Five Favorite Films

Men Director Alex Garland's Five Favorite Films

The writer-director of Ex Machina and Annihilation on complicated themes and surprising films, from a recent Best Picture winner to an animated gem and a Soviet anti-war film.

by | May 18, 2022 | Comments

Alex Garland

(Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images)

Alex Garland’s movies tend not to explain too much. Ex Machina and Annihilation both left audiences with more questions than answers, and the writer-director’s latest film, Men, is no different — by design.

“The more complicated the questions get, the fewer answers there are, because I really do think there’s a real value in just the question sometimes, and sometimes less value in the answer,” he tells Rotten Tomatoes.

Men, out in theaters on May 20, stars Jessie Buckley as Harper, a young woman who vacations in the British countryside in the wake of a terrible, complicated loss. However, once there, she’s haunted by a man played by renowned character actor Rory Kinnear — or rather, by men played by Rory Kinnear. The film is full of striking visuals, terrifying moments, unexpected body horror, the possibility of catharsis, and many more provocative mysteries. What it all means is not ever clearly explained, and even though Garland has his own ideas as the creator, that openness to interpretation is what drives his work.

“I always have a sense of what I think is happening, but I try not to let that get in the way of what someone else might think is happening. I kind of concentrate a lot on allowing films to work perfectly well on different levels,” he explains. “So, Men could just be a ghost story. ‘Woman loses husband, goes to country house to recuperate, is haunted’ could be the story. And then, for other people who want more, there’s more. It’s there for them if they want it, there if not.”

It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that five of his favorite films also trend towards the unexpected. They sit with the viewer well after the credits have rolled and invite the viewer to ask themselves what it means. From a recent Best Picture winner to a gripping Soviet anti-war movie, here are some of Alex Garland’s Five Favorite Films, as told to Rotten Tomatoes.


The Lighthouse (2019)

90%

I wanted to think of a film that was really modern, or a couple of them, because probably the easiest list for me to come up with would be films that are, like, 30 or 40 years old. There are some amazing people working today, and I think [Robert Eggers] is one of them. I thought The Lighthouse was fantastic. It was incredibly funny and strange but most of all, incredibly original. I just appreciated that. I appreciated that he made it with the people he made it with; I thought the performances were fantastic. It was incredibly beautifully shot and put together. It was just so original that I thought, “Well, something right is happening if films like this can get made and get made so beautifully.”

Parasite (2019)

99%

The thing I loved about Parasite was that it felt complicated and profound and really, really surprising. Continually surprising. And it had no adherence to standard storytelling structures — which I adhere to in kind of a helpless way — probably in a kind of lazy way, but mainly in a helpless way. I just thought Parasite was a really good instruction in terms of how free you can be in film. It made me think about how inhibited and traditional I am by comparison. It was kind of inspiring in that way.

Come and See (1985)

97%

This is a much older film called Come and See, which is a Russian movie set in the Second World War. It plays a really complicated game between the absolute sharp edge of reality and the strangeness of interior surrealism and brings the two together, I think, perfectly, to make the film extraordinarily powerful. Probably in this whole list, if I could recommend one film for people to see, it would probably be that one. But it’s not an easy watch. You have to be up for it, and you have to be prepared for it, because it is increasingly disturbing as a piece of filmmaking, but it is just brilliantly executed. At the end, it takes such a big swing, such a big imaginative, creative stylistic swing, and lands it. I think it’s a truly great piece of cinema.

It’s definitely a film where it would be a mistake to have your phones in such a way where you’ll get alerted by a text message or you’ll need to go and fix a sandwich halfway through, because it’s meditative until it becomes incredibly visceral. I would recommend it, strongly.

Spirited Away (2001)

97%

I really love animation. Like with all of the films on this list, I don’t think at any point in Spirited Away, I was able to anticipate the next thing that would happen. It’s got probably close to among the most striking imagery I’ve ever seen in a film. It got under my skin in a particular way. As sheer pleasure, it’s probably the film on this list I’ve enjoyed the most, and on some instinctive level, felt the most right, that I felt like I would like to walk into that world and be part of that world, which is the kind of thing I used to feel about films when I was a kid.

Walkabout (1971)

85%

It’s a Nicolas Roeg film. It’s about some kids that are stranded in the Australian Outback. It’s virtuoso filmmaking. It has one of the strangest unannounced or unanticipated scenes in any kind of film I’ve ever seen. It can be really shocking, but it’s also really touching and very sort of oddly charming. Every time I see it, it blows me away.


Men opens in theaters on May 20, 2022.


Thumbnail images by: Eric Chakeen/©A24, ©Neon, ©Janus Films, ©Buena Vista, ©20th Century Fox Film Corp.

On an Apple device? Follow Rotten Tomatoes on Apple News.

Tag Cloud

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