Five Favorite Films

Five Favorite Films with Don Cheadle

We chat with the star of Traitor, on DVD this week.

by | December 18, 2008 | Comments

In last August’s Traitor, Don Cheadle took on the challenge of tempering a Bourne-like action hero with the moral ambiguity of real world concerns: namely, terrorism and the Muslim identity. And who better to portray the conflicting identities of American spy and fundamentalist defector than the Oscar-nominated Cheadle, one of a handful of actors capable of sympathetically depicting such hot-button polarities?Rotten Tomatoes spoke via email with Cheadle about his favorite films, his interest in Traitor, his thoughts on Darfur and more. Traitor is released on DVD December 19.

I don’t have five favorite films. My affinity for them changes as I change over the course of my life from child to student to professional to husband and father, etc. All the films that follow are not in any order nor etched in stone, but here goes.
— Don Cheadle


City of God (2003, 93% Tomatometer)

City of God
Today, I’ll say City of God though that could change tomorrow. It is so special in its storytelling, a perfectly executed, beautifully shot, wasting nothing, brilliant acting, etc. What’s not to like?

The In-Laws (1979, 83% Tomatometer)

The In-Laws
It makes me pee with laughter. Peter Falk and Alan Arkin are a perfect combination and play off each other so well in this ridiculous movie. I watch it at least once a year.

Sounder (1972, 87% Tomatometer)

Another film that I saw at an impressionable time in my life that served for me as a beautiful testament to the power of love in the face of absolute injustice and oppression.

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964, 100% Tomatometer)

Dr. Strangelove
Another perfect film showcasing the brilliance of the one and only, never to be seen again talents of Peter Sellers. What a beast. Kubrick actually wanted him to play another character. I can only imagine what he would have done with that. I’m sure he would have crushed it.

Man Facing Southeast (1986, N/A)

Man Facing Southeast
It’s a great meditation on how we treat and mistreat ‘the other.’ A magical, thought provoking film that I saw at a time in my life when I was questioning a lot of things about the nature of humanity and how we react when we come up against the unknown and unknowable.

Next: Don Cheadle explains why he was drawn to Traitor, his thoughts on the future of Darfur, and one of his favorite performances.


Why was Traitor an important film to make in today’s political (and filmmaking) climate?

Don Cheadle: I don’t know that I would use the word “important.” I leave that up to the viewer. It caught my interest because it dealt with a complex issue in a way that wasn’t as black and white as other offerings in the genre.

The world is a much more complicated place than it used to be, and film audiences have grown more interested in morally ambiguous heroes. Is that a good thing?

DC: I think it’s good that people are more open to characters that are complicated, in a certain kind of film experience that is. I think people still want clear good guys and bad guys in the tent pole blockbusters but are more amenable to the grey areas. Most of us live there anyway.


You’ve helped to raise the issue of genocide in Darfur. Although there’s been an increase in attention on the region, the violence continues. What needs to be done there?

DC: A lot needs to be done and hopefully with this new administration, more will be. We need to engage in a very robust and committed negotiation process that brings everybody to the table while also protecting the innocent as well as seeking justice. We need to be in support of the ICC [International Criminal Court] and get behind the indictments that the court has requested.

We fondly remember your guest starring role on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” as Will’s friend, Ice Tray. What role would you name as your funniest performance? What is your favorite early role?

DC: My funniest performance…? That is a question for you. I don’t really like watching my own films too much. I had a very good time working on Rebound [The Legend of Earl ‘The Goat’ Manigault].

Want more Five Favorite Films? Check out previous installments with Robert Pattinson, Kevin Smith, Guillermo del Toro, and Judd Apatow.

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