Five Favorite Films

Taylor Sheridan's Five Favorite Films

The writer of Hell or High Water and writer/director of Wind River on Unforgiven, Michael Mann, and recognizing great actors.

by | July 31, 2017 | Comments

(Photo by Jason LaVeris/Getty Images)

After close to two decades in front of the camera, most notably in the popular FX drama Sons of Anarchy, Taylor Sheridan turned his talents to writing and penned the script that would become Denis Villeneuve’s acclaimed thriller Sicario. A year later, he earned an Academy Award nomination for just his second screenplay, Hell or High Water, which also nabbed a Best Picture nod.

This week, Sheridan makes his feature directorial debut with another film he wrote called Wind River, which stars Elizabeth Olsen and Jeremy Renner as an FBI agent and a Fish and Wildlife official attempting to unravel a murder in rural Wyoming. Early reviews have Wind River pegged as another triumph for Sheridan, whose knack for gripping crime drama populated by complex characters is quickly becoming a trademark. Sheridan recently spoke to Rotten Tomatoes by phone to give us his Five Favorite Films, though he had trouble settling on a final choice. Read on for the full list.

Unforgiven (1992) 96%

I would say Unforgiven is probably top of that list. What about it, is simply the way that Clint Eastwood demystified and destroyed our notion of a Western. I mean, demolished the genre; he turned it upside down. It was marvelous acting, and at times, his use of monologue and dialogue — that doesn’t ever take place in Westerns. He just took a baseball bat to the genre, and it was just incredibly profound to me. Wildly entertaining. He did things in the storytelling that hadn’t been done in the way that they were done. Incredible.

In the Heat of the Night (1967) 96%

I think In The Heat Of The Night was one of the most influential films on me. Looking back now, I can see how influential it was on my screenwriting, because here you have what looks to be a crime procedural, and it’s actually a study in race and loneliness, and a perception of an era. So, I think that, that was one of the most influential films.

The Insider (1999) 96%

Micheal Mann’s The Insider was one of the most influential films on me. The way that he can build tension with a movie about a court deposition. Just incredible. To study it from a filmmaker’s standpoint, he does things in there, breaking rules, and usually if you’re going to employ a method of camera operation, you’re going to employ that throughout. But there’s one scene where he brings in a steady cam, and he does shots with that thing that are just incredible, and you don’t even recognize that’s what you’re watching, when it’s usually one of the most telling methods of operating a camera, and one I don’t personally like.

Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) 91%

Kramer vs. Kramer is one of my favorite films, where you have a story that really juxtaposes a lot of ideas that we have about family, and about parenting. Again, an incredibly simple plot that allows for really rich exploration of character, and one of the best screenplays I’ve ever read.

The Godfather (1972) 98%

Then, I don’t know… Now I’ve got to start flipping coins. Should I say, The Godfather, or do I say Platoon, you know? Both incredibly influential films on me as well. The Godfather is such an interesting film in that it does a lot of things to establish character in place in a way that’s so economical. You don’t realize that you’re being given information; you don’t realize that you’re learning. It was one of the best-directed films of all time.


Platoon (1986) 88%

Platoon, I think I was 15 or 16 when I saw that movie in the theater. I was so riveted by it, and the experience around it. I remember when I saw that movie, this is when there was still lines to get in the next one. The movie hadn’t come out yet, and we’re all standing in a line, 400 people to go in, and when the door opened, it was all these Vietnam Vets in their gear, grown men, crying and holding hands and arms around each other. When I sat down, I had no idea what I was about to see. Again, it was a deconstruction of the war film, the antithesis of John Wayne’s The Green Berets.

Ryan Fujitani for Rotten Tomatoes: You’re an actor, a writer, and now a director. Did your experience both in front of and behind the camera help to shape your directorial style on Wind River?

Taylor Sheridan: I don’t think it helped influence my directorial style consciously, as far as, “How do I shoot it?” You’re going to build a cinematic style, there’s decisions you have to make as a filmmaker about, “How do I convey a mood with image?” Where having been an actor was extremely helpful to me, was in casting. That’s where I think a director who has acted can really shine, and casting is the most important thing you do.

I hired people, and a couple of them said, “I can’t believe you hired me. It was one of the worst auditions of my life.” I’m like, “Oh, I’m aware of that, I saw it, but I also saw what I needed to see.”

I can recognize a good actor. I can recognize someone that can convey emotion, and that has the essence, and not get lost in the minutia of, “Well that person’s got red hair and so does the other.” Some of the decisions in casting that seem so important at the time, until you get on set and you’re starting to shoot. I don’t think a lot of times directors who haven’t acted understand that.

RT: Speaking of which, a lot of people are calling this your directorial debut, but I’m seeing that you’re actually credited as a director on what appears to be a horror film called Vile, back in 2011.

Sheridan: [laughs] Yeah. I would say this is my feature debut. A friend of mine raised — I don’t know what he raised — 20 grand or something, and cast his buddies, and wrote this bad horror movie, that I told him not to direct. He was going to direct it and produce it, and he started and freaked out, and called and said, “Can you help me?” I said, “Yeah, I’ll try.”

I kind of kept the ship pointed straight, and they went off and edited, and did what they did. I think it’s generous to call me the director. I think he was try to say thank you, in some way. It was an excellent opportunity to point a camera and learn some lessons that actually benefited me on Wind River.

RT: You’ve written a couple of great films already. Was there a reason why, when you wrote Wind River, you thought, “Okay, I’m going to do this one?” Or was it just a matter of circumstances coming together just right?

Sheridan: This subject matter, I couldn’t trust that someone else would have the same vision for it that I would. I had made promises to people in the native community, that this would be done a certain way, and the only way to guarantee that it was done that way was to direct it myself. I had to go, “Okay, look, even if it’s not good, at least it’s the way I promised I would do it.”

Hopefully, people think it’s good. That’s always the goal, because the aspirations for a bad movie don’t matter, because no one sees that.

Wind River opens in limited release this Friday, August 4.

Tag Cloud

Ghostbusters Comedy CBS Election Captain marvel animated boxoffice FX Box Office FOX Infographic Calendar Bravo Best and Worst historical drama unscripted Nickelodeon USA Britbox Ellie Kemper CW Seed Pet Sematary science fiction ratings cats crime thriller dc justice league Opinion blaxploitation ABC DirecTV elevated horror psycho RT History crime Lifetime E3 Photos dramedy E! SundanceTV Musicals police drama spider-man Black Mirror National Geographic what to watch Shudder Watching Series USA Network Amazon casting Universal Thanksgiving disaster Paramount DC Universe Anna Paquin Fall TV aliens award winner Christmas Premiere Dates RT21 Emmy Nominations Comedy Central Cannes Pop Rock comic Esquire 45 technology cops See It Skip It ITV Awards TV Land Women's History Month Horror facebook Fantasy discovery The CW true crime politics Schedule Spike SXSW spy thriller Drama Star Wars Reality Animation Star Trek Spring TV biography Epix Toys composers game show Fox News Rocketman miniseries Elton John Comics on TV Dark Horse Comics psychological thriller cooking VH1 MCU war adaptation Amazon Prime PBS theme song Trophy Talk BET A&E Western GIFs Mary Poppins Returns Musical Starz Super Bowl 2017 Sony Pictures Walt Disney Pictures Superheroe dceu Holidays 2018 Pride Month Disney Channel sequel TCM MSNBC streaming Cartoon Network Red Carpet anime Heroines Ovation TNT 2019 Set visit cults 007 Mystery First Look Extras Martial Arts singing competition transformers harry potter Comic Book BBC LGBT New York Comic Con Biopics Tomatazos zombies Trivia Creative Arts Emmys President Polls and Games ABC Family dragons based on movie space Winter TV television mutant Valentine's Day Acorn TV zombie travel Marvel TLC jamie lee curtis doctor who History DC streaming service Tarantino crossover Tumblr romance Apple Summer Podcast docudrama golden globes Teen finale PaleyFest Marathons LGBTQ Pirates Adult Swim Hulu IFC Food Network Trailer talk show mockumentary Crackle Stephen King 2016 Certified Fresh Freeform thriller Spectrum Originals Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Showtime Year in Review Warner Bros. Oscars YouTube Premium Awards Tour Shondaland 21st Century Fox GLAAD TIFF WGN El Rey Columbia Pictures HBO SDCC X-Men Sundance Netflix HBO Max Kids & Family Lionsgate Nominations NYCC Mary Tyler Moore robots San Diego Comic-Con IFC Films Paramount Network period drama Syfy Quiz Mindy Kaling comiccon 24 frames strong female leads medical drama Mudbound FXX social media nature Music richard e. Grant green book Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt adventure vampires DGA Vudu MTV TV serial killer supernatural YouTube Red The Witch spinoff American Society of Cinematographers Chernobyl The Arrangement Masterpiece Countdown ESPN Song of Ice and Fire CMT Cosplay Disney Winners GoT NBC Brie Larson toy story Emmys sports Logo crime drama APB Film Festival Reality Competition TCA 2017 CBS All Access Country Sneak Peek TruTV Superheroes Grammys Mary poppins zero dark thirty YA AMC DC Comics Sundance Now Lucasfilm TBS hist CNN cinemax Sci-Fi Action TCA political drama OWN binge Rocky Rom-Com Video Games witnail Pixar Nat Geo festivals diversity 20th Century Fox natural history Interview Writers Guild of America sitcom BBC America VICE Character Guide teaser 2015 WarnerMedia anthology