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Check Out This List of the Films and Directors That Influenced Stanley Kubrick

08.13.13 @ 6:17PM Tags : , , , , , ,

young kubrickThis year, Stanley Kubrick would have turned 85. Since his death in 1999, collaborators and family members have come forward to shed light on the inner workings of one of cinema’s great directors, and the films and directors that he loved and that served as his own film school. The BFI has published a great list of Kubrick’s favorite films, influences, and an interview with his long-time producer Jan Harlan, and it’s required reading for any student of cinema. Click below to see which directors and films influenced one of the greatest directors himself!


Unlike, say, Martin Scorsese, who is a true evangelist for cinema and would probably talk to you for an hour about John Huston if you bumped into him in the street, Kubrick was a more private person, who spent most of his time working or with his family.

But he loved movies passionately (I think that goes without saying,) and we can glean a lot from looking back at what he said over the years. The British Film Institute’s Nick Wrigley sat down with Jan Harlan for an exhaustive interview about Kubrick’s influences, an interview Harlan agreed to mostly because he was relieved that someone wanted to talk to him about something about than Kubrick’s own films.

One of Kubrick’s earliest influences was Max Ophüls, the German born director of such films as La Ronde, who he credited with teaching him, among other things, the importance and use of camera movement. (And it’s worth noting that La Ronde was an adaptation of a play by Arthur Schnitzler, whose novella Traumnovelle Kubrick would adapt into Eyes Wide Shut decades later.) Of Ophüls, Kubrick said:

Highest of all I would rate Max Ophüls, who for me possessed every possible quality. He has an exceptional flair for sniffing out good subjects, and he got the most out of them. He was also a marvellous director of actors.

Kubrick was also quoted as saying:

I believe Bergman, De Sica and Fellini are the only three filmmakers in the world who are not just artistic opportunists. By this I mean they don’t just sit and wait for a good story to come along and then make it. They have a point of view which is expressed over and over and over again in their films, and they themselves write or have original material written for them.

A point of view, expressed throughout a body of work, is something Kubrick could relate to, given that his films feature many of the same themes, such as dehumanization, the inability to plan in the face of a contingent universe, and the seductive dangers of power.

In 1999, shortly after his death, his daughter, Katharina, gave a partial list of some his favorites.

The BFI article also contains a master list of even more films that Kubrick was influenced by and loved, including Manhattan (he saw “every Woody Allen film.”) Since one of the best ways to learn about making movies is by watching movies, then watching the films that inspired and brought joy to one of the greatest American directors can’t help but be instructive.

What do you think? Are you surprised by any of the films on this list? What influences do you see in Kubrick’s work? Are you, as an indie filmmaker, influenced by Kubrick in any way? Let us know!

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  • Woop! First comment! :)
    that some of those movies on the list I’ve also seen is quite profound in itself. I mean, to have experienced the same thing and been moved in similar ways already connects us to this man (and our peers) not only as an audience of art but as creatives partaking in the creative process where both life experience (infinitely varying) and individual works (films) drive inspiration and hopefully for all of us if not some, manifests in sone wicked ass short film!!

  • I love that he has The Spirit of The Beehive” on that list…..I believe he has also mentioned something about Tarkovsky’s work and how much he admired it as well. It’s always great hearing information about one of the greats like Kubrick. Thanks NoFilmSchool!.

  • Tarkovsky was a master of long takes, SciFi and visual surrealism … that’s, at least, three things they had in common.

  • Kubrick is a massive influence for me. Pull a still from almost any shot in his movies post-Spartacus and hang it on your wall, it’s truly that gorgeous.

    To add another film onto his list, he was very fond of Eraserhead – apparently it was his ‘favorite film’ when he first saw it.

    Side note… does anyone find it bewildering when you hear Kubrick speak? I expect a somber, calculated speech from such a perfectionist and revered intellectual figure… but he sounds like the most ordinary person in the world. Odd.

    • What about “Paths of Glory,” the film he made right before Spartacus? I too am a huge fan of Kubrick, and while everything from Lolita on could be considered a masterpiece, you can’t in any way discount Paths of Glory.

  • By the way, if Justin, V. Renee or other NFS regulars want to do a piece on Andrey Tarkovsky, whose films frequently appear on the various “greatest” lists, I can assist with the links. Most of them have been uploaded on YouTube in their entirety by their copyright holder Mosfilm (in Russian, with English subtitles).

  • Ooof, you guys are behind a few days on this one. ;) I just watched TORA TORA TORA last night, and though it great. Watched CRIES AND WHISPERS and didn’t like it, didn’t get it. Might take another viewing to figure it out.

  • Rodrigo Menck on 08.14.13 @ 10:26AM

    Where is Eraserhead?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eraserhead
    (see note 74)

  • White man can’t jump
    is interesting
    he was into ping pong though

    I think he was inspired by Orson Welles’s wide angled movies big time.

  • Ha, White Men Can’t Jump?

  • blackespresso on 08.14.13 @ 5:41PM

    “White Men Can’t Jump” definitely took me by surprise

  • Jack Torrance on 08.15.13 @ 12:30PM

    It’s probable Kubrick, like every film enthusiast, changed his tastes over time. Kubrick wrote a letter in 1960 to Ingmar Bergman, stating “You are the greatest filmmaker at work today”, and so Bergman’s absence from this list is conspicuous.

    http://www.lettersofnote.com/2011/07/you-are-greatest-film-maker-at-work.html

    As said above, Kubrick invited friends to his house for a private screening of his “favorite film”, which turned out to be “Eraserhead”.

    Too bad Kubrick didn’t get a chance to see “Battle Royale” — THAT would be on this list for sure.

    • Alex DeLarge on 08.16.13 @ 4:59AM

      Jack,
      from the link, “As Harlan told me: “Stanley would have seriously revised this 1963 list in later years, though Wild Strawberries(…) would remain (…)”

      “I believe Bergman, De Sica and Fellini are the only three filmmakers in the world who are not just artistic opportunists.” – Our Director.

      Cries and Whispers – Ingmar Bergman, 1972
      Harlan: “He was very impressed and depressed by Cries and Whispers – he could barely finish it. I was with him.”

      Bergman is Bergman as Kubrick is Kubrick :)

  • Yeah, it’s a surprise, that Eraserhead was not on the list, because reportedly it was his favourite film at the time it was released. He got it for his home cinema in a 35mm print.

  • Justin Morrow on 09.4.13 @ 10:19PM

    It’s not in any way a definitive list, but there’s only so much space. The man loved movies, though, I think can be gainsaid.

  • Wasn´t William A. Wellman´s ROXIE HART the first of all Kubrick all time favorite films?

  • don’t forget Claudia Weill’s ‘Girlfriends’ (1978), which he described as one of the “very rare American films that I would compare with the serious, intelligent, sensitive writing and filmmaking that you find in the best directors in Europe.” and rightly so, it’s a very enjoyable film that plays on a modest scale (ps. what’s the use of this article if it features a condensation of a condensation..there’s more information in the linked article than this post)

  • Also, i read somewhere that he loved Bunuel’s “The Exterminating Angel” which is referenced in “Color Me Kubrick”…

  • Having watched “Dangerous Days”, i would also add Ridley Scott’s “Alien”.

  • “White Men Can’t Jump” took me by surprise too. But then again, Kubrick had a wide variety of influences that show in his films as well as a wide variety of scenarios: “Paths of Glory”, “Spartacus”, “Lolita”, “Dr. Strangelove”, “2001″, “Clockwork Orange”, “Full Metal Jacket”, “Wide Eyes Shot”, they’re all set in different times and environments, that one wonders where his ideas came from that made his movies so rich and unique, with a style of his own, without repeating himself. He saw things in movies that we didn’t. He had the “Kubrick eye”.

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