Writer-producer-director Adam McKay began his career writing sketches on SNL in the 1990s. For the past two decades, he’s been behind such feature films as Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Step Brothers, The Big Short, Vice and Don’t Look Up, among others. He has received seven Academy Award nominations – having been nominated for writing, directing, and producing – and has won an Oscar. McKay, along with co-writer Charles Randolph, won for Best Adapted Screenplay for his 2015 biographical comedy-drama The Big Short, which chronicled the collapse of the housing market in 2008. He has succeeded with both comedies and dramas, directing each film in a style all his own.
His latest film, the apocalyptic dark comedy Don’t Look Up, debuted on Netflix in December and has been nominated for four Oscars, including two for McKay (Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture).
McKay, who co-wrote and directed the hilarious 2010 action comedy The Other Guys, knows a thing or two about a great movie being underrated. Here, he shares with A.frame five films that he believes everyone should consider adding to their movie queue.
The Interrupters is one of the most emotional, stirring documentaries I’ve ever seen. It shows a portrait of the street-level violence that afflicts our country in a way that I’ve never experienced before. I remember when it came out, I was like, “Oh, this is the biggest documentary of the year.” And somehow it got brushed aside. I lived in Chicago in the early ’90s and I remember the legend of Jeff Fort, who ran the street gang the El Rukns, and to see his daughter in the middle of this effort to block street violence—it was amazing. It was so emotional, and beautifully done. I think it’s one of the greatest American documentaries ever made, and for some reason, no one ever talks about it.
Oh my God. One of my favorite comedies ever made, by a guy named Andrew Gurland, who has done a bunch of different stuff. Andrew is a really interesting filmmaker. He’s done horror movies. He did a movie for Gary Sanchez [McKay’s production company] called The Virginity Hit, which, despite the title, is really good. His whole thing is he replicates the documentary style, but he does it through a comedy lens. I watched Mail Order Wife and I was laughing so hard. The one thing I tell people when they watch that movie is, “You have to remember, someone scripted this,” because you start watching it and you forget it. Awesome.
Silent Running is just way ahead of its time. It’s an environmental film. It’s beautiful, it’s heartbreaking and it’s a movie that’s more relevant now as we stare down the collapse of the livable climate. Thinking about it right now, I get emotional. You watch Silent Running and you can tell it was the first awakenings of an environmental movement. It’s a beautiful, beautiful film that I never hear talked about. That might be number one on my list of, “Watch it and watch it now.” An important, historical film.
My 20-year-old daughter, Lili Rose, loves horror films. One day she just came to me and was like, “We have to watch this.” Horror is a really interesting genre, because you’re able to be funny. You’re able to be, obviously, scary. You’re able to be sly. It gives you a lot of latitude. One of my favorite movies in the last 10 years is Get Out, because I love how it crosses genres, and Creep is a great example of a movie that just blows through these different genres of satire and horror. I think it really captures the feeling of what it’s like to be alive now, with social media, the ability to dox people, the ability to SWAT people. A really great, great movie.
We all talk about the great Spike Lee movies, but I don’t think people talk about Get on the Bus enough. I saw it in Times Square when it came out and I realized I was one of the very few Caucasian people in the crowd. There was a crackling energy in the theater. Every moment of that movie had me on the edge of my seat, as far as all the different issues that were floating around. Spike Lee is hugely celebrated, but that’s a movie I never hear talked about. I hear Do the Right Thing, which is an American classic. I hear Jungle Fever, Crooklyn. But Get on the Bus was really hard viewing and really charged. It came out at a point where America was distinctly turning towards the right with Bill Clinton, who was supposed to be the left-wing president and was veering hard to the right. So it’s an important moment in American history, and as usual, Spike Lee doesn’t blink in bringing us the portrait of all these characters who are on a bus to go to the Million Man March for African-American rights and equity.