James Gunn’s Favorite Movies: 12 Films the Director Wants You to See

"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," "The Long Goodbye," and "Jaws" are among the favorites of the "Guardians of the Galaxy" director and current DC Studios head.
(Clockwise from bottom left): "Hail the Conquering Hero," "Jackie Brown," James Gunn, "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," and "In the Mood for Love"
(Clockwise from bottom left): "Hail the Conquering Hero," "Jackie Brown," James Gunn, "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," and "In the Mood for Love"
Courtesy Everett Collection/Getty Images

It’s not everyday that a director becomes a CEO, but James Gunn has somehow become the dark avenger that DC needs. Along with his producing partner Peter Safran, Gunn was appointed to the co-CEO position at Warner Bros. Discovery’s DC Studios in October 2022, with the objective of crafting a new strategy for films based on the company’s stable of comic book icons like Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman.

That’s a massive shift of Hollywood power players and a career boost for anyone, although Gunn evidently doesn’t plan to leave the director’s chair anytime soon. He’s all hands on deck for writing and directing the first film under his and Safran’s regime, “Superman: Legacy.” The forthcoming blockbuster — a reboot for the Superman franchise focusing on the early days of the Kyrptonian’s career — is set for release on June 11, 2025.

Considering Gunn’s career trajectory, it’s a rather surreal sight to see him get handed the keys to the DC kingdom. The St. Louis born filmmaker got his start in the ’90s as a screenwriter for Troma Entertainment, the low budget black comedy studio; his first credit was as a writer for the iconically named Shakespeare retelling “Tromeo and Juliet.”

Early on he demonstrated an interest in superheroics with the screenplay for future “Last of Us” showrunner Craig Mazin’s low-budget spoof on the genre, “The Specials,” and he made a venture into more mainstream fare with scripts for Zack Snyder’s “Dawn of the Dead” and the “Scooby-Doo” films (though his initial script for that Hanna Barbara adaptation was much raunchier than the final result.)

When Gunn leapt into directing it was via the horror comedy “Slither” and the dark comic book parody “Super;” his other projects, like web series “James Gunn’s PG Porn” and the raunchy hack-and-slash video game “Lollipop Chainsaw,” demonstrated a similar subversive streak.

Gunn’s career eventually lead him to making a big-budget comic book adaptation. But instead of joining the DC team, he went to Marvel. In a nice synergy of director and subject, the film he signed onto was adapting a more obscure, wackier group of characters from Marvel Comics than seen before in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: the Guardians of the Galaxy, a squad of space traveling-heroes including a talking tree and a wisecracking raccoon.

Released in 2014, the first “Guardians of the Galaxy” was critically acclaimed and embraced by fans as a refreshing change of pace for the sometimes samey-MCU, turning the characters into beloved A-list players and Gunn into one of the most respected directors in the Marvel Studios stable. It, and the 2017 “Vol. 2” sequel, also made a boatload of money.

Then, after right wing online personalities unearthed old offensive joke tweets from Gunn in response to his criticism of Donald Trump, Disney fired Gunn from third “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie. He apologized for his old jokes, and the cast of the movies (Chris Pratt, Karen Gillan, Dave Bautista, and Zoe Saldana, among others) offered their support, and Gunn was eventually rehired.

That brief fall from grace ended up opening all new opportunities for Gunn, and paved the way to his leadership at DC. Warner Bros. scooped him up shortly after he was fired, and the director went on to make “The Suicide Squad” feature film in 2021 and a spinoff HBO Max show “Peacemaker” the next year, receiving positive reviews for both. That said, Gunn remained true to his intentions to finish the story he told in the “Guardians” films, with “Vol. 3” now doubling as his big goodbye from Marvel in general.

A common criticism lobbed at studio heads and CEOs from fans is that they don’t actually care about movies or cinema. Love or hate his films, it’s hard to argue that that sentiment applies to Gunn. The films he’s listed as his favorites go past the superhero fare he’s know most associated with, revealing a respectably deep knowledge of the medium in general. Modern classics like “In the Mood For Love” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” are among the movies he’s proclaimed to be among the best of all time, along with canonical classics like “The Godfather Part II” and some intriguing offbeat picks like Preston Sturges’ comedy “Hail the Concurring Hero.”

Here are 12 films Gunn has argued are the best of the best.

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