Few directors show their cinematic influences as readily as Todd Haynes. Just watch one of his movies, and the filmmakers that helped shape his style — Douglas Sirk and Nicolas Roeg, to name two — become incredibly apparent. His stylized melodrama and favored themes of social taboos and celebrity carry the DNA of both directors. But at the same time? His work is entirely his own.

Born in Los Angeles during 1961, Haynes studied art at Brown and cinema at Bard College, where he made the short film that first brought him notoriety. Made entirely with dolls, 1987’s “Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story” tells the story of the titular popular pop singer and her struggles with anorexia. Its unauthorized nature, unflattering portrayal of Carpenter’s brother and music partner Richard, and unlicensed use of the Carpenters’ music made it the subject of a lawsuit, and it remains withdrawn from circulation. Available only via bootleg, “Superstar” still resonates as a thoughtful look at fame and notoriety — themes that Haynes continues to examine throughout his career.

With a reputation already established with just a short, Haynes used his earliest films to solidify himself as a principal examiner of sexuality and transgression on screen. The cult classic gay sci-fi film “Poison” in 1991 gained good reviews, but it was 1995’s “Safe,” his first collaboration with frequent muse Julianne Moore and a tantalizing exploration of crushing societal malaise as a literal illness, that fully cemented him as a great director. He brought his Sirk inspiration into the forefront of future movies like “Far From Heaven,” which often acts as an outright homage to the director’s work. And he made films that vary from audacious experiments (“I’m Not There”) to universally beloved masterpieces (“Carol”).

Haynes is nothing if not provocative and his latest is one of his most uncomfortable yet. “May December” sees the filmmaker reunite with Moore for a movie that tackles his favorite themes of transgressive sexuality and fame and notoriety through a far more unsettling angle, taking inspiration from a 25-year old tabloid scandal to tell the story of Gracie (Julianne Moore), a grown woman who had an affair with a 13-year old boy in the ’90s and eventually married him after a jail stint, as she faces the pressure of an actress (Natalie Portman) studying her for a film about her life. Reviews out of Cannes where it premiered were excellent, and the movie will release in theaters this November followed by a December Netflix streaming launch.

With “May December” out this Friday, IndieWire decided to look at the films that inspired Haynes and shaped him today. Read on for our list of the “Carol” director’s 10 favorite films, compiled from interviews and references he’s made over the course of his filmography.

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