By Sam Watermeier
1. “Roundhay Garden Scene” (1888)
It’s only two seconds long and it consists of people walking around in a garden yet it captivated the world and changed it forever. This 1888 short film is the first film ever made. Directed by French inventor Louis Le Prince, this movie made film what it is today: the most powerful art form of all time. It showed the major strength of film which is its ability to provide an immersing escape and transport an audience to another world even if only for two seconds. The possibilities are endless.
2. “Citizen Kane” (1941)
This film set the standard for films regardless of genre. With its nonlinear structure, it inspired a multitude of films to break the rules of narrative (“Reservoir Dogs,” “Pulp Fiction,” “Memento,” etc.). It’s also widely considered the “Best Film Ever Made” among critics. Although I disagree (there is such a huge variety of films of different genres that I think it’s impossible to determine one “best”), I must admit the fact that this film made such a profound universal impact is what one would call “movie magic.”
3. “Star Wars” (1977)
Warning-bold statement ahead: Without this film, there would be no James Cameron, Wachowski Brothers, Michael Bay, Roland Emmerich or even George Lucas. Although his first two films, “THX-1138” and “American Graffiti” are influential in their own right, “Star Wars” created an empire for him. It pioneered advances in special effects and inspired several other filmmakers like the ones I mentioned to create watershed blockbuster spectacles.
4. “8 1/2″ (1963)
Some directors may owe their lives to this film. With its powerful story of a director trying to make a personal film that proves detrimental to his loved ones, Federico Fellini’s “8 1/2” serves as a cautionary tale for all filmmakers. In its exploration of filmmaking, it is also the finest metafilm ever made.
5. “The Godfather” (1972)
Without this film, there would be no “Sopranos,” no “GoodFellas,” etc. This film attracted audiences to gangsters with its surprisingly sympathetic characters. It set the standard for crime drama which is arguably the most popular genre of all.
6. “The Graduate” (1967)
While this film is tame by today’s standards, in 1967 it was the most controversial film around. In the midst of mainstream epics like “Camelot” and “The Dirty Dozen,” its story of a college graduate’s affair with an older woman and friend of his parents was edgy and even a little shocking. One could credit it as one of the first films to inject audiences with harsh reality instead of providing typical Hollywood escapism.
7. “Breathless” (1960)
This is one of the films responsible for launching the French New Wave of cinema, a movement in filmmaking characterized by breaking cinematic conventions and radical experiments with editing and visual style. Like “The Graduate,” it’s known for its unconventional story and naturalism. It consists mainly of characters having casual, realistic conversations about everyday life. It doesn’t provide any kind of escape from reality as most films.
8. “Easy Rider” (1969)
This is the film during the “New Hollywood” stage of cinema (“Bonnie and Clyde,” “The Graduate”) that was the farthest from being mainstream. It is ground-breaking for its gritty depiction of issues at the time such as drug use and the struggle to find peace during the Vietnam War with the hippie movement. It also inspired independent filmmakers since it was made with a shoestring budget and sometimes in the style of guerilla filmmaking. However, “Easy Rider” does not stand the test of time. Many scenes are cheesy now and its “indie,” unconventional style just comes off as sloppy.