Halle Berry grew up a self-proclaimed "latchkey kid." "I was raised by a single mom and I was home alone a lot," she recalls of her upbringing in the suburbs of Ohio. "Which is probably why I watched The Sound of Music so many times — it was a great escape."
"I think most people enjoy movies because they get to escape, but I always felt like I didn't see myself and the stories that I knew to be true reflected," the actress says. "There was always a disconnect, because I was longing to see my life and connect to it that way."
Berry made her own film debut in 1991 with a small role in Spike Lee's Jungle Fever, before starring in classics like Boomerang, B*A*P*S, and Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, in which she portrayed the titular Oscar nominee. In the 2000s, she cemented herself as a bona fide movie star with turns as Storm in the X-Men films and the Bond girl, Jinx, in 2002's Die Another Day. That same year, Berry won an Oscar for her performance in Monster's Ball, making history as the first Black actress to win the Oscar for Best Actress.
Recent years have seen her step behind the camera as a producer and director, making her directorial debut with the 2021 MMA drama, Bruised. "Everywhere I look now, I see us, and so I know that there's change," she shares.
"As a mother, I seek out films that allow my kids a chance to see themselves reflected," Berry says. "When Soul came out, I was really happy to share that animated movie with them, because textually, conceptually, they could feel connected to the story. I didn't have that growing up, but they have that today. It feels really good to share those kinds of things, to share The Sound of Music, but to also share Soul at the same time."
Below, Berry shares with A.frame the five films that made the biggest impact on her.
This article was originally published on Nov. 24, 2021.
Directed by: Robert Wise | Written by: Ernest Lehman
As a small girl, I remember one of the movies I used to watch over and over and over was The Sound of Music — probably because it was on public television. It seemed like it was on every weekend, and I just have a fond childhood memory of it that I haven't been able to shake. It's a movie that I've required my children to watch and something that we share together.
Directed by: Sidney J. Furie | Written by: Suzanne de Passe, Chris Clark and Terence McCloy
That was one of the first times I saw myself reflected — not in Billie Holiday's story, but by seeing a Black woman leading a film. That movie really meant a lot to me, and it was about one of our iconic Black singers. I remember when Diana Ross was nominated for an Academy Award for that movie. I wasn't alive when that happened for Dorothy Dandridge in Carmen Jones, but I remember when it happened for Diana Ross. And I remember what a good feeling that was.
Directed by: John G. Avildsen | Written by: Sylvester Stallone
Rocky is one of my all-time favorite movies, which is probably why I wanted to make my movie. I was very impacted by the underdog story and the fact that he didn't win, but he won in life. I knew that that had to be a part of my movie. When I first got this script [for Bruised], Jackie Justice won her fight, but I knew in my version of it, she could never win the fight. It had to be a win in life, which felt more meaningful.
Directed by: Darren Aronofsky | Written by: Hubert Selby Jr. and Darren Aronofsky
I love Darren Aronofsky as a director, and I loved the harsh look into that world. It really impacted me, and it impacted my decision to create the world I created in my own movie. While it might be hard-hitting, I wanted to give a true depiction of what the world is — a true depiction of the harshness that sits on some people; what addiction does, what generational trauma can do, what it means to be a fighter — and really get into some of the darkness of it. Because that's just real. Also, in presenting the darkness, I wanted to also present the light and work towards what the light is. That's partly what I took from Requiem.
Directed by: Alfonso Arau | Written by: Laura Esquivel
One of my teachers at school told me to watch it. I was taking a course in cinema and filmmaking, as an elective, and that started my love affair with foreign film. It birthed my ability to fantasize and dream, and I fell in love with this way of filmmaking that was very different from the movies that I had been enjoying at that time. That's one that just spoke to my mind.