When one asks why films are so important, I say it’s for the same reason tales as old as time are important. A common tale most, if not all, know about and discuss amongst each other. Common themes, imagery, moral lessons, religious implications, political positions, quotes, iconic characters, or even just an event that happens. They contain some element that can unite different-minded people if only for that one topic, or shapes small groups who are built around one or more of those films/stories, or gives something that a civilization can highly regard.
Inevitably, an over-saturation point will be reached. There can only be so many films with memorable moments that a society can handle. Probably why aspects of society eventually fracture into specialized groups who primarily appreciate certain films. Could be a genre, could be from a time period, could be from certain directors/actors/cinematographers/etc. I say we are past the over-saturation point. Streaming services are one of the reasons, the downfall of theaters another. But the main contributing factor has to do with a film release no longer being something special. The mainstream no longer treats the release of a film as a special event to get the nation hyped up for it. They’ve become too commercialized for that. The process too controlled by organizations who care more about the return investment and the subliminal/overt political messages than they are the art. Because there isn’t much interest in the quality of the art compared to the other aspects, it’s ultimately not going to result in something culturally impactful. Rather, the cultural impact comes as the result of overall film trends, rather than what is brought about from a single film.
Some may say it is dependent upon the times you live in with regard to which films will culturally impact you. As in, it depends on what films are made while you’re alive. I know for a fact this isn’t the case. I may be a 90s kid, but I was raised on films that pre-date the 1990s. Going all the way back to the 1930s in some cases. Films that had an impact in the past that reverberates all the way to the present, to the point where some may want to either remake it or censor it (thus making some cultural history taboo; which is a temptation for rebels). What films will be remembered 10 years from now? How about 20 years? How about the day/week/month/year after you last saw it? How often do you treat a film as just a typical consumable product that you’re one and done with like fast food?
Well, there are films that I revisit frequently. There are films that I generally don’t care for, but have a moment so iconic it cannot be ignored. There are some I may not have seen but that I know about because of a particular moment. It could be a scene, a line of dialogue, a character… Some moment that stood out. These are the ones I find the most memorable/entertaining. Ones that I don’t believe should be ignored or forgotten. And I’m going to do my best to exclude stuff that became famous primarily through Internet memes. Which pretty much means I’m only going to be covering films that were made prior to the Internet becoming widely used enough, with enough powerful streaming service and meme generators. Don’t expect me to list them all, just the ones I’m personally fond of and grew up with to an extent.
Will give an honorable mention to some films I would like to include, but excluded just to cap this list at 50:
* The Star Wars prequel trilogy (1999-2005)
* The Big Lebowski (1998)
* Saving Private Ryan (1998)
* The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
* Schindler’s List (1993)
* Aladdin (1992)
* Total Recall (1990)
* The Little Mermaid (1989)
* Hellraiser (1987)
* The Princess Bride (1987)
* The Fly (1986)
* Aliens (1986)
* Dune (1984)
* The Blues Brothers (1980)
* Blazing Saddles (1974), Young Frankenstein (1974), Spaceballs (1987)
* Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
* West Side Story (1961)
* Sleeping Beauty (1959)
* The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
* Dracula (1931)
Everyone should know the line, “It’s alive!”
King Kong (1933)
Everyone should know about that finale with Kong on the Empire State building fighting against the planes, and the famous line to end the film, “It was beauty who killed the beast.”
Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937)
Everyone should know “Hi ho. Hi ho. It’s off to work we go.” Plus that whole thing about the poison apple. And true love’s kiss (before Disney did Sleeping Beauty).
Gone With The Wind (1939)
Everyone should know the line, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Everyone should know the songs are all iconic, but I’m pretty sure the line, “There’s no place like home,” takes the cake.
Everyone should know about the iconic character Jiminy Cricket, and the song There Are No Strings On Me. Of course, who could forget the song that’s probably the most famous one in Disney history When You Wish Upon A Star.
Citizen Kane (1941)
Everyone should know about “Rosebud.”
Everyone should know about the song When I See An Elephant Fly. Among other things.
Everyone should know the last line of the film, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
Song of the South (1946)
Everyone should know the song Zippity-Do-Da.
Everyone should know about this monster, his flame breath, him destroying a bunch of miniature sets and props, and his theme music.
Lady and the Tramp (1955)
Everyone should know about the spaghetti scene. Honorable mention to We Are Siamese If You Please.
Everyone should know about that shower scene.
The Sound of Music (1960)
Everyone should know that opening music sequence.
Everyone should know about the gunshot opening (which in all fairness is a trend the 1962 film started), the titular song, and that sequence where Bond is about to be split in half by a laser. I’m only going to single out this particular Bond film out of the whole franchise because it’s the most famous.
Mary Poppins (1964)
Everyone should know Supercalifragilisticiousexpialadocious, and A Spoonful of Sugar Makes the Medicine Go Down. Plus that image of Poppins floating around on an umbrella.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Everyone should know about H.A.L. 9000, and his line, “I’m sorry Dave. I’m afraid I cannot do that.” And that monolith. And the music this film made famous.
Dirty Harry (1971), Sudden Impact (1983)
Everyone should know the line, “Go ahead. Make my day.” Plus a few other scenes and lines from the first film that made this character famous.
Everyone should know about those dueling banjos. And about squealing like a pig.
The Godfather (1972, 1974)
Everyone should know the entire film, and its sequel, is chock full of iconic cultural moments. It has it all: music, characters, events, dialogue. Only part I’m going to highlight from the first film is the sequence where that director wakes up with his horse’s head in his bed. Second film had, “You broke my heart Fredo.” I suppose I could give an honorable mention to part III for, “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”
Enter the Dragon (1973)
Everyone should know that moment where Bruce Lee gets clawed, then licks the blood off his fingers. Plus that yell of his.
Everyone should know about the poster (itself an icon), and the famous (yet simple) music. Plus the famous line, “You’re going to need a bigger boat.”
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
Everyone should know about that duel with the Black Knight resulting in the line, “‘Tis only a flesh wound!” Plus the killer rabbit.
Everyone should know that music track Gonna Fly Now. And how he talks. Plus when he runs up those stairs.
Star Wars (1977, 1980, 1983)
Everyone should know about Darth Vader, lightsabers, and “May the force be with you.” Plus the sequel The Empire Strikes Back had the whole, “I am your father,” moment.
Animal House (1978)
Everyone should know about that sequence where Belushi is peeking in on a girl through the window. Plus that zit moment. And toga parties.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), Halloween (1978), Friday the 13th Part 3 (1982), A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), Child’s Play (1988), Scream (1996)
Everyone should know about the most famous slasher villains of all time. Leatherface, Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, Chucky, and Screamer. I’m grouping them all together just because I wanted to make room for other films on this list. Chose Friday the 13th Part 3 because that’s the film where Jason actually dons the hockey mask. Each film has something memorable about it beyond just the villain himself, such as Scream’s opening sequence.
Everyone should know about that chestburster sequence.
The Shining (1980)
Everyone should know “Here’s Johnny!” Among the film’s other iconic moments, such as the twins in the hallway.
Everyone should know the Leslie Nielsen line, “I just want to tell you both good luck. We’re all counting on you.” Plus just be familiar with the gags this comedy came up with.
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Everyone should know about that opening sequence where Jones goes into this hidden temple to steal the artifact, which ends with him running from a boulder. And when he pulls a gun on the swordsman. Plus the film’s finale where God smites the Nazis.
E.T. The Extra Terrestrial (1982)
Everyone should know about that moment when E.T. causes the bicycle to fly, and be a silhouette in the moon. Plus the music that accompanies it. And, “E.T. phone home.”
Everyone should know the line, “Say hello to my little friend!” along with the shootout that follows.
Everyone should know about the stay puffed marshmallow man. Plus the slimer. And “Don’t cross the streams.” Plus something about a gatekeeper and keymaster.
The Terminator (1984)
Everyone should know the line, “I’ll be back.”
The Karate Kid (1984)
Everyone should know, “Wax on. Wax off.”
Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)
Everyone should know the image of Rambo using that explosive arrow. Plus that line he delivers after he’s been tortured.
Everyone should know the lines, “Dead or alive, you’re coming with me.” Or, “You’re move… creep.” And a bunch of one-liners from the villains.
Everyone should know about the Predator itself, plus the line, “You’re one ugly motherfucker.”
Die Hard (1988)
Everyone should know the line, “Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker.”
When Harry Met Sally… (1989)
Everyone should know that restaurant sequence that ends with the line, “I’ll have what she’s having.”
Everyone should know that music Danny Elfmen made famous. Plus the Batman logo. And just the image of the suit and the vehicle. Plus Joker’s line, “Wait until they get a load of me.”
Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Everyone should know the titular song.
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Everyone should know about Hannibal. Plus that other guy who is all like, “Would you fuck me? I’d fuck me.” Plus, “It rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again.”
Jurassic Park (1993)
Everyone should know about the film that revolutionized the film industry with computer graphics. Plus that famous scene with the water rippling from the T-Rex footsteps. Poster is iconic too.
The Lion King (1994)
Everyone should know about that opening at Pride Rock where Simba is lifted into the air. Plus that song, Can You Feel the Love Tonight.
Everyone should know that line, “I’m the king of the world!” And that moment where Jack makes Rose feel like she’s flying. Plus that drawing sequence. And the song My Heart Will Go On.
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)
Everyone should know about Dr. Evil saying, “Zip it!” Or Austin going, “Yeah baby!” Just the general mannerisms to be found in this 007 satire.
The Matrix (1999)
Everyone should know about blue pills, red pills, and something about a spoon (or lack thereof).
The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003)
Everyone should know the line, “One ring to rule them all.” And, “You shall not pass!” All of which are moments found in Fellowship of the Ring, but then the sequels capitalized on the famous line, “My precious,” as much as I would like to think the 1977 Hobbit film made that line famous before this film did.
Edit: Replaced Aladdin with Enter the Dragon; and Fantasia with Cinderella; and Gremlins with Austin Powers.
Edit (5-13-2021): Replaced Cinderella with The Matrix.
2 thoughts on “My Top 50 Favorite Culturally Impactful Film Moments”
You sir have hit it on the head like no one else when you said that the mainstream no longer makes the release of a film special anymore. What made the release of a major motion picture special was that it was this one movie that was coming out, you’re not really told too much about it, it was supposed to be this exciting event that would offer the best experience that Hollywood had to offer, and when you watched it, it opened up your imagination like nothing else. Hell, the original 1977 Star Wars wasn’t even supposed to be a major release, but because of the off the charts word of mouth that came from the very few theaters it played in, it convinced Fox to open it to theaters everywhere and it became what is possibly the most culturally impactful film in history, at least alongside Wizard Of Oz.
That sense of wonder and majesty that used to be ingrained in so many of the major blockbusters is so painfully lacking in any blockbuster today that i am not nostalgic at all for the theater. What exactly in the hell am i going to be paying for when i go to see a movie? White man bad? Obnoxious bitches good? Obesity good? Destroyed lore? Terrible self irony MCU style humor everywhere? Bad uses of classic songs? Pedophilia good?!! Jesus Christ, for all those millennial boneheads and blue pilled Gen Z’ers (i’m a acceptable Gen Z’er haha) that constantly all the time always blame it on the boomers, please tell me this: What other era in the history of the arts had Hollywood constantly calling the customers evil because they hate the most harmful and most pointlessly insulting messages that Hollywood themselves injected in the first place. What other era was there were people are also being called evil because they didn’t like 10 year old fucking strippers as entertainment on a major platform?!! I also don’t recall
Is this the point where entertainment and art has gone? Do any of these Reddit,Quora and worst of all Collider and Breadtube nitwits really have the balls to tell me that the arts has not declined to a all time low? Well that’s ok, they’re also the same people that think that a toilet with a signature is a work of art. But besides those people, everybody else including many many people that are far more well intend on the Internet don’t really seem to get at the true core of the problem and they often contradict their own goals when making their own communities. Just because Alita Battle Angel was better than bottom barrel trash like Captain Marvel, and that Zack Snyder sounds slightly more normal on Twitter than most others in Hollywood (good Lord) and that alone makes you a huge Snyder Cut advocate doesn’t mean that you’re fighting the machine, you’re feeding the machine!
Alita was not some groundbreaking masterpiece that justified the cause of the Fandom Menace to prove they were not evil sexist monsters, these guys need to understand that praising a Hollywood movie that was clearly feminist anyways (Jim Cameron wrote the screenplay) against another movie that was far more feminist and obnoxious doesn’t do anything to fight their cause nor did it change anybody’s perception from boneheads who don’t like them. Blue pilled keyboard warriors don’t care about what they have to say 99% of the time, so stop trying to cater to your own enemies. Godzilla Vs Kong was a cringy rip off of Batman V Superman as dumb as that sounds, and the Snyder Cut is really a bloated mess with a woman with really bizarre singing taking Aquabro’s shirt and sniffing it like it was 80s cocaine. With the huge praise for stuff like Alita, The Snyder Cut and Godzilla VS Kong to maybe a lesser extend, i have always asked myself that is it just me or is it that nobody including the people with the right intention really seem to have any sheer understanding or comprehension of the true problem?
Whenever anybody tries to get clicks by putting ‘The Death of Cinema’ on their article or video, you get two types of people: 1: A self indulgent nerd from film school that thinks he’s so smart and believes in diversity talking about how cinema is dead because of the coronavirus. 2: A more conservative nerd who is still fairly self indulgent and claims to be totally against Hollywood, while still giving Hollywood every ounce of their wallet just to ‘report’ on how bad they are. The big difference with me is that i didn’t want to go see Godzilla Vs Kong, but my friend called me up saying that the rest of the pack was coming as well and i didn’t want to disappoint them and so i went. That film kind of sucked. My family picked up the Blu Ray of Alita out of curiosity, and so i watched it. Not terrible, but it was typical generic Hollywood fluff that is not that rewatchable and wasn’t completely all that unwoke anyway.
Anyways i apologize that my comment is this big and i know it sounds like i am endlessly rambling on, but i hope that you do get the point. I understand that everything i am saying only has to do with one thing that you talked about and that i didn’t talk about any of my favorite film moments, but you are the only one as far as i am concerned that talks about film a lot and properly addresses the issue with film and the arts in the modern world in a way that is very similar to what i have thought. People blame it on Covid (which of course is a bullshit hoax) and the market for streaming services, but like its been said before, the art of film, the anticipation of a exciting major release and the experience of it in the theaters has been so deeply devalued in a way that seemingly nobody ever talks about aside from maybe one or two mentions by political dissident voices and you of course. It’s come to the point that the only real proper ways to experience film is on a really good HD or 4K TV or if a theatre nearby is playing a older film that is a classic, especially if it is a 35MM print.
All right, i better stop or otherwise this comment will take longer than Michelangelo did with the Sistine Chapel haha. Best of luck to your website and i hope it gets bigger and grabs more positive attention. Cheers. 🍺
Thanks for the comment. Just don’t revere me as a hero at this point. I agree with your opinion on a lot of stuff you stated (particularly Alita, and I’ll take your word on Godzilla vs. Kong). But I actually enjoyed Zack Snyder’s Justice League, in spite of its faults (which didn’t outweigh the pros enough to be all that detrimental). The theatrical version I thought was just so-so. Didn’t think it was terrible, but wasn’t great either. Just a forgettable fast-food film that any average viewer would be one-and-done with. The Snyder cut though, it finally gave enough breathing room to scenes, added in some much-needed character moments and plot-relevant details, removed a good amount of dumb humor. If there’s anything I didn’t like about it, it was the inclusion of this other superhero who is solely in it just to set up for a sequel that will probably never happen (unfortunately; I wanted to see where Snyder was going with this, as this film showcased much of what he was building up towards since Man of Steel, indicating he actually had a vision he was sticking with throughout all the films, a vision leading into an interesting direction; quite refreshing after the Disney Star Wars ordeal).
That, and this is the even bigger warning. While I’m not exactly a fan of films like Cuties (not interested in seeing it, never will be, the idea is terrible; it only could’ve worked as a documentary reflecting current societal trends), I’m also not a big fan of statutory rape laws, which is something that often gets me branded as a pedo (which I’m not; you’d be surprised how intelligent, manipulative, and malicious some teenagers can be, especially with the existence and current state of social media platforms, let alone how laws/courts/media currently run things). Those laws are too often abused, even when you don’t take into account the double standards, depending on which class and which gender gets that accusation thrown at them.
With that out of the way, I primarily made this post for me as a reminder to myself. It can’t possibly hope to encapsulate all the major culturally influential moments films have had pre-Netflix days. But that’s also the point. There’s so many that an oversaturation point was bound to be hit sooner or later (there’s only so many classical tales and cultural moments an individual can be expected to absorb and grow up with before aspects of society splinter into niches who only latch onto certain ones, leading to a less-cohesive society altogether), streaming services with original shows/films just accelerated the process at a time when the saturation point was likely already reached, if not passed already. Because culture is as important as is a cohesive nation that keeps them together with something common to identify with, thus something everyone can identify with and talk about, making it easier to identify with others.
Since the fracturing has already commenced, best anyone can do who believes this cultural stuff in films matters is preserve some amount of it, and hopefully land with one niche of society reveres these moments just as much, give or take a few films/moments here and there (there always has to be some compromise when it comes to stuff like this, just not a big one; there has to be room for personal stuff that an even smaller niche identifies with, whether it’s a club or a small circle of friends).
Oh, and personally, I think 4K is generally going too far. 1080p should be the max high quality standard to be expected for films in general. 4K, at best, if it’s to be utilized at all, should be reserved for rare exceptional films that not only have mis-en-scene details that benefit from this quality upgrade, that are not only actually good movies, but certain documentaries (historical or nature) that are intended to take advantage of this from the get-go. This doesn’t even take into account some of the questionable practices Sony implemented when it comes to blu-ray discs (as in how newer discs go along some frequency that certain out-of-date blu-ray players can’t cope with, thus forcing owners to purchase a newer blu-ray player for an optimal, let alone actual, experience). I can only imagine how much 4K would abuse that even further. For example, a film like The Shining can greatly benefit from a 4K release (if done right), while something like Troll 2 or Plan 9 From Outer Space wouldn’t (I mean, what would be the point?).