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10-decade history of film


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If you could pick 10 films to describe the history of movies from the 1910s to the 2000s, what would they be?


1910s - Some Charlie Chaplin shorts from Mutual, where he became very famous, with a few Mary Pickford shorts thrown in. This would show the emerging star potential of the movies.


1920s - Sunrise. Maybe the high point of silent film expression, with a few lessons in how European filmmaking could be transfered to America.


1930s - It Happened One Night. More star power, with top notch writing and direction that documents the class tensions of the Depression in a funny way. Also an interesting transition film between the pre-code and code eras.


1940s - Magnificent Ambersons. Everyone's seen Citizen Kane; MA shows the brilliance of Welles in a more subtle, conventional vehicle. Also a good lesson on how a film can be affected by unpredictable geniuses, world events and studio influence.


1950s - On the Waterfront. The climax of the amazing early career of Marlon Brando and his unique style of acting. Also a brilliant moral lesson, and one of the last great standard width B&W films before widescreen took over.


1960s - Lawrence of Arabia. The incredible culmination of the first 10 years of widescreen photography. Also a great example of character development and passionate narrative.


1970s - The Godfather. A classic 1930s Warner Brothers gangster film, but with color, widescreen and more explicit content (thanks to the film ratings system launched in 1968). Also introduced a new generation of actors (Pacino, Duvall, Keaton, etc.), all directed by one of the new film generation of directors (Coppola).


1980s - The Return of the Jedi. The finale of the first trilogy of Star Wars films, which recycled old adventure genres for a new audience that was conditioned by increasingly complex special effects.


1990s - Howards End. Because I saw this movie in a theater about four or five times, mostly because of the great acting. A classy international film that was a high point of an era of great literary adaptations.


2000s - Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. A landmark in both special effects and international filmmaking.

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I'm not very knowledgable, but I'll give it a try


1910s - D. W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation

1920s - The Jazz Singer

1930s - Swing Time

1940s - The Best Years of Our Lives

1950s - Rear Window

1960s - Cool Hand Luke

1970s - Star Wars

1980s - Do the Right Thing

1990s - Pulp Fiction

2000s - A Beautiful Mind

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1900-10 - Georges M?li?s' Le Voyage Dans La Lune

1910-20 - D. W. Griffith's Intolerance

1920-30 - F. W. Murnau's Sunrise

1930-40 - Mervyn LeRoy and Busby Berkeley's Gold Diggers of 1933

1940-50 - William Wyler's The Best Years of Our Lives

1950-60 - Robert Wise's The Day the Earth Stood Still

1960-70 - Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita

1970-80 - Francis Ford Coppola's Apocolypse Now

1980-90 - Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull

1990-00 - Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction

2000-10 - Andrew Stanton's Finding Nemo


I tried not to look at what the others had chosen until I'd made my picks. And now that I see Mel's, I think he's right: Do the Right Thing might be the best choice for the 1980's. I wanted films that reflected what was going on in the world, not just cinematically. Scorsese shows the progress of filmic style, but Spike Lee's might better reflect the times as well as style...

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1900-1910 The Great Train Robbery

1910-1920 Birth of a Nation

1920-1930 Sunrise/Wings

1930-1940 The Gold Diggers of 1933

1940-1950 Best Years of Our Lives

1950-1960 On the Waterfront

1960-1970 2001

1970-1980 The Godfather

1980-1990 Raging Bull

1990-2000 Pulp Fiction


Message was edited by:

me because my fingers work faster than my brain sometimes

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Thanks Bobbert. I think that Gold Diggers of 1933 not only captures the aesthetic of the 1930's, but also the milieu of the great depression. Science and Science Fiction were such a big part of the 1950's. The Day the Earth Stood Still beautifully melds this fascination with Cold War tensions.


The 1970's was tough: I wanted to show a more experimental Hollywood; a mixture of young talent hired by big corporations that knew nothing about making movies. I finally chose Apocolypse Now because it's so representative of a post-Viet Nam America. But I also considered Cabaret, The Godfather and Chinatown...

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Maybe the heat is getting to someone or there is a case if identity theft around here. The lzcutter I know certainly would have put "To Kill A Mockingbird" on her list in the slot for the '60's. Or maybe I just don't know her as well as I thought.


Kyle In Hollywood

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While I love TKAM and it is my favorite film, I read the question as what films best represent their decade.


I chose Golddiggers of 1933 because of it's influence on musicals of the 1930s (while my personal fave is Footlight Parade).


As for 2001, I chose it for its influence on films of the 1960s over my personal fave TKAM.


No identity theft here but the heat in Las Vegas may have melted brain cells before I was able to return to the more gentle climate of home.

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It Happened One Night was mentioned in the original list. So Capra is represented.


Good choice on La Lune. I wish I could have chosen a different movie from Birth of A Nation, but from what I have read... this movie was the representation of Griffith at his height. I've unfortunately seen it twice, and felt sick for the entire length of the movie both times. I choose Spike Lee anyday.

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A few years ago, a local movie theater celebrated its 75th anniversary (1928-2003) with a series of movies from each of its decades in the 20th century. It's a nice mixture of critical acclaim and popular appeal. The series ran from September to December, so there were some holiday tie-ins.


Metropolis (1926), with live accompaniment on the organ that was built with the theater.

It Happened One Night (1934)

Casablanca (1942)

Them (1954) and Forbidden Planet (1956), for Halloween

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

American Graffiti (1973)

Coal Miner's Daughter (1980)

Home Alone (1990), for Christmas


Ironically, I was a little disappointed in the schedule because, like TCM, I felt this theater should focus on old movies. But looking back, I think they did a pretty good job.

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