Five Favorite Films

J.A. Bayona's Five Favorite Films

The A Monster Calls Director Reveals the Film that Served as His First Childhood Memory.

by | December 21, 2016 | Comments

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Photo by Juan Naharro Gimenez/Getty Images
 J.A. Bayona  (The Orphanage, The Impossible) is back in the director’s chair for A Monster Calls, which opens this week. In the film, a 12-year-old boy befriends a monster who helps guide him through the difficult intricacies of growing up and rising above heartache. It is further illustration of Bayona’s larger-than-life filmic style (he is also set to direct the Jurassic World sequel). Judging by his Five Favorite Films, it’s clear he grew attached to large cinematic adventures — some of his first life memories — which then inspired him to become a filmmaker. See the list here:

Superman (1978) 94%

It’s the first movie I saw when I was a kid, and it’s also my first memory of my life. It’s the first thing I remember. I was three years old — I know that because it was 1978. The first thing I remember in my life is the shot of Christopher Reeve wearing the Superman clothes and flying. That image provoked such an impact on me that from that moment on, I wanted to be Superman. And then as I grew up, I wanted to be the guy who made Superman possible. So I found out that there were these guys called actors and I wanted to be one.

I was obsessed with movies when I was a kid. That movie created such an impact on me, and when I watch it again nowadays, I still believe it’s a masterpiece. It established the superhero genre on a level that, I think nowadays there’s not any movie that has it better than that for me, in the genre.

The reality of the special effects, the chemistry between Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder is still there. The way Richard Donner recreates Smallville… It’s an endless film to me. It’s an amazing film, especially nowadays.

The Executioner (El verdugo) (1963)

I wanted to mention a Spanish film because I’m Spanish. Criterion just released — I think this week — they just released The Executioner. Not many people know that film but it’s been considered the best Spanish movie ever. It’s black and white, it was made in 1963, and it’s a black comedy about the death penalty. It’s about this guy who falls in love with the daughter of an executioner and how, somehow — we find one thing: that he’s becoming more into the position of the father of his girlfriend, and eventually he becomes an executioner. That was shown during the Franco regime under a cruel, ferocious censorship regime. It’s as funny as depressing. It’s a very unique film, and it’s considered probably one of the more important Spanish films ever.

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) 98%

Another film would be E.T. from Spielberg. I think somehow it’s a kind of fantasy film — very grounded in reality, very respectful of childhood. It’s a multi-layer, so the complexity of childhood — the way they portrayed a kid going through a very difficult moment in his life — I think it reminded me a lot of the kinds of movies that I love.

The Tenant (1976) 90%

Another one would be The Tenant from Roman Polanski. I think it’s my favorite Polanski movie, and I consider Polanski one of the biggest influences in my life. I love the tone — also because it’s another black comedy that mixes with horror. [It] was a quite unique film. I love absolutely everything about it.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) 93%

The last one, I’ll say another classic: 2001. I think it’s a movie that you can watch every year and you’ll keep discovering new things. It’s funny how, as time goes by, the movie becomes more relevant and poignant. I love the fact how the storytelling of Kubrick is always inviting you to interpret the movie yourself, but at the same time it’s so rich — so much layers. The fact that now we’re living in a moment where technology is replacing man from [the] center of life — Kubrick really started to talk about that so many years ago, and I think it’s overwhelming. Every time I see it I think it’s overwhelming because I discover new things.


A Monster Calls opens Friday, Dec. 23 in limited release.

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