The list making the rounds on the Internet today that’s dubbed ‘Steven Spielberg’s Curriculum,’ a list of 206 movies you supposedly must see if you’re a filmmaker/screenwriter who wants to work with the Maestro, is apparently a forgery.
So says ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. the World’ director Edgar Wright, who worked with Spielberg on the screenplay of the upcoming ‘The Adventures of Tintin.’ “That list?” tweets Wright. “Fake.”
Still, it’s a fascinating list, a look into the mind of what someone in Hollywood (apparently not Spielberg) thinks everyone who wants to work in the film industry ought to see. Even those of us playing along at home might do well to make this our syllabus and educate ourselves in film history.
The list certainly looks plausible. It includes plenty of movies made by directors Spielberg would have studied in film school (John Ford, Orson Welles, Jean Renoir) as well as several by Spielberg’s friends (Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Brian De Palma, and Albert Brooks). There’s only one picture on the list by Spielberg himself. Curiously, it’s not ‘E.T. the Extraterrestrial,’ ‘Schindler’s List,’ or ‘Saving Private Ryan’ (or even ‘Jaws’ or ‘Jurassic Park’); rather it’s ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind.’
Still, there are some red flags as well. It’s one thing to tout Coppola movies like the ‘Godfather’ trilogy; it’s another to tout his fairly forgettable early film ‘The Rain People.’ And what’s with ‘Sayonara,’ ‘The Missouri Breaks,’ ‘The Young Lions,’ ‘Reflections in a Golden Eye,’ ‘The Teahouse of the August Moon’ and ‘The Fugitive Kind’? Most of those contain lesser Marlon Brando performances, and while even lesser Brando is always fascinating, they’re not really must-sees.
Also, there are some strange errors that no one as steeped in film history as Spielberg would make, like misspelling Sydney Pollack’s name as “Sidney” (twice), Vincente Minnelli’s name as “Vincent” and Jean Luc Godard as “Goddard.” The list credits Michael Grillo with directing Lawrence Kasdan’s ‘The Big Chill’ (Grillo was the first assistant director), credits ‘West Side Story’ to Jerome Robbins alone when Robert Wise did most of the work, and credits Charlton Heston with a role opposite Brando in ‘Julius Caesar.’ (In fact, Heston appeared in two other filmed versions of the Shakespeare play, both times in the same role Brando played, Marc Antony.)
The list is also curious for what it omits. No Cecil B. DeMille (a director Spielberg has often cited as an influence). No one working today who mines similar territory (Peter Jackson, James Cameron, Guillermo del Toro). No Spielberg protegés (the people who presumably got to work with him after seeing the movies on this list) like Robert Zemeckis, Joe Dante, Chris Columbus or J.J. Abrams. No women, except for Martha Coolidge. (‘Rambling Rose’ — really?)
The list seems to have begun its journey around the Web at the screenwriting blog Go Into the Story, which, after caveats about its authenticity, linked to the list as posted at Los-Angeles-Acting-School.com. (A list created by acting students or acting teachers? That would explain all the Brando movies.) There’s also a link to this Google Docs version, which highlights the entries available for streaming at Netflix.
Even if the list is fake, it still contains plenty of movies that, in fact, you really should see if you want to make movies. Or, for that matter, if you want to consider yourself well-versed in film history. ’2001,’ ‘The 400 Blows,’ ’8 1/2,’ ‘All the President’s Men,’ ‘Battleship Potemkin,’ ‘Bicycle Thieves,’ ‘Bonnie and Clyde,’ ‘Breathless,’ ‘Bringing Up Baby’ and ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’ are not only historically important and influential movies, they’re also simply great films that are rewarding and entertaining to watch. And that’s just a few selected films from the beginning of the alphabet.
I’ve seen 144 films on the list, just shy of 70 percent. Guess I better get cracking on the rest if I ever want to work with Spielberg, or whomever wrote this list.
Follow Gary Susman on Twitter @garysusman.
How Many Movies on ‘Steven Spielberg’s Curriculum’ List Have You Seen?