Five Favorite Films

Sam Rockwell's Five Favorite Films

The Oscar-winning star of Moon, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and this week's Vice is a big movie buff.

by | December 26, 2018 | Comments

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

The road to winning an Academy Award is frequently a long and windy one, and if anyone can vouch for that, it’s Sam Rockwell. Almost three decades after he made his big screen debut in a small 1989 horror film called Clownhouse, Rockwell finally took home an Oscar statuette last year, though it wasn’t for a lack of acclaimed roles. Before his award-winning turn as Officer Dixon in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Rockwell had built an impressive, eclectic resume that included well-received work in films like Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Moon, Seven Psychopaths, and The Way Way Back, among others.

This week, he co-stars in a unique, imaginative take on former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney’s life and rise to power called Vice, from director Adam McKay (The Big Short). Rockwell plays an earnest, guileless George W. Bush who insists Christian Bale’s Dick Cheney be his running mate in his bid for the presidency, and he’s already earned a Golden Globe nomination for the role. With the film released on Christmas Day and currently in theaters, Rockwell spoke with Rotten Tomatoes about the new film and how he approached his portrayal of the former president. Before that, though, he talked about his Five Favorite Films, warning “I’m a movie nerd… Don’t get me started on the movies.” With that in mind, below are descriptions of just five of Sam Rockwell’s favorite films, which also include: Taxi Driver, Coming Home, Stir Crazy, Badlands, Goodfellas, Dog Day Afternoon, and Aliens.


The Deer Hunter (1978) 93%

The Deer Hunter’s something I saw when I was very young. I saw a lot of disturbing movies when I was young. Alien, American Werewolf in London. There were a lot of movies that probably kids shouldn’t go to. And it just blew the top of my hair off, you know? The Russian roulette scene. Kind of like the chainsaw scene in Scarface was just really dynamic cinema, you know? Raiders of the Lost Ark is another one. Jaws. You get me going, I can’t stop. But those scenes, they stick in your mind and, yeah, it changed you. I think they kind of change you. Maybe Deer Hunter changed me. It was about friendship. It was about war, but it was also about friendship.

Back to the Future (1985) 96%

It’s just a perfect movie, you know? Everything about it, you just can’t… It’s just perfect. You can watch it over and over again.

Stripes (1981) 86%

That’s probably just Bill Murray in his prime. There’s a lot of good stuff in there.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) 93%

That’s just one of the great… That’s another great one. That and Chinatown are probably — and maybe Five Easy Pieces — I mean, those were the big Nicholson performances. But McMurphy’s kind of the quintessential Nicholson performance. It’s kind of everything about Nicholson that’s great.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) 93%

That movie blew me away. I think my dad made me see that and I remember Lee Marvin in that; Lee Van Cleef and Strother Martin are sort of the sidekicks. Woody Strode, John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart. Just an incredible cast, I mean… It was just a surprise kind of western. There’s this scene where he gets his heartbroken — John Wayne gets kind of vulnerable in the bar. He loses the lady. That’s a great scene.


Ryan Fujitani for Rotten Tomatoes: Let’s talk about Vice. It’s an interesting movie, and while it’s a comedic take on its subject, it’s not quite a farce, and Adam McKay clearly wanted to channel some authenticity into these real people that you and your co-stars were portraying. How did you find that line between an effective, comedic portrayal of George W. Bush and an outright caricature?

Sam Rockwell: Well, you know, the impression always has to take a back seat to reality, and that’s always the rule for me. If the impression overrides the acting, I mean, you’ve got a problem. Because I think, ultimately, when we watched Daniel Day Lewis play Abe Lincoln, I think we’re seeing Abe Lincoln, but I think we’re also seeing the heart and soul of Daniel Day Lewis and all the attributes that he thinks are similar to Lincoln and what he imagines Lincoln would have been like. Ultimately, you want to see the actor’s heart and soul come through. You don’t want to just see an impression, I think. Otherwise it’s just, you know, who cares?

RT: Did you have to set aside your own personal feelings about him, whether positive or negative, to play him as he was written in the script?

Rockwell: No, not at all. It’s not really that kind of a movie. It’s more of a big American epic, you know? It’s kind of like, I don’t know, like Citizen Kane and The Big Short. It’s like that kind of a big kind of movie. You’re right, though. It’s not a farce and it’s not a biopic, either. It’s sort of somewhere, I don’t know what it is. I also haven’t seen it, so I’m going off of the script that I read. So I don’t know.

RT: I think you’ll be surprised by some of it.

Rockwell: There was a dancing number in there. I think it was cut, but there was a big dance number, so it was all over the place. Stylistically it breaks the narrative, you know?

RT: Were you in that dance number?

Rockwell: No, I wish!

RT: I was going to say…

Rockwell: I’ve been working with that choreographer, though, right now. Yeah, I’m playing Bob Fosse.

RT: Right! I’m looking forward to that.

Rockwell: Yeah, it’s going to be good.

RT: You’re uncannily spot on as President Bush. Do you know if Adam McKay specifically had you in mind for the role? 

Rockwell: I don’t know if he did or not. I think he said he did, but I don’t know. I mean, he’d already had the best. Will Ferrell is pretty, pretty good, so it’s like, how do you follow that? I think it was just me and Christian [Bale] matched up in age, too, you know? Sort of the right age group, and I think it just felt right. I had the advantage of a prosthetic nose; that helps a lot to make me look more like him.

RT: Was there ever any concern about how your portrayal might be received by the man himself?

Rockwell: I really found him very charming, so I was trying to find the humanity in him and stuff. I tried to come at it from trying to find sort of this boyish charm that he had.

RT: Did you ever get to meet him?

Rockwell: No, I never did. I tried to. I played phone tag with his P.R. person.

RT: So your research was mostly watching clips…

Rockwell: Pretty much online, yeah. And then I listened to his book. He reads his book on tape, his autobiography.

RT: Politics aside, what do you think about this recent shift in public opinion to embrace George W. Bush as sort of a harmless grandfather figure who hands out free candy?

Rockwell: You know, I’ve been under the Fosse rock for a while. I’m completely oblivious to everything but Fosse right now. I haven’t really been keeping up on what’s happening, current events.


Vice is currently in theaters everywhere.

Tag Cloud

Emmy Nominations space spain GoT Rom-Com Election cooking cinemax crime thriller Amazon Prime Spike Calendar Paramount Network IFC Trailer Western Mary Poppins Returns TruTV vampires south america independent Toys christmas movies Fantasy The Witch YouTube Red Horror Marvel Studios Best and Worst werewolf E3 ESPN Reality Competition facebook Trophy Talk Video Games Masterpiece Chernobyl Hallmark Christmas movies canceled TV shows TLC SundanceTV Marvel Television tv talk hispanic versus Amazon Studios Acorn TV Sneak Peek movie TV renewals HBO Apple TV+ Paramount cancelled TV series dogs 2015 hist universal monsters MCU Quiz DGA Awards Tour Christmas 20th Century Fox dramedy screenings Avengers Star Wars GLAAD 71st Emmy Awards The Purge Starz DC Universe aliens MTV TCA Grammys Certified Fresh Logo quibi TV Music Amazon Biopics Rock name the review Netflix Peacock singing competition FX on Hulu blockbuster Mudbound award winner witnail indie technology doctor who 2016 CBS All Access Warner Bros. TNT what to watch kids A24 spanish language Kids & Family Superheroes Food Network Marvel History anthology ITV MSNBC Lifetime APB Red Carpet Crunchyroll USA Network serial killer rotten movies we love Lifetime Christmas movies First Reviews elevated horror Cannes game show Esquire Comedy Central Photos Musical Action true crime cars The Walking Dead Funimation Turner unscripted Mystery Lucasfilm Pet Sematary composers dragons robots TBS foreign 2018 Freeform Universal cults miniseries IFC Films spider-man reboot BBC America Thanksgiving American Society of Cinematographers RT21 crime drama Creative Arts Emmys festivals series Amazon Prime Video scary movies Classic Film travel screen actors guild Fall TV Pop TV Black History Month Baby Yoda Tarantino See It Skip It spinoff Superheroe CBS cancelled Teen LGBT Character Guide Watching Series BBC Pirates Ghostbusters game of thrones richard e. Grant VICE period drama romantic comedy Interview Pixar Hulu Ellie Kemper Lionsgate free movies Martial Arts cancelled TV shows ratings Countdown nature latino Tumblr Academy Awards finale halloween batman binge Winter TV Musicals streaming Song of Ice and Fire Tubi police drama E! transformers Crackle Schedule Oscars Cosplay San Diego Comic-Con FX blaxploitation Mary Tyler Moore Reality Sundance anime Spectrum Originals comics discovery Black Mirror medical drama disaster mutant Film Festival Elton John X-Men slashers TCA Winter 2020 Writers Guild of America supernatural Sony Pictures OWN revenge sag awards Comedy Arrowverse Extras zombies Year in Review Mindy Kaling Dark Horse Comics war psycho Holiday Anna Paquin cancelled television YA 24 frames Apple TV Plus TV Land biography Podcast TCA 2017 Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt 2017 Adult Swim directors 2020 Trivia movies adventure DirecTV dceu GIFs historical drama Nat Geo Shudder talk show natural history Spring TV Box Office PBS Country RT History NBC USA social media 2019 Walt Disney Pictures 007 Infographic Rocky Animation harry potter Columbia Pictures thriller green book strong female leads Premiere Dates sports Rocketman crossover Winners Apple Opinion politics breaking bad Cartoon Network NYCC Family FXX A&E Endgame Nominations Stephen King Disney streaming service Brie Larson science fiction Shondaland diversity FOX Set visit theme song WarnerMedia animated Sundance Now Tomatazos Vudu psychological thriller HBO Max docudrama children's TV 21st Century Fox Marathons Disney+ Disney Plus VH1 renewed TV shows Polls and Games The CW Discovery Channel National Geographic Showtime Netflix Christmas movies Binge Guide Comics on TV Valentine's Day Travel Channel Emmys AMC Hallmark Britbox dc President Summer justice league Bravo TIFF CNN First Look YouTube New York Comic Con franchise Disney Pop TCM Women's History Month golden globes mockumentary ghosts 45 Super Bowl CW Seed Pride Month LGBTQ Comic Book Drama comiccon Disney Plus El Rey Mary poppins Fox News boxoffice Heroines romance Sundance TV Film television zero dark thirty Sci-Fi PaleyFest teaser OneApp Epix crime stand-up comedy casting Turner Classic Movies YouTube Premium canceled political drama Awards Ovation jamie lee curtis toy story zombie cartoon video adaptation DC streaming service Television Academy ABC Family Star Trek cops sequel based on movie Chilling Adventures of Sabrina WGN Disney Channel reviews SXSW spy thriller Captain marvel SDCC book BET documentary CMT ABC sitcom joker Syfy comic DC Comics cats Holidays The Arrangement Nickelodeon