The 20th century is the only entire century to have passed since the inception of cinema. Thus, it has seen more diversity and progress in terms of cinema genres, popular themes, technology used, geographical variants and legendary names. Today, in this highly digitized world, we use the help of the technology that converts 8mm film to digital to view, inspect and arrive at a conclusive list of a few select movies that left an indelible mark upon the art of filmmaking.
1. Modern Times (1936)
A directorial venture by comic legend Charlie Chaplin, this is perhaps one of the first instances of satirical cinema. Chaplin, along with co-star Paulette Goddard attacks the political system as well as the evils of industrial society during the Great Depression. The movie follows the theme of a poor man’s daily struggles during the industrial age in the inimitable fashion of Charlie Chaplin.
2. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
Based on a novel by the same name by author Erich Maria Remarque, this war film explores the horrors of World War I for German soldiers. Directed by Lewis Milestone and starring Louis Wolheim and Lew Ayres, this was one of the first cinematic ventures to make a statement about the futility of war, about humanity itself and about the nightmares of the battleground, where one suffers from loss, injury and starvation.
3. King Kong (1933)
This Beauty-and-the-Beast themed tale is not just a thrilling action-packed film about a fearsome monster that invades into the city, but also shows the touching side of his affection for the lovely Ann Darrow. Directed by and starring Fay Wray, Bruce Cabot and Robert Armstrong, this movie is, till date, considered a marvel of stop-motion animation which created the entire visual of King Kong.
4. Casablanca (1942)
A romantic drama set in Europe to the backdrop of World War II and based on the unproduced stage play, Everybody Comes to Ricks by Murray Burnett, Casablanca is a tale of wealthy nightclub owner Rick Blaine and his romance with Ilsa Lund. The story is facilitated by the theme of wartime patriotism and policing, and is overall an enthralling story of romance, passion and conflict.
5. Psycho (1960)
One of the greatest films ever made by renowned filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock, starring Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, Janet Leigh and John Gavin, and based on the novel of the same name by Robert Bloch, Psycho is a terrifying murder mystery which was one of the first to apply the twist-in-the-plot technique of storytelling. Alfred Hitchcock, known as a visionary amongst filmmakers, was one of the first to use the theme of the human psychology as well as sexual content in his movies to such an extent.
6. Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
Based on the true story of the heroic American outlaws, Bonnie and Clyde has been the inspiration for many such stories in the future. Made by Arthur Penn and starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, this movie is not only famous for its biographical nature or romantic and action-packed theme but also for being one of the first movies of the New Hollywood movement, which comprised of bold movies that broke the rules of Hollywood and made new ones.
7. The Godfather 1 & 2 (1972, 1974)
Directed by groundbreaking director Francis Frank Coppola and based upon the novel of the same name by Mario Puzo, the Godfather series is known as an epic amongst films. Starring names such as Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, Robert Duvall, John Cazale and Robert De Niro, the movie is around the theme of the Italian Mafia, based in the USA as well as in Europe. It is particularly centred on the Corleone Mafia family and takes its viewers through the ups-and-downs of the exciting, extravagant and action packed lives of the main characters.
8. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Made by Frank Darabont, inspired from the book Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King, and starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman, this hard hitting film takes us into the lives of the inmates in the prisons. The story revolves around Andy Dufresne, who is wrongly accused of murder and given a life sentence. In prison he makes both lifelong friends as well as dire enemies and finally plans his escape. Although surprisingly a box office disappointment, this movie has since gained wide acclaim and even received seven Oscar nominations.
9. Apocalypse Now (1979)
Based on the classic novel Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, which explores the idea of hell, this movie is based in the Vietnam War. Directed by Francis Coppola, with the award-winning screenplay by John Milius, and starring Marlon Brando, Martin Sheen and Robert Duvall, this movie is not only known for its dark, gripping storyline and depiction of the horrors and devastation of the Vietnam War, but also simply for the conditions under which it was made, when the actors turned up unprepared, entire expensive sets caught fire and climatic conditions made it impossible to shoot. With some legendary music used as a backdrop and breathtaking visuals, this movie is revered as a cinematic work of art.
10. Pulp Fiction (1994)
Made in Quentin Tarantino’s classic style, this is a black comedy crime film, which explores the theme of crime in Los Angeles, by way of the intersecting storylines of various small time criminals, mobsters etc. Starring Samuel L. Jackson, John Travolta and Uma Thurman, this movie is famous for its eclectic dialogue, ironic mix of humour and violence, nonlinear storyline and a host of cinematic allusions and pop culture references. Pulp Fiction was nominated for seven Oscars, and won an Oscar for Best Screenplay as well as the Palem d’Or at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival.
The 20th century has seen the evolution of motion pictures from simplistic methods of storytelling to complex, many-layered and highly artistic forms that both inform and entertain. Filmmakers who can only be known as the greatest thinkers and visionaries of our times have explored and innovated, broken old rules and made new ones. Legendary actors have gained fame by going beyond the call of duty to perfect each role they have performed.