Some Favorite Directors’ Favorite Films

I’m not one of those film people who can tell you who the cinematographer was on On The Waterfront or who most influenced Truffaut. When it comes to knowledge of movie history, I’m semi-rubbish (a friend of mine once left the dinner table when I admitted I had never seen one of the most famous and most well-regarded films of all time). I can do the whole rap at the end of The Revenge of the Nerds and all of Jeff Spicoli’s dialogue, but sadly, my expertise ends there. I do, however, love film and whether it is an exceptional documentary, a classic or a Seth Rogen vehicle, I am always excited about seeing something that my friends love. The movies I love best usually contain a breathtaking female performance (The Reader, Sophie’s Choice, Klute), as the genius of a creative woman inspires me in all areas of my life. This week, I asked five brilliant directors (four of whom I have worked with, and one who I worship) to share their top five DVD rental picks. Their choices range from the serious to the whimsical to everything in between.


Steven Spielberg's Favorite Movies

Steven Spielberg is a pretty good director, you might have heard of him. When I was 17 he asked me to be in Hook [his film about Peter Pan] one night when we were all driving to a movie. They made me a custom wig and I only had one line! Filming that scene was one of the best, most memorable days of my life.

Steven says: These are not necessarily my all-time favorite films….but good choices to rent and enjoy!

Wes Anderson's Favorite Movies

Wes Anderson directed Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, etc. He is one of the most specific directors I have ever worked with. When I played Margot in The Royal Tenenbaums, he knew exactly how he wanted my hair, clothes, and eye makeup. He is so inspiring to work with because you feel like you are the one crazy, important color he needs to create the whole picture. Also, he is a great dresser.

  • Terror's Advocate

    Terror's Advocate

    Barbet Schroeder’s great documentary, Terror’s Advocate, also relates to another one I would highly recommend, which is Marcel Ophüls’ documentary Hôtel Terminus (except I think you can only get it on VHS). There is kind of a miniature version of Terror’s Advocate in the middle of it.

  • Neon Genesis Evangelion

    Neon Genesis Evangelion

    This is a Japanese cartoon that is very difficult to describe and might not sound that great if I tried anyway. It is 24 episodes, and we watched them all in less than a week because you start to want to believe it’s real. This could spawn something like Scientology.

  • From the Life of Marionettes

    From the Life of Marionettes

    I’d never heard of this until last month. It’s an Ingmar Bergman movie he made in Germany where I think he was a tax exile.

  • Life Lessons

    Life Lessons

    The Martin Scorsese part of New York Stories. It’s about a painter.

  • Missing


    More or less anything that says The Criterion Collection across the top it. The most recent one I had never seen before and loved was Costa-Gavras’ Missing.

Jon Favreau's Favorite Movies

Jon Favreau and I met when we both had bit parts in Dorothy Parker and the Vicious Circle about 15 years ago. He then went on to write and star in Swingers and become an incredible filmmaker. We reconnected when he asked me to be in Iron Man. Jon is not only a confident filmmaker, he is deeply calm and funny. I can’t wait to start Iron Man 2 in two weeks and hang out with him every day.

  • Seven Samurai

    Seven Samurai

    Kurosawa’s masterpiece. A real study in storytelling and cinematography. Remade into The Magnificent Seven and later Roger Corman’s The Last Starfighter. Three hours and you never check your watch.

  • Kung Fu Panda

    Kung Fu Panda

    My seven-year-old son said Iron Man was his second favorite film last year. This one was his first.

  • Top Chef Boxed Set

    Top Chef Boxed Set

    I downloaded the whole series, and the L.A.-to-Europe flight was over before I knew it.

  • Visions of Light

    Visions of Light

    A wonderful overview of the history of cinematography with a who’s who of interviews and great clips in context. Perhaps my favorite documentary. I watch it every few years.

  • Westworld


    Directed by Michael Crichton. Great concept. Great violence. Yul Brenner created the paradigm for Jason and the Terminator.

James Gray's Favorite Movies

James Gray is a beautiful, unique filmmaker. He DOES know everything about everything that ever happened in film. He loves actors so much that he bursts into laughter if he loves what you did in a take. I did Two Lovers with him and it was one of the best artistic experiences of my life. Also, he made his famous pasta sauce for me in my trailer on my last day.

  • Rocco and His Brothers

    Rocco and His Brothers

    This is a beautiful movie that takes its time but comes to a full boil and devastates. Luchino Visconti’s 1960 epic details the tragedies of an Italian family that migrates from Italy’s agrarian south to its industrialized north.

  • The 400 Blows

    The 400 Blows

    Francois Truffaut’s classic about the struggles and joys of youth. Tender and unforgettable.

  • Singin’ In The Rain

    Singin’ In The Rain

    Pure joy. Film’s transition from the silents to sound with an acrobatic Gene Kelly leading the way.

  • The Godfather/The Godfather Part Tw

    The Godfather/The Godfather Part Tw

    Yes, two movies, not one—I’m not cheating. These two classics are impossible to separate, bound together by story, cast, theme, look, and greatness.

  • Tokyo Story

    Tokyo Story

    Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu’s magnificent picture about how we disrespect our elders. So moving it becomes almost unbearable; a transcendent experience.

Sofia Coppola's Favorite Movies

Sofia Coppola makes some of my favorite movies. When I saw The Virgin Suicides, I felt something I hadn’t really felt before in that she captured the light and texture of youth so perfectly that it swept me away. I have never worked with her but I thought it would be cool to hear her picks, as she is not only incredibly talented, but a woman as well!