21. Citizen Kane (1941)
Influential, how? Movies get cinematic.
The 26-year-old Orson Welles expertly marshalled theatrical influences, dazzling technique, innovations in cinematography and the latest technology to produce a film that showed his fellow (older) filmmakers the sheer scope of the medium.
Some of the staging might seem a little hammy today (hell, it is over 60 years old) but Kane's simple, universal subject (the tragedy of an all-powerful man who wants the one thing he can't have) hasn't aged a day.
François Truffaut said that Kane is less influential than it is inspirational. We say it's one of the few films that manages to be both.
Money shot: The opening tracking shot: an immaculate temptation (“No trespassing”). Afterwards, there's an awful lot of shots - all bang the money...
For an extended look at Citizen Kane, see this feature in the latest issue of Total Film Magazine.
22. Meet Me In St Louis (1944)
Influential, how? Movies find their true voice.
Vincente Minnelli’s family musical broke ranks with the backstage template. Here, the songs aren’t so much show-stoppers as plot-pushers, woven spontaneously into the characters’ daily lives.
Set the tempo for everything from The Sound Of Music to South Park.
Money shot: The Trolley Song: ding-ding go the bells, sing-sing go the passengers…
23. Rashomon (1950)
Influential, how? East comes west.
The West finally woke up to Japanese film when Rashomon won Venice’s Golden Lion (and went on to win an Oscar).
The idea - a rape and murder related through conflicting flashbacks - has been repeatedly ribbed but never bettered.
Money shot: The second flashback, when we realise the camera does lie.
24. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
Influential, how? Marlon brings The Method.
Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski: maybe the single most influential performance in the history of American film and theatre.
This was the first production to emerge from Elia Kazan’s Actors' Studio, and its intensity rocked Broadway, before jumping to celluloid.
In Tennessee Williams’ play, Stanley is a working-class brute who resents the airs of his sister-inlaw, Blanche. Brando’s naturalism came as a shock to moviegoers, who weren’t used to seeing sweat, but it was his sexual magnetism that really scorched the screen.
Money shot: “Stella!!!!” Brando howls into the night as his submissive wife folds into his arms.