TCM's List of the 15 Most Influential Classic Movies

April 13, 2009
Source: TCM.com

Turner Classic Movies - It Happened One Night

In celebration of their 15th Anniversary, Turner Classic Movies has launched a new website and started a feature called TCM Dailies. I'm admittedly not as well versed in some cinematic classics as I should be, and it's hard to find some good guidance and suggestions (well, in addition to AFI's list). However, this week TCM is featuring the 15 Most Influential Classic Movies (via Rope of Silicon), and I'm enthusiastic about exploring all of the films on this list. I could've just kept this to myself, but I thought it would great to share this with all of you, and if I do find the time to watch a few of these, let you know about what I think.

"This list of movies signifies films that TCM has deemed influential in the arena of film and the culture that produced them. These are not necessarily the most important films, nor representative of 'firsts' in film history—these are the movies that shaped the cinema and the audiences that viewed them."

1. The Birth of a Nation (1915)
2. Battleship Potemkin (1925)
3. Metropolis (1927)
4. 42nd Street (1933)
5. It Happened One Night (1934)
6. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
7. Gone with the Wind (1939)
8. Stagecoach (1939)
9. Citizen Kane (1941)
10. The Bicycle Thief (1947)
11. Rashomon (1950)
12. The Searchers (1956)
13. Breathless (1959)
14. Psycho (1960)
15. Star Wars (1977)

As you might have noticed, these are actually organized by their release date, not particularly by their importance ranked against one another. There are great write-ups from TCM on each of the 15 films on their website, so don't miss out on the full rundown for each of these. I've actually seen 5 of them (I'm not going to say which ones), but there are a few good ones that I still really need to see, like It Happened One Night, Rashomon, and Psycho. In fact, I'm much more excited to go through this list from start to finish than I am to try and tackle all 100 of AFI's selections. Plus, I like TCM's reasoning behind the choices a lot more.

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how have you not seen psycho

real talk on Apr 13, 2009


I don't mean to be antagonistic in asking this, just really curious, but how do you expect people to respect your opinion of film and your perspective of it if you have no frame of reference in the grand scheme of cinema? I may seem hypocritical as I read your site on a regular basis, but it's for your enthusiasm and the fact that you cover stories others don't. I can't take someone's opinion at face value if they've only seen 5 movies on a list like that. At the same time, I can commend you for admitting to not having seen certain movies instead of being like so many cinephiles I know who act like they've seen everything when it's obvious that they haven't. What I'm trying to get at is I'd love your site more if you had less opinion and stuck to the content. It's posts like these that keep me subscribed. Honesty + enthusiasm - opinion = a better site in your case

huh? on Apr 14, 2009


Of course I should've expected this kind of feedback writing this kind of article. You know, I tried to say that I was posting this as a chance for me to admit I haven't seen everything and use this list as some good suggestions for a few film I can go after and start watching. But obviously that wasn't enough for you... I'm not asking that you perceive me as the almighty god of all things cinema. In fact, I'm proud to be the somewhat uneducated moviegoer I am, because it differentiates me from all the stuck up critics out there. I like being hyped up, I love the spectacle of summer movies, the event experience, all of that. That's what makes me unique. You're not here to read the opinions of the most knowledge critic in the world (if you want that, go here). And if you're not looking for that, then you shouldn't be reading my site. And to answer #1, because as a kid I was always scared of horror movies, even thrillers. I never watched them until I was much older, and now I just haven't had the time to go revisit it. Is it that baffling?

Alex Billington on Apr 14, 2009


I wasn't trying to get you upset with my response. I subscribe here because of the things I listed, which you touched upon in your response. That was my backwards way of complimenting you on this post. =/

huh? on Apr 14, 2009


I understand, I just get this kind of criticism all the time when I talk about what I have and haven't seen. Just wanted to clarify... I appreciate your viewership, but I would argue that my opinion that you want less of is part of the reason why you read the site? And if not, I can suggest many other sites you can read instead of mine. 🙂

Alex Billington on Apr 14, 2009


I have to agree with the person above. While it's important to be honest and you're very humble to be admitting that you've only seen five of those films, you're also sort of throwing yourself under the bus in terms of First Showing's credibility. Now maybe you're not trying to be Ebert or the New Yorker, but if you want to be taken seriously as a critic supposedly with something to say that's worth reading you really should be well educated in film history and NOT just be a fanboy. Ok, lecture over. Now, as for the five you've seen... I'm gonna guess: Star Wars (obviously) Snow White (this shouldn't count, but in this case it does) Gone With The Wind Citizen Kane Metropolis those last two I threw on there because any self-described film fanatic should have seen them by now...but then again you haven't seen Pyscho. And as for a film you definitely haven't seen, I'd wager Birth of a Nation.

Connor on Apr 14, 2009


I think there's a place for all. I have sites I subscribe to for opinion and then there's sites I subscribe to like this one because of the shared enthusiasm I have with the writer for film. I can get read someone who's seen everything but is a complete snarky asshole and I'll pick Alex over them anyday. Thanks for the offer Alex, but I probably read too many film blogs as it is. lol

huh? on Apr 14, 2009


Maybe they overlooked Luis Buñuel. Sad he is not in this list. Thanks for the article Alex.

Mario Tenorio on Apr 14, 2009


Wish they had listed A Matter of Life and Death (also known in the U.S. as Stairway to Heaven) and Lawrence of Arabia.

Hugging the Coast on Apr 14, 2009


amazing, Transformers didn't make the list...TCM have no idea 🙂

Josveta on Apr 14, 2009


whoa. you havent seen PSYCHO??? get to it.

blm on Apr 14, 2009


This is the first film blog site that I really started reading--mainly because I love Alex's enthusiasm for film. I like the news he posts, it's the best news to share with my friends...they are always like "where do you HEAR these things??" and I tell them. 🙂 So yeah, I haven't seen almost all of the films on that list. But I just decided, in Japan, that this is what I want to do. So I have a lot of catching up to do in the next two years of undergrad education. This site helps reaffirm my ambitions everyday, because it doesn't sound like it's written by a "film guy" (you know, one of "those" guys...that you want to punch cuz they are so egotistical). Anyway, thanks for posting this list! When I'm back in the states, I will totally catch them all. I'll make a series of weekends out of it.

Stacia on Apr 14, 2009


The Birth of a Nation (1915)!! It is a clearly a racist film, i dont care how innovative technically it was.

beetle on Apr 14, 2009


#12 There is more to film than the subject matter of the said film.

Brandon on Apr 14, 2009


You don't have to be an expert movie critic to discuss the most influential classic movies, Alex. Certainly, TCM is no expert merely because they show movies on TV. I've seen 11 of the 15 movies they've listed. I don't know what criteria they used to make their selections, but, of the ones I've seen, nine are credible selections. Both "42nd Street" and "The Searchers" were good movies, but I question their inclusion on this list. There are many movies I believe to be better movies including "Gunga Din," "Double Indemnity," "Five Graves to Cairo," "Sahara," (1943), "Going My Way," "And Then There Were None," and "The Four Feathers" to name a few. In any event, it's always interesting to trade opinions on this subject.

William F. Torpey on Apr 14, 2009


Personally I would add Jurassic Park for the fact that it has had so much influence on todays movies because of the the extent of its CGI, yes T2 and the Abyss took the first real steps in my opinion, but Jurassic Park truly showed CGI's true colors, and look where we are now, the great majority of the popular movies ( not saying good, but popular) made since then utilize CGI to some extent. Now I'm not saying the quality of Jurassic Park should be considered on par with something like Citizen Cane or The Bicycle Theif, but just the fact that the CGI used in Jurassic Park heralded a new age in film that no one can deny. It's not the first to use CGI but it shaped a new cinematic experience.

RPH on Apr 14, 2009


I frankly don't care if Alex has or hasn't seen these movies.... I more or less care if ANYONE in general has or has not. I'm proud to say as a student in the process of getting his BFA I've seen about half of these but the other half I hunted down for pleasure and because like many readers of this site I'm a complete cinephile. But I don't understand how people go "yeah I'm into movies" and they have not seen all of these classics. Not to brag (and I apologize if any of this comes off as pretentious) but I've seen the films that the AFI considered the greatest, and I've seen just a ton of films past that. That people go around acting like they know shit just gets me angry that films pre-1970/1980's get ignored. Frankly I could care less if Alex has seen these movies, I would like him to... but I would like everyone to. It is more important that people get out there and experience these very rich and significant films. Alex is a member of the media so in terms of his qualifications of posting recent movie news, he doesn't need all that much. If he was a historian or media studies critic then it would matter, I'm more curious to see how many people that post on this site and talk and talk and talk about cultural movies don't get off their ass and see this stuff. That being said, Alex get off your ass and watch some of these movies 😛 All in all, a good list. Not sure about 42nd Street and Breathless, I think some French New Wave stuff could replace that.

BahHumbug on Apr 14, 2009


i agree with you completely alex. for all you haters just get off the site if you dont agree or consider alex qaulified for this site then thats your problem because to me this site is just fantastic and alex having not seen these movies doesnt change that fact.

PJ H on Apr 14, 2009


I love all the feedback this has created! I give you props for posting that thread as it completely relates to this site!!! I could sit here and criticize the number of movies youve seen, but it wouldnt change the fact that I read each daily FirstShowing bulletin I get and actually get tons of great insider info on whats going on CURRENTLY in cinema that would normally slip right past me! If it werent for this site, i would have missed out on many great indies and other movies! (I LOVED "Special" and jumped at the chance when I came across it onDemand only cause I had read about it here) I give Mr. Alex credit for posting this so either younger viewers, or anyone who just isnt up to date with older movies might be interested in checking some of those out, and I agree its not the definitive list either, but the TCM site has a great database of classics and amazing write ups that give you much better insight into those works much like FirstShowing does for New cinema! Theres a very true quote running on one of the tcm commercials about how you get a better understanding and appreciation of modern cinema the more you know and understand the older classic works. Im 37 years old and am discovering some amazing movies from the 30's and up that blow me away and change the way I understand movies I thought I already understood! I love movies and am always happy to discover some old classic Ive never heard of just like I love checking out some new movie Ive been reading about on FS.net for months! Keep up the good work. PS Ive only seen 8 of those myself!

lando on Apr 14, 2009


#14 what are you talking about? Where in my post did I say anything about the subject matter of film and that being the no. 1 important thing? I don't want to be a writer/director what have you, I want to be a DP...last time I checked, that was a little bit beyond just the "subject matter" of film. So please, if you read this, explain what you were trying to convey to me in that reply to my post.

Stacia on Apr 14, 2009


Casablanca. They missed out Casablanca. We should always have Casablanca.

SS on Apr 14, 2009


#20--I think #14 was actually referring to #13 and just put #12 by accident. So, I've seen 8 of the films on this list. I've been planning on watching Battleship Potemkin and Birth of a Nation for awhile, but I've barely even heard of 42nd Street. I've also been going thru AFI's lists and Roger Ebert's lists of Great Movies over the past year, and it's really broadened my horizons of the nature of cinema. It doesn't hugely hurt your credibility, Alex, that you've only seen 5 of these---but it does somewhat. You mostly give out info on popular films like The Dark Knight, and you give out loads of info so I read here regularly, and in the end I don't care if the reporter guy has seen the great works of cinema. But in your reviews, I'd like to see some more experience of great films. That is, most of your reviews are really more like talking to a college buddy about the movie he just saw--and that's fine, you don't have to be Ebert. But when you review the more ambitious films that come out around Oscar season, it's nice to know the reviewer has experience with the great works of cinema and can therefore notice both rip-offs and new classics when he sees them. So, no biggie, but go out and educate yourself as soon as possible!

scm1000 on Apr 14, 2009



Tyler on Apr 14, 2009


I agree scm1000. Battleship and Birth are the only two I have not seen as well. As much as I do enjoy this site and Alex's excitment, his tastes are all over the place. He can actually comment on a true brilliant film or actor....even a director and he comes across as your friend. That is why I promote this site to friends and others in the business. However I get such grief from others when Alex goes nuts over truley bad films and even worse actors. To avoid my post being deleted I will not share the names but some of you know how I feel about hacks. I try to defend the bad and endorse the good for FS.net sake. At least Alex was honest about the list, but he really needs to view some of the master pieces on the list, and it may help him to perceive less than average work more closely.

Tim "Cloverfield" on Apr 15, 2009


Ive been doing random checkings of TCM's schedule and have filled up most of my dvr space! great stuff...always a surprise!

lando on Apr 28, 2009

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