“Every great film should seem new every time you see it.”
-Roger Ebert (maybe)
10 Most Important Films of All Time
It’s hard to say with certainty about anything involving art, especially something so readily consumed by anyone with $10 to go buy a movie ticket. Suffice it so say that this is only our opinion, in what are the 10 most important films of all time.
How did we determine “most important”? We took a look at what proved to be influential and crucial moments in cinematic history, of which changed the course of filmmaking (and viewing) up until modern day. If it was a landmark moment for film, we tried to list and rank it here.
For your criticism, here is the list:
#10 The Birth of a Nation (1915)
A birth of modern film….
Now before you go and Google the plot, the premise of the film is a bit unsavory. It is, by no means at all, the reason it ranks on this list. It (regrettably) showcases the Klu Klux Klan as the heroes of the film, and positions African Americans as the foe. It (with many white actors in black face) shows African American being sexually ravenous towards women, unintelligent, and with near animalistic qualities. Rightfully, it was protested country wide with the NAACP attempting to have the film banned from theaters.
So if the film plot was so morally disgusting, why does it make the list?
Simply put, it was aesthetically the most innovative film ever to be made up until that point in history. It set foundations for editing techniques used in modern film, introduced artistically influenced color tinted scenes, ran a feature length of 3 hours (which had never been done before), told a compelling story arch with dramatic script structure, and overall created the template for films for years to come. It is ranked in the top 50 of AFIs “Top 100 American Films” and has been hailed as one of the greatest films ever created.
Unfortunately is was racist as f*ck.
#9 The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
But for reasons you may not assume….
Everyone has seen The Shawshank Redemption. If you haven’t, go watch it tonight. It consistently ranks as one of the best movies of all time, being nominated for 7 Academy Awards (albeit winning none of them). But it doesn’t make this list purely because everyone seems to love it. It is a much more important facet of film history than just being a great film.
You may know this film was directed by Frank Darabont, what you may not know however, is that the Director of Photography for this film was a man named Roger Deakins. Although working as a cinematographer for decades up until that point, it wasn’t until The Shawshank Redemption that he became the gold standard for film aesthetic.
But how is he important to film history?
Because after that point he would go on to work on the following films:
- Fargo (1996)
- The Big Lebowski (1998)
- O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
- A Beautiful Mind (2001)
- No Country for Old Men (2007)
- True Grit (2010)
- Skyfall (2012)
Recognize any of them? Or all of them? Roger Deakins has proved to be one of the most successful and innovative cinematographers ever to step behind a camera. Visit his IMDB page and take a look at all the movies I didn’t mention, because I bet there are a few that may be movies you love. And furthermore, Roger Deakins may be a reason that you love one of those films so much.
He has been nominated for 13 Academy Awards for ‘Best Cinematography’, but has yet to win. It makes Leonardo DiCaprio being snubbed look like a joke (Leo was only nominated 5 times).
#8 The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Film receives a new dimension…
All right, it didn’t introduce a literal ‘dimension’, but it did however widely introduce color to the silver screen. Although there were plenty of films previous to this that showcased color (see here), none of them had done it in the magnitude that (mostly) director Victor Fleming had introduced. Inspired by the L. Frank Baum novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, released in 1900, it sees Judy Garland venture from a literal black and white world, into the world of color.
The production design, mixed with the stark contrast between the opening sepia toned scenes and the full color reveal afterwards, paved the way for films to be more than just a two-tone experience for the rest of film history.
We’ll see more of Victor Fleming’s influence on film later in the list however…
#7 The Jazz Singer (1927)
Silent no more…
With one of the foundations of modern film missing, The Jazz Singer in 1927 introduced something that would change the direction and concept of filmmaking forever.
Synchronized sound would find its way to the average film goer, with Warner Bros and Director Alan Crosland utilizing the Vitaphone system. No longer would you suffer through silent, title card dialogue. Introducing the new technology with a bang, The Jazz Singer featured six songs by main character Al Jolson.
#6 Avatar (2009)
Whoa whoa whoa…..what?
Blasphemy!! 2009?? How could you determine the relevancy of a movie that is (at this point) only 7 years old?
Well assuming Director James Cameron isn’t a moron, there is good reason he waited to make the film for nearly 15 years after it’s inception. Stating that the technology wasn’t available to see the film come to life, he had put off making the film since 1994, when the first treatment was written.
Once the mid 2000s hit, he decided all the visual innovation he once dreamed of was available, and they pulled the trigger on the $300 million project. Implementing state of the art motion tracking, IMAX cameras, and a brand new way of shooting 3D (see here), they blew the world away with an eye-gasm of visual effects.
It was hailed to be the best 3D film ever made up until that point, and some may say the best 3D film that has ever been created. It reintroduced the concept of 3D-everything in the late 2000s, including the attempt at 3D television. Oh yeah, it also broke the $2 billion revenue mark, which had never been done before.
#5 Rope (1948)
The invention of the thriller…
While Rope isn’t exactly the first suspense thriller film ever to be created, it is definitely one of the most important. But why is it so important?
Motherf*cking Alfred Hitchcock is the reason why it is so important.
The king of suspense, Hitchcock released this masterpiece in 1948 with one extremely impressive, and innovative feature to how the film was shot and produced. It was all seemingly shot in one take.
Well I mean it wasn’t exactly shot in one take, BUT, it was edited together to appear as one camera angle with invisible cuts through out the film. Which adds another element to the film, which is the fact that you are witnessing the events it what feels to be real time. The effects are only amplified by the story, which sees the two main characters hosting a dinner party with the body of a dead man sitting in the middle of the room (unbeknownst to the guests of the party).
How do you add suspense to a film? Let the viewer in on a secret that characters don’t know (called dramatic irony), feel the events unfold in front of you in real time, and make it one continuous shot so the audience feels like they are a literal fly on the wall.
That’s why Alfred Hitchcock is so important to the suspense genre, and thats why Rope will change the course of film forever.
#4 The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964)
The first box office bomb…
Not all the movies that made this list are important for good reasons. The Fall of the Roman Empire directed by Anthony Mann is actually considered one of the best depictions of Roman times, with impressive and lavish outdoor sets.
The problem is with that ‘lavish’ part of the film. Samuel Bronston produced, what he thought to be, a film epic that would stand the test of time and be a huge commercial success. Except, it really didn’t live up to expectations.
With a budget of nearly $19 million, in 1964 need I remind you, it only made back about $5 million of its initial expense. Up until this time, and for quite a while after this, there had not been a bigger box office failure to ever hit the big screen. They lost an equivalent of over $125 million adjusted to 2016.
Bronston lost so much money, it literally ended his film career and he closed shop shortly after the release of the film.
#4 2001: A Space Odyssey (1964)
The trip to space…
There were space movies created before 2001. The French originator A Trip to the Moon (1902), alien classic The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), and even the introduction to the Star Trek TV Series (1966).
But all of them can basically be forgotten due to the fact 2001: A Space Odyssey exists. Stanley Kubrick took an already existing genre, and immediately took ownership with the creation of one of the best movies of all time.
Why is it so important? Go and watch it. Words can’t describe, nor would do justice, the story telling that takes place in the 142 minutes of cinematic perfection. The visuals gaining most of the recognition in this film, it belittles the overwhelming achievement of its script. The story is so complex and developed, its script which is written by Kubrick, was created along side a full length novel, written by Arthur C. Clarke. It is a film which reaches a true sense of evergreen; with visuals and story telling so advanced, it could conceivably be confused with a modern day film, and not one created over 50 years ago.
Viewers were so impressed with the realism, they literally thought Kubrick shot and faked the real life moon landing.
#3 The Godfather (1972)
The offer you couldn’t refuse…
We could go on and on about how The Godfather may be the best movie of all time, but that’s not why we think it is important. Great movies come and go and are remembered, but The Godfather literally created a genre. Not only did it create the mob movie genre, it ended up influencing some of the best movies of all time. Although there were mob movies previous to The Godfather (The Public Enemy (1931) and Scarface (1932) being the most notable), none of the classic tropes of gangster films existed until the release of Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece.
We would list movies that only exist because of the originator, but instead we’ll list entire careers of actors that may have never seen work otherwise. Robert Dinero, Joe Pesci, Al Pacino, Ray Liotta, and James Gandolfini are a few that saw unprecedented success due to movies influenced by The Godfather.
#2 Citizen Kane (1941)
The jack of all trades….
Many people don’t understand Citizen Kane or its importance on film history. Constantly people are asking, “Why does everyone love this movie so much?? It’s not even that great”.
To which you may officially say, “F*ck off”.
The reason Citizen Kane is so adored was for the fact it was 100%, in 360 degrees, all day long….impressive. It did everything. And even more so, Orson Welles did everything. Producing, directing, starring, and writing the film, he is the reason it was successful.
There are too many technical and artistic accomplishments to list here, that I won’t attempt to list them all. But in summation, every aspect of filmmaking from writing, cinematography, acting, set design, makeup, and everything else was innovative and nearly perfect for its time. Please go and research all the things introduced and perfected by Welles in this movie; it is unimaginably impressive.
The fact some may not understand why Citizen Kane was so great, may come because you can’t point out just one great aspect. Nothing spectacular hits you in the face solely, because it is all so amazingly innovative.
#1 Gone With the Wind (1939)
The most successful movie of all time…
Gone With the Wind, adapted from the 1936 novel of the same name, was set to be an immensely epic failure . The production was going so terribly, they pulled Victor Fleming (remember?) from directing another entry on this list, The Wizard of Oz, to save the movie from destruction.
And what happened? It became the most successful movie of all time. And we don’t mean at the time, we mean up until this article is written. It is the single most profitable movie ever made. Adjusted for inflation, it received over $3.4 billion at the box office, or over $390 million in 1939.
It made over 100 times its initial budget of $3.85 million. THINK ABOUT THAT.
You need an example; I get it, math is hard. Imagine a big blockbuster like, let’s say, Star Wars: Rogue One being released today. It would be the equivalent of them making $20 BILLION at the box office with that ratio.
Aside from all the cash it brought it, it also snagged 10 Academy Awards out of 13 nominations. Did we mention the 300,000 people who showed up for the film premiere? Also, it was released over 14 times in theaters over the course of its history.
Its influence basically created the movie going phenomena. Prior to the release of Gone With the Wind, films were just…films. Not that they weren’t important, or well made, but it didn’t create a culture of film. Movie goers would go week-after-week and buy tickets to go rewatch Gone With the Wind in theaters, creating the addictive culture of film and television that we are used to today.