Infographic: The 2,000 Most Important Films Of All Time

From Chariots of Fire to Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

If you live long enough, you get to appreciate culture’s patterns. You see that Menudo is really NSYNC is really One Direction. Eventually, society just craves an old flavor and it’s mixed anew. No place is this more true than with film.

The History of Film is the latest archival infographic from HistoryShots. It’s a meticulously researched terraform of our pop-culture past. The 2,000 “most important films” of all time are arranged by genre and release date, creating a mountainous, layered graphic that crosses strata trends with timeline chronology.

(Ed note: See a different take, Martin Scorsese’s top 85 films, here.)

Before he could build the graphic, though, designer Larry Gormley had to narrow down thousands of candidates, collected over two years, to a more manageable figure. The final 2,000 were selected by a combination of criteria: importance to movie experts, awards, their role in defining a particular genre, and box-office success.

With the list in hand, Gormley began plotting. Each genre became its own stack in a pile, a layer that coincides with the first feature film in a genre.

“The original feature-length movies were dramas, then came adventure/action films, then Westerns, etc. The last genres were musicals and animated films,” he explains. “The height of the genre streams are based on the number of important films released at that time for the genre. For example, the 1950s was the golden age of Western movies.”

It’s a surprisingly effective visual. You can see the rise and fall of film noir in the '40s and '50s, and the cycles of popularity among sub genres like martial arts. In most recent history, you can see the impact of the Lord of the Rings / Harry Potter one-two punch, and that Pixar really did change film as we know it. For such a simple visual idea--a big pile of movies--it actually teaches you a whole lot.

If you’d like a print of the graphic for your own, 43”x22” posters start at $34.

Buy it here.

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30 Comments

  • jmco

    Oh, and I heard that the Police concert film is one of the best ever made. But, not on here.
    That is one last one I need to watch… I’ve seen all of the films on here except about a dozen (not counting the recent animation bubble).
    One more questionable film on here: Highlander?! A good film but, not groundbreaking, even in fantasy.

  • jmco

    This chart is mostly main stream and commercial. A lot of important groundbreaking films are missing. The Hurt Locker is a good film and on here but, it and many others like it, probably are not among the best war films. (I admit it, it is a very good one though. But, can it be compared to Kubrick’s WWI masterpiece Paths of Glory?) Equally, am I missing the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and other “film history” class staples?
    I’m not talking about adding cult stuff or super serious film maker movies but, just those hundred or so that really impacted later films.What this chart does best is show how film reflects the interests of the American culture. If there were ever a time for musicals and dance film resurgence, it is now!The web version of this is a bit hard to navigate. If I missed something here, well, I missed it.

  • JACKIE_GAY_WILSON

    This is a beautiful format for history-charting. However, they included
    "The T.A.M.I. Show" (which I believe was a TV broadcast anyway) under
    "Concert Documentaries" at the exact spot where they should have put
    "Wattstax," which is an unbelievable capture of a transformative moment
    in American culture--amazing music, dance, hair, fashion, artists,
    man-on-the-street interviews, and the Watts Uprising itself.

  • JACKIE_GAY_WILSON

    This is a beautiful format for history-charting. However, they included "The T.A.M.I. Show" (which I believe was a TV broadcast anyway) under "Concert Documentaries" at the exact spot where they should have put "Wattstax," which is an unbelievable capture of a transformative moment in American culture--amazing music, dance, hair, fashion, artists, man-on-the-street interviews, and the Watts Uprising itself.

  • Jason Elder

    The Adventures of Baron Munchausen is in Fantasy at least twice, and Cinderella is spelt incorrectly. 
    This from a 2 minute perusal. And they want people to pay for it?

  • Larry G.

    Thanks for your comments, Baron Munchausen is listed twice because it was remade a few times over the years (1943, 1988, etc.) Spellings are corrected on final version.

  • Rick

    '“most important films” of all time"' 

    Really? Eragon is in this list.... and we're done
    This is an ugly poster for people who know cr*p about film.

  • Standard_Bearer

    Could obviously nitpick the choices (and the genres to which they are assigned). The value of the graphic would be enhanced by an interactive and searchable version. The two questions I am always asking "is THIS film on the list" and would like to know more about some of the films - perhaps a link to its entry in Wikipedia or the IMDB. Perhaps a user modifiable version where movies could be assigned more appropriately: for example, "Scary Movie" is not horror but comedy.

  • Protexblue82

    So....this is just a list of films that came out in American theaters, or are most great films also in/dubbed in English?

  • Jacquelinemjoseph

    It is obvious a male designed this!!! There are no romance movies! (My favorite!) #DontHoldBacktheChickFlicks