Metropolis (1927): The oldest film on the list. It has a visual style that has set the tone for sci-fi for the last 80 years. Its not just the buildings or Maria doppelganger robot that clearly inspired C3PO the photography had a modern edge to it.
Frankenstein (1931) & Bride of Frankenstein (1935): Seminal 30’s horror that are not only great films but also influenced how horror films have looked ever since.
Stagecoach (1939): Orson Welles claims to have learned how to make movies by watching this film over and over again, he reportedly watched it as many as 40 times while filming Citizen Kane. It has influenced the look and feel of westerns for seventy years and it made a star out of John Wayne. It has strong multilayered characters that may look like stereotypes now but they are actual archetypes.
Citizen Kane (1941): As much for the cinematography of Gregg Toland as the direction of Orson Wells this film has inspired filmmakers for nearly 70 years.
Casablanca (1942): An exercise in how a film can transcend its origins. Casablanca started life out as an un-produced play and was set to star Ronald Reagan. With stars loaned from other studios the film became an A feature but was still shot almost entirely on sound stages and Warner’s back lot. Even so what was produced was purely sublime. Within the constraints of the setting and plot I don’t think it would be possible to make a better film and I can’t think of any actor who could have played any of the leading roles better.
Ladri di biciclette (The Bicycle Thieves) (1948): Shot with a cast of amateurs this was the best known and possibly the best of the post war Neo-Realist movement. Like the French “new wave” this is a film and genre who’s influence can still be felt today.
12 Angry Men (1957): An exercise in tension and drama. The film is basically a one set play that has been imitated ever since its realise more than 50 years ago.
North by Northwest (1959): The most accessible of Alfred Hitchcock’s films and even after 50 years it does not look dated. It is a tense thriller and a light slightly comic thriller in equal measure. The reason it is so good is the way it blends these elements seamlessly.
Some Like It Hot (1959): Probably the best comedy even and Marilyn Monroe’s finest moment on film. The film is directed with a light touch and every actor is perfect in their part. The late 20’s prohibition era are captured so well it is easy to forget the film was actually made thirty years later in 1959. The reason the film is so good and so influential is the sublime on screen chemistry and timing of the performers.
A bout de souffle (Breathless) (1960): Jean-Luc Godard’s masterpiece of the French New Wave. A film made free from studio control. The forerunner for today’s independent cinema. And if you think frantic dizzy photography and jump cuts are a recent invention take a look at this film.
La dolce vita (1960): A beautifully shot film for film lovers that turns a simple story into an existential journey. The poster and images of Anita Ekberg may be better known than the film itself but it is a film that everyone should see. Interestingly it kept its Italian title when released in English speaking countries
Psycho (1960): When you kill the star of the film early in the film all bets are off and that’s exactly what Hitchcock did here. Take a look at any thriller made today and it is probably influenced by Hitchcock in some way, if it isn’t it probably isn’t much good!
Per un pugno di dollari (A Fistful of Dollars) (1964): A watershed moment this is a film that changed the western genre forever. Possibly the most important film in the genre ever. It also made a star of Clint Eastwood.
Jaws (1976): With this film Steven Spielburg invented the blockbuster. What more do you need to say about the influence of a film.
Star Wars (1977): Another watershed moment in film history. Films in general but certainly sci-fi can be categorised as before and after star wars. It was also the start of mass movie merchandising.
Alien (1979) & Aliens (1986): Alien is a perfect blend of horror, thriller and sci-fi. Second only to Star Wars in importance within the genre. Aliens then added action to the mix.
Die Hard (1988):The perfect action film. This film changed action films and its effects and its imitators are still visible twenty years on. Yes I know its hard to believe die hard is over twenty years old.
Reservoir Dogs (1992): Tarentino introduced a new style of film. Snappy dialogue and a refreshingly liberal attitude to movie violence. You either love or you hate his films (I love them) but you can’t deny their influence.
Schindler’s List (1993): A film every one should see for historical reasons is also an intimate study of life, people and human nature. Also a beautifully crafted and shot film that makes full use of its stark black and white.
The Shawshank Redemption (1994): One of the best films of the modern era. I have never met anyone who has seen this film who dislikes it. A clever plot with a nice twist. There is nothing truly original about the film but the fact it worked so well and captured a certain magic that you can see copied in many films today.
Toy Story (1995): I hate Disney and can’t get excited by animation but the influence of the first feature length fully computer generated film is undeniable. It is also an okay film.
Se7en (1995): The first of David Finchers masterpieces (the other being Fight Club) set a new benchmark for the thriller. Every other thriller in the last fifteen years seem to try and emulate either this or The Usual Suspects. While the usual suspects trades on its twist Se7ven is a much better film.