1. The Battleship Potemkin (Eisenstein, Russia, 1925)
This film has been widely studied and regarded as a propaganda masterpiece. The film looks at the historic event that took place in 1905, in which sailors form a mutiny against their Tsarist officers. The film is widely regarded for its unique montage editing and its ability to toy with the audience’s emotions. Eisenstein’s famous sequence occurs on the Odessa Steps, where the Tsar Officers massacre innocent civilians.
Eisenstein studied the Kuleshov Effect (a mental phenomenon by which viewers derive more meaning from the interaction of two sequential shots than from a single shot) of film making, and this heavily influenced the editing he used in this film. Eisenstein strategically placed images together with juxtaposition to cut between the scared civilians and the ruling officials. By cutting between the two Eisenstein further calls upon the emotion of the audience and creates a sense of suspense. This form of editing is considered to be a Rhythmic Montage in which the montage of clips follows a certain beat, giving the film a methodical impression.
Many filmmakers since Eisenstein have been influenced by his montage editing, and it’s easy to see his influence in the film world even to this day. For example, Alfred Hitchcock has become well known for a similar style of montage editing.
2. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Robert Wiene, Germany, 1920)
Not only is this film considered the quintessential work of German Expressionist cinema, but it’s also considered to be one of my most influential films in the horror genre. The film gave birth to a whole new style of film that had never been seen before.
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari actually used painted sets to create shadows and depth directly into the sets and ensure an overall dark and expressionist look and feel. The films use of lighting and shadows reflect the psychology of the characters within the film, which is an idea that would continue to be used in German cinema and eventually spill over into the style of film noir.
3. Citizen Kane ( Welles, USA, 1943)
This film is one of the most widely studied at any film school or institution. While this film has been extremely controversial among audience members, there is definitely a lot to learn from watching it. This film was actually a major box office flop at its time, but now it is regarded as one of the most iconic cinematic films.
Welles orchestrated several techniques of classic film, and he definitely borrowed heavily from the style of German Expressionism. One of the most infamous things about this film is the nonlinear narrative structure. The narrative style of the movie shifts backwards and forwards in time pretty frequently. While this is a very common feature of modern film, for its time this was extremely unique and innovative.
The cinematography of this film was also very innovative for its time. Its deep focus photography made the foreground and background appear in focus and allowed for a lot of creative freedom. As well as the films’ iconic low-angle shots. This film has definitely been influential on Hollywood films and was extremely unique for its time.
4. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick, USA, 1968)
This is definitely the type of film that impacts each and every audience member in a unique and different way. Each is one of the reasons this film has been so widely talked about and popularized.
However, this film had a massive impact on the science- fiction genre of film. It steered the entire genre away from this ideology of “us Vs them,” which was so widely used in the traditional alien invasion films of the genre. It steered the genre into a totally new and innovative direction.
The film has also become regarded for its unique use of editing techniques, especially the idea of a match cut. It’s definitely easy to see the influence of this film on later films such as Alien, Star Wars, and several others.
5. Stagecoach (John Ford, USA, 1939)
This film was John Fords first sound western film, and it was revolutionary in almost every way possible. Not only did this film challenge the stereotypes of the genre, but it also rejecting several classical western conventions.
This film set the defining portrait for the American West in Hollywood. Until this film was made most western films were shot in a Hollywood studio with backdrops. However, the authentic location of this film being shot in Monument Valley Utah engrossed the audience into the authentic backdrop of the film. After this film, more and more western films were being shot on location.
This film is also known for its innovative combination of camera work, chase scenes and crazy stunts. While Indian battle sequences were a common feature of western films before this movie, the extensive chases scene and risky stunts of this film were extremely impressive and creative for its time. This film definitely changed and revolutionized the western genre as a whole.
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