Stanley Kubrick’s List of Top 10 Films (The First and Only List He Ever Created)

Kubrick Directing

When, over the past weekend, I noticed the words “Stanley Kubrick” had risen into Twitter’s trending-topics list, I got excited. I figured someone had discovered, in the back of a long-neglected studio vault, the last extant print of a Kubrick masterpiece we’d somehow all forgotten. No suck luck, of course; Kubrick scholars, given how much they still talk about even the auteur’s never-realized projects like Napoleon, surely wouldn’t let an entire movie slip into obscurity. The burst of tweets actually came in honor of Kubrick’s 85th birthday, and hey, any chance to celebrate a director whose filmography includes the likes of Dr. StrangeloveThe Shining, and 2001: A Space Odyssey, I’ll seize. The British Film Institute marked the occasion by posting a little-seen list of Kubrick’s top ten films.

“The first and only (as far as we know) Top 10 list Kubrick submitted to anyone was in 1963 to a fledgling American magazine named Cinema (which had been founded the previous year and ceased publication in 1976),” writes the BFI’s Nick Wrigley. It runs as follows:

1. I Vitelloni (Fellini, 1953)
2. Wild Strawberries (Bergman, 1957)
3. Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941)
4. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (Huston, 1948)
5. City Lights (Chaplin, 1931)
6. Henry V (Olivier, 1944)
7. La notte (Antonioni, 1961)
8. The Bank Dick (Fields, 1940—above)
9. Roxie Hart (Wellman, 1942)
10. Hell’s Angels (Hughes, 1930)

But seeing as Kubrick still had 36 years to live and watch movies after making the list, it naturally provides something less than the final word on his preferences. Wrigley quotes Kubrick confidant Jan Harlan as saying that “Stanley would have seriously revised this 1963 list in later years, though Wild Strawberries, Citizen Kane and City Lights would remain, but he liked Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V much better than the old and old-fashioned Olivier version.” He also quotes Kubrick himself as calling Max Ophuls the “highest of all” and “possessed of every possible quality,” calling Elia Kazan “without question the best director we have in America,” and praising heartily David Lean, Vittorio de Sica, and François Truffaut. This all comes in handy for true cinephiles, who can never find satisfaction watching only the filmmakers they admire; they must also watch the filmmakers the filmmakers they admire admire.

Related Content:

Stanley Kubrick’s Very First Films: Three Short Documentaries

Terry Gilliam: The Difference Between Kubrick (Great Filmmaker) and Spielberg (Less So)

Napoleon: The Greatest Movie Stanley Kubrick Never Made

535 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc.

 

Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on literature, film, cities, Asia, and aesthetics. He’s at work on a book about Los AngelesA Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.


by | Permalink | Comments (13) |

  • Dr. Sideshow

    “2001: A Space Oddity”?!

  • Leon

    Love the last sentence. And it’s true, you always wonder what an amazing director like Kubrick thought of other movies. I’m not really surprised by his picks though. You can expect Wells, Bergman, Fellini, and Antonioni in just about every directors top ten. They were just that influential. I would have liked to look at the revised version though. What Truffaut movie did he like best? I guess we will never know.

  • Abe Simpson

    Let’s not forget, shortly before his death he called Eraserhead his favorite movie.

  • Rain,adustbowlstory

    I get all of them on the list except Sierra Madre. I mean, it’s a brilliantly done movie. I’m just not sure we learn much more from it than that people are greedy and identities easily eroded?

  • Jim Smith

    The one that surprises me is Branagh over Olivier. Larry’s Henry V may look somewhat stilted now, but his vision was remarkable, even though he was hampered by the material limitations of war-torn Britain in ’43-’44 (it’s amazing enough that he was able to manage Technicolor production). Branagh is extremely overrated as a filmmaker, and now that he’s outgrown the “boy wonder” panache, there’s little serious mention of his Shakespeare films any more.

  • Morgan Yam

    He also admired, oddly enough, Albert Brooks’ MODERN ROMANCE, which Kubrick called “the best film ever made about jealousy.” He then went on to make EYES WIDE SHUT — also about jealousy — and perhaps his worst film.

  • http://mindtherant.blogspot.com/ MindTheRant

    Sorry, the *real* puzzler here is “Roxie Hart”. I’ve got the movie on DVD and bought it for my daughter because its source material is the same as that used for the Broadway musical “Chicago”, whose soundtrack she was addicted to for a while. “Roxie Hart” isn’t a bad movie by any means … if nothing else it demonstrates that Ginger Rogers didn’t need Fred Astaire to carry a story. But a submission for a Top 10 list? Instead of, say, “It Happened One Night” or “Rear Window” or “The 400 Blows”? Good lord.

  • Harry Overcoat

    He told Richard Rush that FREEBIE and the BEAN was one of his favorite movies.

  • geo whets

    The Bank Dick?? I can’t disagrees but I also don’t expect to see that on anyone else’s list.

  • geo whets

    Rain,a,dust bowl story. Another somebody that wants a “MESSAGE MOVIE” I hate messages ! I just want entertainment.

  • Arthur H Tafero

    I agree with seven of the ten; but I would replace three with Lawrence of Arabia, Cinema Paradiso and Lost Horizon. See my “2000 of the Best Films of All Time – 2014 Edition” published by Amazon.com for more.

    Arthur H Tafero
    askmrmovies.com

  • Don

    Good list, except that I would add “Paths of Glory” and maybe “Dr. Strangelove” and maybe “2001”

  • Marcello La Gala

    Barry Lyndon?

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