The Safdies’ Favorite Movies: 20 Films Josh and Benny Want You to See

The "Uncut Gems" directors' Sight & Sound ballots reflect a wide range of cinematic influences.
Josh and Benny Safdie Favorite Movies
(Clockwise from bottom left): "It's a Wonderful Life," "The French Connection," Josh and Benny Safdie, "Requieum for a Heavyweight," and "Goodfellas"
Courtesy Getty Images/Everett Collection

Few filmmakers embody the spirit of independent filmmaking better than Josh and Benny Safdie. The two brothers spent the first decade of their career making short films in New York City with nonexistent budgets, refusing to compromise their signature style in pursuit of more commercial opportunities. They eventually found a bit of success with the 2009 feature “Daddy Longlegs,” which played Cannes and Sundance before eventually winning them an Independent Spirit Awards. 

But what followed was a story that many indie filmmakers will be all too familiar with: the success didn’t translate to any other opportunities, and the Safdies were left exactly where they started. But they kept at it, making more short films and writing scripts until the opportunity to make “Good Time” with Robert Pattinson materialized in 2017. The A24 film about a man spending a chaotic night in New York after a failed robbery plays out like the most twisted version of Martin Scorsese’s “After Hours” imaginable, and sent a clear signal to the world that the Safdies were artists worth paying attention to.

“Good Time” paved the way for “Uncut Gems,” the film that launched the Safdies into the indie film stratosphere. The Adam Sandler gambling thriller became A24’s highest grossing film at the time, and pulled off the remarkable feat of turning an NBA game that had already taken place into gripping cinema. Now the sky appears to be the limit for the two brothers, and their next untitled Adam Sandler movie is one of the most anticipated projects on the indie film horizon. 

The Safdie Brothers have clearly followed in the footsteps of great New York filmmakers like Scorsese and John Cassavetes, and their recent ballots for Sight & Sound’s 2022 Greatest Films of All Time Poll featured some predictably gritty New York classics. But they also voted for plenty of wild cards, proving that their unique aesthetic was influenced by their extremely well-rounded knowledge of film history. 

Their ballots provide a fascinating look into the art that shaped two singular filmmakers. Keep reading to see the 20 films that Josh and Benny Sadfie singled out as their favorite movies of all time. 

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