20 of the most influential and innovative Hollywood films of all time (20 items)

By , Deseret News

Aug. 26, 2014

This year marks the 75th anniversary of one of cinema's most enduring and influential classics: "The Wizard of Oz."

Known not only as a staple of childhood wonder, the 1939 film adaptation of L. Frank Baum's book is also in the history books for being the film that popularized the use of Technicolor in film. Even today, long after the normalization of color in film, critics such as Leonard Maltin marvel at the film's innovative use of the color palette. "The old-fashioned, old-school wizardry of MGM still looks impressive to me today," he said.

Here, we've compiled a list of 20 other innovative and influential films that will likely be remembered for their contributions to the ever-changing shape of modern cinema. Because many of the films are relatively recent, the long tail of their influence may not yet be fully realized, but the legacy of innovation, exemplified by "The Wizard of Oz" shines through them all the same.

1 of 20. Birth of a Nation (1915)

"The worst thing about 'Birth of a Nation' is how good it is," writes The New Yorker's Richard Brody. Although the legacy of "Birth of a Nation" is now tainted by the film's clearly racist themes, the film remains in the history books as one of the most successful early epic films, often cited as the greatest silent film of all time.

The grandiose nature of the film has lingered on in American epics such as the film adaptation of "Gone With the Wind" and even "Titanic." Director D.W. Griffith used his camera to tell a story that captured audiences with sweeping cinematography and grandiose storytelling. It was, essentially, the first great American epic.

2 of 20. Metropolis (1927)

Fritz Lang's "Metropolis was, at the time of its release, the most expensive film ever made. But that's not what made the film so special.

Filmed in Germany during the years of the Weimar Republic, Metropolis helped set the standard for big-budget sci-fi with an overt political message (think "Avatar" but in a more silent and black and white form).

"Metropolis remains the benchmark of agenda-driven extravaganzas," Philadelphia Weekly's Matt Prigge wrote in a retrospective of the film. But beyond the film's heavy nature, Prigge also notes that it was "stirring and fun in the right spots."

3 of 20. King Kong (1933)

The first incarnation of "King Kong," released in 1933 is credited as the catalyst for the modern American horror film. It was a pop culture sensation upon its original release and has since spawned numerous remakes, sequels and imitators. In fact, the Godzilla films were largely inspired by King Kong's success in Japan, according to film historian Cynthia Erb.

Peter Jackson, the director most famous for helming the Lord of the Rings films, has said on multiple occasions that the original "King Kong" is what got him interested in filmmaking.

4 of 20. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

Released in 1937, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" was the first feature-length animated film. It was the crowning achievement of Walt Disney and his relatively young animation studio.

It not only proved that it was possible to keep an audience entertained for more than an hour with animation, but that it could be done with the art and drama of the best live-action films.

5 of 20. The Maltese Falcon (1941)

"The Maltese Falcon" is considered by many critics and film historians to be the first entry in the heyday of American film noir, one of the most influential genres in American cinema. “It put down the foundations for that native American genre of mean streets, knife-edged heroes, dark shadows and tough dames,” film critic Roger Ebert wrote in his “Great Movies” review.

“It's all style,” he continued, and that style has lingered on in subsequent masterpieces such as "Casablanca" and "Double Indemnity." Even this summer's ultra-violent comic book adaptation "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" owes much of its visual style and story ethos to "The Maltese Falcon."
1. Understands Math
Lacey, WA,
Aug. 26, 2014

Headline correction: "The most influential and innovative Hollywood films of all time."

2. JP
Chandler, AZ,
Aug. 26, 2014

Interesting about Roger Rabbit and The Little Mermaid. I was a kid when they both came out and have always wondered how the rebirth of Disney animation came about.

3. Bill McGee
Alpine, UT,
Aug. 26, 2014

If I had to make a list of the 20 most influential films, I wouldn't include most of these. I suppose they are influential in a popcorn movie sort of way, but if you consider film to be an art form, this list needs to be radically overhauled. For example, it is massively over-rotated on adventure/comic book/CGI-heavy films. Where's The Godfather or Raging Bull or Gandhi or Lawrence of Arabia or Blade Runner or Pulp Fiction or On The Waterfront? What about other iconic genres like Westerns? 20 should be the cream of the crop. This is not even close.

4. Pat
Salt Lake , UT,
Aug. 29, 2014

Personally I thought " Gone With The Wind" or "The Ten Commandments" would be in there.

5. Hutterite
American Fork, UT,
Sept. 16, 2014

These 'scroll through the list one page at a time' things don't work well on a mobile data plan. That's too bad, because I can't comment for sure, but I'd bet 'Blues Brothers' isn't on the list. It should be.