Five Favorite Films

John Cho's Five Favorite Films

The star of new missing-girl thriller Searching shows a love for American indie classics – and one major gangster hit.

by | August 21, 2018 | Comments

(Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images)

The artist formally known, and credited, as “MILF guy,” has come a long way since his American Pie days. The last decade has seen John Cho shed his goofy teen comedy stylings – has it really been seven years since Harold and Kumar were on our big screens? – to forge two striking career paths: One as a key part of a mega mainstream franchise in the Star Trek movies, the other as a lead in some of the most interesting breakout indie films of recent years. If you haven’t seen him in 2017’s moving and visually singular Columbus, you really should.

This month he runs straight through the middle of those two paths with Searching, a missing-child thriller full of mainstream pleasures – big twists, edge-of-your-seat suspense – told with indie innovation: The movie takes place entirely on screens, with FaceTime conversations, YouTube clips, Venmo accounts, and Google search bars somehow coming miraculously together to propel the story forward. None of it would work without a performance like Cho’s, who plays the father of the missing girl with a mix of determination and woundedness that never lets you forget the human story at the center of the technical wizardry.

Ahead of Searching’s release, Cho spoke with Rotten Tomatoes about his Five Favorite Films, which themselves mix very real emotion with innovative storytelling. He stressed that there were “25 I could have picked from,” but settled – at least on the day we spoke – for the five films below.


Sideways (2004) 97%

I hadn’t seen Sideways in a number of years, and recently saw it again, and sat down with it and was overwhelmed at how much more meaningful it had become in the years since I had seen it. I don’t know why – I guess it’s just really cheesy: Like wine, it had aged for me. (I’d take that out, that was so cheesy!). But it had matured for me as a story, or perhaps I had grownup to meet the story – it was so lyrical and so authentic in every moment. Stories about failure, to me, are more meaningful as I get older.

That movie also swings big, and that’s another thing that I like about it. That monologue, Virginia Madsen’s monologue… it’s just achingly romantic. [And] the end, where he drives up, sort of mirroring The Graduate, but it’s Dustin Hoffman, the loser version, which is way closer to me than the heroic version in The Graduate. [The movie] just keeps curving into itself, and out of itself, and it’s just an incredibly satisfying, enjoyable, meditative movie.

It’s got some incredible performances – everyone is a delight, everyone is just incredibly fun, and each scene has something interesting happening in it. [Sandra Oh] was another inspired bit of casting. Her mother, and the kid, and she’s amazing, and the motorcycle helmet rage was one of the most terrifying things I’ve seen on film – and a flopping penis, that’s always good.

The Big Lebowski (1998) 83%

The Big Lebowski is like a bowl of noodles I could eat every single day, and it would be endlessly emitting new flavors. It’s just incredible. There is like an academic reading of Big Lebowski that you could go about on forever…this polemic about war, maybe specifically World War II, and then it’s like this commentary on Hollywood, like a spoof. Then, it’s just a great weed movie. And then the performances are just ridiculous. Jeff Bridges is doing, I mean, Olivier level acting.

It’s ridiculous that there’s a monologue in the limousine… he comes out of the limo that Maude sent him, and then another driver immediately – ­which is just the most hilarious visual, just going from one limo to another limo. Then, he gets in there holding his White Russian, and then has to explain himself, and he stammers, and each thought is so clear, but leads nowhere.

There are no scenes that aren’t fun. Also, I don’t understand the movie, which is kind of a great feeling to have. I don’t fully understand the plot, and I’ve seen it 100 times. It’s a very unique movie in the sense that I don’t know what’s going on every time I see it.

Goodfellas (1990) 96%

That’s sort of the oldest movie I still love, meaning a movie from my youth that I still can’t get enough of. It’s just so exciting, and – this is gonna sound douchey – there’s more propulsion to that movie than any movie that’s ever been made, it feels like. It’s just so fast. It’s like a car accelerating, and it just never stops accelerating. I mean, think about the beginning sequence of that movie: It’s so fun, and it ends with the coke sequence. I can’t imagine a movie that just keeps going that hard. It’s tremendous.

Obviously, [there’s] such a performance from Pesci. I am deathly afraid of this small man. And Bracco: She’s amazing. That to me is another thing – I love portrayals of weird marriages. I feel like Husbands and Wives is my favorite Woody Allen movie. [Goodfellas] is a perverse love story at the end of the day, and I love it.

Pulp Fiction (1994) 92%

It was such an important part of my youth. I think more than any other movie, it changed my idea of what movies were. I wasn’t an actor then, but Pulp Fiction sort of…How do I put it? It was what, as a young actor, [showed me] this is what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to be this vital. We’re trying to be this fun. We’re trying to break the rules this much. I think it changed American independent filmmaking.

For me, it was Travolta [who stood out]. I don’t know why. When I think of Pulp Fiction, the image I think about most is him getting blown away while reading Modesty Blaise on the can. Of all the images in Pulp Fiction, that’s the one that sticks in my head the most. We spent this whole movie falling in love with him, dancing with Uma Thurman, and accidentally blowing a guy’s head off. There’s so much going on, and then he meets his demise while reading a book while taking a shit, and there’s so much pathos in that image.

Lost in Translation (2003) 95%

Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson. I was secretly thrilled that Sofia Coppola, who was panned for Godfather III, made such a triumphant movie so – it was so cool. I think it’s the single coolest movie I’ve ever seen. I haven’t revisited it in a long time, it just meant a lot to me at the time.

Partially, I think it’s like I identified very strongly with the idea of being a stranger. I could talk to my therapist for a long time about this, but for me, it was like an Asian-American movie, because the idea of being a stranger in Asia was, to me, more of an Asian-American experience than it was a white American experience. That portrayal felt very inside baseball to me, and I identified very strongly with it.

Perhaps it really is psychologically a commentary on me feeling Asian in white America, but I identified with that situation in a very personal way. It always meant more to me than I think the film should have, but I really have a lot of affection for it. I should revisit it, and I wonder if it’ll remain on my list, but I suspect it would.

Have you Googled around to find out what is said at the end, or all of the theories? 

There’s a French movie called La Belle Noiseuse. The movie is about the abusive relationship between a painter and his muse, and model. It’s a four-hour movie with a cigarette intermission, and they battle through the whole movie. He’s trying to make this painting that he was commissioned to make, and you never see what he’s painting, and at the end of the movie he delivers the painting to his patron, and it’s a beautiful painting, but then the filmmaker reveals that he has the real painting bricked up behind a wall, because the truth is that terrible, and you should not see the truth.

 

Tag Cloud

Video Games Stephen King vs. TNT cartoon SundanceTV Drama Ghostbusters quibi period drama ABC Family comic book movies Legendary Lionsgate strong female leads Walt Disney Pictures South by Southwest Film Festival Fall TV comics Hollywood Foreign Press Association Comics on TV USA unscripted Song of Ice and Fire Opinion BBC One ITV 94th Oscars Tubi HBO Go talk show Infographic rt labs critics edition asian-american Election universal monsters Sundance space foreign hist Nominations docudrama CMT dark godzilla VICE target ViacomCBS Grammys Baby Yoda Adult Swim marvel comics Marvel Studios MCU Christmas Masterpiece jurassic park Esquire Marvel Television rotten FX on Hulu Lucasfilm GLAAD Creative Arts Emmys golden globes wonder woman critic resources Hear Us Out DC Universe biopic medical drama President travel Broadway superman IFC Films GoT Kids & Family BET kaiju Tags: Comedy Hulu Extras hidden camera MTV Funimation live action Crunchyroll canceled Music aapi Fantasy Winners Teen Syfy E3 all-time Sony Pictures halloween tv GIFs scary First Reviews First Look BBC fresh Action The Academy Comic Book basketball 21st Century Fox Pride Month Television Critics Association Classic Film Women's History Month A&E FXX screen actors guild indiana jones black comedy OneApp CW Seed Toys pirates of the caribbean Disney streaming service Spring TV dceu canceled TV shows TCA 2017 nbcuniversal dogs The Witch Ovation video on demand Character Guide Holidays American Society of Cinematographers cancelled TV series TCA Universal Pictures PaleyFest streaming movies The Arrangement mob transformers worst movies latino Trophy Talk kong 1990s boxing 4/20 2018 telelvision crime drama spinoff Black History Month SDCC VH1 Epix elevated horror child's play Thanksgiving rom-coms political drama streamig blockbuster National Geographic docuseries rt archives FOX stoner Pop TV obi wan doctor who Captain marvel ABC Signature 73rd Emmy Awards award winner spider-verse Hallmark WGN Lifetime Polls and Games Awards Tour nature New York Comic Con christmas movies spanish language Amazon Studios archives streaming scorecard adaptation Britbox ABC Mary poppins TruTV Fox Searchlight Freeform Film Festival crime thriller hollywood romantic comedy new zealand Exclusive Video royal family game show Avengers 45 79th Golden Globes Awards casting adventure reviews Marvel Best and Worst Trivia YouTube Hallmark Christmas movies 007 toronto biography politics Acorn TV hispanic heritage month venice zero dark thirty DC Comics Awards name the review anthology posters Food Network USA Network Television Academy Cartoon Network Box Office Tomatazos spy thriller japan 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards Rock 20th Century Fox spanish 93rd Oscars The CW Discovery Channel boxoffice Anna Paquin singing competition APB Shondaland sitcom Rom-Com book comic Netflix Christmas movies obituary Endgame dreamworks live event renewed TV shows HBO Max ghosts women zombie Image Comics 72 Emmy Awards Set visit Amazon Prime Video sports cooking scene in color AMC Plus Rocketman Oscar Tumblr independent remakes ratings true crime Apple Sneak Peek HFPA Horror Binge Guide laika X-Men disaster mutant spain Red Carpet 90s TCA Awards dexter LGBT Marathons Sundance TV facebook new star wars movies Nickelodeon Spectrum Originals Writers Guild of America international spider-man richard e. Grant Shudder films Mary Tyler Moore leaderboard science fiction 99% sopranos mission: impossible football Brie Larson satire gangster rotten movies we love Best Actress kids comic book movie popular debate high school Paramount Plus Film binge heist movie Certified Fresh cancelled television news BBC America Ellie Kemper Comedy Central DGA a nightmare on elm street mcc Chernobyl dc Vudu Countdown twilight Podcast trailers rt labs franchise FX festivals NBA Arrowverse dragons black Biopics 2019 Schedule scary movies summer preview Pacific Islander Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Apple TV Plus Dark Horse Comics slasher technology Superheroe Emmy Nominations Universal Pop video best CBS Quiz MGM Interview italian Family History nfl miniseries superhero criterion critics 71st Emmy Awards Summer Sci-Fi movie Trailer Showtime monster movies olympics Columbia Pictures Turner blockbusters golden globe awards Disney psychological thriller Comedy 2016 TIFF OWN adenture Calendar vampires fast and furious cancelled witnail RT History marvel cinematic universe robots Paramount Network TV One Western IMDb TV historical drama BET Awards feel good TCM summer TV preview crossover Superheroes movies ESPN police drama psycho The Purge french summer TV Amazon Crackle aliens legend Bravo emmy awards Pirates finale Alien Instagram Live cats comiccon documentaries Black Mirror green book slashers breaking bad SXSW Travel Channel Elton John The Walt Disney Company Disney Plus Musicals Cannes free movies Tokyo Olympics young adult CNN social media theme song king arthur DC streaming service trophy concert Musical TLC die hard halloween CBS All Access PlayStation based on movie See It Skip It Disney Channel sag awards chucky Mindy Kaling TCA Winter 2020 james bond BAFTA Premiere Dates Reality Competition Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt IFC king kong cars Wes Anderson harry potter know your critic NYCC series razzies TBS what to watch Emmys batman Comic-Con@Home 2021 comedies TV renewals Photos Animation San Diego Comic-Con Sundance Now war animated Year in Review A24 children's TV sequels japanese 2015 Mary Poppins Returns teaser blaxploitation Paramount new york VOD Fargo Academy Awards Best Picture cinemax 2021 Amazon Prime ID documentary composers Holiday Turner Classic Movies genre saw australia cops Peacock television prank Nat Geo Mudbound justice league Tarantino hispanic The Walking Dead game of thrones Neflix jamie lee curtis serial killer action-comedy parents stand-up comedy MSNBC 24 frames cults Valentine's Day screenings classics YouTube Premium romance joker Heroines south america reboot YA Lifetime Christmas movies Logo anime Pixar sequel Starz supernatural RT21 Mystery Warner Bros. thriller WarnerMedia E! worst mockumentary art house Best Director El Rey discovery diversity Disney+ Disney Plus revenge indie Spike Watching Series 2017 versus PBS TV festival TV movies Pet Sematary Apple TV+ Netflix TV Land Best Actor Star Trek cancelled TV shows Cosplay natural history deadpool tv talk lord of the rings dramedy NBC Super Bowl YouTube Red Star Wars 2020 stop motion directors HBO Oscars zombies LGBTQ crime Prime Video DirecTV werewolf Winter TV book adaptation comic books Martial Arts SXSW 2022 AMC Reality Fox News Rocky toy story Country suspense