My Favorite Films by Hideo Kojima

My Favorite Films

by Hideo Kojima

Translated by Marc Laidlaw

This will be the final article in my column about films that have influenced Metal Gear Solid (MGS). In the previous seven articles, I've introduced to you ones that played a part in shaping the series. Here's a recap of them.

The Great Escape, Dir. John Sturges - US (1963)
The Guns of Navarone, Dir. J. Lee Thompson - UK/US (1961)
Escape from New York, Dir. John Carpenter - US (1981)
North by Northwest, Dir. Alfred Hitchcock - US (1959)
Planet of the Apes, Dir. Franklin J. Schaffner - US (1968)
Dawn of the Dead, Dir. George A. Romero - US (1978)
The James Bond Series - various

I've said over the years in interviews throughout the world, "Just like the human body is 70% water, I'm 70% film". While this is a figure of speech, there is some truth to it. I learned, or rather was taught, much from film, including things I didn't learn in school or from my parents. Through film, I've met different races and cultures, seen the world through the eyes of other generations, and adopted ideologies. I've been to new countries and exotic lands, and gone to outer space as well. I've traveled to the distant past and far into the future. I've fought in ancient conflicts and fictional wars. I've even experienced what it's like to be something other than human. Part of my sustenance growing up was the virtual experiences I had through this medium. There's nothing unique about this. I'm sure everyone in my generation is the same, for films are no longer mere diversions. All of the films I've seen, regardless of their content, are part of my virtual life. I've been shaped by my actual experiences, but also by my virtual experiences through film. However, the seven listed above are by no means the only ones that had a hand in MGS. And many others influenced me as a person, with my current self a result of the battle they fought with my actual experiences. Even if they didn't directly contribute to MGS, they are without a doubt part of my chromosomes, DNA and memes. That's how I'd define my "favorite films".

So for this final article, I'd like to try to list my all-time top thirty (excluding the previous seven). There are some that will appear at the top of most people's favorites. There's no need for me to talk about these classics, so I've left them out. I narrowed down my choices to personal favorites I think best reflect me. (Ones that particularly shaped MGS are mentioned in bold.) If any pique your interest, why not check them out?

Omitted all-time classics

Citizen Kane, Dir. Orson Welles - US (1941)
Tokyo Story, Dir. Yasujiro Ozu - Japan (1953)
La strada (The Road), Dir. Federico Fellini - Italy (1954)
Lawrence of Arabia, Dir. David Lean - UK (1962)
The Godfather, Dir. Francis Ford Coppola - US (1972)

With that said, here are my top thirty films, in chronological order.

Favorite non-Japanese films

City Lights, Dir. Charlie Chaplin - US (1931)
Still no bigger tearjerker! Chaplin is amazing!

La belle et la bête (Beauty and the Beast), Dir. Jean Cocteau - France (1946)
This is what comes to mind when I think of Beauty and the Beast, rather than the Disney film. The surreal visuals surprised me.

The Third Man, Dir. Carol Reed - UK (1949)
The direction, visuals and music are still burned into my brain. I'd mistakenly thought until I grew up that Orson Welles directed it.

Singin' in the Rain, Dirs. Gene Kelly & Stanley Donen - US (1952)
I like the Hollywood musicals of the "good old days", and this is my favorite. When I was a kid, I was in love with this period of America.

Le salaire de la peur (The Wages of Fear), Dir. Henri-Georges Clouzot - France/Italy (1953)
The extreme realism shocked me. It's got its own Mario and Luigi. Yves Montand has great presence.

12 Angry Men, Dir. Sidney Lumet - US (1957)
This film made me think about just how inaccurate one's assumptions and stereotypes can be. It also was my first exposure to the American jury system.

Kanal (Sewer), Dir. Andrzej Wajda - Poland (1957)
Most people would probably pick Ashes and Diamonds as their favorite of Wajda's films, but I like this one the best. It had a big influence on MGS, too.

The Pink Panther Series, Dir. Blake Edwards - US
The Pink Panther (1963)
A Shot in the Dark (1964)
The Return of the Pink Panther (1975)
The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976)
Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978)
My favorite comedic actor is the late Peter Sellers. I like nearly all of Edwards's and Sellers's films together, though the Pink Panther films are the best (apart from the ones that don't feature Sellers). This is where MGS gets its sense of humor.

Les parapluies de Cherbourg (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg), Dir. Jacques Demy - France (1964)
A bittersweet film. Catherine Deneuve is cute. This type of love story, where circumstances keep two people apart, really gets to me. I didn't find out until much later that Deneuve's singing was dubbed.

Django, Dir. Sergio Corbucci - Italy (1966)
I also love Spaghetti Westerns. This is what led to Ocelot, among other things, and this film is my favorite out of all of them. Django's songs are good. He was the inspiration for Boktai's main character.

Fantastic Voyage, Dir. Richard Fleischer - US (1966)
This never gets old for me. I've also read Isaac Asimov's novel, which was based on the film, not the other way around. A popcorn movie, it combines science fiction and espionage to great effect. The art direction and special effects depicting the inner workings of the human body are not only amazing but scientifically accurate as well. My biology professor in college gave the movie his enthusiastic approval.

2001: A Space Odyssey, Dir. Stanley Kubrick - UK/US (1968)
There's nothing left for me to say about this one. To me, it's more than a film; it's an experience.

Profondo rosso (Deep Red), Dir. Dario Argento - Italy (1975)
This is the greatest of all Argento's films, and it's my number-one horror film. Goblin's music is cool. The revelation at the end is scary.

Taxi Driver, Dir. Martin Scorsese - US (1976)
This film was an eye-opener for me. I had no idea Americans, who seemed so cheerful, could feel lonely in the middle of a city. It resonated with me, given the loneliness that troubled me in my younger days, which is why it has a very special place in my heart. After I saw it I bought a jacket and a pair of boots to copy Robert De Niro. Needless to say, I did not get a mohawk.

Somewhere in Time, Dir. Jeannot Szwarc - US (1980)
I adore Richard Matheson's original novel and this movie, which he also wrote. Jane Seymour is really beautiful. I'm a sucker for this type of romance movie. John Barry's music is good, too.

Das Boot (The Boat), Dir. Wolfgang Petersen - Germany (1981)
This is my favorite submarine film. It's a powerful depiction of a group of men in extreme circumstances.

Mad Max 2, Dir. George Miller - Australia (1981)
The production design, the characters, the action, the violence, the suspense, the direction—it's fantastic in every way. A classic that's in my top ten!

Blade Runner, Dir. Ridley Scott - US (1982)
Its world and visuals are incredible. There's nothing else I need to say about this one, either. More than science fiction, it's a part of my generation's culture.

Streets of Fire, Dir. Walter Hill - US (1984)
A coming-of-age rock 'n' roll film with action, violence and romance. It's new wave music meets MTV. It instantly made me a fan of Diane Lane. There was a time when I would watch its ending every morning.

Mauvais sang (Bad Blood), Dir. Leos Carax - France (1986)
I really like Carax, and this is my favorite work of his. It's a cool movie.

Ying hung boon sik II (A Better Tomorrow II), Dir. John Woo - Hong Kong (1987)
This is one of my favorite John Woo films, right up there with Hard-Boiled. I still cry every time I watch it.

Nuovo Cinema Paradiso (Cinema Paradiso), Dir. Giuseppe Tornatore - Italy (1988)
This film also makes me cry—particularly the final scene, but in a way I never expected. A must-see for movie lovers. The child is good, too.

Favorite animated films

Fantastic Planet, Dir. René Laloux - France/Czechoslovakia (1973)
The originality of its world and style left me speechless.

Yoju toshi (Wicked City), Dir. Yoshiaki Kawajiri - Japan (1987)
One of Mr. Kawajiri's best works. I respect him very much. It has an unrivaled speed to it! Seeing it now, it's like watching The Matrix.

Crayon Shin-chan: The Storm Called: The Adult Empire Strikes Back, Dir. Keiichi Hara - Japan (2001)
This is the most recent film on the list. A tearful, painful yet inspiring film for my generation. Anyone who writes it off as just a kids' movie is making a big mistake. It's an amazing film that a family can enjoy together, laughing, crying, cherishing.

Favorite Japanese films

Yojimbo, Dir. Akira Kurosawa - Japan (1961)
One of my favorite Kurosawa films, along with High and Low and Seven Samurai. There was a TV series called Ronin of the Wilderness starring a character named Kujuro Toge ("Sanjuro" in Yojimbo and Sanjuro).

Asobi, Dir. Yasuzo Masumura - Japan (1971)
This is based on Akiyuki Nosaka's novel. It's not the best of Masumura's films, but I just like it a lot for some reason. I was a fan of Keiko Sekine when I was a kid.

Suna no tsuwa (Castle of Sand), Dir. Yoshitaro Nomura - Japan (1974)
I was a fan of Seicho Matsumoto as well; I saw this film after reading his original novel. It has incredible direction, and moved and amazed me in ways the book didn't, in ways only film can. Yasushi Akutagawa's music is wonderful, too.

Bakuretsu toshi (Burst City), Dir. Sogo Ishii - Japan (1982)
This is Sogo Ishii's greatest work!! It has fantastic energy and soul! Mr. Ishii is my mentor in spirit. When I first saw this I thought, I want to be like him some day!

Favorite documentary

Night and Fog, Dir. Alain Resnais - France (1955)
This documentary belongs in my top thirty list. It's based on Viktor Frankl's novel Man's Search for Meaning, which my father made me read as a kid as well.

At the beginning of this article I said I'd try to list my top thirty films, though in reality it's not only difficult, but close to impossible. That's why I've always declined to answer the question "What are your favorite films?" over the years. I can't pick my favorite films. I tried to do it here, and it was exceedingly hard. My choices would change depending on the day, and even my physical condition and mood. Below are some films, again in chronological order, which didn't quite make it onto the list. As above, ones that had a big impact on MGS and that I wasn't able to talk about in this series of articles are mentioned in bold. I included these particular films because they had an influence on MGS (as was the theme of these articles), rather than because they're all-time favorites.

The rest (runners-up)

Casablanca, Dir. Michael Curtiz - US (1942)
I didn't really understand what this was about when I was a kid, but the ending, the music and especially Ingrid Bergman's beauty (my mother was a big fan of her) are forever etched in my memory.

The Thing from Another World, Dir. Christian Nyby - US (1951)
Carpenter's 1982 remake The Thing had an impact on me as well, but Howard Hawks's original is also a good film. Its outstanding direction on a low budget makes it a must-watch.

Ascenseur pour l'échafaud (Elevator to the Gallows), Dir. Louis Malle - France (1958)
Malle's masterpiece. This left a big impression on me when I saw it on TV. I'll never forget the music. I didn't get the chance to ride on many elevators back then.

Vynález zkázy (The Fabulous World of Jules Verne), Dir. Karel Zeman - Czechoslovakia (1958)
Watching it now I'm still blown away by how its world was created. The special effects, all done by hand and accomplishing things you can't do with CG, are amazing.

Jason and the Argonauts, Dir. Don Chaffey - US/UK (1963)
This is my favorite of all Ray Harryhausen's films.

Alphaville, Dir. Jean-Luc Godard - France (1965)
I doubt many people would single out this film from Godard's works (I also like Breathless (1960)), but I'm fond of it. This is where the '80s German synthpop band Alphaville (I was a fan of them) got their name.

One Million Years B.C., Dir. Don Chaffey - UK (1966)
The dinosaurs were incredible in this, though it was really all about Raquel Welch. She had a great body in Fantastic Voyage, but in this she's wearing a bikini (made out of pieces of animal hide) for the entire thing. This film overstimulated my very young mind. Another movie from Hammer Films.

Les aventuriers (The Last Adventure), Dir. Robert Enrico - France/Italy (1967)
When I was a kid, I thought the strange relationship between the three main characters was cool. I also loved French people, like the way they can be so uninhibited.

Barbarella, Dir. Roger Vadim - France/Italy (1968)
Erotic and kitsch sci-fi humor. The young Jane Fonda is amazing. The British synthpop band Duran Duran got their name from the doctor in the movie.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Dir. George Roy Hill - US (1969)
Katharine Ross is so innocent in this. Burt Bacharach's songs are good, too. The ending really hits hard. I was sorry to hear about George Roy Hill's passing in 2002.

El topo (The Mole), Dir. Alejandro Jodorowsky - US/Mexico (1970)
A two-part film that's acquired a cult following. The way the boss characters appear one-by-one and reveal their beliefs had quite an influence on MGS.

Silent Running, Dir. Douglas Trumbull - US (1972)
One of the directorial turns of Trumbull, god of the special effects world. The designs and movements of the drone robots Huey, Dewey and Louie are cute. While a little plain, it has an outstanding story.

El espíritu de la colmena (The Spirit of the Beehive), Dir. Víctor Erice - Spain (1973)
Ana Torrent is adorable as the child. I'm also a sucker for films starring children, from Chaplin's The Kid (US (1921)) to My Life as a Dog (Sweden (1985)).

Papillon, Dir. Franklin J. Schaffner - US (1973)
The cinematic adaptation of a work of non-fiction based on actual events, starring Steve McQueen. It had an influence on MGS, along with The Great Escape, because of the concept of "escape". The look on Dustin Hoffman's face at the end is great. So is Jerry Goldsmith's music.

The Towering Inferno, Dir. John Guillermin - US (1974)
A masterful disaster film produced by special effects wizard Irwin Allen. You'd be hard-pressed to gather a cast as spectacular as this today. Just like Dawn of the Dead, its closed environments influenced MGS, particularly the use of elevators, shafts, ducts and stairs.

Rollerball, Dir. Norman Jewison - US (1975)
This was the first film I went to see at a movie theater by myself, at the OS Theater in Osaka. I have a lot of memories of this film. It inspired a popular "game" at my elementary school involving bicycles and roller skates.

Shinkansen daibakuha (The Bullet Train), Dir. Junya Sato - Japan (1975)
A Japanese disaster film masterpiece. Not only does it have an interesting story and suspense, it feels real, as it features problems of the time like the noise pollution issue. It was a big hit overseas as well. Also, Ken Takakura gave the type of performance we hadn't seen from him before.

The Cassandra Crossing, Dir. George P. Cosmatos - Italy/UK/W. Germany (1976)
A classic from the peak of the disaster film era. Its all-star cast, the suspense on the train and its big set-piece at the end are its highlights. Goldsmith's music is also good. This was released at the end of '76 when a lot of other big films, like King Kong and The Spy Who Loved Me, were also playing. I was in my first year of middle school, and I went and saw King Kong without thinking twice. I ended up seeing this film quite a few years later on TV. Naturally, I was really annoyed with myself for not having gone to see it.

Alien, Dir. Ridley Scott - US (1979)
Cameron's Aliens (1986) is a classic in its own right, but I prefer the first one. When I saw it when it was released, I was shaking in my seat with dread.

The Right Stuff, Dir. Philip Kaufman - US (1983)
A must-see for anyone who's into astronauts.

Der Name der Rose (The Name of the Rose), Dir. Jean-Jacques Annaud - Italy/W. Germany/France (1986)
Its 14th century world, as well as the art direction and cinematography, are incredible.

Bad Taste, Dir. Peter Jackson - New Zealand (1987)
The directorial debut of Peter Jackson, who's gone on to much bigger things like the Lord of the Rings trilogy. This also inspired MGS's humor—jokes that dissolve tension—with scenes like the puking in the alien base.

Die Hard, Dir. John McTiernan - US (1988)
A classic from the height of McTiernan's career. It has great direction and camerawork, in addition to a solid story with good use of foreshadowing. This had a huge influence on '90s action films.

Nikita, Dir. Luc Besson - France/Italy (1990)
My favorite Luc Besson film.

Published in METAL GEAR SOLID naked (2004).