Posted on Thursday, April 16th, 2009 by Brendon Connelly
Editor’s Note: After Turner Classic Movies released their list of the 15 Most Influential Classic Movies, some people were complaining that no films were included from the last 32 years. I joked on Twitter that I would like to see a list of the ten most influential films of the last ten years, and Brendon jumped at the opportunity to create such a list. The idea is to predict what ten films from this decade would be looked at as influential in 20 years. The task is ridiculous, because its hard to predict the long term effects of the films that were released in the last decade (especially ones released in the last couple years), but Brendon did a pretty good job. It should be noted that Brendon’s list is more skewed towards advances in filmmaking and storytelling which influenced and changed the future of cinema, rather than movies that influenced the culture.
Are these the ten most influential films of the last ten years? I think they might just be. Disappointingly, I really don’t like four of them. I’ve also cheated and only included English language films.
The full list will come after the break, and then after that will come the comments section for your contributions.
Here’s the list in no particular order. I’ll follow up with my ideas on why these films might turn out to be so darned influential.
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
Sky Captain is on the list for kick-starting green-screen mania. Sin City advanced the technique significantly, and 300 sprinkled a few extra tricks on top, but it was Sky Captain that generated the first wave of headlines and got moviemaking minds to thinking. It may have even indirectly inspired Dogville and Manderlay (I have my suspicions) but that sub-set, no matter how incredible those films are, has probably already come to an end.
The Bourne Ultimatum
The Bourne Ultimatum is on the list for exemplifying and honing two different things: the ‘running man camera’ action scenes, which is now the norm; and the rapid-fire cross cutting between an alarming amount of different angles. Paul Greengrass and Christopher Rouse go down in history for finding a way to assemble a record-breaking variety of coverage in a way that is comprehensible to the audience. I would explain how it works, but it’s mighty geeky and a little bit technical.
Traffic is on the list for popularizing a narrative paradigm I think we’ll be seeing a lot of, and which we wouldn’t have seen at all otherwise. That doesn’t take too much explaining.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding
My Big Fat Greek Wedding is on the list for its release strategy and resulting success. Apparently never taking more than $15 million in a single weekend, it was a plate kept spinning long enough to take over $240 in total US box office receipts. The pseudo-indie wings of studios would probably never have taken flight without this particular puff of wind.
Polar Express is on the list because motion capture is now here, and is not going anywhere. And I’m personally very glad of that because it’s a fascinating toolkit and opens up any number of possibilities for directors.
Rushmore is on the list for stamping Wes Anderson’s style, in its most successful form, onto the broad pop culture. I see its influence everywhere – indeed, even Wes Anderson himself has turned out a few examples of Rushmore pastiche. Irrelevantly, it was also the last Wes Anderson film I liked. In fact, I loved it. And before you bite my hand off because you have Rushmore pegged as a ’98 release, let me remind you that I’m in England and we didn’t get it until late ’99.
The Matrix is on the list for badly repackaging the good ideas and techniques of better films and filmmakers (that means you, Gondry and Fassbinder and Cronenberg and… and… and…) and rendering them cliché. Every hack and his dog has ripped off some element of The Matrix in the last ten years – indeed, even the Wachowskis themselves have turned out a couple of wonky Matrix derivatives. By the way, if you think there was a single original idea in The Matrix, you’ve been had.
Children of Men
Children of Men is on the list for taking several elements, be they separate shots or FX pieces, and sewing them together into long, seemingly unbroken ‘takes’. It was done plenty of times before (you might argue it goes back to Rope) and I think Blade 2 was the single most inspiring leap forward for this particularly film vocabulary but Children of Men seems to be the one to have inspired everybody, judging from interviews.
The 40 Year Old Virgin
The 40 Year Old Virgin is on the list for being the acorn from which the grand Apatow oak has grown. Comedy has changed, for the better, and this film was absolutely instrumental in the transformation. At the time, I thought it was splendid, and an uncommonly smart, well conceived and executed “boy’s comedy”. I was then pleased to see the genre shift in that direction generally, off the back of Virgin‘s surprise success. I may be wrong and Funny People might really be the one that deserves this place on the list, for combining complex drama, rich characterisation, solid craftsmanship and big belly laughs in an even more powerful, audacious way – I guess we’ll find out in a few months.
Coraline is on the list for the contributions it makes to the language of 3D film. The most exciting thing about stereo cinema, I’d say, is not that extra dimension creates a “more real” reality but that it gives even more ways to control this reality to the filmmakers. By manipulating the elements of 3D, Henry Sellick, Pete Kozachik and the Coraline camera team have pushed the language of cinema forward bravely, into largely uncharted territory. Seeing as 3D is here to stay this time – no, really – the contributions in Coraline are going to have immeasurable influence over the next few decades of filmmaking.
There all manner of other films that have pioneered small advances – for example,the anamorphic zoom lenses put to task on He’s Just Not That Into You were a genuine benchmark in camera technology and, like Coraline, that film hit screens in just the last few months. I didn’t dare include it because I thought I’d get lynched for a dropping light, fluffy rom-com into the list.
I was also tempted to include Soderbergh’s Che double bill, for proving that the Red One is capable of incredibly high digital image quality at a low price and with low fuss – but no one film in particular really seems to have started that ball rolling so Knowing, for example, could have been cited as equally important.
The Blair Witch Project is not on the list because I think we’re approaching the end of its period of influence and I wouldn’t say the same for any of the ten I picked.
- Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
- The Bourne Ultimatum
- My Big Fat Greek Wedding
- Polar Express
- The Matrix
- Children of Men
- The 40 Year Old Virgin
That’s my ten, then, and I think I’m sticking with them.
Ten years wrapped up and then finally, I suppose, comes a question: Which of these films would have been kicked off to make room for Avatar had it already hit the silver screen?