Bastille: Our CineJam curators pick the greatest films of all time

"We’ve spent the last year singing songs about how abhorrent we find Donald Trump"

Bastille are mad about films. They put quotes in songs, worship director David Lynch and they curated this summer’s CineJam events for NME, the BFI and Zig-Zag. Here, frontman Dan Smith talks us through 10 films every single person in the world should see.

The obligatory Hitchcock film

‘Psycho’ – Alfred Hitchcock, 1960

“It starts as this petty crime love story drama about a woman who’s having an affair and takes off to a motel with a load of money, then half an hour into the film, the star is brutally murdered in the shower – and that was a big shock at the time. It’s creepy, it’s unsettling, it’s much parodied. The most famous bit of all is the shower scene – the score, the image of the knife being waved around, the shower curtain being pulled, the blood going down the plug hole. It’s so clever – you don’t see any nudity or actual violence, it’s all implied.”

Did you know: “We sampled bits of dialogue from Psycho in a cover of ‘No Scrubs’ that we put on one of our ‘Other People’s Heartache’ mixtapes, on the basis that the killer Norman Bates lives with his mum and is a scrub.”


Number of times I’ve seen it: “10.”

The cosmic one

‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ – Stanley Kubrick, 1968

“You have to look at films in terms of artistic merit as well as entertainment. Not everyone in the band agrees; our drummer Woody’s favourite film is ‘Mike Bassett: England Manager’. 2001 isn’t narratively the most exciting movie, but visually and stylistically it set pop culture’s view of space. It’s probably better if you’re slightly inebriated. I first watched it when I was 13 or 14 after begging and begging my mum and dad to get me a Kubrick box set, and I devoured all of the films in a row.”

Best scene: “I’m going to cop out and go for that famous cut of the bone being thrown, because it’s a beautiful, simplistic piece of editing.”

Number of times I’ve seen it: “Probably the least out of all the films, but let’s say 2001 times just for fun.”

The hipster one

‘The Royal Tenenbaums’ – Wes Anderson, 2001


“The Royal Tenenbaums is a mad and brilliant tale of this very complex, far-reaching family. It’s iconic and funny and sad and brilliant. Wes Anderson’s aesthetic and the tone of his films definitely rubs a lot of people up the wrong way, and I can see why it’s divisive, but I think he’s brilliant and if you haven’t seen one of his films, this is the one to start with.”

Favourite character: “Gwyneth Paltrow is brilliant as Margot Tenenbaum – she’s so dry and dark.”

Number of times I’ve seen it: “Seven.”

The depressing-as-f**k one

‘Requiem For A Dream’ – Darren Aronofsky, 2000

“It’s a tragedy – four narratives about how addiction destroys lives. I first saw a clip of it on a plane and I was so captivated by the editing and visual style I sought out the whole thing. The film is devastating but it’s fast-paced and surreal and dark and humorous too. Ellen Burstyn’s performance is amazing, and it made me fall in love with Jennifer Connelly a little bit as well.”

Did you know: “I’ve always been really obsessed with the score by Clint Mansell, and we sampled those amazing strings our first mixtape, ‘Other People’s Heartache’.”

Bonus did you know: “The film is shot in Coney Island in New York, which is where we shot the official video for ‘Flaws’, too. But we had a much nicer time there than anyone in the film.”

Number of times I’ve seen it: “Probably 12. But it’s way too depressing to watch that many times. I wouldn’t show it to Kyle in the band, because it would destroy him.”

The post-modern horror

‘Scream’ – Wes Craven, 1996

“My obsession with film started with horror movies. I saw this when I was 10 or 11, and I think I must have been at a friend’s house because my parents would never have let me watch it. Scream is funny, it’s referential, it’s sly, clever and scary. They cast the biggest star, Drew Barrymore, in a role that saw her killed her off in the first scene, which hadn’t been done since Psycho, and there’s a big twist at the end, too. It’s ribbing the slasher genre it’s filmed in, which the director, Wes Craven, was a huge part of creating. [Dawson’s Creek creator] Kevin Williamson wrote the script and it was a big part of that late ’90s teenagers talking like 35-year-olds thing. It’s steeped in pop culture and wisecracking humour.”

Favourite quote: “It has to be, ‘What’s your favourite scary movie?’ But I wouldn’t go around saying it to my mates.”

Number of times I’ve seen it: “25.”

The doomed romance

‘Badlands’ – Terrence Malick, 1973

“It’s a love story and road movie that gets twisted up with crime, and it’s the film that inspired True Romance and Natural Born Killers and any doomed romance. When we first started Bastille, I used bits of Badlands as a music video for our song ‘Flaws’. The film is beautiful – every frame is a perfectly composed image – and I thought it would be interesting to try and re-edit the story without any of the underlying darkness.”

Did you know: “I recreated the iconic image of Martin Sheen walking through the badlands with a rifle over his shoulders for an early press picture.”

Number of times I’ve seen it: “About 25, because of the editing.”

The ‘heeeeere’s Johnny’ one

‘The Shining’ Stanley Kubrick, 1980

“I first watched it one Christmas night after everyone had gone to bed, which was absolutely terrifying. It’s so unsettling, so many amazing performances, so surreal and slow and iconic. This film is so entrenched in the popular consciousness, from the creepy twins to the elevator opening and blood pouring out to the ‘Heeeeere’s Johnny’ scene where Jack Nicholson hacks through the door with an axe. By all accounts it wasn’t a fun film to shoot – Kubrick was hard on his actors and went to great lengths to get the performances he wanted – but the end result is amazing.”

Best performance: “Oh, Jack Nicholson, the hero who becomes the villain. It’s one of the all-time greatest descents into madness ever captured on film.”

Number of times I’ve seen it: “Six.”

The teen classic

‘Donnie Darko’ – Richard Kelly, 2001

“I spent a lot of our first album campaign wearing the same T-shirt as Donnie. He’s this teenager who has problems and keeps finding himself sleepwalking to remote locations. It looks at mental health and adolescence and ideas of what’s real and what isn’t. It really spoke tome as a teenager, with amazing musicfrom Echo & The Bunnymen and Tears For Fears and all these bands I didn’t know at the time. It’s got this dramatic, yearning thing going on and it’s weird and Lynchian and doesn’t make sense to a lot of people.”

Geeky fact: “It was supposed to come out around 9/11, but because it involves an aeroplane engine falling out of the sky it didn’t get a proper release in the States at first.”

Number of times I’ve seen it: “30.”

The OTT one

‘Romeo + Juliet’ – Baz Luhrmann, 1996

“It was a film that looked and sounded like nothing else. It riffs on such a famous text and lives in this fantastical, completely ridiculous OTT space, so it dragged Shakespeare back into the lives of a generation. It straddles the right line between teen heartthrob hysteria and creativity. It’s a big sugar rush of a film.”

Did you know: “I got really into the idea of using this film as a template aesthetic for our next album. But then it feels like I’ve seen a lot of people walking around in Hawaiian shirts, so I’m not sure any more.”

Number of times I’ve seen it: “Four.”

The confusing one

‘Mulholland Drive’ – David Lynch, 2001

“It’s a noir-ish mystery and a love story about two women in Hollywood and the chaos that surrounds them. I saw it when I was a young teenager when I was obsessed with film and directors and David Lynch in a really geeky way. This was the first of his that I could see in the cinema and I went with my dad, which was uncomfortable during the sex scenes. I remember thinking it was a visually beautiful, incredibly confusing piece that left me wanting to know more. I talked about it for ages.”

Geeky fact: “People have different ideas about how to interpret the film. I subscribe to the dream theory narrative, where the second half is the reality and the hammy, soap opera-like first half is a fantasy. Did I ask David Lynch if that’s correct when I met him? No – I had to rein in the inner fanboy. I took a photo with him and I was so excited it looks like a vein in my forehead is about to explode.”

Number of times I’ve seen it: “Probably about 15.”

Lots of exciting Bastille news!

A new album

“We never really stop writing and recording, but I can confirm we spent a lot of this year writing our third album. We wanted to do something that feels a bit different, wanted to take it a step on from our last record and acknowledge that since we released that album the world seems an even more bizarre and tempestuous place, but to not necessarily dwell on that, and to make an apocalyptic party record instead. It’s been fun playing with new sounds. We’ve put together a record of middle-of-the-night torch songs with elements of slightly nostalgic rave beats from the Fatboy Slim, Prodigy era. It sounds ridiculous but we want to make something that feels concise and short and for the night-time.”

A new outlook

“The new album acknowledges that we live in very strange times that are hard to ignore, but if the last record was us taking the blue pill in The Matrix, talking about the world, questioning it, being confused by it, this one is us taking the red pill. We’ve spent the last year singing songs about how abhorrent we find Donald Trump and Theresa May and people who preach hate and bigotry, with a stage production that involves footage of a shadowy politician figure. I’m proud of the production we toured but I’ve had these moments too… we played a festival called Rock am Ring this summer that was shut down because of a terrorist threat. It dawned on me that people look to music and art for escapism too, and I wanted to make sure we find the right balance.”

New covers

“We’ve been working on a cover of Green Day’s ‘Basket Case’ for a TV show called The Tick. As a Green Day fan I was hesitant to touch that song because it’s such a classic and it’s one I love loads. Rather than try and do something similar, we did it just with strings, brass and orchestral production.”

A new mixtape

“We have a mixtape coming at the end of the year – ‘Other People’s Heartache Volume 4’. Having spent years on our first record and three years on our second record, I like the idea of putting this mixtape out within months of having made it and then following it up with our third album. It’s a bunch of very weird covers, a bunch of new tunes and some surprising collaborations. I can’t tell you what’s on it yet, but it will be out this year, with the album to follow early next year.”

Have you been to CineJam yet?

This summer, NME and BFI’s CineJam supported by Zig-Zag is combining live music and cinema on a sunkissed south London roof. Hosted by the Rooftop Film Club on top of Peckham’s illustrious Bussey Building, the unique event has been curated by Bastille – with the band handpicking both the live acts and the classic films. It’s not too late to check it out.

Sun 27

The film: ‘Goodfellas’

The artist: Lao Ra

Wed 30

The film: ‘True Romance’

The artist: Tom Grennan

Get your tickets here: