6. Gosford Park (Robert Altman, 2001)
Long before Rian Johnson single-handedly revitalized the subgenre of politically-tinged whodunits with his “Knives Out” series, maverick auteur Robert Altman was already poking fun at high society with “Gosford Park”, in which a colorful ensemble of blue-blooded British aristocrats suddenly become prime murder suspects during a weekend retreat at a mansion-on-the-hill.
Not only was this 2001 murder mystery featured in M. Night Shyamalan’s personal Blu-ray collection, but also cited as a vital inspiration that helped devise one of the director’s biggest studio blockbusters to date. “Cinematographer Mike Gioulakis and I watched a lot of the master Robert Altman when designing shots for “Split”, he revealed in a 2017 tweet. “Altman’s slow, long visual style was a huge influence on the film, you might notice it in the zooms.” On a separate tweet, M. Night sung the praises of another deep-cut in Altman’s stacked catalog: the 1992 biting Hollywood takedown “The Player”, waxing lyrical about its “wit and tone”. If you’re planning to dive into his work, this is your chance, as you really can’t go wrong with either film.
7. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (David Fincher, 2011)
“In my opinion, David Fincher is the best director working today. Performances, the camera, tone, pacing. The full monty. I’m truly inspired,” Shyamalan said of the acclaimed American director in a 2012 tweet. “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” was exquisite”.
Though Fincher’s credentials and pedigree in the thriller genre are well-documented and need no further explanation, it’s safe to say M. Night’s verdict seems to hold water to this day. Some viewers may be partial to Niels Arden’s Swedish-language adaptation, but you can’t help but admire Fincher’s rendition of Stieg Larsson’s bestselling novel. Starring Daniel Craig in a sort of proto-Benoit Blanc role as a disgraced journalist-turned-professional sleuth and Rooney Mara as a bad-ass computer hacker, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” plunges viewers in the midst of a sprawling crime saga where corruption, serial killers, and unsolved mysteries abound. In distinct Fincher fashion, there’s plenty of messed-up stuff that will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end, so proceed with caution. But if Scandinavian family drama sounds like something you’d dig, this is the right movie for you.
8. Caché (Michael Haneke, 2005)
The evil specters of France’s colonial past and the horrors of the 1961 Paris massacre continue to haunt Michael Haneke’s darkly warped examination of collective guilt and bourgeoisie complacency, in which a successful TV host (Daniel Auteuil) and his middle-aged wife (Juliette Binoche) are forced to confront their dark past after finding a series of mysterious surveillance tapes on his front porch.
M. Night Shyamalan revealed during a promotional interview that the static visual style and slow pace in his 2016 psychological thriller “Split” was heavily inspired by the look of this thriller. Though it definitely takes its sweet time implanting itself in your mind, “Caché” digs its nails into the flesh of the viewer, leaving an unforgettable mixture of horror and shock in its wake. At once shocking in its offhand brutality and incisive in its many observations, this European nail-bitter will leave you with a lot to chew on.
9. Memento (Christopher Nolan, 2000)
In Christopher Nolan’s non-linear neo-noir, a tattooed amnesiac (Guy Pierce) tries to unravel the truth behind his wife’s murder and bring the culprit to justice while trying to retrace his steps and piece together his past—laying the groundwork for one of the seminal films of the new millennium and the big splash that brought the genius British director into global prominence.
Upon re-watching the stone-cold classic in February 2015, Shyamalan couldn’t hold back his love and appreciation on Twitter: “What an intricate, deftly made film. Precise and challenging. Classic Nolan”. 5 years later, when news broke out that Universal had landed “Oppenheimer”, the upcoming WWII biopic from the mastermind behind “Inception” and “Interstellar”, the Indian-born director reportedly encouraged his fellow filmmaker to join him at Universal, later confessing he was “so happy to have a friend I admire so much come home”. Any movie enthusiasts worth their salt, especially viewers who like to be wrongfooted at every turn, should make sure to cross “Memento” off their watchlist.
10. The Bad Sleep Well (Akira Kurosawa, 1960)
Having waxed lyrical about the great Akira Kurosawa in a previous entry in the present list, why not bookend it with one of his underlooked deep cuts? Keep in mind that not only is Shyamalan a self-professed diehard fan of the legendary Japanese filmmaker, but according to his Twitter bio, he goes as far as to put him in his personal Mt. Rushmore of film directors, which is rounded out by the likes of Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock, and Satyajit Ray.
In this loose contemporary re-imagining of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the illegitimate son of a corporate executive (Toshiro Mifune) climbs up the corporate ladder and marries his boss’ crippled daughter in an elaborate quest to expose the corrupt businessmen who got his father killed. Upon watching the film in 2015, Shyamalan tweeted that he loved the way Kurosawa suffuses the story with elements proper of classic American film noir, pointing out how the Japanese director masterfully holds long takes to stunning effect in “The Bad Sleep Well”. “Kurosawa used compositions to astounding effect,” reads the tweet.