Five Favorite Films with Baz Luhrmann

The Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge! director pulls back the red curtain on some of his favorites.

Baz Luhrmann

For a director whose films -- from the eclectic pop confection Romeo + Juliet to the widescreen-nostalgic Australia -- are rich with references to cinema history, it should come as no surprise to find Baz Luhrmann arrives at his "Five Favorite Films" list both well prepared and bearing a caveat of sorts. "To me there are the usual suspects, in terms of the things I particularly like," he begins, when asked to break it down to five, "from Apocalypse Now to Lawrence of Arabia to Bandwagon, to The Seventh Seal or Annie Hall or The Wizard of Oz or Cabaret. They go from epics to musicals, but when I started to think about it, I started scribbling down these lists and there was Battle of Algiers and Being John Malkovich, All the President?s Men and Casablanca, for example. So I was thinking, maybe my list will be what I think are remarkable films worth seeing, that are perhaps not on the radar. These are like the side menus to the main banquet, to broaden your palette."

Star 80 (1983, 89% Tomatometer)
Star 80

Cabaret is the classic work [from director Bob Fosse], but Star 80 I think is really worth visiting, because it wasn't a successful film and it really dealt with a kind of heinous crime. The film itself is brilliantly made, in terms of rhythm and storytelling; if you look at it you'll see that a lot of directors of my era have been influenced by the aesthetic. Bob Fosse's great ability with rhythmic storytelling is very alive in the movie, and what's so intriguing is that it takes a true chapter in the history of Hugh Hefner and the world of Playboy and tells it as a kind of psychological thriller -- but with a whole lot of Fosse-like theatricality. So I think that's a kind of little off-the-radar gem.

War and Peace (1967, 100% Tomatometer)
War and Peace

One of my great all-time loves in cinema, and I've seen it three times, is Bondarchuk's War and Peace. Not a lot of people may have seen that film. It was made during the Soviet era. I'd be happy to see it again -- it is, however, 12 hours long. It took 10 years to make, and some actors lived and died during the period of making the movie. It's a little bit influenced by being a '60s film, so it's got a bit of a trippy edge to it; it's a little bit abstract. But it has some of the finest examples of Russian acting of that era. I was profoundly affected by the Russian theater and the style of Russian acting. It was shot on cameras and film stock that we simply never have access to. If I'm not mistaken, during the opening credits the camera is in a cosmonaut's space capsule being shot into Earth. It?s probably the biggest crane shot of all time. At first you think, "Well this is going to be tedious," but stay with it and I think you'll find yourself drawn in. And the girl who played Natasha [Lyudmila Savelyeva] is a dead ringer for Audrey Hepburn and she's one of the most luminous stars that ever found herself on the screen.

Medium Cool (1969, 94% Tomatometer)
Medium Cool

Medium Cool. I'm crazy about that film. To me, there are a lot of great films from that era because I was seeing them in our movie house when I was a kid [Luhrmann's dad ran a theater for a period], but what I love about Medium Cool is that it preempts the idea of taking a real historical event and weaving a drama around it. So that's great about it. Robert Forster is great in that picture. Not to mention -- and I'll be a bit flippant here -- the clothes are fantastic. It's just a great pop cultural picture.

Fitzcarraldo (1982, 82% Tomatometer)

I kind of think Fitzcarraldo. Cinephiles know it, but the new generation don?t really know that picture. It's a flawed film but if you watch that and the companion making-of [Burden of Dreams]... there's a great Criterion of it; it's the one with Mick Jagger in it, when he started the film and had to pull out. What I love about this film is that it represents what I love about film making: The film is about a person who has an insane passion for art, to the extent that they drag a boat over a small isthmus to make money, but he's making money to bring Caruso, the great Italian Opera singer, to build an opera house. But the backstory, with Klaus [Kinski], and the relationship between Klaus and [director] Werner [Herzog], is so fantastic a backstory. I mean, they try and kill each other. And I think the intense passion between actor and director is in the film. To me it's kind of a package deal, this film. You have to involve yourself in the movie, but it?s really worth going beneath the film, up the jungle and into the psyche of the drama itself. Its companion film is one of my favorites of all-time, Apocalypse Now -- and you can go on the same journey with that film.

8 (1963, 97% Tomatometer)

It could be 8. I mean, 8 to me is such a great dissertation on the whole, you know, act if filmmaking and creativity. And you can probably link it with Stardust Memories, because I love the way that Woody [Allen] did a take on it as well. I mean, it's a little bit of a self examination of the act of making a film. [Reels off another long list of films] Apu. That'd be my fifth, if I didn't get a fifth one. Satyajit Ray?s Apu trilogy -- I just love those films; the way he uses scenery to create close-ups and wides, and just the emotion of it.

Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge! are out now on Blu-ray.


John T.

John Taylor

Whenever I sign in on this subject, I expect to find some titles I disagree with. In this case, it was all five. Boy, you'd have to pay me to get me to watch any of these films.

Oct 19 - 12:54 PM


Sean Pak

huh? Someone would have to pay you to watch 8 1/2? The Apu trilogy? Sorry man.

Oct 19 - 11:35 PM


Matthew Charlebois

i've honestly not heard of one of these titles

Oct 20 - 12:31 PM


Sean Pak

Then I'm sorry for you too. That's hard to believe, because while some of them are pretty obscure, 8 1/2, Fitzcarraldo, and the Apu trilogy are fairly well-known to film buffs. And well-loved.

Oct 20 - 12:36 PM

joseph e.

joseph eastmond

Yes, good list. meduim cool, and 8/12 are classic.

Oct 23 - 01:37 PM

Klaus Weasley

First Last

How can you disagree with a title when you haven't even seen these films?

Oct 22 - 11:27 AM


Original Gangsta

Pay you to watch 8 1/2? You should pay the rest of us saying that!

Oct 26 - 12:35 PM


Blake Jennings

Quirky list, 8 1/2 and Fitzcarraldo are both fantastic. I've never heard of Star 80 or Medium Cool but will check them out.

Oct 19 - 01:11 PM

Linda B.

Linda Burke

Great list. Very personal.

Oct 19 - 01:43 PM


Jason Gersztyn

Gotta love any list that has a bit of Herzog.

Oct 19 - 02:29 PM


Omar Siddiqui

I hate Lurhmann's work so much...
It's just my opinion, I can't stand his films. At all.

But this is a nice list.

Oct 19 - 02:32 PM

Brandon W.

Brandon Whales

I concur

Oct 19 - 06:42 PM

Ben R.

Ben Rabishaw

I pity you. No offence.

Nov 13 - 07:07 PM

Dave J

Dave J

Watched half of Fitzcarraldo and 8 1/2- haven't finished watching any of those yet! Star 80 was a little uninteresting because it's about Playboy model Dorothy Stratten in a fabricated kind of way and I almost bought "Medium Cool" second hand on VHS but I passed it up! And recorded 1967 "War and Peace" from tv commercial free which I haven't gotten around watching yet! And I never expected "Medium Cool" would get such a high rating so I'll buy it the next time I see that one!

Oct 19 - 02:32 PM


Markus Arbutina

No thanks.

Oct 19 - 03:27 PM

Vincent Rolandelli

Vincent Rolandelli

Agreed! Shitty list!

Oct 20 - 02:13 AM

Vincent Rolandelli

Vincent Rolandelli

Agreed! Shitty list!

Oct 20 - 02:13 AM

Smokie G.

Smokie Gonzalez

Heres to Fitzcarraldo the conquistador of the useless and Herequeque the finest Drunk to ever stagger over the earth..Love this movie!

Oct 19 - 03:52 PM


Nate 2709

Only seen 8 1/2 from that list, but would like to check out Medium Cool and Star 80 at some point.

Oct 19 - 04:32 PM


arshi rai

Awesome list.

Oct 19 - 05:42 PM


arshi rai

I like the unofficial "Apu Trilogy" shout-out.

Oct 19 - 05:43 PM


Randy Emerson

Very happy to see Star 80! get some love!! Eric Roberts and Mariel Hemingway are phenomenal!!

Oct 19 - 05:44 PM

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