Bigger Than Blockbusters: Movies That Defined America

Bigger Than Blockbusters: Movies That Defined America

Bigger Than Blockbusters: Movies That Defined America

Bigger Than Blockbusters: Movies That Defined America


Whether it's the hum drum existence of Marion Crane and her illicit love affair, the psychotic antics of Norman Bates, the sudden irrational migration of birds, a crop duster swooping down on Roger Thornhill in the middle of nowhere, or Vincent Vega and Mia Wallace's unforgettable dance at Jack Rabbit Slim's - they are all cinematic moments that forever changed the psyche and viewing experience of American audiences. 100 Films That Changed the Twentieth Century tells the stories behind the most significant and influential films in American culture, movies that have had a profound influence on the literary, cinematic and popular culture of our time.


The purpose of writing and editing a book entitled Bigger than Blockbusters: Movies that Defined America is not simply to add to the clutter of edited texts that purport to articulate what the reader should consider as important films, but rather to offer the reader a compelling rationale to consider why any of the films listed deserve to be cultural icons that changed twentieth and twenty-first century America. To accomplish this, one must make determinations that may not always be agreeable to a larger audience of critics but indeed will accommodate the rationale for choosing films as they are defined as prominent cultural forces in America. Because America’s population is so diverse, part of the objective is to identify films that reach beyond the discrete interests of audiences and touch a vibrant chord in everyone’s psyche. That doesn’t necessarily presume a film must be a blockbuster or have been awarded a gaggle of Academy Awards. It does mean that such a film should have had some influence on the literary, cinematic, and behavioral culture of our time, reflecting not only our virtues but also our hypocrisy. Such a film is expressive of defining our foibles and measuring the capacities of behavior within a dynamic of a film’s canvas that goes beyond nurturing the public’s taste.

Some films also make dramatic and prominent statements about historical events that have affected America and the world, thus becoming part of the narrative associated with a time and place ritualizing events that took place. Films do not have to be dramatically compelling to be culturally impressive; they may have a lighter side that offers humor and pathos in an endearing theme. They may also be provocative and revealing, creating a resonating disturbance of truth and fact.

We speak of revolutions and identify various chronological epochs as revolutionary, such as the Industrial Revolution, or with political inference like the American or Russian Revolutions. The term has also entered the vernacular within the context of society as the Cultural Revolution. What is a cultural revolution, and can we define it when it’s happening? Or is it the case, as Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart noted about the definition of hardcore pornography, “I know it when I see it.”

The world of film, narrative, and nonfiction has been a defining force for American and global culture since the first publicly screened short films. In 1895, when the brothers Lumière projected their first films of everyday life at a theater in Paris, one of those films, The Arrival of the Train at the Station, shocked some of the audience as it appeared that the projected image of the train was heading straight for them. Thomas Edison, inventor of the phonograph and the peephole kinetoscope, exhibited the first films in the United States. Two notable ones were Fred Ott’s Sneeze (January 1894) and . . .

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