Jordan Peele is an actor, comedian, and filmmaker. It may surprise you that he's only directed three movies – Get Out, Us, and Nope – but they've all been hugely successful and critically acclaimed.
While Peele is considered one of the most influential people on the planet, he cites countless movies as his inspiration for his work.
In this piece, we'll take you through 22 great movies that inspired Jordan Peele to be the filmmaker he is today.
1. Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967, directed by Stanley Kramer)
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner is a romantic comedy-drama starring Spencer Tracy, Sidney Poitier, Katharine Hepburn, and Katharine Houghton. One of the few movies of its time to depict an interracial engagement in a positive light, it focuses on a couple's attitudes getting challenged when their daughter introduces them to her African-American fiancé.
It was nominated for ten Academy Awards and won two, including Best Actress for Hepburn. Guess Who's Coming to Dinner is well-intentioned and compelling, and its all-star cast delightfully acts it. It's dated now but gives a brilliant insight into past views on interracial relationships. Peele cites it as an inspiration for Get Out due to its depiction of race and the topic of meeting your potential in-laws for the first time.
2. The Birds (1963, directed by Alfred Hitchcock)
The Birds is a natural horror-thriller movie starring Rod Taylor, Jessica Tandy, Suzanne Pleshette, and Tippi Hedren. It chronicles a spate of sudden and unexplained violent bird attacks on the citizens of Bodega Bay, California, over a few days.
It's a brilliantly suspenseful movie with a carefully crafted build-up. The cast is all great, and the fact that Hitchcock turned birds into some of the scariest horror villains in cinematic history is a testament to his directorial skill. Peele says the movie's location inspired the Bay Area setting of Us, and this film undoubtedly inspired a notable bird scene in Nope.
3. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962, directed by John Ford)
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is a Western movie starring John Wayne and James Stewart, with a supporting cast that includes Lee Marvin and Vera Miles. It tells the origin story of a senator who returns to a Western town to attend the funeral of an old friend.
It's an emotionally involved movie that's enthusiastically performed, making it highly entertaining. The final act is a little anticlimactic, but Wayne and Stewart are such a watchable duo that you can overlook the movie's one flaw. Peele says The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is one of several Westerns that influenced the setting and feel of Nope.
4. Unforgiven (1992, directed by Clint Eastwood)
Unforgiven is a Western movie starring, directed by, and produced by Clint Eastwood, with Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman, and Richard Harris in the supporting cast. It's about an aging outlaw and killer, William Munny, who takes on one last job years after retiring and turning to farm work.
Another of the Westerns cited by Peele as an inspiration for the overall style of Nope, Unforgiven is a masterpiece of cinema that won the Best Picture Oscar and received eight other nominations. It's a violent, visceral movie, expertly handled on every level, with its veteran cast shining. No other Western has been as good as it since 1956's The Searchers.
5. Under the Skin (2013, directed by Jonathan Glazer)
Under the Skin is a British sci-fi horror starring Scarlett Johansson as an otherworldly female who uses her attractiveness to prey on lonely men in the evening hours in Scotland. The largely unknown supporting cast includes Adam Pearson, Jeremy McWilliams, and Lynsey Taylor Mackay.
It's a tragically overlooked movie featuring one of Johansson's best and most mesmerizing performances. It's a visual delight that is quite disturbing but impossible to look away from. Peele says the movie is one from which he has taken a lot of visual inspiration, and he often wonders how Glazer made the aesthetic so perfect.
6. C.H.U.D. (1984, directed by Douglas Cheek)
C.H.U.D. is a sci-fi horror movie starring John Heard, Daniel Stern, and Christopher Curry. It's about an investigation into a series of disappearances in New York, which uncovers that humanoid monsters living in the sewers are responsible for the whole thing.
Let's be clear, C.H.U.D. is an obscure movie and not a very good one. Sure, it's quintessentially silly 80s fun, but it's nothing more than a sub-par horror – even with its competent cast. However, Peele nodded to it in the first scene of Us. A VHS of the movie is visible next to a television, indicating that Peele got the idea for the movie's underground threat from the little-known film.
7. Critters (1986, directed by Stephen Herek)
Critters is a sci-fi comedy horror starring Dee Wallace, M. Emmet Walsh, Billy “Green” Bush, and Scott Grimes. It's about diminutive and furry, carnivorous aliens escaping from two shape-shifting bounty hunters, landing in a small countryside town, then terrorizing its inhabitants.
It's a good fun movie with a wacky tone and a screwball charm, but it has little substance. The eponymous creatures have, however, become horror icons, and Critters has garnered a cult following. While Peele hasn't specified exactly how it's influenced him, he has said it's a guilty pleasure and inspired some of his sillier ideas.
8. The Stepford Wives (1975, directed by Bryan Forbes)
The Stepford Wives is a satirical psychological thriller based on Ira Levin's 1972 novel. It stars Katharine Ross alongside Paula Prentiss, Peter Masterson, and Nanette Newman. The plot concerns a woman who relocates from New York City to the Connecticut community of Stepford with her husband and children. There, she finds the women live completely subserviently to their husbands.
It's an offbeat but clever and very witty movie. It's sluggish in pace, but the excellent direction and decent acting performances make up for that. Most of all, The Stepford Wives offers a damning critique of misogyny. Peele sees it as a well-made social thriller that presents an ideal situation before cracks show and the horror shows itself. It was, therefore, a massive influence on Get Out.
9. Misery (1991, directed by Rob Reiner)
Misery is a psychological thriller based on Stephen King's 1987 book. It stars James Caan and Kathy Bates, with Lauren Bacall, Richard Farnsworth, and Frances Sternhagen in supporting roles. It centers around the obsessive fan of an author who holds him captive and forces him to rewrite the finale of his book series.
With three Academy Award nominations, Misery won one for Best Actress for Bates, whose casting as a demented woman was inspired. It's a brilliant movie with excellent performances and some genuinely frightening moments – not least the infamous sledgehammer scene. Peele says it's a movie where the fear lies in the acting and the dialogue, which he takes influence from. He also noted that the unlikeliest villain turns out to be terrifying, an idea he used in Get Out.
10. The Fly (1986, directed by David Cronenberg)
The Fly is a sci-fi body horror movie loosely based on George Langelaan's 1957 short story and the 1958 film of the same name. It stars Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis, and John Getz. The plot follows an eccentric scientist who, after one of his teleportation experiments goes wrong, slowly turns into a grotesque creature that's a hybrid of a human and a housefly.
It won the Academy Award for Best Makeup, and deservedly so. The Fly is a scary movie whose cast performs excellently – especially Goldblum, who warranted a Best Actor nomination. Peele says it's the first horror movie that got to him. He watched it when he was admittedly too young but was less scared by the end. The film made him discover the power of horror, and he utilized its ideas in his filmmaking.
11. Let the Right One In (2008, directed by Tomas Alfredson)
Let the Right One In is a Swedish romantic horror movie based on John Ajvide Lindqvist's 2004 novel. It stars Kåre Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson, and Per Ragnar and tells the story of a bullied 12-year-old boy who develops a friendship with a strange child who turns out to be a vampire, in Stockholm, in the early 1980s.
It's an exceptional must-see movie that completely reinvigorates the vampire genre. It's terrifying but also extremely intelligent. Peele enjoys how it's understated and slow-moving but has graphic scenes of brutality mixed in. He, therefore, asked Nyong'o to watch Let the Right One In ahead of filming Us.
12. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977, directed by Steven Spielberg)
Close Encounters of the Third Kind is a sci-fi drama movie starring Richard Dreyfuss, Melinda Dillon, Teri Garr, Bob Balaban, Cary Guffey, and François Truffaut. The film follows Roy Neary, an unassuming blue-collar worker from Muncie, Indiana, who has a life-altering encounter with a U.F.O.
Nominated for eight Academy Awards (and earning a Special Achievement Award for Frank E. Warner's sound effects editing), Close Encounters of the Third Kind won one for its cinematography. That's no surprise, as it's a gorgeous-looking film. This movie is worth watching for its epic climax alone. Peele cites it as an influence on Nope because it evokes a sense of wonder and spectacle of extraterrestrial life.
13. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982, directed by Steven Spielberg)
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is a sci-fi movie starring Dee Wallace, Henry Thomas, Peter Coyote, Robert MacNaughton, and Drew Barrymore. It's about a boy who befriends an alien, dubbed E.T., who gets left behind on Earth. Along with the people closest to him, Elliott helps E.T. to find his way home.
Like Close Encounters, Peele says E.T. influenced Nope because of how it conveys the spectacle of extraterrestrial life. It's a wondrous, heartwarming, dreamlike tale that children and adults alike can enjoy. This beautiful movie received nine Oscar nominations and won four.
14. The Babadook (2014, directed by Jennifer Kent)
The Babadook is a psychological horror movie based on director Kent's 2005 short film Monster. It stars Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Daniel Henshall, Hayley McElhinney, Barbara West, and Ben Winspear. It's about a single mother forced to confront her son's fear of a monster in their home.
It boasts some moments of pure horror without ever relying on cheap scares. The Babadook is well-acted and atmospheric, boasts a genuinely heartfelt story (rare in the genre), and features one of the best creature creations in modern horror. Peele loves it because it makes a personalized nightmare for its protagonist, precisely what he did with Get Out and Us.
15. The Witch (2015, directed by Robert Eggers)
The Witch is a folk horror movie starring Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, and Kate Dickie. It's about a Puritan family in 1630s New England who encounter potent forces of evil in the woods beyond their farm.
It's a thought-provoking, atmospheric, and aesthetically stunning movie with a keen sense of historical detail. The cast is wonderfully committed, and the whole thing will keep you on the edge of your seat for the duration. Peele has praised The Witch‘s elevated horror style, and you can see its familial dynamics reflected in both Get Out and Us.
16. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984, directed by Wes Craven)
A Nightmare on Elm Street is a supernatural horror movie starring Heather Langenkamp, John Saxon, Ronee Blakley, Johnny Depp, and Robert Englund. It's about an undead former child killer who can murder people in their dreams, targeting a group of teenagers as revenge against their parents who burned him alive.
It's a scary movie that plays on humanity's most vulnerable state: sleeping. It's imaginative, witty, and looks fantastic. Krueger is rightly considered one of the most iconic movie villains ever. Peele says it's terrifying, that it's his favorite horror movie, and that it's influenced his filmmaking in many ways. It also inspired his use of the track “I Got 5 On It” in the trailer for Us, as it reminded him of A Nightmare on Elm Street‘s soundtrack.
17. It Follows (2014, directed by David Robert Mitchell)
It Follows is a supernatural psychological horror movie starring Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Daniel Zovatto, Jake Weary, Olivia Luccardi, and Lili Sepe. It's about a young woman who gets pursued by a supernatural entity after a sexual encounter and must fornicate with someone else to avoid it and pass the curse on.
It's a bona fide modern classic horror movie and arguably the best of the new millennium. It's original, intelligent, and genuinely unsettling, with a fantastic concept. The suspense is almost unbearable, and It Follows has some brilliantly creepy moments. Peele loves this movie, and how the entity stalks its targets is reminiscent of how the Tethered haunted their victims in Us.
18. Candyman (1992, directed by Bernard Rose)
Candyman is a gothic supernatural horror based on Clive Barker's 1985 short story “The Forbidden.” It stars Virginia Madsen, Tony Todd, Xander Berkeley, Kasi Lemmons, and Vanessa E. Williams. It's about the eponymous figure, a murderous soul with a hook for a hand, who gets summoned to reality by a skeptic grad student researching his myth.
It's a chilling and nuanced movie that broke horror norms in what was then a highly white-centric genre. The premise is intriguing, the cast performs exceptionally, and some genuine scares meld well with serious gore. Racism is the movie's crux; Get Out wouldn't exist without it. Peele is such a fan of the film that he wrote and produced a 2021 sequel of the same name.
19. Rosemary's Baby (1968, directed by Roman Polanski)
Rosemary's Baby is a psychological horror movie based on Ira Levin's 1967 novel. It stars Mia Farrow alongside a supporting cast that includes John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon, Sidney Blackmer, and Charles Grodin. The plot concerns a pregnant woman living in Manhattan who suspects her elderly neighbors are Satanic cult members grooming her to use her baby for their rituals.
Farrow is brilliant in this classic movie, and her performance makes it what it is. It's disturbing, unsettling, and downright frightening without relying on cheap jump scares or gore. Peele says its technique of inching towards a horrific reveal greatly influenced the structure of Get Out.
20. The Shining (1980, directed by Stanley Kubrick)
The Shining is a psychological horror movie based on Stephen King's 1977 novel. It stars Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Scatman Crothers, and Danny Lloyd. It's about an aspiring writer and recovering alcoholic working as the off-season caretaker of an isolated hotel with his wife and young son, who possesses psychic abilities. After a winter storm leaves them snowbound, the writer's sanity is meddled with by the supernatural forces in the hotel.
One of the most chilling movies ever made, The Shining is a bona fide horror classic. Its intimate cast performs excellently, with Nicholson and Duvall as the standouts. Some of the imagery is striking, and the cinematography, in general, is top-notch. Peele has tried to replicate its creepiness and suspense, and there's even a Shining Easter egg in Get Out (an announcement for flight 237 refers to the Overlook Hotel's sinister room 237).
21. Halloween (1978, directed by John Carpenter)
Halloween is a slasher horror movie starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence, P. J. Soles, and Nancy Loomis. It's about Michael Myers, incarcerated for murdering his babysitting teenage sister on Halloween night, escaping fifteen years later. He returns to his hometown and embarks on a killing spree while his psychiatrist pursues him.
It's one of the finest horror movies ever made, and it undoubtedly captures the atmosphere of Halloween. It's beautifully crafted, has an incredible iconic soundtrack and score, and provides some genuine scares. Peele says it's had an immense stylistic influence on him, particularly regarding camerawork and sound. The overalls worn by Myers also influenced the jumpsuits worn by the Tethered in Us.
22. Jaws (1975, directed by Steven Spielberg)
Jaws is a horror thriller starring Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, and Richard Dreyfuss. The plot concerns a New England beach resort plagued by great white shark attacks and three men attempting to hunt it.
It's one of the finest movies ever made. Its leading stars' chemistry is second to none, and the suspense factor is as good as any film in history. It is, by far, the most explicit inspiration for Nope and Peele's entire body of work. Jaws provided the template for all summer blockbusters that came after it, of which Nope is one. It also keeps the movie's antagonist hidden for most of the film, just like the iconic shark. Michael Wincott's gravel-voiced Antlers Holt is also, quite clearly, inspired by Robert Shaw's Quint.
This list, of course, only touches some of the movies Peele has been inspired by. He has taken inspiration from countless films, but this piece should clearly show the types he loves. Others include The Wizard of Oz, Martyrs, The Sixth Sense, Funny Games, King Kong, A Tale of Two Sisters, Signs, Arrival, Dead Again, and Buck and the Preacher.
This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
Writer and editor with ten years of experience working full-time in this capacity. I've written over 2000 pieces of published work and managed teams of 50+ writers. I've produced content for some of the world's most prominent entertainment and sports platforms. My published work includes feature articles, news and opinion pieces, listicles, quizzes, voice-over scripts, viral content, and more. I'm a British 80s kid who loves movies (horror, superhero stuff, and all things 80s are my favorites), boxing, and football (soccer), a former business owner and executive headhunter, and a Tottenham Hotspur FC fan for my sins.