What are the most influential movies ever?What are the most influential movies ever?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Citizen Kane influenced cinematography more than any other single film.  Directed, written, and acted in by Orson Wells, this movie was clearly avant-garde. 

  • Wells devised a way to change the angle of the camera for certain effects.  For instance, he had a hole cut into the floor so that the cameraman could film from under the actors such as himself as Kane, thus creating transforming the characters to giants physically in order to represent their immense power. Wells also employed a crane for certain camera shots to have the camera rise and shoot from different angles.These innovative techniques have been imitated in subsequent films, and are still utilized today.
  • Wells initiated the concept of deep-focus using a large depth of field in which the foreground, middle ground, and background are all in focus.  Citizen Kane is described as a "veritable textbook of this technique."  The film is immersed in the use of flashbacks which hiterto had only been employed by a couple of flims.
  • The use of montage to collapse time and space is another innovative technique used by Wells.  For instance, in the breakfast montage, Wells collapses 16 years into 2 minutes as he has 5 vignettes which chronicle the breakdown of Kane's first marriage.
  • Wells makes extensive use of sock footage to create a News on the March segment which parodies the matinee newsreels of the time.

Cinematography students study assiduously this film just as they study Casablanca, Gone with the Wind, which was the longest sound film of the time that was shot entirely in the new Technicolor, and other greats.


Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When examining the idea of "influential," many films come to mind.  There are many standards and criteria that can be used.  That being said, I would throw my two cents into the ring and say that "Casablanca" is probably one of the most influential films ever made.  My bias as a history and literature person is most evident in selecting this film.  The film combines the historical drama of the time period in the World War II fight against the Nazis and sets it against the backdrop of personal emotions ("The problems of two people don't amount to a hill of beans in this world.")  In making history a personal discussion, there is much here that would deem it as "influential."  Rick Blaine is the prototypical American pre-World War II, wondering if isolation or intervention is the answer.  The inability to remain neutral in general is brought out through the moral paradoxes created in the film.  At the same time, there are significant cinematic elements in the film.  The continuity in both plot and technique by playing the refrain of "As Time Goes By" was groundbreaking in filmmaking.  When the film is called, "True yesterday, true today, true tomorrow" it is reflective of its influence and impact over time.  "Casablanca" was so influential in my mind because it was both a product of its time and outside of it.

ncchemist eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In terms of influential movies of the modern era (generally from the late 1960's to the present), the cultural and business impact of Steven Spielberg's classic film Jaws cannot be underestimated.  Jaws was basically the first "summer blockbuster" and, for better or for worse, that is the type of movie that the modern US film industry survives and thrives on.  It was also the first movie to have a "wide release" in US theaters, opening on several hundred screens across the country at the same time.  You have to remember that prior to that Hollywood opened big movies in small limited engagements and gradually expanded movies to more and more theaters over time.  Even a massive hit like Star Wars opened on less than 30 screens on opening day!  With Jaws, Universal Studios tried a new approach with opening on something like 400 screens on the same weekend (a huge opening at the time).  Again, for better or for worse, all movie studios in the US now look to the opening weekend for how successful any given major film will be.  Jaws was also one of the first movies to have a serious level of merchandising associated with the film become a whole mini-business in itself (although Star Wars would take this concept to an entirely new level just two years later).

Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One area of influence a film may have is in the realm of music while another is setting benchmarks of filming technique. One fairly recent film (read not from the 1930s!) that has had impressive influence in both music and film technique is Chariots of Fire, which is my personal favorite for best movie ever made. The music by Vangelis, played on a synthesizer, casts its echo down the corridors of orchestration of many musical scores to follow after: Da da dadah daaah da. Da da da da duuh. Da da da da daaa da daaa da daaa da da da da duuuh. On top of which, filming of sports scenes has forever changed. Variations of slow motion speeds and picturesque scenes of athletic exertion, which sometimes even try to rival the immortal scene of the British Olympic team running along the beach sand, are now the rule thanks to the innovation of director Hugh Hudson. This is a very influential film by the above two standards and by the standard of giving a spark of divinity to every soul that watches and comprehends the power of the story--a true story told with influential innovation and power. Da da dadah daaah da. Da da da da duuh. Da da da da daaa da daaa da daaa da da duda duuuh.

rnewall eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree that Citizen Kane has been enormously influential: look at how fresh the opening sequence remains in its use of cinematography:

  • camera movement - the camera lifts over the tall fence surrounding Kane's mansion, past the 'keep out' sign. The audience will get privileged access to Kane's life. This suggests the kind of voyeurism often associated with the medium of film.
  • mise- en- scene (props, objects) - the keep out sign, spooky house would be typical of a horror film (not forgetting the creepy music). However, the freed monkeys are not - the first sign that the film will confound audience expectations.
  • Sound - the (diegetic) potentially alarming sound of the exploding glass ornament is absent, but then we get the extreme close-up of Kane's mouth uttering his dying words 'Rosebud'. Its significance is thus emphasised preparing us for the quest to unravel its meaning.


This is truly virtuoso film making.

catd1115 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You have to take a look at the American Film Institutes list of the top 100 movies of all time. It was originally published in 1997, then revised in 2007 for the "10th Anniversary". Both times they ranked Citizen Kane as the best movie of all time. It is very interesting to see how many of the movies you have seen, if you can figure out why they were chosen, and in your case, do they seem influential? There is a great interactive feature on the website where you can check off the ones you've seen and see how the list changed in the ten years.


pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This depends on what you mean by "influential."  One movie that changed the way many people thought was "Dr. Strangelove."

That movie was a satire on Cold War attitudes towards nuclear weapons and towards war in general.  You can argue that the movie encouraged more people to think about the dangers of Mutually Assured Destruction.  If so, the movie helped to reduce the chances of nuclear war.  That seems pretty influential to me.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are a lot of ways to define influential.  I will choose Star WarsStar Wars is one of the most influential movies because it created a new era of special effects- a blending of computer generated and artist generated elements.  An entire generation was inspired to enter the movie effects business, and it is because of Star Wars that we have almost no limits to what we can bring to film today.

kiwi eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would have to say Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs of 1937. As the first full-length animated feature film, and the forerunner of a huge legacy of animated entertainment, there is no film to surpass it in my estimation. Its ceaseless appeal to generations, skill and ingenuity of characterisation as well as tireless attention to detail make it a unique gift to the world of cinema.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I share the concerns of other editors with how we define the word "influential." Certainly this yields various difficulties. However, a different approach would be to consider the impact of The Jesus Film, which has been translated into more languages than any other film and has been broadcast to more people than any other film.

lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If you think about the different genres of movies, you could probably think of a title or titles for each one.  In the "chick-flick" genre, I would suggest Gone with the Wind.  It is an iconic movie that has lasted for generations.

lrwilliams eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would agree that if you are looking at how it changed the world of movie making that Star Wars would have to be right at the top of the list.

terry387 | Student

One film that comes to mind is Schindlers List. As a genocide researcher, it shows the extraordinary efforts of a German who saves the lives of Jews destined for the Nazi gas chambers.

This film challenges the stereotype that all Germans hated the Jews and wanted them exterminated. It shows the moral decency and courage of this man to stand up against the racial policies of a barbaric regime.

The Jewish holocaust can also apply to the Armenian Genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Goverment between 1914-18. There are Turks who at great personal risk to themselves saved their Armenian neighbors from being deported into the Anatolian interior. Most deportees never survived the long march into the Syrian desert.

fally | Student

i think that most indian movies are influential.Each one of them has a moral about it.It teaches us lessons in life

lengvet | Student

Coach Carter was the most influenctial movie that I had ever seen. It send a clear message to all the youth invovled in Sports and high school study culture.

geek10 | Student

The best movie, according to me is the oscar filim"The Hurt Locker".It describes the hardships faced by the soldiers and the risks they take during wars.The filim mainly focuses the Iran war.A simply great movie!!!