The Film That Changed My Life cap­tures the film-going expe­ri­ence made future direc­tors want to make movies. It explores 30 direc­tors’ love of a film they saw at a par­tic­u­lar­ly for­ma­tive moment, how it influ­enced their own works, and how it made them think dif­fer­ent­ly.

Rebel With­out a Cause inspired John Woo to comb his hair and talk like James Dean. For Richard Lin­klater, “some­thing was sim­mer­ing in me, but Rag­ing Bull brought it to a boil.” Apoc­a­lypse Now inspired Dan­ny Boyle to make larg­er-than-life films. A sin­gle line from The Wiz­ard of Oz—“Who could ever have thought a good lit­tle girl like you could destroy all my beau­ti­ful wickedness?—had a direct impact on John Waters. “That line inspired my life” Waters says. “I some­times say it to myself before I go to sleep, like a prayer”

In this vol­ume, direc­tors as diverse as John Woo, Peter Bog­danovich, Michel Gondry, and Kev­in Smith exam­ine clas­sic movies that inspired them to tell sto­ries. Here are 30 inspired and inspir­ing dis­cus­sions of clas­sic films that shaped the careers of today’s direc­tors and, in turn, cin­e­ma his­to­ry.

Offi­cial site:

Praise for The Film That Changed My Life:

If you love films and care about film­mak­ers, you’ll have a hard time putting this book down. The­se live­ly con­ver­sa­tions reveal just how much one gen­er­a­tion of film­mak­ers influ­ences the next—and how a sin­gle movie can change the course of a young person’s life and career.”

Unlike some so-called books that are cob­bled togeth­er from scraps of movie-jun­ket inter­views, The Film That Changed My Life: 30 Direc­tors on Their Epipha­nies in the Dark by Robert K. Elder is a com­pul­sive­ly read­able vol­ume filled with thought­ful, often pas­sion­ate con­ver­sa­tions about great movies that made a dif­fer­ence in the lives (and careers) of thir­ty sig­nif­i­cant direc­tors.

Film jour­nal­ist Elder is very savvy and engages his sub­jects in gen­uine two-way dia­logue about movies as dis­parate as and The 7th Voy­age of Sin­bad… Just a warn­ing: once you start read­ing this book, you won’t find it easy to stop.”
—Leonard Malt­in, author of Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide


A great and provoca­tive read. Elder begins with a sim­ple ques­tion and leads a wide vari­ety of film­mak­ers, and–I hope–a wide vari­ety of read­ers down all sorts of unex­pect­ed paths. Why do we respond so pas­sion­ate­ly, even irra­tional­ly, to the movies which change our lives? The won­der­ful thing about being a crit­ic or a life­long movie lover is that life as you know it changes all the time in rela­tion to the spells being cast on the screen. Elder’s book hon­ors that alchemic rela­tion­ship many times over. It’s addic­tive.”
—Michael Phillips, film crit­ic, Chicago Tri­bune


If, as John Hus­ton once said, movies are the reign­ing art form of the last hun­dred years, then Robert Elder’s idea of ask­ing 30 direc­tors to talk about the movie that most influ­enced their careers is a bonan­za for film buffs and a won­der­ful rec­om­men­da­tion to all who love movies. Elder has done us all a favor: read this book, then go see for your­self why the­se movies made the cut!”
—Lawrence Gro­bel, author of Al Paci­no: In Con­ver­sa­tion


Boast­ing a refresh­ing­ly eclec­tic group of filmmakers…Elder’s anthol­o­gy man­ages to cov­er an exten­sive range of film his­to­ry while main­tain­ing the lure of an unedit­ed, behind-the-sce­nes reel. Our rat­ing: E for Every­one.”
Nylon Mag­a­zine


Both delight and instruc­tion are to be had here.”
The Globe and Mail