10 most influential films of the century by Roger Ebert by hedongchenchen


									  10 most influential films of the century by Roger Ebert
                     December 30, 1999

The motion picture was invented before 1900, but "the
movies" as we know them are entirely a 20th century
phenomenon, shaping our times and sharing these 100 years
with us. This was the first century recorded for the eyes
and ears of the future; think what we would give to see
even the most trivial film from the year 1000, and consider
what a gift we leave.

This list of the 10 most influential films of the century
is not to be confused with a selection of the century's
best, although a few titles would be on both lists. As film
grew into an art form, these were the milestones along the

1. The early Chaplin shorts

In 1913, there were no Charlie Chaplin movies. In 1914, he
made no fewer than 35, in an astonishing outpouring of
energy and creativity that made Chaplin the first great
star. Stardom was to become so inseparable from the movies
that it is startling to realize that many early films had
unbilled performers. In the earliest days just the moving
picture was enough; audiences were astonished by moving
trains and gunshots. Then Chaplin and his contemporaries
demonstrated how completely the movies could capture a
unique personality.

2. "Birth of a Nation"

D.W. Griffith's 1915 film is a tarnished masterpiece, a
breakthrough in art and craft, linked to a story so racist,
it is almost unwatchable. This was the film that defined
the film language, that taught audiences and filmmakers all
over the world the emerging grammar of the shot, the
montage and the camera. At 159 minutes, it tilted
Hollywood's balance away from shorts and toward the more
evolved features that would become the backbone of the new
art form. What a shame that it also glorified the Ku Klux

3. "Battleship Potemkin"
Sergei Eisenstein's 1925 film about a revolutionary
uprising of Russian sailors was considered so dangerous
that it was still banned decades later in some countries,
including its native Soviet Union. It demonstrated
Eisenstein's influential theory of montage - of the way
images took on new meanings because of the way they were
juxtaposed. "Potemkin" also demonstrated the power of film
as politics, polemic and propaganda - power that many
regimes, not least the Nazis, would use to alter world

4. "The Jazz Singer"

"You ain't heard nothin' yet!" Al Jolson promised in 1927,
and movies were never the same. The first talkie was
released that year (actually, it was a silent with sound
passages tacked on), and although silent film survived
through 1928 ("the greatest single year in the history of
the movies," argues director Peter Bogdanovich), the
talkies were the future. Purists argued that sound
destroyed the pure art of silent film; others said the
movies were a hybrid from the beginning, borrowing whatever
they could from every possible art and science.

5. "Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs"

Eisenstein himself called Disney's 1937 animated feature
the greatest film in history. Excessive praise, but world
audiences were enthralled by the first full-length cartoon.
Animation was as old as the movies (the underlying
principle was much older), but Disney was the first to take
it seriously as a worthy style for complex characters and
themes. Disney's annual features continue to win enormous
audiences and have grown in artistry and sophistication;
audiences, alas, seem resistant to animation by anyone
else, despite some recent success by the geniuses of
Japanese anime.

6. "Citizen Kane"

If "Birth of a Nation" assembled all the breakthroughs
before 1915, Orson Welles' 1941 masterpiece was the harvest
of the emerging art form. It was not the first to use deep-
focus photography, or overlapping dialogue, or interlocking
flashbacks, or rotating points of view, or trick
photography, or a teasing combination of fact and fiction,
or a sampling of genres (newsreel, comedy, drama, musical,
biopic), or a charismatic director who was what the French
later defined as an auteur. But in the way it assembled the
pieces, it dazzled audiences and other filmmakers and so
fully exploited its resources that "Kane" is often voted
the greatest of all films.

7. "Shadows"

John Cassavetes' 1961 film was a salvo that shook Hollywood
to its foundations. Renting a 16mm camera and working with
friends on a poverty budget, he made a film totally outside
the studio system. That had of course been done before, but
"Shadows" was the symbolic standard-bearer of the emerging
New American Cinema movement, which gave birth to
underground films and to today's booming indie scene.
Cassavetes demonstrated that it was not necessary to have
studio backing and tons of expensive equipment to make a
theatrical film.

8. "Star Wars"

There had been blockbusters before, from "Birth of a
Nation" to "Gone With the Wind" to "Lawrence of Arabia."
But George Lucas' 1977 space opera changed all the rules.
It defined the summer as the prime releasing season, placed
a new emphasis on young audiences, used special effects,
animation, computers and exhilarating action to speed up
the pacing, and grossed so much money that many of the best
young directors gave up their quest for the Great American
Film and aimed for the box office crown instead. Now most
of the top-grossers every year follow in "Star Wars"
footsteps, from "Armageddon" to "The Matrix" to "Titanic."

9. "Toy Story"

This delightful 1995 computer-animated feature may have
been the first film of the 21st century. It was the first
feature made entirely on computers, which allowed more
realistic movement of the elements and the point of view,
and characters that were more three-dimensional in
appearance. Someday, computer-animated movies may be able
to re-create "real" human actors and settings. Whether or
not that is desirable, "Toy Story" demonstrated that the
possibility was on the horizon. If films shift from
celluloid and flesh and blood to the digital domain, this
one will be seen as the turning point.
10. "The Blair Witch Project"

Important not for its entertainment value, which was
considerable, but for what it represented in technical
terms. Released last summer, it was the first indie
blockbuster, a film made for about $24,000 and shot
entirely on inexpensive hand-held cameras (one film, one
video), which grossed more than $150 million. The message
was inescapable: In the next century, technology will place
the capacity for feature filmmaking into the hands of
anyone who is sufficiently motivated, and audiences will
not demand traditional "production values" before parting
with their money.

There is not one conclusion, but two. Films are getting
bigger and smaller, cheaper and more expensive, both at
once. While mass-marketed blockbusters dominate the market,
independent directors have the ability to make their own
films almost by hand. Digital techniques are crucial to
both trends. Will the future belong to "Star Wars" clones
made with "Toy Story" techniques? Or to films made in the
tradition of the early Chaplin quickies (some shot in a
day), the Cassavetes-inspired independents and the "Blair
Witch" technology? It belongs to both, I think. Which will
be interesting.


        TCM's 15 most influential films of all time
                       April 13, 2009
                       by Roger Ebert

To celebrate its 25th anniversary Turner Classic Movies has
selected the 15 most influential films of all time. It's a
good list. As much as I think all such lists are debatable
rankings of apples and oranges, that didn't prevent me from
selecting my own ten best films of the century at the turn
of the millennium.

The TCM list was assembled "under the guidance of many
experts," the network explains somewhat vaguely, including
its host, Robert Osborne, who knows his movies. Here is the
list of 15 and their reasoning, accompanied by a link to my
own list of ten. I've put an asterisk before th four titles
that appear on both lists.

* "The Birth of a Nation" (1915)
During a time when Europe seemed to have a monopoly on
feature films, D.W. Griffith struck out to make an epic
that would help define American cinema. "The Birth of a
Nation" also became one of the greatest outrages in film
history, introducing destructive stereotypes of black men
and women and glorifying the Ku Klux Klan.

* "Battleship Potemkin" (1925)
The “Odessa Steps” sequence in "Battleship Potemkin" may be
the most influential scene in film history. Drawing on
montages in "The Birth of a Nation" and "Intolerance,"
Sergei Eisenstein used mini-stories and repeated shots of
specific characters and groups to humanize his story.

"Metropolis" (1927)
Arguably the most influential science-fiction film ever
made, "Metropolis" has inspired everything from video games
to rock videos to comic books. The film’s futuristic sets
helped spread the popularity of art deco, while the gadget-
filled lab of mad scientist Rotwang became a sci-fi staple.

"42nd Street" (1933)
Although musicals helped launch talkies, the genre was box
office poison by 1933. Visionary producer Darryl F. Zanuck
had the idea for a backstage story that would capture the
effect of the Depression on hard-working chorus girls. He
was smart enough to put Busby Berkeley in charge of the
dance routines, and his geometric patterns and dazzling
camera movements both revitalized musicals and saved Warner
Bros. from bankruptcy.

"It Happened One Night" (1934)
The surprise success of "It Happened One Night" made Frank
Capra one of the screen’s top directors and provided the
prototype for a decade of screwball comedies. Romantic
comedies like "When Harry Met Sally" and "The Sure Thing"
draw on the rapid banter, outrageous comic situations and
sexy road trip of "It Happened One Night." The movie even
provided inspiration for one of the screen’s most enduring
characters, Bugs Bunny.

* "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" (1937)
“Disney’s Folly” was the name most Hollywood insiders gave
to the dream of producing the nation’s first animated
feature. But "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" didn’t just
look better than any previous Disney film. It looked better
than most major studio productions. For better or worse,
"Snow White" set U.S. animation in pursuit of a more
realistic look for decades to come.

"Gone with the Wind" (1939)
If one film epitomizes the Hollywood blockbuster, it is
"Gone with the Wind." Scarlett O’Hara has inspired a legion
fiery females caught in the sweep of history, most notably
Kate Winslet in "Titanic." For decades, filmmakers have
drawn on David O. Selznick’s work to create and sell
romantic dreams writ large on the screen.

"Stagecoach" (1939)
John Ford’s mixture of character depth and hard-riding
action reminded audiences that the winning of the West was
more than just popcorn fodder. Ford’s work inspired Orson
Welles, who screened the film 40 times while shooting
"Citizen Kane."

* "Citizen Kane" (1941)
Working with a level of control rare in Hollywood, Orson
Welles paved the way for director-centric cinema that has
produced some of the screen’s greatest achievements and
worst excesses. By combining deep-focus photography,
directional sound, overlapping dialogue and a fragmented
narrative assembled from several different viewpoints, he
created a film audiences experienced as they did the real

"Bicycle Thieves" (1947)
Director Vittorio De Sica was part of a movement to take
cinema back to the streets. Shot on real locations with a
factory worker in the leading role, "Bicycle Thieves" (also
widely known as "The Bicycle Thief") was among several
post-war Italian films that provided an alternative to
Hollywood’s big-budget studio productions.

"Rashomon" (1950)
Akira Kurosawa’s groundbreaking film put Japanese cinema on
the international map. His editing techniques gave it a
sensual power that attracted audiences to the emotionally
charged story. Kurosawa transcended the challenges of a low
budget and censorship to create a new cinematic world that
would inspire filmmakers like George Lucas and Martin

"The Searchers" (1956)
Almost 20 years after revitalizing Westerns with
"Stagecoach," director John Ford pointed the genre in a new
direction. "The Searchers" offers one of the screen’s first
attempts to depict racism underlying U.S.-native relations.
Ford views the problem from both sides, showing how John
Wayne’s obsessed Indian hunter Ethan Edwards and the
equally obsessed Comanche chief, Scar, have been shaped by
violent acts of the past.

"Breathless" (1959)
With jarring cuts between scenes, jump cuts within them and
long takes filled with dizzying camera movements,
"Breathless" made the movies move as never before. Director
Jean-Luc Godard created a cinema of reinvention, shooting
as if the medium had only just popped into existence.

"Psycho" (1960)
Following big-budget productions like "North by Northwest,"
Alfred Hitchcock found inspiration in a low-budget, black-
and-white horror. "Psycho" re-defined the genre with major
surprises, like killing star Janet Leigh a third of the way
into the movie. The crazed-killer character became a horror
film staple, leading to slasher flicks like "Halloween" and
"Friday the 13th."

"Star Wars" (1977)
With Star Wars, Hollywood discovered new markets for
merchandising – not just toys, but novels, comics,
television series and eventually video games. These
constituted the “Star Wars Expanded Universe,” which
included a series of sequels unlike any ever seen. Lucas
later re-titled the film "Star Wars Episode IV: A New


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