Five Favorite Films

Chris Columbus' Five Favorite Films

by | March 11, 2016 | Comments

chris c edit

(Photo by Getty Images / Grant Lamos IV / Stringer)


Chris Columbus‘ 1980s output helped shape a generation of young film fans with hits like Gremlins, The Goonies, and Adventures in Babysitting — and he’s further solidified his legacy in the decades since, directing more massive hits (including Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire, and films in the Harry Potter franchise) while building an impressive production portfolio with releases like The Help, Night at the Museum, The Witch, and this weekend’s The Young Messiah.

Columbus took time out of his busy schedule to talk with Rotten Tomatoes about the movies that have defined his personal love affair with cinema and informed his own ever-expanding filmography. Check it out here — and leave a little room for The Godfather, which he purposely didn’t mention because it’s such a widespread favorite.


A Hard Day's Night (1964) 98%

These are all films vying for my favorite film. The thing I love about all the films I chose for the list is that they still feel extraordinarily fresh, as if they were made yesterday. There’s a timeless quality to them and a vibrancy and an energy to all of them, but particularly A Hard Day’s Night really struck me, being a huge fan of rock and roll. It’s a film that really defies any sort of — it’s difficult to put it into a specific genre — it’s a rock and roll film, right? It’s also sort of like a documentary of the early years of Beatlemania, and it’s also comedically like a Marx Brothers film. I just love the combination of all of those things, which give it an intense vibrancy and charm. Also these are five films that I watch at least once a year. I always come back to them and the Criterion collection just restored [Hard Day’s Night]. It was a marvel to see it restored and how beautiful a movie it is.

Saturday Night Fever (1977) 82%

Moving to New York from Ohio in 1976, it was an opportunity for me to just basically gorge myself on films that I had never had an opportunity to see before. There were so many theaters, so many repertory theaters showing films. You could see three films for a dollar, you could see prints of these movies, and I was watching a lot of films. In 1977, Saturday Night Fever came out, and it was the first time I remember seeing a film twice. Sitting there and watching it once and sitting there and watching it again. Another musical choice, but different than A Hard Day’s Night because it felt like it really captured what was going on — at least what I felt was going on in New York at that particular time. Travolta’s performance in that film is one of the top ten performances I think I’ve seen in film in my entire life: very real portrayal of a character, the relationships all feel very authentic and real, and it’s got an energy and an emotional intensity that really stuck with me. Sticks with me all these years later. I always wanted to see someone do a sequel to it — not the sequel that exists, not Staying Alive, but the sequel that felt like — it would be interesting if someone would go back to do a Creed sort of version of where those characters are now.

On the Waterfront (1954) 99%

I actually own a print of this. It’s one of those movies that was pivotal [for] me. I remember it screened in 16mm at my high school. The emotional power of that movie — it’s the first time I ever felt such intense emotion watching a film. I wasn’t that well-versed in film in high school, but I knew I was being hit by something incredibly powerful. What really struck me was Marlon Brando’s performance. And I know that’s easy to say, but that’s why I never get tired of watching the film, and why I really wanted to own a print because there’s a level of acting there that went beyond anything I had seen before. And it still ranks as maybe the best performance I’ve ever seen on film. I find it fascinating every time I watch it. Plus he’s surrounded by a brilliant cast and also the location — the way the film was shot on location — at that time, it had never been done before. All of that adds to the fact that I have a pretty lousy print of the movie but that’s what’s fun about it — it even feels more real. And then Criterion — to be completely geeked out — released it again last year, and I didn’t know it was shot in three different formats. Television was becoming popular at the time so they didn’t know if they would go widescreen with it, 1:85, or the typical way I think it was released, which I think is 1:66, but it’s fascinating to look at those versions as well. This is one of the greats.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) 89%

Godfather and Blazing Saddles got me into falling in love with film, but this is a pivotal movie that was probably — I think it was 1969 — prior to that I had been to the movies a few times and seen some hideous movies like Santa Claus Conquers the Martians and that sort of thing, and The Jungle Book. I went with my cousin to see Butch Cassidy. It was an amazing mixture of what I thought was sort of a poignant character study and a comedy. What’s amazing about the movie — and the reason I watch it time and time again — I had never seen such chemistry between two actors. Newman and Redford were just incredible together, and those sequences in the movie were some of the funniest sequences I’ve ever seen. So they taught me how to stage comedy a little bit, yet at the same time, it had serious undertones. It was beautifully directed and shot, and you watch it today, and it feels like it was made last week.

Horse Feathers (1932) 97%

I watch this with my family a lot. All of the Marx Brothers movies have been very popular in the Columbus household for the last 20 years or so. I was a bit of a dictator making my kids watch these movies. They grew up with them because kids are really reluctant to watch black-and-white films. Our family loved the Marx Brothers films, and for some reason the one that we always went back to, and the one that we were obsessed with, was Horse Feathers. It’s 1932, so that’s going back a long way. Yet at the same time I would show that movie to my kids who were seven and five and three, and they were mesmerized. I learned a lot about comedy and breaking the rules in that movie — in terms of comedy — which extended to seeing movies like Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein and Annie Hall to a certain extent. The Marx Brothers started it all, and it’s smart comedy. The funny thing about the movie is, there are scenes that, still for me and my family, are falling down funny. So they can watch that movie and take away from it — maybe laugh a little harder than they do at some of the more modern comedies. That movie — and there’s like five or six Marx Brothers movies — is just a wonderful sort of family experience and that’s why it’s on the list.


The Young Messiah is now open in wide release.

Tag Cloud

werewolf facebook documentaries Freeform docudrama zombie news Television Critics Association Rom-Com halloween tv fast and furious Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt cancelled television Year in Review GoT Elton John PBS Bravo french quibi DC Comics Holidays WarnerMedia NYCC satire mcc versus Valentine's Day See It Skip It 2018 Drama Captain marvel canceled Comic Book Pixar Discovery Channel cinemax boxoffice Amazon Prime Video Marvel Premiere Dates Film Festival Star Wars 93rd Oscars remakes unscripted romance nbcuniversal superman adenture Netflix Christmas movies TV movies Wes Anderson El Rey critics golden globe awards natural history binge Watching Series ID LGBTQ blaxploitation football 24 frames justice league Super Bowl vampires Academy Awards Nat Geo Travel Channel anime laika 2020 Exclusive Video First Reviews festival godzilla Trophy Talk new star wars movies rt labs critics edition 99% worst aliens Winter TV doctor who SundanceTV space stop motion Lucasfilm new york Music theme song MSNBC toronto medical drama Comics on TV christmas movies Horror Warner Bros. rotten movies we love Starz TV renewals CMT spider-verse Baby Yoda LGBT kids USA award winner royal family Fargo cooking Best and Worst movies prank DC Universe transformers casting A24 Teen Awards Tour YouTube Red Nickelodeon new zealand psycho japan crime OWN cops TruTV Chilling Adventures of Sabrina reboot TBS Pet Sematary Spring TV Family young adult National Geographic The Walt Disney Company Mary poppins Christmas cancelled TV series 1990s Arrowverse spanish language Women's History Month Cartoon Network art house Emmy Nominations crossover RT History Video Games CBS All Access comedies The CW stoner 2017 Fox News green book game of thrones Fall TV FOX scorecard Pirates Neflix legend renewed TV shows TCA Awards action-comedy Polls and Games E! debate slashers dreamworks Alien Rocketman nfl Oscars Star Trek name the review elevated horror Britbox superhero criterion reviews game show biography Holiday Trivia Marvel Television Calendar Hulu genre IMDb TV hispanic heritage month Disney+ Disney Plus psychological thriller TIFF Set visit YouTube WGN PaleyFest Schedule australia comic Awards video TV One jurassic park Infographic Universal zero dark thirty streaming movies mission: impossible CW Seed 90s IFC heist movie blockbuster Nominations latino screen actors guild Classic Film Fox Searchlight 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards Tarantino Brie Larson scene in color Amazon concert Sundance Now Cosplay Black History Month ABC Signature TCA 2017 Country TNT 2019 Endgame anthology Pop Musical Comedy Hear Us Out cults international BET IFC Films marvel comics The Purge Sci-Fi harry potter Comic-Con@Home 2021 cars Avengers sequel Extras rom-coms USA Network dogs YouTube Premium Superheroe ABC Family AMC Mystery ViacomCBS finale American Society of Cinematographers films basketball supernatural Funimation VOD comics 4/20 Lionsgate rotten sag awards Esquire 007 Disney thriller TV cats suspense Paramount Network Superheroes Spike joker Musicals posters Mary Poppins Returns San Diego Comic-Con child's play Turner Classic Movies The Witch NBA Tokyo Olympics cancelled TV shows Mudbound live event animated SDCC Walt Disney Pictures marvel cinematic universe YA independent true crime Rock APB wonder woman mockumentary high school Hallmark Christmas movies richard e. Grant directors Comedy Central Amazon Studios pirates of the caribbean kaiju dexter saw BET Awards AMC Plus kong First Look Film HBO Anna Paquin Red Carpet travel CBS dc hollywood 2016 trophy E3 Martial Arts 73rd Emmy Awards TCA canceled TV shows HBO Max Apple Mindy Kaling toy story police drama spinoff A&E deadpool Turner nature Sneak Peek BBC Rocky dark Dark Horse Comics a nightmare on elm street singing competition sitcom rt archives OneApp venice spider-man Amazon Prime DC streaming service 20th Century Fox video on demand scary movies tv talk Shudder Cannes Showtime politics television asian-american Heroines south america Acorn TV sequels VICE GLAAD jamie lee curtis Apple TV Plus aapi PlayStation Vudu Character Guide 2021 Disney streaming service dragons Action Reality Competition Black Mirror screenings Paramount war slasher technology Paramount Plus Fantasy disaster ESPN Kids & Family mob witnail archives worst movies golden globes Ghostbusters halloween feel good Apple TV+ Trailer dramedy free movies DGA Quiz strong female leads black comedy President sopranos black comic book movies Netflix VH1 comic books BAFTA documentary miniseries Columbia Pictures ABC obituary Food Network Winners adaptation telelvision olympics ratings Song of Ice and Fire crime thriller target Ovation romantic comedy History Syfy Disney Channel Opinion 2015 period drama crime drama NBC Instagram Live Crunchyroll Disney Plus based on movie monster movies parents science fiction biopic composers foreign BBC America all-time hispanic sports die hard Tubi Peacock FX boxing know your critic TLC best Countdown mutant SXSW Universal Pictures Stephen King New York Comic Con movie breaking bad Toys BBC One series spain The Walking Dead spanish indiana jones adventure teaser diversity Sundance Grammys 21st Century Fox robots serial killer Logo Election Broadway vs. hidden camera Pride Month Pop TV streaming Legendary Summer twilight Box Office Spectrum Originals zombies Writers Guild of America spy thriller historical drama Marvel Studios live action lord of the rings Chernobyl Animation TV Land popular 45 TCM Adult Swim FXX cancelled 72 Emmy Awards comic book movie FX on Hulu emmy awards MTV fresh Crackle The Arrangement CNN dceu DirecTV Creative Arts Emmys stand-up comedy GIFs The Academy universal monsters Binge Guide RT21 comiccon franchise king kong Hallmark Emmys japanese Television Academy Podcast trailers book Image Comics Thanksgiving Sundance TV italian critic resources X-Men Marathons MCU TCA Winter 2020 james bond cartoon Ellie Kemper Sony Pictures Masterpiece blockbusters Tumblr Reality Tomatazos Interview chucky women what to watch gangster Lifetime Christmas movies indie Certified Fresh Mary Tyler Moore political drama Pacific Islander book adaptation batman scary Biopics Western festivals hist Photos Epix classics 71st Emmy Awards discovery ITV children's TV rt labs razzies leaderboard talk show social media Shondaland revenge ghosts Lifetime HBO Go king arthur docuseries