Andrew Birkin


Voted for

2001: A Space Odyssey1968Stanley Kubrick
GAMLET1964Grigori Kozintsev
Apocalypse Now1979Francis Ford Coppola
Barry Lyndon1975Stanley Kubrick
Boogie Nights1997Paul Thomas Anderson
Fanny and Alexander1982Ingmar Bergman
Walkabout1970Nicolas Roeg
All Quiet on the Western Front1930Lewis Milestone
Withnail & I1986Bruce Robinson
Ben-Hur1959William Wyler


2001: A Space Odyssey

1968 USA, United Kingdom

I had the good fortune to work on this film, which may make my choice seem not entirely objective, but none of the many other films I've worked on, either as a technican or as director and/or writer would I include in this list. Of course film-making is strictly speaking a "team effort", but with the possible exception of Arthur C Clarke, 2001 owes virtually nothing to anybody other than Kubrick in terms of idiosyncratic film-making, whether it be the lack of a main character (humanity being collectively the "hero"), the intentionally banal dialogue, the inspired choices of music, the languorous editing, or the extraordinarily uplifting and emotional ending - almost all is down to Kubrick's unique vision.


1964 USSR

The best cinematic rendition of Hamlet I've ever seen, from Kozintsev's direction and vision, Pasternak's translation, Smoktunovsky's performance in the lead, and - not least - Shostakovitch's wonderful score. I saw this film 15+ times as a teenager, such was my depth of love for it.

Apocalypse Now

1979 USA

Stunning in every sense. I saw it in New York when it first came out, and was blown away by Coppola's vision ... and his astonishing use of sound. In one memorable instance, the sound converts us from a horrified spectator into an exhilarated participant, by spinning the objective, mono track of Wagner's Ride aboard the helicopters attacking innocent Vietnamese into subjective, full-on quadraphonic sound, thus condemning yet glorifying the action by the simple flick of a switch. Brilliant!

Barry Lyndon

1975 USA, United Kingdom

This film only gets better with the years. Like 2001, pure Kubrick. Apart from sheer briliance of vision, it includes the greatest seduction scene ever committed to film. I assumed the voiceover to have been lifted from Thackeray's novel, but not a bit of it - virtually all of it is original to the film, to Kubrick.

Boogie Nights

1997 USA

I adored this film: unexpectedly tender, terrifying and redemptive by turns.


1970 Australia

This film touched an emotional chord in me like no other ...

All Quiet on the Western Front

1930 USA

Almost unbelievable that this film should have been made in Hollywood, with the western front recreated on Universal's back lot. The first great sound movie (although originally conceived and partially shot as a silent), it has rarely if ever been bettered in its depiction of war and its realities. Universal has done a first-rate job in restoring the print to its original glory, with nary a scratch in sight nor a bloop in sound.

Withnail & I

1986 United Kingdom

Wikipedia labels this a black comedy, but it's as much a tragedy as anything else, wherein lies its greatness. 35 years on and it hasn't aged a jot.


1959 USA

The greatest of all Hollywood epics, largely thanks to the uncredited rewrite by English poet Christopher Fry, the intimate direction of William Wyler, and the truly epic score of Miklós Rózsa. I am a cynical atheist, and yes, the film carries a Christian message, but when all's said and done, it's not such a bad aspiration - to love one another - and the film puts it across with remarkable restraint for Hollywood. I wanted to vote for this film 10 years ago, but was too cowardly to expose my true feelings ... and feeling is what film is, to me, all about.

Further remarks

These are my desert island movies rather than those I consider to be the "greatest films of all time" ... with the exception of 2001, which will always top any "greatest films" list of mine.