On Monday we started to list the 50 greatest blockbusters ever made, as voted for by the ORWAV writers and editors. Today, the quest continues…
40. The Mummy (1999)
39. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Much like meteors, films explode upon impact. Debris scatters quickly, usually disintegrating into the faint background dust of “I think I remember that” or, worse, oblivion. But some scar the landscape. Some change it. Some… remain.
The influence of 2001: A Space Odyssey, arguably the primus inter pares of Kubrick’s canon, is still felt today; tattooed upon everything from Christopher Nolan movies to skits from The Simpsons. An essay on existentialism in the tracksuit of a blockbuster, 2001 is a work of cosmic intelligence, of cinematic revolution, and of towering importance. It remains a mystical monolith in the art of filmmaking.
38. Blade Runner (1982)
Part science fiction epic, part philosophical thriller, Blade Runner proved you don’t have to dumb down to make dough at the box office. As visually breathtaking now as it was then, Ridley Scott’s most ambitious blockbuster broke new ground in the field of special effects, and the influences of its aesthetics can still be seen today.
Although it racked up a cool $33 million on its first run in 1982, critics actually panned it, citing style over substance. But with a bulging bank balance, classic status assured and a sequel on the way, any bad press has fast faded into memory, like tears… in the rain.
=36. Goodfellas (1990)
Based on the true story of mobster Henry Hill’s life in the mafia, Scorsese’s Goodfellas is two-and-a-half hours of unadulterated violence, crime, sex, drugs and swearing (featuring a whopping 300 “fucks”). It’s a whirlwind of deception and fear, racking up an impressive body count as mafia members continuously betray one another and generally piss each other off. The soundtrack is superb and surprisingly good fun, sweeping you through three decades of life spent in and out of prison. It would be wrong to say that Goodfellas depicts a glamorous lifestyle, but by God does it look cool.
=36. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966)
To have never seen The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is to have never truly known tension. Stranding audiences in a world of uneasy alliances and easy betrayals, Sergio Leone’s 1966 Spaghetti Western was not only the birthplace of a cultural figure that would loom over cinema for decades; nor was it simply the origin of a soundtrack that will continue to be almost unmatched in the history of cinema for its universal power to stir – it signalled the rebirth of the Western as beautiful, powerful, artistic cinema.
35. Skyfall (2012)
After the abrupt, yet awesome, tonal shift of Casino Royale, and the stumble into shambles with Quantum of Solace, the latest incarnation of 007 found the sweet spot with Skyfall. Daniel Craig is arguably the best Bond, but this is without a doubt the best Bond film.
34. Interstellar (2014)
One of the most important tentpole movies of the last decade, Interstellar proved that an original story with weighty scientific and philosophical themes could still make mountains of money in 2014. The moment-to-moment dialogue of Interstellar sometimes dipped below par, but the marvel of its visuals and the grandiosity of its story and ideas render this quibble irrelevant.
It’s hard science fiction at its most religiously epic – grounded by a brilliant Matthew McConaughey – which melds near-incomprehensible concepts with a thrilling adventure. Its journeying went well beyond mankind’s horizons, and its success is a testament to both Christopher Nolan and the cinemagoing public.
33. Avengers Assemble (2012)
The idea of a vast, sprawling, interconnected universe of movies is old hat in 2017, but five short years ago Marvel Studios took what was then considered one of the biggest gambles in filmmaking history. And boy, did it pay off.
Not only is Avengers Assemble a hugely satisfying action movie in its own right, full of rich characters and boasting a terrific screenplay from Joss Whedon; it’s also the epic finale to five other films’ worth of world-building and character development. That magnificent shot of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes finally united still gives us chills every damn time.
32. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Like a sort of Avengers 2.5, the third Captain America manages to juggle an expanded cast (including debuts for Black Panther and a new Spider-Man), a globe-trotting adventure and spectacular set-pieces – all while delivering a compelling, personal and character-driven story.
While Spidey’s shield-stealing and Ant-Man’s surprising new ability induce genuine glee, at its heart Civil War is still very much about Cap and his relationships with Bucky Barnes and Tony Stark. That means his climactic battle with Iron Man pays off on several Marvel movies’ worth of build-up to pack a genuine and memorable emotional punch.
31. Independence Day (1996)
A bona fide blockbuster if ever there was one, Independence Day was also a game-changing trend-setter for global landmark-based destruction, often imitated but never bettered.
Iconic moments abound, from the White House explosion to Bill Pullman’s inspirational speech via numerous Will Smith one-liners and Boomer the dog’s close shave. The casting’s perfect, the script’s terrific and the jaw-dropping visual effects (mostly done with miniature models rather than CGI) even won an Oscar.
Yes, it’s sometimes silly and unapologetically American – but you’ll rarely be more entertained by a film, and will struggle to suppress a euphoric fist pump. Big, brash and simply brilliant fun.