5. The Birth Of A Nation (1915)
Influential, how? Cinema's language is written.
DW Griffith’s Civil War epic is shockingly racist but it integrated formative film grammar into narrative like no movie before.
Here, America embraced a three-hour movie for the first time - one that tethered a thrusting story to close-ups, iris shots, historical authenticity, impressively mounted battle sequences and cross-cutting between parallel action.
Money shot: Over to critic James Agee: “The most beautiful single shot I have seen in any movie is the battle charge…”
6. The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari (1920)
Influential, how? Cinema goes insane.
The senile granddaddy of the modern horror film, Caligari relates a chilling tale of murder through painted sets, high-contrast chiaroscuro lighting and a modern dance-like performance style.
In a more naturalistic form, these expressionist effects remain central to horror films.
Money shot: The reveal, when we discover Dr Caligari’s true calling.
7. Nanook Of The North (1922)
Influential, how? Cinema goes on the record.
Without Nanook, there'd be no documentary cinema, no Paul Greengrass, no Roger & Me, no Nobel Peace Prize for Al Gore...
Part real, part faked, Robert J Flaherty’s pioneering silent film about Inuit life in the Canadian arctic kick-started the documentary genre.
Accusations that key scenes were staged sparked a debate about keeping it real that still rages now.
Money shot: Nanook and Co hunting angry walruses with harpoons.
8. The Thief Of Bagdad (1924)
Influential, how? The stuff of fantasy.
From magic carpets to invisibility cloaks, winged horses to giant spiders, Raoul Walsh’s ‘fantasy’ film used every single dollar of its then-unprecedented $1m budget to show silent audiences just how fantastical celluloid could be.
Every fantasy film since owes it a big debt.
Money shot: The flying carpet ride over a fairytale Bagdad...