"Mostly it's flaws, I think, that continue to fascinate me," says the director Mark Mylod. No stranger to dealing with complicated characters, he has spent the better part of the past decade helming episodes of acclaimed TV dramas like Shameless, Game of Thrones and Succession. (His work on the latter won him Emmys for Outstanding Drama Series in 2020 and 2022.)
Though Mylod's CV may seem wildly divergent on paper, each project shares a commitment to exploring its characters, flaws and all. His new movie, The Menu, takes Mylod into new territory — with a unique blend of satire and horror — but the emotional and moral complexities of its characters — including an enigmatic chef played by Ralph Fiennes — are never lost amid the genre trappings.
"I find it endlessly fascinating, trying to understand flawed characters and the mistakes and missteps that they make," Mylod says. "I find families and power dynamics fascinating. I find power dynamics within a family fascinating... I'm always looking for new ways to explore them on-screen."
His heightened focus on character isn't just essential to the work that he makes, but is also evident in his favorite films. Below, Mylod shares with A.frame the five films that have inspired him most as a director.
MORE: 'The Menu' Director Mark Mylod on Crafting a Culinary Nightmare (Exclusive)
Directed by: Mike Nichols | Written by: Calder Willingham and Buck Henry
The Graduate was the first film where I really became aware of how a director's vision could be manifested onscreen. There are so few cuts in the film, and yet it moves at what appears to be a breakneck pace. That's because of how willing Mike Nichols is to put his camera in a certain place and block and stage in such a bold way so that, very often, the action happens off-screen and only occasionally drifts back into the frame. It's such incredibly immersive filmmaking.
Obviously, Dustin Hoffman’s performance is a huge part of the film, and casting him was an incredibly bold choice on Nichols' part, especially when everyone else wanted someone like Robert Redford. Mostly, though, it was Nichols' visual language and the way he shot The Graduate that stood out to me. Of course, the film has one of the greatest romantic moments in cinema history in it, too, when Katharine Ross turns around, looks up at Benjamin and shouts, "Ben!"
Directed and written by: Steven Spielberg
Seeing Close Encounters of the Third Kind and The Spy Who Loved Me are two of my earliest recollections of going to the movies when I was a kid. The sophistication of Close Encounters went way over my head as a kid, but the absolutely incredible cinematic wonder of that film has stayed with me forever. I've gone back and seen it several times as an adult, of course, and I've been able to appreciate the beauty of it more, as well as the humanity of its story. In general, Spielberg's whole ideology about spotlighting the everyman in an incredible universe is, to me, beautiful beyond words.
Directed by: Lewis Gilbert | Written by: Christopher Wood and Richard Maibaum
I haven't watched The Spy Who Loved Me in years, but it stays with me because of the sheer sense of boyhood wonder I still have about going to see it and experiencing the magic of cinema when I did. My dad was a policeman and my mom worked in a bra factory, so we weren't cinephiles. But I remember going to see that movie. When we went to the theater, my parents never thought to look in the paper and see what time the film started, so when we sat down was actually the moment when Bond jumps his car into the ocean and it turns into a submarine. I remember thinking, "Wow. What a great way to start a movie!"
It never occurred to me that it was already halfway through the movie. When it ended, we sat there and got some ice cream and waited for the next screening. When the movie started again, and we eventually got to that car transformation again, we all got up and left. That was the way my parents watched movies.
Of course, if you look at how many iconic Bond things came out of The Spy Who Loved Me, you've got Jaws, the submarine car, the sidecar that's also a missile, and the fight on the train. There are so many glorious set pieces and iconic Bond moments in this movie. I think The Spy Who Loved Me was also the first time that they really worked out how to make Roger Moore's Bond work, because The Man with the Golden Gun didn't quite do it as well. The film felt like a glorious coming together for the Bond franchise, but mostly, I love it because I still remember being a boy and being in a theater and just being knocked out by what I saw.
Directed by: Jonathan Demme | Written by: Ted Tally
I think The Silence of the Lambs is an example of cinematic perfection. It's an extraordinary film on every level. With the exception of The Spy Who Loved Me, there's probably also a recurring theme of films about the everyman or everywoman on my list. In this case, I love the gender politics of Silence of the Lambs and how Jodie Foster's character is just trying to ascend and find her place in an incredibly sexist world. As a character study, the film is incredible in and of itself. As a film about someone trying to transcend their white trash background and as an exploration of Clarice Starling as a character, The Silence of the Lambs is incredible.
But then you've got everything else that's in it as well! Just the bravura of the filmmaking and the attention to the detail of every face you see in it is incredible. I've never seen a film, with the exception of maybe Seven, that has the same patina, grime, and sense of decay as The Silence of the Lambs. And yet, there's still so much humanity at the center of the film in Clarice. It's an incredible movie. What served as a big touchstone for me with The Menu was also, of course, the ideological duel and connection that's shared by Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster’s characters. It's just sheer genius.
Directed by: Michel Gondry | Written by: Charlie Kaufman
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is, to me, the ultimate love story. Even if the rest of the film wasn't the absolute piece of genius that it is — from Charlie Kaufman's incredible script to Michel Gondry's inspired direction to the brilliant chemistry between Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet — it would still work because of the "meet me in Montauk" scene. I can't even think about that moment without wanting to cry. It's one of the all-time greatest moments in cinema history.