Ari Aster’s Favorite Movies: 58 Films the Director Wants You to See

It’s been a four-year long wait, but Ari Aster has finally made his return. The director’s third film “Beau is Afraid” journeyed into theaters April 14, bringing surrealist comedy to audiences through the auteur’s famously punishing perspective. The film, which is as loved as it is disliked by critics and audiences, stars Joaquin Phoenix as the title character: a repressed man making a grueling odyssey back home to see his mother.

The film’s title and premise (at least, initially) comes from Aster’s 2011 short film “Beau.” One of several shorts he made as a student at the American Film Institute Conservatory — the most infamous being the viral incest drama, “The Strange Thing About the Johnsons” — the original “Beau” was a much smaller production than the director’s latest, focusing on the title character (played by the late Billy Mayo) as he’s locked in his apartment following the disappearance of his keys. The feature film’s drastically expanded scope — with a $35 million budget, a three-hour runtime, and big name stars like Patti LuPone and Parker Posey — has been criticized by detractors as indulgent, but perfectly demonstrates how high Aster’s clout has risen in the last five years.

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Aster exploded onto the scene in 2018 with “Hereditary”: a possession flick starring a career-best Toni Collette and the dauntless Alex Wolff and Milly Shapiro. The film became a horror classic overnight, and cemented Aster as a filmmaker to watch. The next year he dropped a second buzzy flick with the Florence Pugh lead “Midsommar”: a cult film remembered for its fiery finale and lush production design. That one-two punch turned Aster into the face of so-called “elevated horror,” a poorly defined art house approach to the genre that at least adequately describes much of A24’s output.

Despite his association with horror, and the dedicated genre fanbase that follows him, Aster has repeatedly expressed a desire to explore more on screen. (For the record, he doesn’t consider “Beau is Afraid” a horror movie although many would disagree.) You can tell from Aster’s films that he’s an avid cinephile writ large: as technically inspired by the intricate set design of films such as Julien Duvivier’s “Panique” as he is artistically inspired by the boundless despair of Kenji Mizoguchi’s “Sansho the Bailiff.”

Whether you’re picking a movie to watch — or looking for clues as to what inspired Aster’s sumptuously strange latest — here are 58 films the A24 writer/director recommends. From the works of Ingmar Bergman to many Czech films, these are some of Ari Aster’s favorite movies, listed in no particular order, most recently updated to include selections from his Criterion Closet video interview.

With editorial contributions by Zack Sharf.

[Editor’s note: The following list was originally published in June 2018 and has been updated multiple times since.]

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