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

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

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

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.

About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started, a simple way to give back every day.