If you thought that the release of Spider-Man: Homecoming or War for the Planet of the Apes was the most important blockbuster event of the summer then you were wrong. We’ve been debating and voting on our favourite blockbusters and now our results are ready.
Without further ado, we present to you 50-41 of One Room With a View’s top 50 blockbusters of all time…
=50. Cloud Atlas (2012)
One of the most expensive independent blockbusters ever made, Cloud Atlas‘ three directors – the Wachowski siblings, and Tom Tykwer – utilised a lack of studio involvement to create a visually original film that is unlike so many studio tentpoles.
Each storyline’s impactful yet subtle changes in cinematography allows for a stunning viewing experience. Cloud Atlas battles themes of love, loneliness, consumerism and success and, thanks to actors like Jim Broadbent providing humour beside the drama of Doona Bae, the changes in tone ensure that the story’s complex multiple-narrative structure never feels overwhelming. Instead, Cloud Atlas offers both a visual thoughtfulness and plenty of narrative entertainment to match its carefully constructed world.
With its non-linear storytelling and genuine sense of darkness and threat, series opener Batman Begins was a game-changer for the exploding genre. It may have to answer for the “dark and gritty” cliché, but Batman Begins endures as a brilliant action film whose spine-tingling final scene preempts what might be the finest comic-book film ever made.
=50. Forrest Gump (1994)
While continuing to catch flack for snatching the Oscar from both Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption, Robert Zemeckis’s colossally successful film about a slow-witted but endlessly kind, hardworking, and determined man brings a humanity to epoch-defining moments between the 1950s and ’80s. While sentimental and guilty of sanitising history, every shot, line, and performance is imbued with heart to make every character and far-fetched scenario seem plausible.
Tom Hanks’ exceptional performance completely sells the large-scale “American Dream” narrative and Gump’s unwitting role in history is supported by strong turns from Robin Wright, Sally Field, and Gary Sinise. Forrest Gump is unashamedly American, but nevertheless depicts tumultuous times in a genuinely affecting way.
=50. La La Land (2016)
Drawing from Hollywood’s musical blockbuster past, Damien Chazelle delivered an updated vision of just how brilliantly a musical can work in modern cinema. La La Land boasts exuberant “traditional” song-and-dance numbers like the opening ‘Another Day of Sun’ and the Hollywood hills dance duet ‘A Lovely Night’, but weaves them around a plot sceptical of that very artistic dream.
La La Land and its irresistible leads offer a glorious tribute to what blockbuster musicals can achieve. The newest film on our list crackles with energy, swoons with sorrow, and burns with a passion for creativity itself.
=48. Beauty and the Beast (1991)
This isn’t your rote fairytale with an ingénue princess and a noble prince; Belle’s fate as fodder for the rapacious “Princess” franchise does a disservice to the mature, idiosyncratic charm which helped reboot Disney back in the ‘90s.
The heroine’s an impertinent know-it-all, and the hero’s a stubborn grump. And while they bicker and fall cautiously in love, there’s a sense of peril here, and a darkness that was previously unknown in the Disneyverse. Consequently, Beauty and the Beast has a much broader appeal than its predecessors, paving the way for bolder, wittier future offerings. In short, the thematic scope, elegant design and emotional maturity of this animation preempted the multilayered epics that we expect of Disney today.
=48. Modern Times (1936)
If the prime element of blockbuster cinema is a populist sense of visual spectacle, then a whole host of silent cinema’s finest filmmakers could have been on this list: Georges Méliès, D.W. Griffith, F.W. Murnau and Buster Keaton, to name but a few. Charlie Chaplin deservedly makes the cut. His films were incredibly popular, elevated him to the top of the Hollywood tree, and were some of the most visually ingenious works ever made. His satirical parable Modern Times saw him at his best. It’s an entertaining treatise on modernity featuring some of the most iconic images in film history, most notably when Chaplin’s own factory operative gets swallowed up by the clockwork machinery he works on.
=45. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)
Edgar Wright’s cult flop is an excellent testament to his fine filmmaking craft – and, as his only adaptation to date, shows off the breadth of his thoughtful imagination.
The source material is undoubtedly rich, but with such a visionary director translating comic to screen, Bryan Lee O’Malley’s original graphic universe is animated beautifully; Wright’s fast cuts and relentless comic beats feel faithful, and somehow never derail the storytelling’s impressive smoothness. Michael Cera is a perfectly-cast lead – playing to his “type”, perhaps, but a delight to watch. He, and a wonderful supporting cast, ensure Wright’s innovative video-game vision clicks together brilliantly.
=45. The Lion King (1994)
The Lion King is the perfect kids’ movie. It nails the balance between eye-popping visuals and larger-than-life characters which appeal to a younger audience, and a story that treats them with respect. After all, what higher bar is there then adapting your plot from Shakespeare’s Hamlet?
The characters are some of Disney’s best, hitting every beat from the comedy of Timon and Pumbaa to the tragedy of Mufasa. The many iconic moments are even better, with Elton John’s joyous soundtrack accompanying the Circle of Life when Simba is born, before a generation of children were scarred by the wildebeest stampede and Mufasa’s death.
=45. Gone with the Wind (1939)
Original blockbuster Gone With the Wind broke box office and Oscar records, and remains the highest-grossing picture ever. MGM deployed all tactics to encourage success: budget, Technicolor, extras, lavish costumes, a sweeping score – and Margaret Mitchell’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Only the “King of Hollywood” – Clark Gable – could play roguish Rhett, but the casting frenzy for duplicitous Southern belle Scarlett was unprecedented. Vivien Leigh and Gable are forever defined as the iconic couple – but don’t dismiss GWtW as mere romance! It’s a war epic, a period drama, a technical feat, and a slice of both Hollywood and American history.
=42. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
Lawrence of Arabia tells the story of a singular man’s audacious adventures in war-torn Arabia and is so vast and fantastic that, despite its huge 216-minute running time, it succeeded as a blockbuster. There is a reason Spielberg returns to it every time he starts a film.
Some of the success of David Lean’s masterpiece is owed to the phenomenal pacing of the film; despite its size, there are no wasted scenes, showing that “epic” needn’t mean “plodding”. Lawrence of Arabia offers a unique, human experience that gives insight into the life and times of T.E. Lawrence, one of the Great War’s most fascinating figures.
=42. Inside Out (2015)
Even by the impossibly high standards Pixar have set for themselves, Inside Out is a film bursting with visual creativity. Yet it might also be the smallest blockbuster on this list. The dazzling world and its colourful characters all fit inside the head of an 11-year-old girl, and the crisis that kicks the narrative into motion is little more than homesickness. But the quest to restore her mental health feels like the fate of the world is hanging in the balance, and the film’s ultimate moral – that being sad is not only good, but essential – is a welcome one indeed.
=42. Heat (1995)
Michael Mann is a real rarity: an auteur who seems more than comfortable working within the framework of blockbuster cinema. His films fit into recognisable, popular genres; he casts bankable A-list actors; his aesthetic is high on spectacle; and a lot of his works can slip into the multiplex and make decent box office. And yet it’s almost as if Mann makes “designer” genre films – the blockbuster for the discerning punter. Never was this more in evidence than in Heat – a gorgeously sensual LA heist movie that played on the cult residue of Al Pacino and Robert De Niro’s New Hollywood glory days and gave them their finest mature roles bar none.
41. Godzilla (1954)
After the Second World War, humanity knew that it could destroy itself. Out of Japan, the only country to have been attacked by nuclear weapons, Godzilla emerged as an embodiment of that terrifying knowledge.
The 1954 image of this gargantuan beast resonated beyond its Japanese borders to shape an increasingly global popular culture. Like Batman, Godzilla could represent both the darkness and the campiness of our world. Godzilla was born out of genuine suffering yet there was an innate silliness to a man flailing around in rubber. The shadow of his debut continues to hang over a culture where the apocalypse is everyday.