they ramble—I say, look at all the W.C. Fields classics; that’s his trademark. He goes off on these crazy, hilarious tangents that make no sense whatsoever. And that’s what makes this film so much more interesting and screwball.
Beauty and the Beast
I saw this film in college, and I’ve never been the same since. It’s a bit slow in parts, but the imagery is so surreal and magical that I copied the look many times in some of my own films. The art direction is a masterpiece.
Rémy Belvaux, André Bonzel, and Benoit Poelvoorde
Man Bites Dog
One of the most cynical films ever made, a French mockumentary about a serial killer with the complicity of a camera crew—hilarious, the darkest of humor..
Jacques Tati is one of my heroes, and this film, I believe, is his best. It parodies the influence of modern architecture and design in the late 50s. Also, Mr. Tati used just the visuals to tell a story and make people laugh. Very deadpan. I also generally discard dialogue to make the imagery carry the plot and humor.
D. A. Pennebaker’s Top 10
Filmmaker D. A. Pennebaker (Dont Look Back, Monterey Pop, The War Room) and Chris Hegedus (The War Room, Startup.com), creative partners and husband and wife, offer these favorites.
Tom Schnabel’s Top 10
Music director at Los Angeles’s KCRW radio station, Tom Schnabel started the daily program Morning Becomes Eclectic in the 1980s, first bringing world music to U.S. radio with such artists as Buena Vista Social Club, Ravi Shankar, and Caetano Velos…
Alex Ross Perry’s Top 10
“I have been collecting Criterion Collection DVDs almost as long as I have owned a DVD player,” writes Alex Ross Perry, the director of Impolex (2009), The Color Wheel (2011), and Listen Up Philip (2014).
James Schamus’s Top 10
James Schamus is the former CEO of Focus Features; the producer of, among other films, Ride with the Devil (1999) and Brokeback Mountain (2005); the screenwriter and producer of The Ice Storm (1997); and a professor of professional practice at Columb…