For those of us fortunate enough to be healthy and working from home during the outbreak of COVID-19, the possibilities for entertainment can feel both extremely confined (specifically, to our homes) and overwhelmingly endless (where in our Netflix queues to begin?). Luckily, movie experts across the globe are likewise confined to their homes, which makes them readily available to offer some guidance.
One such authority: cinema buff Jonah Hill. Hill hopped onto Instagram Live on Wednesday with GQ’s Mark Anthony Green to offer some recommendations to help cure self-isolation-induced boredom. Seth Rogen, director Barry Jenkins, and producer Scott Storch—who Hill mentioned he'd based a character on for a hidden-away script he wrote with Harmony Korine—chimed in via the comments.
Below are Hill's twenty film recs—plus three bonus Hill-approved books—in his own words. As he put it during the conversation, “We should try to all experience joy together...virtually.”
1. Shampoo (1975)
"Shampoo stars Warren Beatty and it’s directed by Hal Ashby. It’s hysterical and it’s really satirical. Warren Beatty plays this playboy guy who works at a hair salon. He does all the women’s hair, and he ends up being this huge womanizer. It ultimately ends up being kind of like a commentary on that. I don’t know how it flies now, but I think it’s a comment on it because he ends up lonely and losing the love of his life. So it’s ultimately a cautionary tale. Warren Beatty at the height of being the GOAT, just killing it, and Hal Ashby...amazing.
It is a comedy. In the '70s comedies were not genre-fied in the same way. There were these great films that looked beautiful, made by great directors, where your A-level great filmmakers that made crazy dramas made 'comedies' and they had great actors in them and were shot by the great DPs."
2. Being There (1979)
"One of the greatest films ever made. The poster is based on a Magritte painting. Peter Sellers is the star. It’s hysterical and so beautiful. The best movie there is about a naive. Peter Sellers, one of the great comedic actors of all time, plays Chance, this guy who’s worked as a gardener for this woman for, like, 40 years. And she dies and he has never gone outside. So he walks into the modern world for the first time ‘cause he was raised as the kid of a gardener. And he accidentally becomes this political figure in the upper bourgeois - almost commenting on how stupid the upper elite is. This guy is so naive, and he becomes so celebrated in that world, but he has no idea that he’s even doing it."
3. CB4 & Fear of a Black Hat (1993)
"I hope Chris Rock sees this. I love CB4. It falls into the genre of - it’s almost a Wayne’s World but about NWA. It’s in the spoof movie genre. I’ll do a slash on this one—CB4 and Fear of a Black Hat, directed by Rusty Cundieff. CB4 was directed by my friend Tamra Davis, who’s an amazing director. She gave Spike Jonze his first directing job.
CB4 is an amazing spoof movie of, like, an NWA-like band, but they’re from the suburbs and they’re kind of pretending to be harder than they are. There’s a song called 'Straight Outta Locash' instead of 'Straight Outta Compton.' I think I know all the words, but I won’t sing it. And Chris Elliott is great as the cameraman following them around. RIP Charlie Murphy—the first big Charlie Murphy performance is as the 'bad guy' in CB4. That was the first time I ever saw Charlie Murphy."
4. Carnal Knowledge (1971)
"Mike Nichols’ most famous film is probably The Graduate. He passed away a couple years ago. Carnal Knowledge is with Jack Nicholson and it came out, I believe, before The Graduate or maybe right after. It was really, really boundary pushing, sexually, what they were doing and talking about in the film. It’s a great Jack Nicholson performance."
5. The Birdcage (1996)
"The Birdcage is a later Mike Nichols film written by Elaine May, who’s his old comedy partner, who’s also a brilliant genius and one of the first big female directors in Hollywood. Brilliant woman. It’s with Robin Williams and Nathan Lane. Hank Azaria gives an amazing performance, as does Gene Hackman. It’s just one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen. It holds up, and it’s great to watch ‘cause it’s cozy and it’s bright and it’s in Miami and it’s really funny. The, like, '96 Miami fashion is just a lot of Versace, which is so sick. Hank Azaria gives one of the funniest performances of all time in that movie. Like, for the record books."
6. Network (1976)
"Arguably the greatest screenplay of all time by Paddy Chayefsky. It’s just one of the best movies ever made. Any director you love, this is in their top 5 favorite movies. It has that famous line, like, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore.” It really is about feeling fucked over by the system and not being down for it anymore. It’s truly the best screenplay ever."
7. Mi Vida Loca (1993)
"Mi Vida Loca is a female Hispanic gang movie directed by Allison Anders in the 90s and it is one of the greatest movies, and one that I don’t think a lot of people have seen. For the aesthetic alone, it’s incredible. Just a great great film about female gang members in a Hispanic neighborhood in L.A. in the 90s. I had never seen a gang movie from the female perspective. And it has one of the greatest snapshots of East L.A. at that time."
8. Tommy Boy (1995)
"My next one is a fun movie. Tommy Boy is one of the funniest movies ever made. There’s few people in the world I wish were alive more than Chris Farley. I knew at the time, but even 20 years later showing my nephews all these comedies and SNL episodes from back in the day, Chris Farley is the thing they respond to having no backstory. When you rewatch Tommy Boy you’re, like, it’s one of the funniest performances ever. It’s so funny and so oddly poignant at times. And if you want an extra special bonus, watch Chris Farley’s David Letterman appearances. They’re so fucking gnarly."
9. Adaptation (2002)
"Adaptation by Spike Jonze, written by Charlie Kaufman. Definitely my favorite of both of their films. I don’t wanna give anything away. Just watch it. It’s such a fucking great movie. Shout out to Spike.
Spike directed a Beastie Boys film and I produced it with him and them. It was supposed to be on IMAX, and the Paramount Theater in Austin converted to IMAX for it before all this happened. But it will be on Apple+ April 24th."
10. Moonlight (2016)
"I felt conflicted to put this on the list, but then I thought it’s amazing to put it on. Sure, a movie that won best picture a couple years ago is not exactly a great call to put on this list. It’s like a mixtape—you don’t wanna put a top ten hit on the mixtape. But it’s so good and it’s so groundbreaking and there hasn’t been a director this exciting in decades and the movie’s just brilliant. Often when movies win best picture we don’t watch them ‘cause they’re kinda obvious and on our minds and everyone’s talked about how great they are, but Moonlight is even better than it was even talked about.
Barry Jenkins is literally the illest director to come out in decades. He’s a fucking genius. If you look at the circumstances in which that film was made, the amount of money they had, and the stress he was under it’s just a masterpiece. The storytelling device, which I know was inspired by a foreign movie, of having the actors play the three different characters is a device in storytelling that will now just be a thing. The problem with good shit is that it gets aped to the point where it’s not fresh anymore. But if you do it now, you’re not jocking Barry—Barry just did something that is now a storytelling device. He cracked a new code!"
11. Amadeus (1984)
"Made by the great Miloš Forman, RIP. Amadeus is about Mozart, which sounds really boring to me if I just heard that, but it is one of the best movies ever, the best production design, the best acting. It’s just a masterpiece. It’s really about Mozart and Salieri. It’s almost like a broad comedy, but it’s so heartbreaking because this guy is coming up at the same time as Mozart and he’s really talented but he’ll never be close to as good as Mozart and it fucking tears his whole life up. It’s about watching the GOAT and you being this great person also but your spirit being constantly crushed because this guy’s such a difficult, fucked up, arrogant little brat, and then you watch his work and your jaw’s on the floor.
It’s kinda the opposite of how we’re living now, actually. Right now we’re all about 'who is the artist?' and 'how do they behave as a person?', and it’s not art versus artist. And back then, this guy was this tyrant, but then he made something that was so stunning that everyone around him forgave his terrible behavior."
12. Do the Right Thing (1989)
"It’s as important and good as Goodfellas. If you have not seen it, this is what you should watch today. It’s one of the best movies ever made. I don’t know how to even describe its importance. It’s just the best. There’s few films I wanna use the 'I word' for, which is 'important', but this is an important film! Spike Lee is the GOAT. I could put 20 of his movies on here."
13. Ratcatcher (1999)
"Ratcatcher is a heavy film directed by Lynne Ramsay, who was a super big influence on Mid90s. It fits in that genre of, like, This is England and Andrea Arnold films—just a great coming of age movie that’s really intense but beautiful and human. If you want something rich, artistic, deep, fucked up."
14. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016)
"I went from Ratcatcher to Popstar, which is a really dope one-two punch. Popstar does not get enough love. It stars Andy Samberg, and it’s directed by his Lonely Island cohorts, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer—all great human beings. He plays a popstar. It’s a mockumentary, and it’s one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen. It makes me cry laughing. My homie Rodney TK produced it, and Judd Apatow and all these people worked on it, and Andy Samberg is brilliant in it. It’s such a good staying home laugh movie. Underrated classic. As was Hot Rod. Popstar is a masterpiece to me. It’s Stepbrothers-level brilliant. Obviously if you’ve not seen Stepbrothers, you should watch that first."
15. Barry Lyndon (1975)
"By without a doubt the greatest filmmaker of all time, Stanley Kubrick. It also takes place in Renaissance time, with like, powdered wigs, and it’s all shot using natural light, meaning as the light would’ve been at the time, so with candles. He invented weird lenses that didn’t fit on cameras that shouldn’t have had them. No one can touch him. He’s the best director of all time, whether or not he’s your favorite. It’s a beautiful film—it’s slow, it’s gorgeous, it’s not like a fucking action movie. It’s slow, but it is worth it."
16. The Master (2012)
"I think this is becoming my favorite film of all time. It’s up there with Goodfellas and Casino and it might’ve shifted to number one of all time. You have to put Paul Thomas Anderson at the top of the list of best filmmakers. He’s gonna go down, like, Kubrick-level. His movies don’t shake the world like they should. The Master is just pretty much a perfect film. Its photography, its acting, the performances from Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joachim Phoenix, and Amy Adams, it doesn’t get any better than that."
17. Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974)
"Couldn’t make a list without Martin Scorsese on it—my personal hero. I chose a more cutting one that I love because this year he did The Irishman and it’s all these guys. It’s Robert De Niro and Pesci and it’s a male-centric movie. But Martin Scorsese gets the best performances out of women than any director. He is the best director of female actors. Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore is about a single mom who’s a waitress, and Ellen Burstyn’s performance is so next level. It’s a great example of Scorsese’s work that isn’t just the gangster movies that people bring up over and over again."
18. 24 Hour Party People (2002)
"This is the best music biopic ever made. Music biopics follow this formula that was made fun of really well in Walk Hard where it just feels like the same movie over and over but you can exchange, like, Joachim doing Johnny Cash or Jamie doing Ray Charles. They’re the same movie where you just swap in a great actor and they do a great performance. 24 Hour Party People stars Steve Coogan and it’s about the Manchester scene that, like, Joy Division and New Order were in, and this club called the Haçienda that started rave culture and all this shit. So it’s a really cool, vibey British scene. Steve Coogan plays the head of a record label, but he breaks the fourth wall and I’ve never seen it done so well in a movie ever."
19. Drugstore Cowboy (1989)
"Gus Van Sant is one of my mentors, one of my favorite people on the planet, and pioneer of queer cinema. He made a film with myself and Joachim Phoenix and Rooney Mara two years ago called He Won’t Get Far on Foot and nobody saw it ‘cause Amazon completely fucked it up. But it’s the best acting I have done and will ever do."
"Drugstore Cowboy is the Gus movie I put on this list. This movie’s probably one of the most punk movies, because it was, like, scary to show what they were showing at the time. It showed drug addicts and criminals in a way that was raw and no one had seen. And it was fucking scary. People were freaked out. It’s an amazing film."
20. Menace II Society (1993)
"My last film...this is in my top five, dead or alive. Menace II Society is on Goodfellas level as a gangster movie. It came out close to Boyz n the Hood, and when Boyz n the Hood came out it was such a revelation that I think it ate up most of the oxygen around Menace II Society, so Menace II Society didn’t get the reception it deserved. Rest in peace John Singleton. Legend.
This was, like, a con film. The Hughes brothers were like the Dardenne brothers. They were making the art film of this style of movie. Menace II Society is a full fucking masterpiece. Larenz Tate gives an incredible performance—best of his career. That movie’s just stunning."
And, as a bonus, three books Hill recommends for when you want to give your eyes a break:
1. Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan
"This book was a big influence on Mid90s because if you’ve never skateboarded in your life, I wanted you to see what it felt like to get into something and fall in love with it, and be on the outside of it wanting to be on the inside of it. This book illustrates that for surfing."
2. Life Isn’t Everything by Mike Nichols
"Mike Nichols has two movies on here. This book is all quotes from his friends documenting his life. It is one of the fucking illest books ever."
3. Kazan on Directing by Elia Kazan
"If you ever want to be a director this is the number one book I would recommend reading, and a book that a lot of really great directors gave to me. It’s on the nose, but it’s mandatory reading."
And ten other things to watch, read, and play to help you lean into the dread.
It's what you do with the fear that matters.
Originally Appeared on GQ