20 Most Important Blockbusters That Changed Cinema Forever

For better or worse these lot completely shaped modern movies.

robert downey jr iron man
Marvel Studios

It's hard not to have a soft spot for blockbusters. Although the majority of the output tends to be mind-numbing actions pieces marketed to the lowest common denominator, at its best it gives us some of the best cinema has to offer, rivalling the more traditionally artsy fare in terms of depth and cinematic prowess.

Of course, with the staggering amount of money in the industry there's a tendency to play things safe. Throughout the summer each week sees a movie studio stake millions on a couple of hours of entertainment with the hopes of it hitting big. And to improve their chances they tend to stick to a formula - certain genres and franchises with a specific approach to marketing - based off the cumulative experience of previous successes.

Not all adhere to the predictable blueprint, however; every now and then a film will come along and completely shake up the industry, trailblazing a spate of imitators or completely shifting the way in which directors approach entire genres.

It's impossible to quantify just how important one movie is relative to another, but damn it we've tried. Here is our (very subjective) list of the twenty most influential blockbusters of all time. Not all were massive gambles, but they all shaped the cinematic landscape in their own way.

With only twenty not every suitable blockbuster could make the cut and there's some big hitters missing, be it due to not being big enough to properly qualify as a blockbuster or simply not being influential enough. It's no comment on their quality; plenty of awesome films were left off the list just because their impact was rather small. Feel free to debate what got missed in the comments.

20. Harry Potter And The Philosopher€™s Stone

harry potter and the philisophers stone
Warner Bros.

Harry Potter was already an absolute phenomenon before it even arrived in cinemas. A series of then four mega-successful books that had transcended their target audience to be a must-read for adults of all ages, the shift to cinema at the height of its popularity was a smart move; Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone (or Sorcerer's depending on where you live) became the first bona fide hit of the new millennium.

It didn't change cinema to the same level as some films on this list, but it did kick off a decade spanning dominance of the box office. Across eight films the franchise would become the biggest of all time and is even getting its own spin-off, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

The main lasting legacy of the series lies in the rise of young adult movies. A literary sub-genre that grew to prominence thanks to the Potter books, the cinematic adaptations were likewise brought into existence on the back of the success of Harry. Although Twilight was certainly important we wouldn't have had all that nonsense without the boy wizard first.


Film Editor (2014-2016). Loves The Usual Suspects. Hates Transformers 2. Everything else lies somewhere in the middle. Once met the Chuckle Brothers.