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Ari Aster’s Favorite Movies: 34 Films the Director Wants You to See

The "Midsommar" writer/director is back in April 2023 with "Beau Is Afraid," starring Joaquin Phoenix. Here's a look at some of Aster's favorite films.

Ari Aster's Favorite Movies

(Clockwise from bottom left): “Defending Your Life,” “Apur Sansar,” Ari Aster, “Black Narcissus,” and “Come and See”

Courtesy Everett Collection/Getty Images

[Editor’s note: The following list was originally published in June 2018 and has been updated multiple times since.]

It’s been more than three years since Ari Aster unleashed the skull-cracking terror of “Midsommar” unto unsuspecting audiences. The writer/director’s sophomore outing from 2019 — a cult film starring Florence Pugh that’s best remembered for its fiery finale and lush production design — echoed and exploded the finesse of his first: a nasty and spare possession flick starring a career-best Toni Collette and the dauntless Alex Wolff and Milly Shapiro.

Aster’s breakout feature debut “Hereditary” turned the writer/director into one of the hottest indie filmmakers of 2018. Formerly known for his stomach-churning short “The Strange Thing About the Johnsons,” the AFI graduate became the face of A24’s burgeoning art house of horrors just as his work came to shape the so-called “elevated horror” moment of the late 2010s. It’s a fitting arc for a filmmaker who has described a lifelong love affair with the horror genre. But you can tell while watching the two indie terrors that Aster is an avid cinephile writ large: as technically inspired by the intricate set design of films such as Julien Duvivier’s “Panique” as he is artistically inspired by the boundless despair of Kenji Mizoguchi’s “Sansho the Bailiff.”

Hitting theaters April 21, Aster’s third film “Beau Is Afraid” star Joaquin Phoenix and is set to inject surrealist comedy into the horror auteur’s typically punishing perspective. The film’s synopsis reads: “A paranoid man embarks on an epic odyssey to get home to his mother in this bold and ingeniously depraved new film.” It’s worth noting Aster’s 2011 short film “Beau” told the similar (at least, seemingly similar) story of “a neurotic middle-aged man’s trip (to visit his mother) is delayed indefinitely when his keys are mysteriously taken from his door.” The beguiling trailer features high-speed dream sequences, brilliant use of Supertramp’s “Goodbye Stranger,” and standout moments from Amy Ryan and Nathan Lane.

Whether you’re killing time between now and April — or looking for clues as to what inspired Aster’s sumptuously strange latest — here are 34 films the A24 writer/director recommends. From the works of Ingmar Bergman to Mike Leigh, these are some of Ari Aster’s favorite movies (listed in no particular order).

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