Was listening to Bill Simmons' podcast recently, as he spoke with writer/reporter Chris Connelly. The two were debating what they believed to be "the defining film of this decade", with the criteria being excellence, rewatchability, and creativity.
Simmons mentioned Almost Famous -- which is positively ridiculous. Think about it, the defining movie of this decade is set in the 1970s?
I'm hereby adding new criteria to the mix -- to "define" a decade, a film needs to be in some way inherently "in and of" that particular decade. In some way, it needs to reveal or reflect the decades' current events, social issues, trends, tastes, mores, creative sensibilities or significant artistic styles.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not specifically excluding historical dramas, period pieces, or any other films, but come on... a decade's "defining" film should have qualities that identify or represent the prevailing nature, qualities and characteristics of that decade, or at least the prevailing nature, qualities and characteristics of filmmaking during that decade.
With this in mind, I'm starting a new series with my own list of the defining films of the decades, beginning with the 1930s:
King Kong (1933)
The giant ape on top of the Empire State Building is the most enduring film image of the decade. King Kong pioneered the use of special effects (including miniatures, rear projection, and the stop-motion animation that would eventually evolve into today’s cgi) and dazzled audiences in the process. The film was also one of the very first to feature a completely original score.
Top Hat (1935)
The thirties were the golden age of the grand Hollywood musical. Top Hat was the classiest of these and its songs were the breakthrough film work of legendary composer Irving Berlin.
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
Taking a stand against government corruption and bureaucracy, Jimmy Stewart, as in many of his films, was the personification of the 1930s everyman.
Gone With the Wind (1939)
When you adjust for inflation, remarkably, this 70 year old epic is still the highest grossing movie of all time.
THE Defining Film of the 1930s
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
A nearly perfect film in every respect, from the casting, to the costumes, to the songs and score, and it’s lasting moral –- no matter where you go in life, there’s no place like home.
Defining Films of the Decades - The 60s
Defining Films of the Decades - The 50s
Defining Films of the Decades - The 40s