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) 94%

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) 88%

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

comic discovery IFC book Crunchyroll The Witch Hulu First Look screenings Fall TV revenge ratings Reality dragons Anna Paquin Classic Film Britbox Ovation USA Network Apple TV Plus Tomatazos unscripted animated zombies Action Toys Brie Larson Disney streaming service Comic Book Dark Horse Comics politics ABC Family Animation Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Endgame Pixar A&E Lifetime Christmas movies indie Musicals Pop TV zombie Amazon Studios Columbia Pictures Superheroe Black History Month streaming Schedule Emmys PBS Chernobyl Shudder stand-up comedy spain quibi Trivia comiccon Mystery social media period drama 2016 breaking bad cats Martial Arts Valentine's Day YouTube El Rey jamie lee curtis BET Ellie Kemper Photos Red Carpet foreign Elton John Rom-Com Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Hallmark Christmas movies CBS All Access halloween strong female leads History Pirates movie talk show finale Countdown Netflix 2017 christmas movies documentary comics WGN doctor who TNT Mary poppins Esquire MCU Extras Premiere Dates Watching Series game show Black Mirror adventure Paramount Network cancelled television batman The Purge joker cars Showtime Holidays YouTube Red Cartoon Network Nat Geo Peacock technology Christmas Trailer GIFs PaleyFest zero dark thirty festivals Thanksgiving psycho reboot SXSW aliens Mary Tyler Moore Universal Marvel Television Pop name the review space cooking Mudbound dogs BBC America Paramount OneApp Food Network FX on Hulu renewed TV shows YA hist DC Universe supernatural Summer Bravo psychological thriller Acorn TV serial killer Teen Cosplay scary movies MSNBC E3 toy story Election latino dramedy cults movies Awards reviews Disney Plus Pet Sematary BBC Film Festival Television Academy Shondaland Quiz what to watch Box Office Polls and Games Star Wars Best and Worst ABC free movies harry potter Cannes Winter TV 2018 Marvel IFC Films President south america TV renewals canceled TV shows Mary Poppins Returns Sci-Fi Comedy Hallmark elevated horror Marvel Studios game of thrones E! USA thriller sitcom Western docudrama binge SundanceTV Super Bowl American Society of Cinematographers TCA 2017 Captain marvel 24 frames Netflix Christmas movies Disney Channel LGBTQ miniseries CMT medical drama Travel Channel spy thriller Oscars Kids & Family Lucasfilm disaster Epix 45 DGA 007 2020 20th Century Fox mutant Awards Tour theme song Turner A24 blaxploitation Set visit Character Guide Arrowverse Fantasy Warner Bros. Podcast Emmy Nominations Marathons dceu DC Comics blockbuster slashers cancelled kids adaptation Disney Heroines Grammys Sundance Syfy Video Games sequel anthology TCA Winter 2020 NYCC Nickelodeon 71st Emmy Awards 2015 Trophy Talk Mindy Kaling singing competition TCA The Arrangement Reality Competition crime FXX Sony Pictures Ghostbusters Star Trek police drama TIFF Horror anime GoT Country directors TruTV HBO Max green book award winner Discovery Channel Women's History Month Rock screen actors guild boxoffice RT21 biography cinemax APB Masterpiece MTV crime drama SDCC television Holiday Music Binge Guide spanish language ghosts historical drama mockumentary Drama cartoon GLAAD natural history Apple TV+ VH1 CBS Lionsgate TCM facebook TV Land Avengers Tumblr Amazon crime thriller Writers Guild of America OWN Logo Year in Review VICE hispanic universal monsters Adult Swim Comedy Central Musical crossover Spring TV justice league cancelled TV shows franchise TBS X-Men Lifetime children's TV Apple 21st Century Fox versus Freeform The CW See It Skip It TLC Biopics ITV FOX independent diversity Rocketman Academy Awards richard e. Grant Song of Ice and Fire Vudu Certified Fresh romance ESPN 2019 sports Rocky Calendar cops romantic comedy sag awards cancelled TV series travel New York Comic Con composers vampires Sundance Now Pride Month teaser true crime Creative Arts Emmys YouTube Premium The Walking Dead political drama based on movie witnail Funimation video San Diego Comic-Con Infographic First Reviews HBO Walt Disney Pictures AMC Comics on TV war Baby Yoda LGBT canceled Spectrum Originals spinoff Interview Turner Classic Movies tv talk FX Tubi Disney+ Disney Plus Nominations CW Seed DirecTV WarnerMedia Amazon Prime Video TV spider-man NBC CNN Sundance TV Film casting series transformers Family nature werewolf National Geographic Starz Sneak Peek Spike dc Fox News Winners rotten movies we love science fiction Superheroes DC streaming service Tarantino Amazon Prime Stephen King Opinion RT History robots golden globes Crackle