We live in an era where everything must be quantified and catalogued, and part of that is with an endless series of lists (which turns us all into the John Cusack character in “High Fidelity“). It’s common these days for filmmakers, especially those as obsessed with movies as most critics, to release lists at the end of the year, or if a new movie is coming out and they want to talk about their influences, to describe the handful of films that might have been most impactful. But someone who seemingly never made a list, despite his obsessively organizational habits, was Stanley Kubrick. On the occasion of what would have been the filmmaker’s 85th birthday, Nick Wrigley, with the help of Jan Harlan, Kubrick’s producer and brother-in-law, have uncovered the director’s list of top 10 films (the first and only list he ever created, seemingly). What did one of the greatest directors of all time think were the greatest films of all time?
Keep in mind that the list was submitted to a fledging movie magazine called Cinema way back in 1963 (the magazine ceased publication in 1976), so it’s possible that this list would have been very different decades later. Still, it’s a fascinating peek at what Kubrick loved. The list follows:
1.) “I Vitelloni” (Fellini, 1953)
2.) “Wild Strawberries” (Bergman, 1957)
3.) “Citizen Kane” (Welles, 1941)
4.) “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” (Huston, 1948)
5.) “City Lights” (Chaplin, 1931)
6.) “Henry V” (Olivier, 1944)
7.) “La Notte” (Antonioni, 1961)
8.) “The Bank Dick” (Fields, 1940)
9.) “Roxie Hart” (Wellman, 1942)
10.) “Hell’s Angels” (Hughes, 1930)
And while, in some respects, it’s a fairly standard list, without any noticeably oddball choices for a director well-respected for his wide range of taste, it’s still the work of a relatively young filmmaker and, again, we would have loved to have seen the same list but twenty years later. It’s interesting to note how recently some of these movies had been released—”La Notte,” for instance, came out just two years before Kubrick compiled this list. And already it became one of his all time faves. When Kubrick knew, he knew.
Of course, Kubrick was always taking notes about what he loved, and Harlan has helped Wrigley make a list of some more of his favorites (which include everything from “Harold and Maude” to “Freebie and the Bean” to “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre“). Where do your tastes overlap with one of cinema’s masters?