The 50 Most Important Hollywood Films

Discussion in 'Entertainment' started by Liberal, Aug 26, 2005.

  1. Liberal

    Liberal Metaphysical Entity

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    This list represents about five months of research, and is now about two years old. I am by no means an authority on cinema, nor am I any sort of recognized film critic. This is merely a labor of love. Let me say up-front that any omissions, errors, or mistakes are strictly my own, and although I worked very hard to document and cross-foot most of the facts, figures, and claims, I'm far from perfect. There are sure to be errors.

    In determining what is important, I considered three primary criteria: (1) innovation, that is, a film's contributions to movie making in terms of its elements like writing, directing, and acting; (2) influence, that is, a film's predominance both toward subsequent filmmakers and toward the general public; and (3) controversy, that is, a film's level of awareness and effect on Hollywood and on society.

    Which of those was more important than the other varied from case to case. Merely being first was not enough in most cases, but it was in some. The first movie to pan with a camera might or might not be more important than a film that is without innovation but resonates with viewers. In the end, as with any such list, most decisions were subjective even though I worked in as objective a framework as I could manage.

    I can understand wholeheartedly if someone points out why their own favorite(s) ought to have been in the list, and I'll be happy to see suggestions. Many of my own favorites aren't here, even in the honorable mentions. In the interest of my goal to define importance as best I could, I had to bite a lot of bullets that I didn't want to bite. (This might well be one of the few movie lists where you don't see either Casablanca or Citizen Kane in the top ten.) Nevertheless, after all is said and done, I'm pretty well satisfied with the list, and I hope you enjoy it and learn as much from it as I did.

    You'll likely notice that most of the movies are older ones. Sometimes, it takes a long time for a movie to become important, and of course the criterion of influencing other films or of affecting history means that the very newest ones might not even merit consideration.

    A lot of important films didn't make the list merely because they weren't Hollywood productions. There were no Hollywood films directed by Blacks until 1969, for example, even though many wonderful films from Black artists were released since the 1920s. The Great Train Robbery, a famous and influential movie, was filmed in New Jersey. Dr. No, which launched the James Bond phenomenon was produced in the UK (as was A Clockwork Orange). And Le Voyage Dans La Lune ("A Trip to the Moon"), the first ever sci-fi flick, and an extremely imaginative production, was filmed in France. I even would have liked to have included The Rocky Horror Picture Show as the most influential and enduring cult classic of all time, but alas, it wasn't a Hollywood film. You get the idea.

    I welcome and invite discussion, questions, and criticism. Thanks for taking the time to look through the listing.

    Be forewarned that there are spoilers.

    Sources and Credits (the listing is about two years old, and some links might be dead by now)

    The Internet Movie Database
    Movie Milestones
    Motion Picture Association of America
    DeMille Studio Museum
    FilmSite
    Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
    Reel
    The Pizza Parlor
    Women in Cinema
    Movies Directed by Women
    Reel Women
    Xrefer
    James Whale's Frankenstein
    The Deer Hunter
    Apocalypse Now
    The Library of Congress
    Capital Century
    The Reel Word: 1932
    Re-examining Birth of a Nation
    FS ParaPages
    Hollywood.com
    Warner Bros
    FranklyMyDear.com
    Movie Reviews
    The Wizard of Oz
    Wizard of OZ FAQ
    Cinema History
    Technicolor
    Wide Screen Museum
    The Atlantic Online
    IFilm
    InfoPlease
    UCLA Film and Television Archive
    Film Critic
    Teach With Movies, Schindler's List
    PBS Online, Schindler's List
    Schindler's List Screenplay, First Revision
    GoldenEssays - Cinema
    Film Making 101
    The Godfather Trilogy
    Apollo Guide
    Movie Folio
    Thirty-One Years of Easy Rider
    ReelViews: Movie Reviews and Criticisms by James Berardinelli
    Cinerama Adventure
    2001: A Space Odyssey screenplay
    The Authorized Stanley Kubrick Web Site
    The Underview and 2001
    2001 and Beyond the Infinite
    Culture Dose
    The Straight Dope
    Fox Home Entertainment
    Classic Movie Scripts
    Iron Minds
    John Wayne
    Taxi Driver: Its Influence on John Hinkley, Jr.
    John F. Hinckley, Jr. Biography
    Warner Bros ExtraTV
    GlamourNet Legends: Marilyn Monroe
    Marilyn Monroe
    TV Guide Movies Database
    All Watchers
    Film Threat
    Silent Film (UK) Charlie Chaplin
    Cinema Spot
    Snopes: Urban Legends Reference Pages
    Cosmopolis: Casablanca
    The Gin Joint We All Love: A Study of Casablanca
    Info Today
    Roger Ebert Reviews
    Hollywood Bitchslap
    D. W. Griffith: The Birth of a Nation
    Africana: The Birth of a Nation
    Bright Lights Film Journal: The Distribution of Black Films
     
  2. Liberal

    Liberal Metaphysical Entity

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    50. The Squaw Man 1914, Oscar Apfel and Cecil B. DeMille

    This was Hollywood's first feature length film. Like many other movie-makers, Apfel and DeMille headed west to avoid Thomas Edison's fees from his patents. Originally intending to film in Arizona, they moved on because it was raining. Finally settling in sunny California, they rented a horse barn for $250 a month and used it to film their movie, a Western. It cost $15,000 to make and grossed $200,000. At that time, it was considered a box office smash hit. Founded by prohibitionists in 1903 with a population of 166, Hollywood was one of dozens of outlying towns centered around Los Angeles. Hollywood became the movie making capital of the world (despite that India makes more movies) and Apfel and DeMille's "Famous Players-Lasky Co" eventually became Paramount Studios.

    49. Intolerance 1916, D.W. Griffith

    A remarkable example of too little too late, this monumental dramatic epic, costing a whopping half-million dollars to make, was intended by Griffith to be a defensive response to critics of Birth of a Nation. Dismayed by charges of racism, he put together a dazzling nonlinear movie that used more than fifty transitions from ancient Babylon to the then modern day. It showed how the words and deeds of historic villains (Babylonian priests, Queen Catherine's evil court, hypocritical Pharisees, and mill owner Jenkins) set in motion social codes and ethics that resulted in dire consequences for modern man. Using his greatest star, Lillian Gish, as Walt Whitman's Eternal Motherhood to tie together scenes that spanned nearly the whole of human history, Griffith ultimately failed to unring the bell. Incredibly brilliant and innovative cinematic techniques were insufficient to overcome what he already had unleashed. Too complex and baffling for average viewers, and burdened by exorbitantly expensive production, the ahead-of-their-time techniques in the film backfired, leaving in their wake a commercial failure. Ultimately, his staunch pacifism did not resonate with a nation itching to fight a war. He died in 1948, still haunted by the irreversible stigma of "that other film".

    48. The General 1927, Clyde Bruckman and Joseph Francis "Buster" Keaton

    Keaton's own favorite, this movie is widely acclaimed as the greatest silent comedy of all time. It's a Civil War adventure epic that features Keaton's celebrated straight comedy (a la Seinfeld or Stiller) at its finest. Interestingly, the film was not well received, neither by the public nor by the critics. Its debut was decidedly unheralded, despite its $400,000 budget. Many years passed before movie buffs began to praise the film as one of the best Hollywood ever made. This brilliant movie plays on corresponding sight gags between two mirrored train chases, each comprising one-half of the movie. Keaton did his own stunts.

    47. The Deer Hunter 1978, Michael Cimino

    One of a slew of post Vietnam War angst films, this movie is nowhere near the technical excellence of Apocalypse Now, which appeared a year later. And yet, the film stirred up great controversy mainly over brutally frightening scenes like that of American POWs being tortured by games of Russian Roulette. Though no documented evidence of such torture exists, the film helped promote stereotypes of Vietnamese people as savage and sadistic racists. Despite its spectacular cast, the overpriced movie was choppy, pretentious, grandiose, way too long, poorly filmed, and loosely edited. Nevertheless, to this day it has a vehemently adamant cult following, and it received nine Academy Award nominations. Cimino defended the movie against charges of racism by flatly denying that it was intended to make any sort of political statement or take any polemical point of view.

    46. Mr. Smith Goes To Washington 1939, Frank Capra

    Politicians scrambled to bring pressure to delay this film's release. Capra's film seemed to propagandize American government as criminally corrupt at a time when war had just broken out in Europe. But it was the underlying theme, that America's greatness is derived from the diligence and goodness of her citizens, that people responded to. Nominated for eleven Academy Awards, and warmly and universally loved for its uplifting charm, this movie is one of the definitive American cinematic achievements. Capra was, uncharacteristically for the time, meticulous with detail, building a nearly exact replica of the Senate chamber and faithfully portraying the machinery of how the federal government works. Peppered with patriotic songs (like Yankee Doodle Dandy and My Country 'Tis of Thee), the movie was a box office hit that launched James Stewart's long and accomplished career as a lead Hollywood actor, and helped to set a patriotic mood that prepared America psychologically for yet another war.

    45. Scarface: The Shame of the Nation 1932, Howard Hawks and Richard Rosson

    Mired in more than two years of controversy (before it was even released!), this movie would be the inspiration for Brian De Palma's 1983 remake, which he dedicated to Ben Hecht, author of this screenplay. The Motion Picture Association of America's infamous Production Code of Ethics straight-jacketed the movie with unprecedented restrictions and requirements, including disclaimers by subtitle, tacky add-ons to explain that the film did not glorify gangsters, an added prologue and epilogue with moralistic speeches, the deletion of all visuals of blood, and a slew of cuts, edits, and voice-overs intended to "sanitize" the film. It was ignored by the Academy, receiving not even one nomination. The incessant squabbling over its production robbed this great screenplay of its rightful role as a trail-blazing crime drama - it was beaten by Little Caesar (1930) and Public Enemy (1931) - and caused it to be a box-office flop, banned in some cities and delayed in others. Howard Hughes eventually removed it from circulation, and the film languished in limbo until its re-release in 1979. One of its most interesting (and original) techniques was the use of an "X" to portend an imminent murder. When you saw a cross-beam, or a bowling score sheet, or a shadow shaped like an "X", a murder was about to happen. The merciless destruction of this film by Hollywood moralists and crusaders sent a clear and unambiguous message to future producers that their work would be hacked.

    44. 42nd Street 1933, Lloyd Bacon

    This Great Depression era movie musical was responsible for restoring the financial solvency of Warner Bros studios. It was markedly different from the delicate romantic musicals of the period, delivering to its audiences an uncompromising tale of backstage grit and exhaustion that moved at a breakneck pace. The camera work was revolutionary, swooping overhead to capture the girls like crystals in a kaleidoscope, and then diving toward the stage of colorful dancers, tunneling through their perfect rows as they parted like the Red Sea. The exquisite choreography was the work of Busby Berkeley, who went on to become an accomplished director in his own right. This was the film that introduced the notion that if you waited in the wings long enough, your day would come, and you too could be a star.

    43. Ben Hur 1959, William Wyler

    Subtitled A Tale of the Christ, this was a remake of the 1925 film by J.J. Cohn, Fred Niblo, and Charles Brabin (uncredited), which was itself a remake of Sidney Olcott's 1907 version. But it was Wyler's picture that earned 12 - twelve! - Academy Award nominations: Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actor, Cinematography, Art/Set Direction, Costumes, Visual Effects, Film Editing, Score, and Sound. The spectacular epic cost a then whopping $15 million to produce, and was an enormous risk for MGM Studios. Planning the movie alone took six years, and shooting it in Italy took more than a year-and-a-half with thousands and thousands of extras. No film before it had involved nearly so many people. And it wasn't until 1997 that another film (The Titanic) would win as many Oscars.

    42. The Big Parade 1925, King Vidor

    One of the most profitable silent movies of all time, accounting for a third of the entire industry's earnings the year it was released, this film served as the war genre template for the rest of the century, all the way through Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan. The movie was MGM's first big success, and in capturing war's most intimate side, through the eyes of ordinary grunts, it was a prelude for the more famous All Quiet on the Western Front, released five years later. Coming only seven years after the end of World War I, this film was a stunning statement about the futility of war, and its profound effects on the lives of people. It was the first film to personalize war, and to juxtapose war and love. It is considered by many to be John Gilbert's greatest acting performance.

    41. Baby Doll 1956, Elia Kazan

    Time Magazine declared this film to be "[j]ust possibly the dirtiest American-made motion picture that has ever been legally exhibited." Others called it "lewd", "revolting", and "notorious". Many theaters cancelled their showings in response to nearly violent picketing by the Legion of Decency. The movie opens with a dirty old man peering through a peep hole at the very sultry Baby Doll (25-year-old Carroll Baker) as she sleeps seductively in a "crib", plugging her mouth with her thumb. Frantically trying to see more, the sweaty, balding man begins tearing at the peep hole when the scraping sounds awaken her. She moves quietly to the adjoining room and confronts - her husband! There's a reason that he's only stealing peeks at her, and I won't spoil that for you here. But this movie paved the way for many later films, like American Beauty.
     
  3. Liberal

    Liberal Metaphysical Entity

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    40. Midnight Cowboy 1969, John Schlesinger

    A compelling drama about a Texan struggling with his own naivete in New York City while bonding with an unlikely companion, this movie was notable for being the first "X" rated film to receive an Oscar for Best Picture. It was eventually re-rated "R". Oscars were also won for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay (by Waldo Salt from James Leo Herlihy's 1965 novel). Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight both were nominated for Best Actor. Sylvia Miles received a Best Supporting Actress nomination. Many viewers were shocked when they realized soon after the opening credits that the movie was not a Western. "Midnight cowboy" was street slang for "male prostitute".

    39. Rocky 1976, John G. Avildsen

    This film is just amazing on so many levels. Not only did it beat out Taxi Driver, All the President's Men, and Network for Best Picture, but it did so on a shoestring budget (a paltry $1 million) with a screenplay that was written in three days and filming that took less than a month! Sylvester Stallone, an unknown and unreliable screenwriter with 32 scripts already rejected, positively personified the film's tag line: "His whole life was a million-to-one shot". Indeed. But he hit the jackpot when he insisted on a make-or-break contract, refusing to allow the studio to cast Robert Redford, Ryan O'Neal, Burt Reynolds, or James Caan, all of whom it preferred for the role of Rocky Balboa. The film grossed more than $100 million, making it one of the most profitable movies of all time. It's hard to say why this movie resonated so well with an adoring public, and went on to inspire similarly themed pictures for a generation. It certainly was a good production, earning an astonishing ten Academy Award nominations, with Stallone joining Orson Welles and Charlie Chaplin as the only people in history to be nominated for Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay in the same year. But it was not a particularly great production. Nor was it terribly original in an era saturated by Italian-American dominance. No, the hero here was the movie itself, based on a New Jersey club boxer, Chuck Wepner ("the Bayonne Bleeder"), who went (almost) the distance with Muhammad Ali in a heavy-weight title bout in Cleveland in 1975. Wepner was one of the few who ever knocked down Ali, and he went 15 rounds, lasting until 19 seconds before the final bell. In an era of malaise and war guilt, this feel-good movie about triumph against adversity, where the good guy wins what's really important, simply was a remarkable example of being in the right place at the right time. It was just what the doctor ordered for a society that was fast sinking into cynicism. Hero and underdog movies (as well as sequels of this film) followed for decades, feeding a voracious appetite for righteous pride.

    38. The Boys in the Band 1970, William Friedkin

    Caricatures of and veiled references to homosexuality had appeared in numerous films throughout Hollywood history, but mainly due to decades of suppression by the now defunct Production Code of Ethics (not to mention the Catholic League of Decency), this was the first movie to feature homosexuals in starring roles, and to depict gays as ordinary people who struggled with many of the same things in life that everybody struggles with. It is a very dark comedy with the interesting plot element that a heterosexual is accidentally invited to a gay party. The darkness progresses as the men become increasingly drunk, and climaxes at the end with a bizarre telephone game. Although noticeably dated now, the movie is acknowledged for its pioneering spirit.

    37. The Learning Tree 1969, Gordon Parks

    Believe it or not, this was the first Hollywood movie directed by an African-American. Following years of segregation, when Black artists were forced to work outside Hollywood, often even going from town to town and distributing their movies themselves, Hollywood finally began to feel the changing zeitgeist (particularly with television establishing itself as the entertainment medium of choice) and clamored to identify itself with popular afro-centric causes and civil rights. Some call the period between 1969 and 1974 the era of "blaxploitation". Gordon Parks was a recognized and accomplished photographer for Life magazine, and was tapped to write and direct this film. It was mild and autobiographical in nature, although it did give viewers some idea of what it had been like to grow up with a minority status as a black teenager in 1920s rural Kansas. Later black films would be considerably more sharp and in-your-face. But at last, the path was cleared for Spike Lee and others to work in Hollywood.

    36. The Searchers 1956, John Ford

    Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, and other giants of directing have called John Ford's brooding masterpiece the greatest American film ever made. It profoundly influenced such films as Taxi Driver and Mean Streets. It was certainly John Wayne's best role (as well as the source of his most famous line: "That'll be the day"), and defies the many caricatures of this great actor who, here, is not the familiar hero figure, but a bigoted loner with a fixation on revenge. Filmed at Ford's beloved Monument Valley in Utah, the stunning pictorial sequences alone merit accolades of greatness. But it wasn't until the emergence of a new generation of directors and critics that the movie was elevated to the highest acclaim. Despite its groundbreaking screenplay, with impeccable interpretation by Ford, it was summarily ignored by the Academy and dismissed by critics when it was released. Wayne (born Marion Morrison) and Ford were mutual admirers and colossal Hollywood figures whose careers, contributions, and influence spanned many decades.

    35. Something's Got to Give 1962, George Cukor

    This is the only movie on the list that wasn't finished and was never shown in any theater anywhere. It was Marilyn Monroe's first nude scene (and in fact, the first nude scene ever by a major Hollywood star). It was the first contract from which she was fired (she was suffering severe depression, and missed 17 of the first 30 days of shooting). And it was the last movie she was ever in (she died while negotiations were underway for her to return to filming). Marilyn Monroe was more than just an icon - she was the definition of icon. Beautiful, sexy, and larger than life, her career was a rocket ship of success. The darling (and some say the Mistress) of presidents and kings, she was America's pin-up princess, alone at the pinnacle of stardom, recognition, and attention. She is still the standard by which all others are judged. She was witty, intelligent, lively, and charming, touching the lives of people she never met (almost a Princess Diana type). Norma Jeane Mortensen was born June 1, 1926 in Los Angeles, and had her first ever screen test with Ben Lyon at 20th Century Fox in July, 1946. She was so dynamic (almost a Madonna type) that she was mentioned in a Hollywood gossip column a mere ten days later. She changed her name to Marilyn Monroe on August 26 that year, and went on to sign contracts with Columbia Pictures, MGM, and Fox as her tumultuous career took off in earnest. Things happened fast and furious for Marilyn. In 1954, for example, she married Joe DiMaggio in January and was divorced from him by October. Everybody wanted a piece of this beautiful and glamorous legend, and her life became a glass cage as the world swirled by her at dizzying speed. She began work on this film April 23, 1962. On August 5, she died at her home in Brentwood. An AMC documentary, "Marilyn Monroe: The Final Days", features a 37 minute reconstruction of what remains of the film.

    34. The Wild One 1954, László Benedek

    The original teen angst and exploitation film, this movie stirred up so much controversy that public screenings were banned by the British Board of Film Censors for fourteen years after its release. In the United States, it created a stereotype of motorcycle clubs that took years to overcome (and still lingers). Derided as "communist" and "Godless", the movie nevertheless struck a chord among young viewers and paved the way for Rebel Without a Cause, Easy Rider, and other films about rebellious youth. Marlon Brando's remarkable career was more or less bookended by this film and the Godfather films. A more complete metamorphosis of a human being can hardly be imagined.

    33. The Jazz Singer 1927, Alan Crosland

    This is the much celebrated "first talkie" film, although the first all-dialogue film, Lights of New York, did not appear for another year. Viewers were said to be "wildly enthusiastic" when, in October, 1927, they saw their favorite Jazz Singer, Al Jolson, burst into song on the screen. They cheered and clapped loudly as he ad-libbed with his mother at the piano and proclaimed famously, "You ain't heard nothin' yet!" Obviously, movies would never be the same again. The film used synchronized vocals and accompaniment, but actual spoken dialog was used in only a few scenes. The first actual synchronized sound heard in the film was not from Jolson at all, but from 13-year-old Bobby Gordon, playing Jakie Rabinowitz, who sang "My Gal Sal" in the cafe.

    32. Citizen Kane 1941, Orson Welles

    There are certainly more remarkable things about this film than can be listed here. It was Welles' debut, at 25 years old, as writer (along with Herman J. Mankiewicz), director, and star. Despite the massive praise that critics heaped upon it, the film was a box office disappointment, partly due to W.R. Hearst's pressure on RKO to delay distribution. There were so many similarities between Kane and Hearst that attempts to suppress the film nearly succeeded. Incredibly, owning to so much controversy, the film received only one Oscar (for its screenplay). It was way ahead of its time, daringly innovative in nearly every cinematic element from screenplay and acting to editing and photography. Among other things, it used a subjective camera, unusual lighting and shadows, overlapping dialog, a cast that aged over the course of time, transitional dissolves, and many more.

    31. 2001: A Space Odyssey 1968, Stanley Kubrick

    There had never been a science-fiction fantasy film quite like this. And it wasn't just the technical excellence of the special effects, which still are not outdated after more than thirty years. Nor was it the ground-breaking screenplay (20 minutes until the first line of dialog; 40 minutes of dialog total). What set this movie apart from all others was its profound mystery and spectacular vision. It was so ahead of its time that it opened to resounding and nearly unanimous ridicule from head-scratching critics like Pauline Kael, who said it was "a monumentally unimaginative movie." But upon each re-release, its popularity increased, and as it began to resonate with a generation that considered itself enlightened, the film influenced nearly every science-fiction film that followed. Usually, the movie follows the book, but in this case, Arthur C. Clarke wrote his novel as filming was underway, and based it on a version of the screenplay that he wrote with Kubrick. Unfortunately, because that script was not the one used (much of the movie was written on the fly during production), we can't turn to the book for answers to some of the mysteries. Kubrick intentionally left interpretation of his masterpiece to the viewer, saying "You are free to speculate about the philosophical and allegorical meaning of 2001". After production ended on this milestone film, Kubrick ordered and supervised the destruction of the sets to make certain they would never be used again by anyone else. He thought the film was that important. Only a few items escaped the purge: a space helmet, a pair of overalls, a key, and HAL's fish-eye assembly (minus the lens). Incidentally, Kubrick insisted that "HAL" was not derived from "IBM" (by moving each letter one place), but rather was taken from two processes of learning, "Heuristic" and "ALgorithmic".
     
  4. Liberal

    Liberal Metaphysical Entity

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    30. The Graduate 1967, Mike Nichols

    This wasn't the first film featuring a climactic scene of a desperate rush to foil a wedding by a love-struck young hero (that honor falls to Fred C. Newmeyer's Girl Shy, 1924), but it was one of the first to feature the soundtrack of established rock/pop artists, in this case Simon and Garfunkel's Grammy Award winning The Sounds of Silence (plus a tacked on Mrs Robinson). Noticeably absent from the film are any direct mentions of the issues of the day, the Vietnam War, the riots, or the protests. Rather, it was a more timeless commentary on the deeper conflicts between the generations, and gave the language a new meaning for the word "plastic", as in fake or contrived. Dustin Hoffman managed an exquisite portrayal, under Nichols' brilliant Academy Award winning direction, of an uncertain young man experiencing profound disillusionment when he sees what the adult world is all about : social conformity, manipulation, and deceit. Hoffman became a Hollywood icon, not as a sex symbol, but as a gifted actor. And Nichols (who brought us Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf) became a legend, directing definitive period movies like Catch 22 and Carnal Knowledge. The film was a controversial and timely masterpiece with timeless themes.

    29. Bonnie and Clyde 1967, Arthur Penn

    This is the movie that introduced Faye Dunaway and Gene Hackman to broad audiences, both of whom went on to enjoy glorious careers. Although Warren Beatty's production (the 28-year-old also starred in the film) was denounced by critics for the way it glamorized the two villains, taking its antiestablishment themes too far for most tastes, it was a big commercial hit. The famous scene of unarmed Bonnie and Clyde dying in a storm of bullets while sitting innocently in their car was at the time the most shockingly violent moment ever seen on film. The movie's blending of violence and comedy revised the real outlaws, who were neither kindly nor romantic, and who were armed to the teeth when they were ambushed by Texas Rangers. Nevertheless, the film's timeliness, coming at the zenith of counter-culturalism in America, quickly (and ironically) became a part of mainstream culture, spawning everything from Bonnie hairstyles to the re-emergence of double-breasted suits.

    28. Psycho 1960, Alfred Hitchcock

    Known for possibly the most famous, imitated, and celebrated scene in all of cinematic history - the murder in the shower, of course - this film also was the first ever to show a toilet actually flushing. A whole slew of lesser films with shocking murders and screen slashings have followed, but none have ever equaled this masterpiece by one of Hollywood's most meticulous and legendary directors. Even his silhouette is famous. The movie itself is stunningly complex, requiring multiple viewings to catch all the nuances, like stuffed bird symbols and reflections in mirrors. As an interesting gimmick when the film was first released, theaters posted uniformed Pinkerton guards in order to make sure that no one was seated after the movie started, leaving people antsy and immersed in suspense before the first scene even began.

    27. Sunrise 1927, F.W. Murnau

    Fox Film Corporation produced this film, subtitled The Song of Two Humans, as one of the first ever to feature synchronized sound with a Hugo Riesenfeld Movietone musical score near the end, and released it just a few days ahead of the more famous movie, The Jazz Singer. It was also one of Hollywood's first ever melodramatic psychological thrillers, featuring an adulterous murder conspiracy that provided gripping, edge-of-the-seat suspense throughout. Believed by many film critics to be one of the most artistic cinematic masterpieces of all time, the film is heavily influenced by German expressionism, and most lay viewers today might likely consider it to be overly "artsy fartsy". It was nominated for four of the first ever Academy Awards and won all but one, including Best Unique and Artistic Picture. Its photography and visuals were quite stunning. The film featured highly innovative camera-in-motion techniques that were borrowed in many later films, including Orson Welles' Citizen Kane and John Ford's The Informer.

    26. Casablanca 1942, Michael Curtiz

    In terms of its screenplay (especially its screenplay), cinematography, and cast, this is one of the most perfect Hollywood films ever made. This movie, shown on television more than any other, stands even today as an object lesson for aspiring screenwriters. There is probably not a more quoted film in existence. Practically every line of the script is a quotable gem. Even its misquotes (like "Play it again, Sam.") are a part of the culture. But the spoken word was not the only memorable part of the film. Herman Hupfeld's As Time Goes By, written originally for a 1931 Broadway revue, Everybody's Welcome, and studio-dubbed by Elliot Carpenter, will soften even the hardest heart. The movie was shot almost entirely on studio sets, and for its budget of nearly a million dollars (a lot in its day), it received eight Academy Award nominations (for 1943 because that was the year that it first played in Los Angeles). There was a bit of controversy surrounding the movie when the Marx Brothers wanted to do a spoof of it. It isn't true that Warner Bros sued, but it is true that some really funny correspondence went back and forth between the studio and Groucho Marx. (Marx wrote, in part, "You claim you own Casablanca and that no one else can use that name without your permission. What about 'Warner Brothers'? Do you own that, too? You probably have the right to use the name Warner, but what about Brothers? Professionally, we were brothers long before you were.") This landmark film was actually a dark horse due to the sheer number of quality movies in distribution. In this Hollywood Golden Age, every major studio was releasing a film nearly every week, but this one came out just three weeks after Allied troops had landed in Casablanca, Morocco. Talk about good timing.

    25. The Gold Rush 1925, Charles Chaplin

    Written, produced, directed, edited, and starring Charlie Chaplin, this silent film was his own person favorite, and still delights audiences with its definitive slapstick comedy. Chaplin is both endearing and enduring, and has inspired whole generations of comedians and comedy writers. Buster Keaton, Stan Laurel, Woody Allen, Harold Lloyd and Jacques Tati are among the legions who cite his influence. Underlying his hilarious antics was an obsessed cinematic genius who strived for nothing less than perfection. The memorable scene of the two starved cabin occupants eating a shoe was the result of 3 days of shooting and 63 takes. (The shoe was made of licorice and caused Chaplin to go into insulin shock.) The movie is so well directed, with advanced techniques like parallel editing, that it is easy for the theme of human conflict and suffering to be lost on unsophisticated audiences. And yet Chaplin was brilliant enough to realize this, and managed to create a sympathetic figure that emerged from the slapstick routines. Still, the movie is not without controversy. Chaplin apparently lifted the dancing rolls scene directly from a similar scene in Keaton and Arbuckle's The Rough House (1917).

    24. Apocalypse Now 1979, Francis Ford Coppola

    Full of eerie and haunting symbolism, this movie took sixteen months to film (17 weeks were scheduled), and was six hours long after its first edit. Editing continued for nine months. Amidst its highly publicized delays and unabashed hype were catastrophes (Martin Sheen had a nearly fatal heart attack during the main shooting) and excesses (it cost $19 million more to produce than its $12 million budget). There was also a visit from Typhoon Olga. Coppola said that his intention was to give his audience "a sense of the horror, the madness, the sensuousness, and the moral dilemma of the Vietnam War." He succeeded. Loosely based on Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, the film helped shape the final attitude of Americans about the War in Vietnam just before the Reagan Era dawned. The message of the film, with its confusion, its violence, and its surreal madness, is summed up by a single line from Colonel Kurtz: "We train young men to drop fire on people. But their commanders won't allow them to write †††† on their airplanes because it's obscene!".

    23. Frankenstein 1931, James Whale

    Appearing the same year as its sister film, Dracula, this is the consensus mother of all monster films. Everyone is familiar with the flat-top head, neck bolts, and four-sizes-too-small clothes. Universal Studios was still a small film outlet until this movie, and had already produced other monster films, including The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and The Phantom of the Opera, and had made Lon Chaney and Bela Lugosi famous. Lugosi in fact turned down the Frankenstein role after an early test screening with French-born director Robert Florey. Producer Carl Laemmle, Jr hired James Whale to replace Florey. Whale selected 44-year old Boris Karloff as the Monster, and then hired make-up artist Jack Pierce, and the rest is history. Speaking of history, the idea that Frankenstein was brought to life by electricity originated with this blockbuster film. It cost $262,000 to make and earned Universal more than $12 million.

    22. Becky Sharp 1935, Rouben Mamoulian

    This was Hollywood's first feature length three-strip Technicolor film, using three negatives per camera for each primary color of light: red, green, and blue. You can see here the vast improvement that three-color processes represented over the earlier two-color processes. Adapted from William Makepeace Thackeray's Vanity Far, the film is a bold and dramatic commentary on the morality of 19th century English society. Its title character (played by Miriam Hopkins, who earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress) is self-centered and oblivious to the needs of people around her until finally she does a good deed for someone else, when her life and her outlook changes. Audiences were wowed both by her stunning and sensitive performance as well as the film's rich and sumptuous color. There was now no turning back. Viewers were immediately spoiled, and this film marked the beginning of the end (with a couple of rare exceptions) for black and white major motion pictures. Rescuing segments of the film that were literally strewn around the world, UCLA Film and Television Archive painstakingly restored it frame by frame to nearly its original brilliance in 1984.

    21. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs 1937, David Hand

    Hollywood's first feature length animated film (83 minutes) was a mega-hit that forever established Walt Disney as the undisputed king of animation. It was the first of many Disney films distributed by RKO, all the way up until 1953, when Disney established Buena Vista. Viewers were delighted not only with its story, but with its sound, its color, and the magnificent technical brilliance of its artwork. Incredibly, Snow White was not released on videotape until 1994. Steamboat Willie was Disney's first animated sound cartoon (1928), but was only 7-1/2 minutes long.
     
  5. Liberal

    Liberal Metaphysical Entity

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    20. Reefer Madness 1936, Louis J. Gasnier

    Also known as The Burning Question, Tell Your Children, et al, this film was a low budget propaganda documentary that became the first and most enduring Hollywood cult classic. Modern ignorance about marijuana, though ubiquitous, pales in comparison to the ignorance in this movie, which features "Mae" and "Jack", as stereotypical nefarious predators, enticing local high school students to come to their place and smoke reefer. Naturally, the lives of everyone involved are destroyed, including one student who, from smoking pot, is committed for life to a mental hospital. The laughably ridiculous circumstances in the movie (including the memorable shouts of "Faster! Faster" to the piano player) ultimately undermined the film's intent. The movie is now infamous for its multi-level absurdities. Nevertheless, it was used for years as a propaganda documentary.

    19. King Kong 1933, Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack

    This great movie classic, a Beauty and the Beast sort of tale, is the definitive adventure-fantasy film, and was inspired by co-producer/director Merian C. Cooper's personal experience in making documentaries about gorillas. He originally had in mind simply a large beast, but as he considered more and more cinematic scenarios, the beast grew into a monster. So dedicated was he to the project that, according to a contemporary (October, 1934) Fortune magazine article, he became a teetotaler (which would end up lasting the rest of his life) out of superstitious fear that drinking would jinx the work. As it turned out, the project was a phenomenal success both commercially and critically. Although it didn't catch the eye of the Academy, which had no Special Effects category at the time, it charmed and dazzled an enthusiastically adoring public. One of the most memorable film images of all time is King Kong standing atop the Empire State building, battling the aircraft that circled and shot at him. It was one of many scenes that were the product of innovative and cutting-edge photographic techniques with miniatures and projections. The movie, which single handedly saved RKO from bankruptcy, endures as an established legend in its own right.

    18. The Sound of Music 1965, Robert Wise

    This is one of those movies, like Wizard of Oz, that has a timeless appeal to all generations. The original Maria von Trapp was waiting for an instrument to arrive at a concert one day, and began telling stories about her family's adventures. Those stories led first to a book, then to a play, and finally to the movie. Eerily, in 1962, Julie Andrews had sung in a Carol Burnette skit titled, "The Pratt Family of Switzerland", which was a parody of a von Trapp family singer. Little did she know that three years later she would play the lead role in the movie that would catapult her to super-stardom. The unforgettable score by Rodgers and Hammerstein became entrenched in American culture, giving school children a new way to learn the major scale and giving music teachers an array of delightful songs that they could teach to children.. For director Robert Wise, the film earned him his second Academy Award (the first was for West Side Story), and for Twentieth Century Fox, it was a box office smash hit that surpassed Gone with the Wind and held the record until the release of The Godfather. It was Andrews' second nomination in a row for Best Actress (she didn't win, but she did win the year before as the title character in Mary Poppins), and in all, the Academy showered the film with ten nominations and five awards.

    17. Schindler's List 1993, Steven Spielberg

    By combining an extraordinary array of eclectic elements - cinema verite, overlapping dialog, parallel editing, montage sequencing, and high contrast film-noir black and white - into a gut wrenching and heart pounding story of the Holocaust in horrifying detail, Spielberg earned his first ever Academy Award for Best Director. The film, which told its story on very personal levels, won six other awards as well, including Best Picture (the first black and white film since 1960, The Apartment, to do so). John Williams delivered yet another brilliant and memorable musical score, including Itzhak Perlman featured on violin. Planning for the film began ten years earlier when Spielberg read Thomas Keneally's book, the compelling novel based on testimony by the Schindlerjuden. Said the director, "It took me ten years to develop a kind of maturation in order to say, 'now I'm ready to make Schindler's List.'" He treated the movie like his own son, obsessing over every detail in his drive for perfection. Because it didn't come out well in black and white, for example, the color green was avoided as much as possible. Filmed on location in Poland, including two days at the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, the movie renewed public awareness of the Holocaust, and almost single handedly struck down a rising tide of historical revisionism by White Supremacists. The complex story about a man who courts demons by day and saves lives by night taxes the emotions and the intellect to their limits. Like Stern, we can never quite be sure about Schindler, and in which basket he might eventually drop his eggs. But the ending legend gives the final word: THERE ARE MORE THAN SIX THOUSAND DESCENDANTS OF THE SCHINDLER JEWS.

    16. All Quiet On The Western Front 1930, Lewis Milestone

    Milestone's directing in this film is simply inspired. In one scene, for example, the subjective camera glides along the trench, firing a machine gun at approaching troops. The screenplay is equally brilliant, as with the boots that pass from man to man, cursing each with death. Universally acclaimed as the greatest anti-war movie ever made, the film tells the story of war's horrible consequences from the point of view of a young German, Paul Baumer (played sensitively by Lew Ayres) who, at the urging of his professor, enlists in the effort to save the Fatherland. The budget for the film, at $1.25 million, was exorbitant for its time. Universal Pictures bankrolled thousands of extras on acres of lush California ranch land, and for its investment reaped enormous success, both critically and commercially, becoming the third movie in AMPAS's (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) young history to win Best Picture. Milestone also won an award for directing his first sound film. Modern day viewers, ordinarily too jaded to suspend disbelief with early sound films, watch this one mesmerized by its power. The battle scenes have a Saving Private Ryan you-are-there quality. The emotionally draining movie, essentially faithful to Erich Maria Remarque's novel, was controversial worldwide, banned in Poland for being too pro-German and banned by the Nazi regime for being too anti-German. Joseph Goebbels himself denounced it. This picture, with George Cukor as director of dialog, has influenced whole generations of directors who look to Milestone's definitive techniques for inspiration. The movie ends unforgettably, with a quiet harmonica playing just before the armistice is signed, and Baumer trying to touch a butterfly just beyond his reach from the trench, unknowingly the object of a distant French sniper. A loud crack is heard as the shot fires, the harmonica stops, and Baumer dies.

    15. Jaws 1975, Steven Spielberg

    Spielberg was 27 years old when he wrote (with assistance from Carl Gottlieb) and directed this smash hit that was enthusiastically absorbed into popular culture and other movies, like the shark fin through the clouds in Airplane, the pizza delivery skits on Saturday Night Live, and the Baby Ruth turd scene in Caddyshack (which used John Williams' famous two-note score). And there were actual "shark scares" at shores here and there as fretful people became suddenly vigilant of something they hadn't much feared before. This was the movie that made Hollywood producers realize the profitability of blockbuster marketing, effectively blocking out less spectacular works thereafter from consideration for production. After Jaws, studios aggressively sought out big event films, leaving to independent filmmakers the task of producing low budget "artsy fartsy" movies. Although plagued by delays and mechanical sharks whose hydraulics kept failing in the salt water, this film managed to top $100 million in box-office rentals and was the first to do so. Spielberg and Williams had worked together previously on The Sugarland Express (1974), but this was the movie that launched their careers.

    14. The Godfather (Trilogy) 1972, 1974, 1990, Francis Ford Coppola

    This is a landmark trilogy. Each film (particularly the first and second) is among the most celebrated of all time. It marked the timely resurrection of Hollywood filmmaking and restored its credibility when overseas films were providing stiff competition. The first of the series represented a significant new direction for gangster movies. With Hollywood's Production Code a thing of the past, there did not have to be retribution for crimes. The 1974 film, considered by most critics as the best of the three, daringly provided both a prologue and an epilogue to the original story, and did so with masterful effect. The third movie, usually less acclaimed than the others, had what might be called the "Jeopardy Effect": it didn't really reveal much about its predecessors, but rather raised questions of its own that the first two answered. The Godfather profoundly infiltrated American popular culture, spawning legends about organized crime, and influencing changes in the language, in fashion, and in outlook. People became Mafia aware and crime wary as get-tough-on-crime platforms proliferated on the political landscape. Even though Michael Corleone was presented as a sympathetic figure, always trying to legitimize his family, viewers would never forget the brutal murder scenes. These movies are too rich for their memorable moments to be compacted here. The wedding. The horse's head in Jack Woltz's bed. Don Corleone's collapse in the garden. "I believe in America." And on and on. Incidentally, the horse's head was real. Coppola, unsatisfied with various props that he tried, got it from a New Jersey slaughterhouse and used chocolate syrup for the blood.

    13. Easy Rider 1969, Dennis Hopper

    Thus ended the 1960s, a time when a strange and surreal society had taken upon its shoulders the weight of the world and, with this film, tossed it all aside to abandon the Age of Aquarius reconciliation of man in favor of anarchy, individual fulfillment, and restless nonconformity. The allegory ("Wyatt" and "Billy") was so universally influential that it won the coveted Best Film by a New Director at the 1969 Cannes Film Festival. Dennis Hopper directed, and Peter Fonda produced. The two men played the starring roles in a seminal movie that broke with Hollywood conventions in daring and startling ways. There was almost no background or development of the characters, no heroes to battle for good versus evil, no standard pace or rhythm to the unevenly cut scenes and improvisational acting. And motorcycles signified freedom, not delinquency. Now a cult classic, this film received only two Academy Award nominations (Best Original Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor for Jack Nicholson), but was a resounding commercial success after costing less than $400,000 to produce. Accompanied by the soulfull tunes of Jimi Hendrix (If Six Was Nine) and Steppenwolf (The Pusher and Born to be Wild), the naive idealism of the 60s enlightenment drug culture gave way to the cynical isolationism of the 70s in-your-face drug culture. Male bonding became a concept, and the path was cleared for a new cadre of Hollywood directors like Coppola, Bogdanovich, and Scorcese.

    12. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf 1966, Mike Nichols

    This powerful drama with superstars Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor is the film that you can thank for the modern rating system. Jack Valenti had just taken over as president of the Motion Picture Association of America, and met with Jack Warner (of Warner Bros fame) and his top aide, Ben Kalmenson, for three hours of discussions about this movie before the three finally agreed to delete "screw" and retain "hump the hostess". Valenti's discomfort with that meeting foreshadowed an eventual Supreme Court ruling in April, 1968 that upheld the power of states and cities to shield children from books and movies that could not be shielded from adults. On November 1, 1968, the MPAA introduced its first ratings categories: G, M, R, and X. These were modified over time, and on September 27, 1990 became the familiar G, PG, PG-13, R, and NC-17.

    11. The Exorcist 1973, William Friedkin

    One of the most sensational movies of all time, this terrifying blockbuster masterpiece affected audiences like no other horror film before it. Nationwide, there were reports of epileptic seizures, heart attacks, nightmares, and insomnia. Nauseated and frightened viewers ran and stumbled out of theaters. Claims of demonic possession and appeals to both Catholic and Protestant churches for exorcisms skyrocketed. Incredible make-up and photography supplied images that haunted viewers for years. It has been said that a stand-in served as the fully possessed child, but that is not the case. Linda Blair played the whole part of Regan MacNeil (except that Mercedes McCambridge supplied the demonic voice). Graphic depictions of sexual self-mutilation with a crucifix accompanied by unheard of profanity and obscenity by a helpless little girl turned monster, in the clutches of an unrelenting and cruel evil force, along with sound editing that took advantage of the full range of volume and pitch, combined to leave audiences with indelible memories of the night when they saw this film. Re-released in 2000, the movie added one memorable scene of Regan spider walking upside-down and backwards down the stairs. Controversy continues to surround this film, which was nominated for ten Academy Awards, and which has spawned innumerable (and comparatively weak) imitations.
     
  6. Liberal

    Liberal Metaphysical Entity

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    10. Star Wars 1977, George Lucas

    This was a most difficult decision for me. Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, released the same year, both are innovative for pretty much the same reasons, and frankly, I like the latter much more than the former. But! Nothing succeeds like success. Lucas's film is one of the most popular movies of all time from any genre. After decades of sequels, prequels, and re-releases, it continues to influence new generations today, people not even born in 1977. Modestly budgeted at only $11 million, Star Wars thoroughly infiltrated the American culture. President Reagan called the Soviet Union "the Evil Empire", and his Strategic Defense Initiative was dubbed "Star Wars". It set the standard in special effects that subsequent films would have to live up to. In fact, (and unfortunately) it almost made special effects a prerequisite to a film's popularity. Its impact, immediately upon release, was enormous. Entire markets emerged to accommodate the demand for Star Wars merchandise. The film brought together an amazing array of eclectic sources, from saloon westerns to Wizard of Oz-type fantasies, into a riveting (at least by popular consensus) epic that blew the doors off nearly every cinematic achievement before it. And yet, in the end, it was that most basic of cinematic themes: good versus evil.

    9. Hypocrites 1915, Lois Weber (uncredited)

    According to records at the Library of Congress, women wrote nearly half the movies filmed between 1911 and 1925. Weber was not remarkable just because she was a woman. She was remarkable for her singular talents at writing and directing. By the time she came to Universal, she was one of the highest paid directors in Hollywood - male or female. This film, her first in Hollywood (she had been an influential director on the east coast) was, like most of her others, a religious allegory, attacking what she perceived as modern day Pharisees. It was an indictment of corruption in the church and in the business world. Her films were incredibly rich in technical skill and detail, with gentle pans and elaborate, complex scenes that were sometimes hard to interpret. She was profoundly influential on generations of directors who would follow. When you see the pictorial majesty of John Ford's films, you are seeing what she pioneered and taught. Her preachiness ultimately did her in. By the early 1920s, audiences had tired of being made to feel guilty, and opted instead for lighter and more escapist pictures. Weber worked as a script doctor for Universal until 1939, when she died penniless and unheralded by the industry that she helped to create.

    8. I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang 1932, Mervyn LeRoy

    Based on the autobiography of World War I veteran, Robert E. Burns, this movie single handedly was responsible for a tidal wave of prison reform. It laid bare the rampant corruption in America's penal system. Viewers of this film (nominated for three Academy Awards) were horrified that their own justice system could be so abusive and unfair. Burns, whose record at the State House in Trenton was eventually cleared, became a national hero. He was cheered by a standing ovation when he entered the New Jersey Assembly chamber to attend a hearing presided over by Governor A. Harry Moore. Even the grocer, whom Burns had robbed ten years earlier, when asked at the hearing whether he thought Burns should serve out his sentence, responded simply, "I do not." The hearing ended with the Governor's official pronouncement, "I have constitutional authority to deny extradition, and I do so." Although producers attempted to appease Georgia by never mentioning the state's name in the film, details of Burns's case quickly became common knowledge as newspapers all over the country told and retold his story. Georgia, the object of much protest and derision, finally dismantled the chain gangs in 1945, and begrudgingly issued a pardon to Burns.

    7. The Wizard of Oz 1939, Victor Fleming (Richard Thorpe, original scenes, King Vidor, Kansas scenes, and George Cukor, all uncredited)

    What a year for Hollywood, and what a year for Victor Fleming! Hired away from this film to take over Gone With the Wind, Fleming had nearly completed work before King Vidor took over for the last ten days. The film opens in the surreal world of a sepia colored Kansas until Dorothy comes out of her house into a brilliant Technicolor Oz. Arguably, there follow more memorable scenes, lines, characters, props, and songs than exist in any other film. Re-released in 1949, 1955, 1970, and 1972 and digitally restored in 1998, the film's legions of fans insist that its many bloopers (such as fishing line holding up the Cowardly Lion's tail, very visible in several scenes) merely enhance its charm. You can't help but wonder what this film might have done at the Oscars had it not been eclipsed by Seznick's magnum opus, but it at least received two music awards: Best Song (for "Over the Rainbow" by Harold Arlen, lyrics by E.Y. Harburg) and Best Original Score (Herbert Stothart). Competition in 1939 was fierce among Dark Victory, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Love Affair, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Ninotchka, Of Mice and Men, Stagecoach, and Wuthering Heights. The fact that, among them, this film is the perennial choice that is still an event eagerly watched on television year after year is testament to its endurance and influence.

    6. Gone With The Wind 1939, Victor Fleming (George Cukor, Sam Wood, William Cameron Menzies, and Reeves Eason uncredited)

    There just aren't enough superlatives.. The biggest. The grandest. The most majestic. It's not particularly a favorite of mine (it bores me), but who's to argue with a bazillion other people? Cukor was the first director hired (August, 1936), and with assistance from historian Wilbur Kurtz, he and his team headed south in March of 1937 to begin their research. By May, Margaret Mitchell had won the Pulitzer Prize, and sales of her novel had reached $1,375,000. David O. Selznick, the producer, had originally balked at paying $50,000 to "an unknown author" for the rights. But by 1940, after 15 Academy Award nominations (including honoraries) and universal critical acclaim, it was clear that his deal, originally dubbed "Selznick's Folly" by a cynical press, and negotiated by Kay Brown the week of the book's release, was one of the best investments in history. By January 13, 1939, all the stars (an incredible cast) were signed. A mind boggling list of accomplished actresses (including Katharine Hepburn, Miriam Hopkins, Margaret Sullavan, Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Crawford, Lana Turner, Mae West, Tallulah Bankhead, Jean Arthur, and Lucille Ball) were rejected for the role of Scarlett O'Hara before Selznick settled on "a new girl", British actress Vivien Leigh. Between January and the time shooting finished in November, cameramen were fired and replaced, directors quit and returned, sets were destroyed (Selznick thought they looked too fake) and rebuilt, and Bank of America rescued production with a $1 million loan after MGM refused to spend more money. It was simply a monumental motion picture, spanning twelve years of the War Between the States, and filmed in magnificent three-strip Technicolor with a plenary and majestic musical score by Max Steiner. Its influence was tremendous, creating a stereotype of the South that became an archetype for decades. Hattie McDaniel (as Mammie) was the first African-American ever nominated for an Academy Award, and she took home Best Supporting Actress. Re-released in 1999 amidst some controversy, this film endures as the favorite of untold millions.

    5. Inherit the Wind 1960, Stanley Kramer

    Intended to be an allegorical protest against McCarthyism (as were so many films of the period) this film, perhaps inadvertently, painted an inaccurate portrait of the "Scopes Monkey Trial" that became so famous that it practically represents a revision of history. The screenwriter was listed as Nathan E. Douglas, but his real name was Nedrick Young, and he was on the infamous blacklist. Despite that it was easy to see that Clarence Darrow represented Henry Drummond, H. L. Mencken was E. K. Hornbeck, and Dayton, Tennessee was Hillsboro, Tennessee, etc., people believed (and still do) that the film was a docudrama of the trial. But in reality, the teacher was not arrested in the classroom, the town was not upset over the trial, the book used was not Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution and the Descent of Man, and there was no effort by churches to upset the proceedings. And Scopes was not at all the sympathetic oppressed figure that the movie represents; in fact, he volunteered to help the ACLU establish a test case.

    4. Taxi Driver 1976, Martin Scorsese

    At 1:30 PM on Monday, March 30, 1981 John F. Hinckley, Jr emerged from a crowd of reporters and fired his Rohm R6-14 revolver six times, shooting Timothy J. MCarthy, Thomas Delahanty, James Brady (who later, with his wife, inspired the "Brady Bill"), and Ronald Reagan, the president of the United States. Just prior to the deed, he had written a letter to Jodie Foster, whom he had stalked at Princeton the year before, informing her that he was about to prove his love for her. Massively delusional, Hinckley identified, according to his psychiatrist, Dr. William Carpenter, with Travis Bickle, the character who confused murder with sacrifice, and was brilliantly played by Robert De Niro in Scorsese's dark and disturbing melodrama. In the film, Bickle rescued Iris, the twelve-year-old prostitute played by the promising young Foster, by mowing down her pimp and others involved with her. Prior to that, he decided to win the admiration of a woman, Betsy, whom he had tried unsuccessfully to woo, by assassinating the man she worked for, a presidential candidate. It is said that Hinckley saw the film more than fifteen times. Even now, this movie is cited by those who argue that Hollywood nefariously influences viewers as their seminal example, charging that it began a trend of lone wolf terrorists who act out their impulses in schools and on city streets. Controversy aside, the film, deeply influenced by John Ford's The Searchers, was a cinematic masterpiece of film noir with De Niro in his best role ever, and launched the long and glorious careers of Jodie Foster in film (both acting and directing) and Cybill Shepherd in television. Incredibly, the film won not a single Academy Award.

    3. High Noon 1952, Fred Zinnemann

    On February 9, 1950, Senator Joseph Raymond McCarthy (R, WI) began a speech by saying, "I have in my hand a list of 205 cases of individuals who appear to be either card-carrying members or certainly loyal to the Communist Party." One of those cases was screenwriter Carl Foreman, who adapted John W. Cunningham's Collier's Magazine story, "The Tin Star", into perhaps the best Western film ever made. You won't find much in this movie in the way of frontier violence or rampaging Indians. What you will find is an unmistakable morality metaphor about good people abandoned by their friends, and left to fend for themselves as they confront revenge seekers and barbarians. It was an effort to criticize McCarthyism in an indirect way, with symbolism and allegory, sadly recapitulating the way writers and directors made their feelings known in totalitarian regimes. Direct criticism was too risky, and could destroy careers. Two years after this film debuted, Joseph N. Welch, chief attorney for the Army, faced McCarthy squarely and said, "You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you no sense of decency?" This simple, low-budget Western ($750,000) was so influential that Director Howard Hawks and actor John Wayne created Rio Bravo in 1959 as a direct response to its "liberal preachiness".

    2. A Streetcar Named Desire 1951, Elia Kazan

    Released amidst a firestorm of controversy, this film marked the beginning of the end for Hollywood's infamous Production Code and the meddling Catholic Legion of Decency. Kazan (around whom enormous controversy swirled when he cooperated with McCarthy's committee) was convinced that Americans were tired of being pandered, and for his adaptation of Tennessee Williams' play, he pulled out all the stops available at the time. Even though censors had combed through the movie and excised several scenes and tempered others, what remained was a steamy, deeply sexual, raw, and provocative film. Marlon Brando redefined acting, using his Method acting style to bring an intensity to his character (Stanley Kowalski) that influenced other actors (like Montgomery Clift, James Dean, Jack Nicholson, Robert De Niro, and Sean Penn) for the rest of the century. This is the film that you can point to as bridging two eras: the old hammy style of modest decorum role playing, and the modern realistic feel-your-pain acting. Even within the movie, you can see the contrast between the two styles, Vivien Leigh's perfect diction and proper manner contrasted with Brando's mumbles and pauses. Mild by today's standards, the movie pretty much covered every topic that was forbidden at the time, from homosexuality to nymphomania, from insanity to rape. The Academy showered the film with an incredible twelve award nominations, resulting in three wins from the acting categories (Best Actress for Vivien Leigh, Best Supporting Actress for Kim Hunter, and Best Supporting Actor for Karl Malden). It was the first of 4 nominations in 4 successive years for Brando. A 1993 re-release restored much of the censors' damage, including Blanche's sexually charged visit with the newspaper boy and Stanley's rape of Blanche.

    1. The Birth of a Nation 1915, D.W. Griffith

    Originally titled The Clansman, after Rev. Thomas Dixon Jr.'s play, this movie spawned controversy like never before (or since) seen. Law suits, picketing, and even street unrest (including massive riots that peaked in 1919) throughout the country followed the movie for decades as it was re-cut and re-released in 1924, 1931, and 1938. Shortly after its release, the NAACP published a 47-page pamphlet, "Fighting a Vicious Film: Protest Against The Birth of a Nation". The National Board of Censorship of Motion Pictures debated fiercely over whether the movie should be shown in New York, but once it opened, it sold more than 3 million tickets in 11 months (an astounding number for the time). Although it was denounced with scathing reviews from horrified critics, President Woodrow Wilson (after the first ever screening of a film in the White House) reportedly declared, "It is like writing history with lightning. And my only regret is that it is all so terribly true." It is a blatantly racist depiction of the birth of the Ku Klux Klan, and is in fact still used today both as a recruitment tool by the Klan, and as an education tool by the NAACP. Despite all that, it is heralded by most movie scholars as the most important American film ever made. It was as technically innovative as Citizen Kane, thanks in large part to cameraman Billy Bitzer, who pioneered a whole slew of techniques, including the "iris effect" (expanding and contracting circular masks). It was the first film with its own orchestral score, the first to use night photography, the first to use moving (or "panning") camera shots, the first to use total screen close-ups, and much more. It even had a hand color engraved sequence at the end. The film had already made a mind-boggling $18 million dollars before the first talkie was ever released. Because of its lingering controversy, its pioneering technical brilliance, its innovative artistic advancements, and its sheer longevity, this is the movie I've selected as the most important Hollywood film ever made.
     
  7. GlassJoe

    GlassJoe New Member

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    WTFlist?

    Casablanca should've been way higher up on the list. At least in the top 10.
     
  8. Liberal

    Liberal Metaphysical Entity

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    Actually, I explained why it wasn't.
     
  9. lionsgraphics

    lionsgraphics OT Supporter

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  10. DrewTheGenius

    DrewTheGenius New Member

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    All Quiet on the Western Front was crap. I saw the movie adaptation of the book and there are plenty of better war movies out there. Important and movie is an oxymoron btw.
     
  11. Liberal

    Liberal Metaphysical Entity

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    The list isn't about what movies are "better".

    I believe I just proved why that is false.
     
  12. Liberal

    Liberal Metaphysical Entity

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    Thanks.
     
  13. joy division

    joy division New Member

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    why limit it to hollywood made films...
     
  14. Liberal

    Liberal Metaphysical Entity

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    Because I was interested in the symbiotic relation between Hollywood and American society at large.
     
  15. joy division

    joy division New Member

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    Ok. Films not made in hollywood can also relate to american society at large :hs:
     
  16. Liberal

    Liberal Metaphysical Entity

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    Yes, but my interest was in the symbiotic relation between Hollywood and American society at large. Wheat germ pulp in Amsterdam can relate to American society at large, but I have no interest in that.
     

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