Harold and Maude
An early touchstone for me. One of the first art films that showed me at a young age what movies could be. They could make you laugh and also be super odd and eccentric, but there was still room for them to break your heart. It was a huge influence on Garden State. Two oddballs find love and strength within each other’s eccentricities, all set to the music of Cat Stevens. I love this movie.
This is my favorite Wes Anderson movie. He is obviously such an incredible visualist, and there was something about Max Fischer that I really related to—I always felt like an outcast, but I had a ton of ambition. It’s quite a feat to make something so visually arresting while also making you laugh and breaking your heart.
Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Well, I mean, come on. This is a masterpiece. I don’t know what to say that hasn’t already been said by many people way smarter than me, but it set a very high bar for brilliant satire, acting, cinematography, production design, everything.
Malick’s debut! So beautiful. I have the movie poster signed by the cast and the auteur himself.
Being John Malkovich
Spike Jonze is another genius visualist who knows how to stimulate your eyes while breaking your heart. This movie is so weird and beautiful. And what a script by Charlie Kaufman! They are both incredibly talented.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pitched something and said, “It’s like if Terry Gilliam directed ____.” I fell in love with this film and those of Jean-Pierre Jeunet while I was in film school at Northwestern. I would love more than anything to make a film with a Gilliam level of design and art.
I’ve never seen anything like this movie. It’s so sad and lonesome. The way it brilliantly captures despair and loneliness was an inspiration for Garden State. Julianne Moore is incomparably good in this.
The Last Picture Show
So beautiful. Is there anything more stunning than Cybill Shepherd in this movie? When I was at Northwestern I would watch this on laser disc on this tiny monitor in the library. I learned so much by listening to the commentary track.
Post-college malaise. The quarter-life crisis. Obviously another huge inspiration for Garden State. So beautifully acted and photographed and written and directed. As you can tell from my list, I love movies about lonely people finding people to make themselves feel a little less lonely. That look on both of their faces on the bus at the end . . .
The Ice Storm
I love everything about this film—the script’s tone, the color palette, the production design, the costumes. It’s beautifully directed by Ang Lee, and it’s interesting to me that he so richly captured this specific time period in America without having grown up here. He is a master filmmaker. As a young actor, I wanted so badly to be Tobey Maguire in this film. He was so good! I’ve yet to be invited to a key party.
Richard Ayoade’s Top 10
The British comedian, actor, writer, and director Richard Ayoade is best known for his starring role on the UK television series The IT Crowd and his successful directorial debut Submarine, which was released in the U.S. in 2011.
Alan Rudolph’s Top 10
Alan Rudolph is a pioneer in the American independent film movement. He has directed nineteen narrative features, including Trouble in Mind, The Secret Lives of Dentists, Afterglow, Choose Me, and his new film Ray Meets Helen.
Wendell B. Harris Jr.’s Top 10
The director of the award-winning indie classic Chameleon Street sings Orson Welles’s praises, pays tribute to Paul Robeson and Lorraine Hansberry, and reflects on his longtime dream of remaking Nightmare Alley.