He started messing around with film at an early age. He set up giant battles with his toy soldiers and told short three minute stories. When he wasn’t filming he was writing radio plays that he was recording with his friends. As he grew older he had one goal in my mind; he was going to be an old school action film director like Don Siegel. He was laughed at and told it wouldn’t happen; if you weren’t into Brunelle then you were a capitalistic nobody going nowhere fast. Since then he has worked with Ed Harris, Val Kilmer, Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone, Geena Davis and his close friend Samuel L. Jackson, among others. Renny Harlin had the last laugh.

As part of our ongoing series of influential films that inspired the directors of today, Harlin checked in with a list of the films that motivated him to step behind the camera (click here for John Carpenter’s list). Harlin’s latest film, DEVIL’S PASS (2013), is in select theaters and on VOD tomorrow, August 23. Everyone here at DG wants to thank Harlin for taking the time to drop a dime on 10 films that made him who he is today.

10. Citizen Kane (1941)


I grew up watching Hollywood movies from masters like Howard Hawks, John Ford and Hitchcock. But “Citizen Kane” was the first time I truly discovered how exceptional camerawork and editing could affect the story. The sets were mind blowing. The thought that a young man could achieve something this groundbreaking continues to be inspiring.

9. Cinema Paradiso (1988)


I might not get many opportunities to make small, intimate, character based movies myself, but I love to watch them. I’m very romantic at heart and a beautiful story like this, with its beautiful visuals, story, and music is guaranteed to bring me to tears.

8. Apocalypse Now (1979)


My all time favorite! I can watch it anytime, over and over again. It transports me to another world; an alternate reality, which while fantastical in many ways, feels absolutely real. The production is said to have been chaotic, but out of that disorder Coppola was able to carve a masterpiece. I have a huge amount of respect for him and this film.

7. Telefon (1977)


This one changed my life. Don Siegel was one of my heroes growing up, so when he directed this movie in Helsinki, I saw for the first time what a director does. It blew my mind and I knew at the age of 15 that I wanted to become a film director.

6. They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1969)

they shoot horses dont they

The melancholy story, the collection of characters and the pace of this movie made a strong impression on me. It made me appreciate a simple setting for a complex story. It’s one of the absolute favorites of my youth. I’m not exactly sure what makes me love that movie, but it is just incredible.

5. The Wild Bunch (1969)


Sam Peckinpah blew my mind wide open with this revolutionary epic film. The camerawork, slow-motion, bloodshed, and powerful characters made this an instant favorite of mine. It’s one of those classics that I am always excited to watch.

4. Lawrence Of Arabia (1962)


A truly timeless masterpiece! The visual strength of the film pulls you in and takes you on the epic journey along with the characters. The music carries you long after the film ends. It’s one of the greatest music melodies of all time.

3. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)


My mom, who was a movie buff, took me to see this when I was 9 or 10 years old. The story, the depth of the characters, and the visuals have left a haunting impression that has impacted both my dreams and nightmares and has given me inspiration in creating my own horror films.

2. Paint Your Wagon (1969)


What a great western spectacle! Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood made a strong impression on a 9 year old, and even now I am amazed with both the production design and production quality. I also love the music and the humor.

1. Dr. Doolittle (1967)

doctor dolittle

The original 1967 version, of course. I saw this film as a kid and loved the sense of imagination and adventure that it provoked. Movies are at their best when they create such a marvelous world, that they make you immerse yourself into their universe, and can transform you into the main character.


Thanks again to Renny Harlin for dropping this list off. For more information on DEVIL’S PASS, click here to visit IFC Films.





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