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Your Favorite Director's Favorite Films

Teen heartache, anime and Elizabeth Taylor facing off with the angel of death — these are the projects that inspired our favorite movie makers.

This article originally appeared on i-D Magazine.

Your favorite films are the sum of many parts. Yes, the imaginations of the writers, actors and directors who made them, but also the lifetime of influences each have absorbed. Understanding the films these auteurs hold close can lend another dimension to their work. To honor the greats behind the greats, and offer a new level of enjoyment to our own favorite movies, we're looking at the films that inspired our favorite filmmakers.


Sofia Coppola

Sofia has always worn her heart — or at least her references — on her sleeves. Much has been made of the music and fashion that she employs as a part of her story telling. But not surprisingly for a woman who grew up in one of American cinema's greatest film dynasties, she has a long list of favorite flicks that feed into her work. When she accepted her Academy Award for Lost in Translation in 2004 she even shouted out Michelangelo Antonioni, Wong Kar-Wai, Bob Fosse and Jean-Luc Godard for inspiring her.

But her treatment of the inner lives of teenagers is perhaps what she's best known for; she's flagged 1983's Rumble Fish and John Hughes' 1986 classic Pretty in Pink as drawing her into these worlds through film.

Wes Anderson

The reference section of Wes Anderson's films could fill a whole library, as he collects banks and banks of inspiration for each project — but the film fanboy has a few extra special favorites. He's directly credited the 1971 British coming-of-age movie Melody as inspiring Moonrise Kingdom and identified Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel as his all time hero. He once claimed to think about Buñuel daily, and called his 1962 film The Exterminating Angel his personal number one pick.

In terms of his distinct aesthetic, he looked in a less whimsical direction than you might imagine. Speaking to Rotten Tomatoes about A Clockwork Orange he reflected, "It's a movie that's very particularly designed and, you know, conjures up this world that you've never seen quite this way in a movie before."


Hayao Miyazaki

The famously private and studious filmmaker isn't one to spend hours shooting the breeze about what's on his Netflix queue. But he has pointed to Toei Animation's 1958 animation The Tale Of The White Serpent (or Hakujaden) as the movie that inspired him to become an animator. Miyazaki saw the film — which is also Japanese's first feature-length, color anime — in high school. Years later her remembered: "it was as if the scales fell from my eyes; I realized that I should depict the honesty and goodness of children in my work…With that as my starting point, I have spent the last 20 years trying to do this."

Harmony Korin

While all the creatives mentioned so far have taken inspiration from far and wide, Harmony's list of favorites is a particularly mixed bag. His top list, which he also made for Rotten Tomatoes, swings between Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lees sex tape to James Fargo's Every Which Way But Loose. He praised the former for being underrated, and the later for showing an orangutan drink a can of beer. But when commenting on Hector Babenco's Pixote he was more direct, simply calling it, "My favorite film of all time."

Jordan Peele

To get technical, Get Out, his own directorial debut, is Jordan Peele's favorite movie, as he said it was the film he always wanted to watch but couldn't find. But the horror fan has a few other recommendations that informed his breakout hit. Speaking to USA Today he points to Kathy Bates' villain in Misery as standing out to him, noting: "Misery is a movie where the unlikely villain turns out to be the scariest."

He also commented that the experience of Chris, his Get Out protagonist, was partially modeled on Rosemary's Baby and the original Stepford Wives films which both saw women face off against villainous men. He figured if he could identify with these female characters, any audience member could step into Chris' shoes. "The fact that those movies work for me, a man, so well is proof to me that people could just experience the world through Chris' eyes for an hour and a half," he noted.


David Lynch

David lynch is such a movie lover it might be quicker to list the classic films that haven't served as a least passing influence for him. Although even he has a few special favorites he returns to. Speaking to Open Culture he named Billy Wilder's films as standouts, especially the classic Sunset Boulevard. "I've watched it over and over. I loved the world Billy Wilder created," he mused.

Elaborating on the film to Indie Wire he added, "The Hollywood he describes in the film probably never existed, but he makes us believe it did, and he immerses us in it, like a dream." Sounds very Lynchian to us.

John Waters

While most of the films and directors mentioned so far have been creative giants, not all filmmakers are inspired by greatness. Chatting to VICE in 2015, John Waters elaborated on his love of terrible cinema. His favorite wrecks? Joan Crawford's last film, the heartbreakingly cheesy and low-rent Trog and the Elizabeth Taylor vehicle Boom. Impressively the only other fan of Boom — for the record, which is about richest woman in the world and the angel of death — was Tenessee Williams. The playwright wrote the text the film was based on, and reportedly thought the cinema adaptation was the best film ever made.