Five Favorite Films

Ethan Hawke's Five Favorite Films

The First Reformed star on Jack Nicholson, Gena Rowlands, and watching Commando dozens of times.

by | May 14, 2018 | Comments

(Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images)

For Ethan Hawke, one particularly productive decade yields: A 100% Certified Fresh documentary debut (Seymour: An Introduction), a full embrace of steady genre work (The Purge, Sinister), and a Best Picture nod alongside longtime pal Richard Linklater (Boyhood).

But look at the year before this past decade: 2007, when Hawke was directed by Sidney Lumet in Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead. It’d take until now before Hawke worked with another bona fide, old guard legend: Paul Schrader, who directs Hawke in the dramatic thriller First Reformed. Schrader wrote Taxi Driver and has directed nearly two dozen films since, and now he directs Hawke as a minister deep in secret despair, as a parishoner (Amanda Seyfried) asks him to counsel her radical enviromentalist husband, setting them on a course towards redemptive fire and brimstone.

Hawke on working with Schrader: “You feel this wisdom gained from a life lived after a massive amount of experience, and a mind that is still open and curious and wild. It makes you excited about getting old because the possibility is there that you could actually become wise. It’s like being around to watch a lion roar.”

Throughout our chat on Schrader and First Reformed (out this Friday) and his Five Favorite Films (see below), I mentioned Rotten Tomatoes editors were currently in the middle of compiling 140 Essential ’90s Movies, and that three of his were on the short list: Before Sunrise, Reality Bites, and Gattaca. I ask: If he could choose only one…?

It’s impossible to answer, Hawke responds, while revealing he autographs more memorabilia for those three than any other movies he’s done. Then he offers an observation: “The Before Sunrise fans are the most passionate and literary, the Reality Bites fans are the loudest and funniest, and Gattaca fans are the quietest and most sincere.”

As we wait for someone to turn that last bit into an internet personality quiz (“Which ’90s Ethan Hawke Movie Fan Are YOU?”), he goes in on his Five Favorite Films.


Reds (1981) 89%

Warren Beatty directed, about the life of John Reed. Jack Nicholson is Eugene O’Neill, one of his greatest performances. It combines everything I love about movies: great acting, unbelievable romance, and politics. Sondheim did the music, Elaine May helped write it.

It’s kind of the bar. I just think of what cinema can accomplish. It’s like a great, great novel, only better. And with one of the great endings of all time. Just so beautiful.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) 94%

I’ll continue the Jack Nicholson theme and go to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Of its era, the great American novel. R.P. McMurphy is probably the defining Jack Nicholson character, if you had to pick one. It’s actually the first film I ever saw. I don’t remember it, but I was a little baby and my mom took me. It’s one of those movies I’ll watch whenever I’m feeling lost or alone in the universe. Something about McMurphy and the Chief throwing the sink through the window makes life worth living.

[Director] Milos Forman was a really incredible storyteller. He knew how to tell a big story where the characters feel… Part of it has to do with the level of supporting acting. He creates a full world. Christopher Lloyd and Danny DeVito and Louise Fletcher and Brad Dourif — it’s just such an incredible cast. The world feels so real. That’s what so many epic movies get wrong. They feel important in the way that it’s in italics. They just feel like they’re about the director, and not about the characters.

The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) 95%

Today, I’m gonna have to go with The Bridge On the River Kwai. You see that movie on the big screen and Alec Guinness is so proud of his bridge, then he drops this little stick he carries with him the whole time into the water and you start…

I think for a guy my age, you start to realize there’s something very profound about the movie, about how we all get so self-important about what our lives are. But really all any of us are doing is building sand castles. There’s something much bigger at work in the universe than anything any one of us can do alone.

A Woman Under the Influence (1975) 93%

The truth is, it’s the “five” part [in Five Favorite Films] that’s a joke, you know? I probably have a good 100 favorite movies of all time. I mean, like, my brain is rifling. Am I really not gonna include A Woman Under the Influence? Am I really not gonna include Nashville? Am I really not gonna include Synecdoche, New York? I could do my five favorite films with terrible cinematography. I could do my five favorite films about love affairs.

You could pick A Woman Under the Influence.

Okay, I will. I will. I’ll do A Woman Under the Influence.

Gena Rowlands. This is one of my favorite performances of all time. It’s exciting watching a husband and wife [Rowlands and John Cassavettes] work together. There’s something at its core that’s just rock and roll. The birth of true American independent cinema.

Apocalypse Now Redux (2001) 93%

I think I’d be lying if I didn’t say Apocalypse Now. It’s like Godfather, Citizen Kane. Those are the kind of ones that get thrown away all the time. But if you go to a real proper movie theater, I even love… I’ll pick Apocalypse Now Redux. If you see that last release version up on a big screen, you crank up the music, that is a life-changing experience.

Afterwards, the conversation ambled towards Commando, the 1986 Schwarzenegger classic in which Arnie depopulates an island of mercenaries in a tableau of bullet mayhem.

“I think I watched Commando 49 times,” Hawke laughs, “I don’t know why. We rented Commando when I was young and nobody returned it and I just watched it a million times.”

The Year of Living Dangerously (1983) 88%

Now that you said Commando, do you know what’s the other movie I watched a ton? I feel like I want to change one of my answers.

Sure.

The Year of Living Dangerously. We had that VHS. I saw it the first time, actually, when it came out in the theater. It had Mel Gibson in it, so I thought it was gonna be an action movie. I was really disappointed. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it. And I got the VHS and I started watching it. There’s something about Linda Hunt’s performance, you know? “What then must we do?” Travel and mysticism and romance is at the heart of that movie. And there are images in that movie that will stay with you your whole life.


First Reformed opens in limited release this Friday, May 18. Read reviews for it here.

Tag Cloud

Year in Review Mindy Kaling best science fiction cancelled TV shows period drama Disney+ Disney Plus Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Apple TV+ video on demand A&E toy story Mary Poppins Returns Adult Swim Superheroe award winner 21st Century Fox vampires Disney streaming service ratings 2020 MSNBC 4/20 Polls and Games crime thriller Captain marvel Amazon Prime sports technology LGBT Apple AMC romance SDCC Crunchyroll Paramount child's play green book transformers indiana jones DGA sitcom Cosplay Warner Bros. scary movies PlayStation robots cops binge quibi police drama comiccon VH1 Comedy Central Esquire Set visit Drama Tarantino criterion TLC Musicals X-Men Marvel screenings GIFs Fantasy zombies thriller RT History spy thriller Endgame E3 Pixar Music supernatural Valentine's Day Spectrum Originals dogs Mary Tyler Moore Freeform TruTV Reality Competition IFC sag awards batman serial killer Premiere Dates SXSW TBS FX on Hulu nature FX OWN YouTube Red Spike revenge Avengers comics all-time 24 frames Hallmark Holiday cats documentary Ovation anime Marvel Television Fox News BET Awards crossover Extras die hard Tumblr Trivia ABC Family Discovery Channel Teen Awards Tour game of thrones Netflix Christmas movies blaxploitation NYCC werewolf Epix cartoon reboot Sundance Now Acorn TV Peacock canceled psychological thriller Rocketman television Heroines screen actors guild anthology disaster BBC One 2018 The CW Lifetime festivals cancelled Animation Sci-Fi Superheroes Apple TV Plus CBS political drama composers children's TV YouTube Premium Awards films diversity psycho Emmys President Pop adventure politics 45 Crackle versus Western rotten movies we love Pirates docudrama Marvel Studios twilight comedies stoner Sony Pictures crime drama Watching Series PaleyFest Marathons dramedy BET war The Arrangement First Reviews Classic Film directors parents Anna Paquin Super Bowl Pop TV Black History Month Ghostbusters indie Stephen King mutant Vudu romantic comedy Nominations TCA Awards Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Action TCA Biopics Comics on TV Universal historical drama natural history American Society of Cinematographers Podcast CBS All Access LGBTQ Amazon Studios facebook El Rey Country news Turner Sundance cancelled TV series cancelled television 2017 talk show Turner Classic Movies 2019 Horror game show casting The Walking Dead joker Netflix 2016 Family Reality Grammys streaming richard e. Grant FOX DC Comics Infographic Amazon Prime Video Comedy See It Skip It Opinion medical drama Paramount Network Character Guide Film boxoffice HBO Max Tubi mission: impossible a nightmare on elm street Comic Book BBC America slashers Syfy Quiz Sundance TV Nickelodeon CW Seed canceled TV shows Red Carpet San Diego Comic-Con HBO Go CNN Shondaland History Tomatazos Photos Musical movie Funimation Schedule TCM Election blockbuster free movies zero dark thirty social media strong female leads renewed TV shows jamie lee curtis WarnerMedia foreign satire Star Trek Rom-Com Travel Channel Song of Ice and Fire GoT Showtime Rock FXX ITV Emmy Nominations TV renewals independent adaptation Walt Disney Pictures APB USA Kids & Family Hear Us Out crime Interview south america TIFF dceu Logo dark spinoff Arrowverse Countdown spanish language elevated horror hist DirecTV Food Network Sneak Peek Trailer Cartoon Network TNT MTV HBO Pet Sematary A24 cooking doctor who The Purge Shudder finale Trophy Talk what to watch Lucasfilm Disney breaking bad true crime harry potter Britbox singing competition Black Mirror Television Academy zombie discovery Pride Month series NBC Spring TV travel unscripted Dark Horse Comics documentaries cults halloween VOD Box Office YouTube golden globes Lifetime Christmas movies Writers Guild of America cinemax christmas movies National Geographic TV Land sequel Christmas Mary poppins dragons comic movies asian-american Disney Plus VICE Mudbound witnail spain YA animated miniseries First Look DC streaming service Binge Guide MCU DC Universe Summer teaser Women's History Month latino PBS TCA 2017 Elton John 20th Century Fox universal monsters Hulu space Starz based on movie Brie Larson ghosts GLAAD Fall TV mockumentary RT21 SundanceTV BAFTA Best and Worst ABC E! name the review Video Games TCA Winter 2020 Nat Geo Star Wars Disney Channel Bravo TV biography Thanksgiving Television Critics Association 71st Emmy Awards chucky BBC Chernobyl CMT aliens justice league Masterpiece Toys franchise The Witch Holidays Ellie Kemper ESPN stand-up comedy Academy Awards video Calendar Columbia Pictures Rocky WGN 007 Hallmark Christmas movies book Oscars critics Cannes USA Network tv talk Certified Fresh spider-man reviews 2015 IFC Films Winners OneApp Creative Arts Emmys Amazon Film Festival Winter TV hispanic Mystery Lionsgate New York Comic Con Baby Yoda Martial Arts kids concert dc theme song cars