Darren Aronofsky’s Favorite Movies: 10 Films the Director Wants You to See

The "Requiem for a Dream" director recommends Miloš Forman's "Amadeus," the Talking Heads concert film "Stop Making Sense," and more.
Darren Aronofsky's Favorite Movies: "Do the Right Thing," "Stop Making Sense," "West Side Story," and "Full Metal Jacket"
(Clockwise from bottom left): "Do the Right Thing," "Stop Making Sense," Darren Aronofosky, "West Side Story," and "Full Metal Jacket"
Courtesy Everett Collection

Few filmmakers from the past quarter century embody the indie filmmaking dream better than Darren Aronofsky. After bursting onto the scene with his microbudget debut feature “Pi” in 1998, he has gradually made his way through bigger and bigger projects without compromising his signature worldview. From Oscar-winning prestige dramas like “Black Swan” and “The Whale” to blockbusters such as “Noah,” Aronofsky is the rare director who has found ways to bend every level of the film industry ecosystem to his personal style at one point or another. 

His eclectic career has seen him work in a variety of genres, from esoteric sci-fi dramas and psychological thrillers to full on Biblical epics. But after a quarter century, it’s increasingly easy to look back and examine the themes that Aronofsky keeps returning to. His films frequently feature deep dives into the complexities of the human mind, examining the way obsessions and addictions can convince people that it’s possible to create order out of chaos. In an almost paradoxical sense, he appears to be equally interested in the mathematically precise realities of the real world and the esoteric symbolism of dreams. That scientific approach to crafting his characters’ psyches gives him a strong artistic foundation for any genre he chooses to dabble in. 

Aronofsky has also established himself as one of Hollywood’s most successful directors of actors, as his cast members frequently go on to award season glory after working with him. Aronofsky helped revive Mickey Rourke’s career (and earned him his first Oscar nomination) by casting him in “The Wrestler” in 2008. Soon after, Natalie Portman won an Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role for her nightmarish performance as an obsessive ballerina in “Black Swan.” And of course, Brendan Fraser completed his comeback when he won Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role for playing a 600lb man in Aronofsky’s “The Whale.”

Aronofsky has been known to take inspiration from a variety of non-film influences, namely literature and theatre. But make no mistake — he’s also a serious cinephile. Over the years he has spoken out about the movies that have shaped him, from complex genre films to more muted character studies. Taken as a whole, his favorite movies paint a clear picture of the ideas that shaped him. Keep reading for 10 of Darren Aronofsky’s favorite films. 

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