At age 12, Anna Kendrick booked her first starring role in the Broadway musical, High Society, and earned a Tony Award nomination for it. Her first movie role was in the 2003 musical comedy Camp, for which she was nominated for Best Debut Performance at the Independent Spirit Awards. Kendrick's breakout came with the back-to-back release of Twilight in 2008 and Up in the Air in 2009, the latter of which earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
It was an auspicious start for an actress who's made a name for herself starring in movie musicals (including 2014's The Last Five Years and Into the Woods) and franchise films (the Pitch Perfect trilogy and the Trolls series), plus modern cult classics like Edgar Wright's Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and Paul Feig's A Simple Favor. In 2020, Kendrick starred in her first TV show, Love Life, an anthology series tracking her character's romantic relationships over a decade.
"That was so fun and so challenging in such a different way," she reflects. "I don't want to denigrate the process that I had created for myself before this — that had value to me — but it was fun having a new leading man every episode, and I felt very empowered and joyful being in a space where I knew the camera team so intimately that it was like we could read each other's minds. Getting into those rhythms was so rewarding."
She wanted to return to making movies with a renewed approach to her craft. The first film she chose to star in was the thriller Alice, Darling, from director Mary Nighy, about a woman in an emotional abusive relationship as she attempts to extricate herself. "They're on such different ends of the spectrum, and it's funny that I learned a lot about myself as an actor and as a person in both," Kendrick explains. "Coming into Alice, Darling and throwing out any sense of rhythm was also so rewarding."
Below, Kendrick shares with A.frame the five films that have helped to make her the actress — and the person — that she is today. "I'm pretty sure the list has changed a little bit over the years, but mostly stayed the same," she says, "because they are the formative movies."
Directed by: George Cukor | Written by: Anita Loos and Jane Murfin
My number-one favorite film of all time is The Women. I was in a show on Broadway when I was 12, and the woman who played my mother, Lisa Banes, and Randy Graff, we shared a floor. So, my dressing room was on the same floor as theirs. They recommended several films to me and, I don't know, I guess I was so flattered that they would even take the time to recommend a film to me that I felt very primed to love these films. The one that I loved the most was The Women, because it's just... such sharp, funny, smart performances — like, electric performances, out of all these women. That movie just means so much to me. I actually got to program a screening of it several years ago. It was really bizarre to watch it in a theater full of people, because I'd watched it so many times in the basement of my house. It felt like somebody watching a dream I had or something.
But I was also such a pusher of films to my friends that, at 13, I was sitting everybody down and being like, 'We're watching The Women.' In the opening credits sequence, they show each actress, and then, they show the animal that she is. And so, then throughout the movie, when my friends would be confused about who was who, I was like, 'That's the lamb, that's the cat, that's the tiger, that's the cow.' That was the way that I got all of my friends, at 13, to tolerate watching this old movie.
Directed by: Edgar Wright | Written by: Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg
Edgar knows and loves that Hot Fuzz is still my second favorite movie of all time. I love that movie so much. I remember seeing it in the theater and being like, 'I can't believe what this team is doing, and what this director is doing.' It made me so excited. I think most people prefer Shaun [of the Dead] to Hot Fuzz, and I like horror, but I love action. Like, I'll watch such mediocre action movies. So, to do this pastiche, homage, whatever you want to call it, but also it's a great action film? It was such a great theater experience. Every now and then I'll think that, 'Oh, I just feel that way because I have this affection for it,' and then it comes on TV or something, and I'm like, 'No, it's a perfect movie.'
Written and Directed by: Ingmar Bergman
It's part of Bergman's 'God's Silence' trilogy, and the themes in it, they seem to perfectly capture that horrible duality of what we all have inside of us — of the beautiful, the spiritual, the things that transcend, and the disgusting, ridiculous animal that we are. That push-pull of dealing with both of those sides of ourselves, I think, is amazing. I was like 22 when I first saw it, and I started going through all the Bergman I could find, back when Rocket Video was still a thing on La Brea. That one, more than any other, stopped me in my tracks because of the thematic elements. So many of them are so good, but that one just immediately stuck out to me.
Directed by: David Wain | Written by: Michael Showalter and David Wain
Number four is Wet Hot American Summer, because why wouldn't it be? That was one of the movies that I watched as a teenager with my friends, where you realize it is almost as fun to quote the movie as it is to watch the movie. We would just sit and watch that movie over, and over, and over. And I wonder if kids in high school today have that experience, because they have access to so much on streaming — which is wonderful — but when your DVD collection is basically four DVDs and one of them is Wet Hot American Summer, you go over to your friend's house and you are just going to watch it over, and over, and over. I also have very specific memories of making out with a boy to that DVD menu track. Like, the movie would end and it would just be, 'Wet Hot American Summer... ' I think, if I heard that DVD menu sound now, it would be very triggering.
Directed by: Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly | Written by: Adolph Green and Betty Comden
I have to put a musical in there, so why not go with the greatest musical of all time? Singin' in the Rain. I got that movie at a White Elephant Christmas thing when I was like 10. There were cool things and sparkly headbands, and I ended up with a copy of this old movie. And I was so bummed. Then I watched it, and I was like, 'Oh, I got the best thing at this party!' That was another movie where I became such a pusher and made everybody that I knew watch Singin' in the Rain, because it is a perfect musical film.