by Julian Spivey
ABC aired its Countdown to the Oscars: 15 Movies That Transformed U.S. Cinema special on Tuesday, Feb. 16 and like most of the ABC entertainment specials of its ilk it too was quite the mess.
The special set out to rank the 15 most influential movies in American cinema history choosing films for their importance to the future of both film and society. Host Robin Roberts said at the beginning of the program that the list wasn’t necessarily a ranking of the greatest movies of all-time, but rather most influential and it’s an important distinction to make because it gives valid reasoning for leaving films like “Casablanca” and “The Godfather” off of the list.
However, ABC – as they have done on similar lists before – still screwed things up royally. The biggest complaint was a rather egregious one that makes the network look rather imbecilic when it comes to formulating an influential films list … it didn’t include Orson Welles’ incredibly important and much copied in style and direction 1941 film “Citizen Kane” – a film so important that it’s topped the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Greatest American films both times the list has been compiled despite there arguably being more popular films like “Casablanca” and “The Godfather.”
The film that topped the ABC list was George Lucas’ 1977 science fiction blockbuster “Star Wars,” which is arguably not even the most influential Sci-Fi film ever (Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” which also made the list, could take that cake). There’s few who will deny the movie’s spot on the list though.
However, a film like John Hughes’ 1984 teen flick “Sixteen Candles” appearing on the ABC list when “Citizen Kane” does not really goes a long way in proving the list to be absolute trash. Sure, you can understand the point the list is making in its inclusion of “Sixteen Candles” in the importance the film had in bringing real teenage stories to the cinema – but one of the 15 most influential of all-time? Give me a break.
If “Citizen Kane” isn’t one of the most influential films of all-time – if not the most influential – how come it’s taught in absolutely every film class? How many film classes have you ever seen “Sixteen Candles” taught in? I seriously doubt it’s ever appeared in a single one. Hell, it’s not even John Hughes’ best teen flick – it’s just his first.
I’ve always cared more about performance and script in film than actual directorial style and that’s why I can’t explain the importance of “Citizen Kane” as well as those who care about such things as mise-en-scene can, so it’s better to let somebody like Filmsite’s Tim Dirks do that. I will say the film is actually somewhat underrated when it comes to performance and script with so many focusing on the, for its time, innovative film techniques. But the film has basically inspired and taught every filmmaker who’s come after it and if that’s not influential I don’t know what would be. Perhaps, “The Breakfast Club”?
Countdown to the Oscars: 15 Movies That Transformed U.S. Cinema Complete List:
#15. “Toy Story”
#14. “Sixteen Candles”
#13. “A Hard Day’s Night”
#11. “Lillies of the Field”
#10. “The Godfather Part II”
#9. “I’m No Angel”
#8. “Easy Rider”
#7. “The Birth of a Nation”
#6. “A Streetcar Named Desire”
#5. “2001: A Space Odyssey”
#3. “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”
#2. “Gone with the Wind”
#1. “Star Wars”