He’s played Dracula, Nelson Mandela, the American President, God, and Batman’s tech guru, done time at Shawshank, rode with Eastwood and driven Miss Daisy, but Morgan Freeman is arguably just as famous for his presence as cinema’s esteemed all-purpose narrator — from his work on numerous history series to March of the Penguins to that haunting final line of Se7en, he’s the guy filmmakers turn to when they want to infuse their work with a sense of awe and authority. This week, Freeman lends his particular vocal stylings to the IMAX documentary Born To Be Wild, a tale of two species of baby orphans — orangutans and elephants — fostered in the care of two rather remarkable ladies, Daphne Sheldrick and Birute Galdikas. Filmed in a 3-D that captures the creatures and their environments in vivid detail, the film, under its narrator’s steady hand, makes an entertaining case for animal orphanages helping displaced babies back into the wild. We had the chance to sit down with Freeman recently, who graciously obliged our request to distill a lifetime’s movie-watching into a list of his Five Favorite Films. “It’s gonna be difficult,” he admits.
My number one favorite film was the first film I ever saw — I was six-years-old before I ever went to the movies — and that film is the original King Kong. It’s still, I think, the best King Kong.
High Noon (1952, 95% Tomatometer)
Then, my next favorite film is Gary Cooper’s High Noon. Here we’re talking about the one man against many, having to stand alone. And what sticks with me about that movie is that the woman that he loved, who was completely anti-violence, stood up with him, ultimately; and at the end, when all the townspeople had run away, he took that badge off and threw it in the dirt.
Moulin Rouge! (2001, 78% Tomatometer)
I think one of the best movies ever made was Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! It was just an extraordinarily well done film. Editing, directing, costuming — just everything about it was perfect.
The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976, 97% Tomatometer)
Clint Eastwood’s The Outlaw Josey Wales — one of my favorite, favorite films. I don’t know what it is about The Outlaw Josey Wales that sticks… Oh, I do know what it is: it’s the relationship with Chief Dan George. The narration, as it were, of Chief Dan George in that movie, you know. He’s so dry, and it’s humorous, but true. [As Josey Wales/Lone Watie] “You’re not supposed to be able to sneak up on an Indian… But white men have been sneaking up on us for years now.” [laughs] He’s just great.
Moby Dick (1956, 87% Tomatometer)
What’s my fifth favorite movie? Now there have been quite a number of them. See now I’m sort of in no-man’s land, because I’m thinking Bonnie and Clyde, I’m thinking Chinatown… I’m just wandering around now. [laughs] One of my favorite books was Black Beauty; I read it when I was eight-years-old, and I’m trying to find if there was a movie, like that, that sticks with me. Oh, I know! Moby Dick. Yes. Now that was filmmaking. John Huston. Call me… Ishmael. I read the book, and there are very few books that I have read and seen the movie and liked the movie. Gregory Peck was in two of ’em: Moby Dick and To Kill a Mockingbird. Gregory Peck was one of my favorite actors. Gregory Peck and Gary Cooper and Humphrey Bogart, those guys.
Born To Be Wild is in IMAX theaters this week.