Orson Welles Names His 10 Favorite Films: From Chaplin’s City Lights to Ford’s Stagecoach

I hope Orson Welles got used to see­ing his name on top-ten-films-of-all-time lists. He became a main­stay as soon as crit­i­cal con­sen­sus declared his debut Cit­i­zen Kane prob­a­bly the most impor­tant motion pic­ture ever made, and some cinephiles give spe­cial notice to his sub­se­quent works, such as The Lady from Shang­hai, Touch of EvilF for Fake, and — for true con­trar­i­ans only — The Tri­al. So what does a man whose projects appear on so many top-ten lists from crit­ics and oth­er film­mak­ers alike put on his own?

“I don’t like cin­e­ma,” goes one per­haps-apoc­ryphal Welles quote. “I like mak­ing cin­e­ma.” (Some­times-heard vari­a­tion: “I don’t like cin­e­ma unless I shoot it.”) But even if he actu­al­ly said and believed that, he still man­aged to put togeth­er the fol­low­ing list of favorites in the ear­ly 1950s, about a decade after hav­ing entered the film­mak­ing game but with most of the cin­e­ma he would make still to come:

  1. City Lights (Char­lie Chap­lin)
  2. Greed (Erich von Stro­heim, 1924)
  3. Intol­er­ance (D.W. Grif­fith, 1916)
  4. Nanook of the North (Robert Fla­her­ty, 1992)
  5. Shoe Shine (Vit­to­rio De Sica, 1946)
  6. The Bat­tle­ship Potemkin (Sergei Eisen­stein, 1925)
  7. La Femme du Boulanger (Mar­cel Pag­nol, 1938)
  8. Grand Illu­sion (Jean Renoir, 1937)
  9. Stage­coach (John Ford, 1939)
  10. Our Dai­ly Bread (King Vidor, 1934)

If Cit­i­zen Kane opened up the pos­si­bil­i­ties of cin­e­ma — and to get an idea of just how much influ­ence it has had from its release to this day, sim­ply watch any film made before it — the pic­tures Welles puts onto his list, in large part a clas­si­cist’s even in the 50s, gave cin­e­ma its form in the first place. If you plan on doing a self-admin­is­tered course in film his­to­ry, you could do much worse than begin­ning with the favorite films of Orson Welles — then mov­ing on, of course, to the films of Orson Welles.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Lis­ten to Eight Inter­views of Orson Welles by Film­mak­er Peter Bog­danovich (1969–1972)

Dis­cov­er the Lost Films of Orson Welles

Watch Orson Welles’ The Stranger Free Online, Where 1940s Film Noir Meets Real Hor­rors of WWII

The Hearts of Age: Orson Welles’ Sur­re­al­ist First Film (1934)

Orson Welles Explains Why Igno­rance Was His Major “Gift” to Cit­i­zen Kane

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture as well as the video series The City in Cin­e­ma and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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