Five Favorite Films with Joss Whedon

What did you do during your last vacation? Between the production and post-production of The Avengers, Joss Whedon decided to direct an adaptation of the Shakespearian rom-com-dram Much Ado About Nothing. Using a hand-picked cast from nearly every production he has ever been a part of, such as TV shows Dollhouse, Firefly, and Angel to name a few, he invited everyone over to his home, picked up a digital camera and some local cupcakes, and made a film. When we asked him about his Five Favorite Films, their influence on his work added another nuance to his numerous projects.


The Matrix (Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski, 1999; 87% Tomatometer)

It is storytelling that is so unexpected and brilliant as to seem inevitable, and that's the best kind. I wanted to put down my pencil and back away until I learned how to write when I saw this movie. Structurally, it's insanely sound. Everything that they're doing is visually ecstatic, and philosophically it could be studied for centuries. It contains every aspect of modern life and religion and philosophy and knows it, and they're doing something that is very deliberately very heady. But at the same time, when asked what is this movie about, their answer was "It's about kung fu versus robots." If it was just that, it would be on this list. But it's that and everything else.




Once Upon a Time in the West (Sergio Leone, 1968; 98% Tomatometer)

This one had beat out a couple contenders who were dueling for a long time on my list. It is as ecstatically cinematic as any western ever got. We're talking about a movie where the hero is so badass, he plays his own theme song. And not only that, he plays his own theme song for a reason that is devastating, that's revealed in flashback before the final gunfight. I mean, come on. The camera moves, the music, the utter ballsiness of it, the pace. The western exploded with this one. This came out the same year as The Wild Bunch, and they kind of put a stake in it -- that was it, we have gone as far as we can go in two very different directions. One is a lyrical opera, the other is an insane shoot em' up kind of nihilistic orgy. For me, the operatic is gonna win out, as you will see in the other films I am going to mention.




The Bad and the Beautiful (Vincent Minnelli, 1953; 95% Tomatometer)

I happen to have had a perfect experience in my life, and that was this movie. I was in college, and I was a projectionist and I was on the film council.

So you were really popular with the ladies, then?

Oh yeah, absolutely. "You wanna stroll downstairs and watch Soldier Blue at two in the morning? You don't? OK, bye." So I had to return a bunch of movies and take them to the post office. I realized I had a couple hours to kill, and I had never heard of the Bad and the Beautiful somehow, even by my senior year. I put it up and it was a brand new print. Not a scratch on it. When the opening credits rolled, and everybody who ever mattered in film is in this movie, and it's directed by Vincent Minelli, I'm like "What's going on?" It is so florid and so completely over the top and old Hollywood in its presentation, but it's a frickin' documentary. It's so true and real and uncompromising and bitter and lovely and beautifully structured, it's just everything. It's even funny. It's the movie Kirk Douglas was born to make. When it was over, I stumbled out into the sunshine and somebody said, "What are you doing underground on a beautiful spring day like this?" And I was like, "God never made a day as beautiful as what I just saw."




Magnolia (Paul Thomas Anderson, 1999; 83% Tomatometer)

We're back to opera, we haven't left it -- because Magnolia. If you think about the moment Keanu wakes up as a battery, the moment Lana Turner loses it in traffic and is in this insane hysteria of flashing lights that is completely unrealistic, and then you look at the moment where it's raining frogs. I saw it, and was like, "Is this going to be one of those movies that I don't like where he looks down on every one?" I think Alexander Payne and Todd Solondz are super talented, but sometimes I don't want to sit through their movies because the bile is just unbearable. I didn't really know PT Anderson's work that well, or what was going to happen. And then, it turns out he loves people so hard that it rains frogs. There is actual opera in this one. Oh, and BT-dubs, there is a musical number. The license and the observation and the amount that he went for it. The craft and his ability to sustain that much -- any one of these movies could have fallen into a puddle of pretension, but the mastery behind them meant that they never could. Jason Robards, who happens to be in two of the movies on this list, him actually dying of actual cancer playing a guy dying of cancer, giving that speech. And Tom Cruise giving the best performance he'll ever give. It just felt so achingly, weirdly logical to me.




The Court Jester (Melvin Franck, Norman Panama, 1956; 96% Tomatometer)

This is tough because they are a lot of guys in here, but you know what we're going to do? We're going to go with The Court Jester. I feel that it's a perfect movie and contains some of the best sword fighting ever. I'm not always on the Danny Kaye boat, but this is the one where it threads the needle. He's genius in this movie, and the plot is gorgeous, and everybody in it is funny. It's so beautifully constructed, and they're singing, and the world's greatest sword fight between him and Basil Rathbone. It's utterly committed to being as silly as it can be and it works like gangbusters.



Next, Whedon talks about his goals in tackling the work of The Bard.

Comments

OG Cutler

Cutler's 5th Account

No Science Fiction except the Matrix? C'mon dude.

Jun 14 - 05:02 PM

OG Cutler

Cutler's 5th Account

And its Lana Wachowski now.

Jun 14 - 06:23 PM

Kevin P.

Kevin Pitman

he can't hear you.

Jun 14 - 09:32 PM

OG Cutler

Cutler's 5th Account

He is a she

Jun 15 - 12:27 AM

David Rocha

David Rocha

At the time, she was Larry. It goes by whatever your name was at the time, not what you have it as now.

Jun 15 - 01:28 AM

John Magee

John Magee

5 movies, 20% are sci-fi. Joss Whedon has shown the abilities to work in almonst any genre he wants with skill and aplomb. Why would you want to pigeon hole a guy like that. A variety of interests is how one becomes multi faceted and talented

Jun 15 - 07:34 AM

OG Cutler

Cutler's 5th Account

It was a joke. I'm actually surprised he actually isn't a sci fi "geek" considering how almost all of his movies are sci fi.

Jun 15 - 11:30 AM

Shaun D.

Steven Harris

Well, he's an 'opera geek' for sure.

Jun 16 - 06:44 AM

HypeWaive487

Ernie Truman

've always seen range in his influences. With Buffy the Vampire Slayer alone he's done romance, a musical, and some comedy based episodes. The fact that he did a space western with Firefly and Serenity shows he loves both space movies and westerns. I think his tastes have to be eclectic in order for his movies and shows to work. He's more of a story geek, the scifi fantasy is just what he does best. His eclectic tastes and talent are what separate him from McG.

Jun 19 - 01:51 PM

Shaun D.

Steven Harris

Characters and dialogue are his strongest points, not really the story.. Though it helps progress the story into something more, with his character development. And his snappy dialogue makes his characters more memorable.. and he cares about them and that's why they feel real.

Jun 22 - 07:47 PM

badblokebob

Richard Nelson

Trust Joss to produce something so seemingly eclectic, but actually have a fairly clear throughline.

And full of awesomeness, too. I hadn't even heard of The Court Jester until last year when I came across it by accident, but it's great fun.

Jun 14 - 05:39 PM

Max M.

The Dude

Magnolia. Such a beautiful and underrated movie. One of my favorites.

Jun 14 - 05:49 PM

Heath Cowart

Heath Cowart

It's my all-time favorite movie! Glad to see it appear somebody else's Top 5! I have even more respect for Joss Whedon now!

Jun 14 - 06:51 PM

Geoffrey Hawley

Geoffrey Hawley

It's my favorite movie too. And my wife's too. It's one of the first things that attracted us to one another.

Jun 14 - 09:04 PM

Chris Gaitan

Chris Gaitan

So happy I'm not alone in placing Magnolia as my #1 film of all time. I saw it when I was about thirteen, and I knew even back then that I'd never see a better film in my entire life.

Jun 14 - 10:15 PM

Harvee Valentine

Harvee Valentine

Underrated? I feel like you might not understand that word.

Jun 16 - 02:24 PM

Marco Chaudry

Marco Chaudry

Nah, he meant what he said, and I would too.

Jun 16 - 03:16 PM

OG Cutler

Cutler's 5th Account

And its Lana Wachowski now.

Jun 14 - 06:23 PM

Kevin P.

Kevin Pitman

he can't hear you.

Jun 14 - 09:32 PM

OG Cutler

Cutler's 5th Account

He is a she

Jun 15 - 12:27 AM

David Rocha

David Rocha

At the time, she was Larry. It goes by whatever your name was at the time, not what you have it as now.

Jun 15 - 01:28 AM

Heath Cowart

Heath Cowart

It's my all-time favorite movie! Glad to see it appear somebody else's Top 5! I have even more respect for Joss Whedon now!

Jun 14 - 06:51 PM

Geoffrey Hawley

Geoffrey Hawley

It's my favorite movie too. And my wife's too. It's one of the first things that attracted us to one another.

Jun 14 - 09:04 PM

Dejan Stojanovski

Dejan Stojanovski

finally someone mentions ... Once Upon a Time in the West .... amazing...masterpiece...

Jun 14 - 07:08 PM

Shaun D.

Steven Harris

Yep.. I myself made my own Top 5 Favorite Films which are:
Pulp Fiction
The Big Lebowski
Pan's Labyrinth
Once Upon A Time in the West
The Truman Show

Jun 15 - 05:02 AM

Daniel Roberts

Daniel Roberts

Very good list. The Truman Show is also one of my top 5 favorites.

Jun 15 - 11:06 AM

OG Cutler

Cutler's 5th Account

Pulp Fiction is on my top 5 right behind Resivoir Dogs and Scarface (1980 version). Lebowski is just outside of my top 5 at number 7.

Jun 15 - 11:33 AM

Patrick Bateman

Patrick Bateman

I love all these movies, except for The Court Jester, but only because I have never seen it before.

Jun 14 - 07:57 PM

Dawn Havard

Dawn Havard

You should. It was one of Danny Kaye's best and was a rip off of all the old Robin Hood-type movies. Favorite scene

"The pellet with the poison's in the flagon with the dragon; the vessel with the pestle has the brew that is true.:

Jun 18 - 06:25 AM

Eddie B.

Eddie Burkhart

Magnolia is my favorite movie! so glad to see it on here. And the matrix is one of my top 5. I love this guy.

Jun 14 - 08:30 PM

Geoffrey Hawley

Geoffrey Hawley

It's my favorite movie too. And my wife's too. It's one of the first things that attracted us to one another.

Jun 14 - 09:04 PM

Kevin P.

Kevin Pitman

he can't hear you.

Jun 14 - 09:32 PM

OG Cutler

Cutler's 5th Account

He is a she

Jun 15 - 12:27 AM

Ethan Bott

Ethan Bott

Magnolia is my least favorite Anderson film. I think Altman's "Shortcuts" is a better version of that kind of movie.

Jun 14 - 10:13 PM

Chris Gaitan

Chris Gaitan

So happy I'm not alone in placing Magnolia as my #1 film of all time. I saw it when I was about thirteen, and I knew even back then that I'd never see a better film in my entire life.

Jun 14 - 10:15 PM

Tallulah Robinson

Tallulah Robinson

Going to go out and watch all of these now. I know, why am I member of a movie site when I haven't seen the Matrix, I don't know either, leave me alone...

Jun 14 - 10:27 PM

John Serrano

John Serrano

It's OK, I haven't watched the Godfather yet, I save a lot of films as long as I can, it's kind of romantic. But there are other classics I haven't seen just because I've never found the right moment. Enjoy it :)

Jun 15 - 11:13 AM

Tallulah Robinson

Tallulah Robinson

Aha! I've seen the Godfather!....about a month ago...my point still stands...

Jun 17 - 01:44 AM

Bradley Timm

Bradley Timm

I'm 35 and I still haven't seen any of the Sergio Leone westerns. Alright Joss, you pushed me...

Jun 14 - 10:56 PM

John Serrano

John Serrano

Dollar Trilogy. Start from the beginning.

Jun 15 - 11:16 AM

Shaun D.

Steven Harris

I'd recommend to watch The Good, The Bad And The Ugly first. If not, just refer to what the guy above just said.

Jun 16 - 06:46 AM

Brian McInnis

Brian McInnis

I envy you. Leone's films are among the worst I'll ever see; don't touch the things with a ten-foot pole.

Jun 16 - 01:09 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

If you save your breath, I feel a man like you can manage it.

Jun 16 - 06:51 PM

Michael Shook

Michael Shook

@ Brain McInnis... you speak the words of a fool. Leone's films are brillant.

Jun 16 - 09:36 PM

Shawn Gordon

Shawn Gordon

If ignorance is bliss, then you must be a very happy man! Leone was a genius!

Jun 17 - 09:38 AM

Dave J

Dave J

"Leone's films are among the worst I'll ever see"

Spoken like a true idiot who doesn't know nothing about movies at all!!! And let me guess, you have never worked in the film industry and that watching films is not your thing because you rather spend more time watching porn!

Jun 17 - 12:48 PM

jasper de large

jasper de large

I can't even say I'm a big fan of Whedon's because I've seen almost none of his work other than The Avengers and Toy Story, and I don't get the impression based on his fervent fanbase that those are particularly his signatures. However, checking this list out and reading his reasoning, I've gained new respect. This is one of the best lists [not necessarily in terms of choice but based on the passion that comes from his descriptions] which I've read in a while.
He sounds like a really cool guy.

Jun 15 - 12:02 AM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

Signature Whedon is probably Buffy The Vampire Slayer (TV Series, not movie) and Firefly/Serenity. Avengers is very Whedon-esque, but as you'd expect you get a better feel from his TV series'. Angel is also very good because it shows off his love of the classical, operatic and balletic at times.

Jun 15 - 09:38 PM

Tallulah Robinson

Tallulah Robinson

Do yourself a favour and watch Firefly. It's his masterpiece.

Jun 17 - 01:45 AM

Nir Shalev

Nir Shalev

His list is incredible. I don't like anything that he'd done outside of FIREFLY but his list is amazing.

Jun 15 - 12:15 AM

David Spencer

David Spencer

My favorite western AND my favorite Sci-fi. Now I love Whedon even more, and Magnolia is going to the top of my must-see list

Jun 15 - 12:18 AM

OG Cutler

Cutler's 5th Account

He is a she

Jun 15 - 12:27 AM

David Rocha

David Rocha

At the time, she was Larry. It goes by whatever your name was at the time, not what you have it as now.

Jun 15 - 01:28 AM

Åsa Larsson

Åsa Larsson

I love The Bad and The Beautiful too!!!
I feel utterly vindicated now! Honestly, if you love the Whedonesque, watch this movie!

Jun 15 - 02:58 AM

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