5. Citizen Kane (1941)
Okay, admittedly a lot of you have probably heard of this one. Its the one you know to be really, really important, but youve either never sat down to watch it, or have watched it and found it a little bit cold and uninvolving, a film meant for historians, film students, but not for the average guy. Ive always put this down to the fact that the films breakthroughs are so basic as to be almost unnoticeable- it set up the very foundations for modern cinema. People watch it, and see things that they can get from a newer movie, and thats that. However, one must consider that this was the first film to do those very, very basic things. From a narrative point of view, it is mightily influential, because it played with the basics of narrative structure, what was a given in those days. For example, the film begins with the death of Kane, then goes through the rise of Kane, and then becomes one long flashback intertwined with the reporter slowly piecing together the man. Where most films in that era went from A to B, this one goes on a merry tour and ends goodness knows where, leaving other films in the dust. The deep focus photography is another thing that is often mentioned, but leaves most people scratching their heads. Having everything in focus at the same time was uncommon 1942; it forces the backgrounds and sets to come alive, when films of that era could be curiously stagnant. Director/writer/star Orson Welles also makes excellent use of pans, zooms, tilts, low angles and even the use of ceilings to achieve an artistic effect. It may not be the first film to use these techniques, but it is the first to use them all in such harmony and synthesis. Just look at a film more of you are more likely to know; the Shining, with the tracking shots behind Danny on his trike. Theres a very good chance that without this film, that shot may not have happened the same way, if at all, and the same for the thousands of other shots influenced by this might film. That may not have endeared Citizen Kane to you too much, and I doubt Ive changed any opinions either, but thats the film from a purely technical point of view, and thats what it did; an unparalleled achievement, which accounts for why people still discuss it to this day.