The cinematic influence of new ideas

George Bell explores the revolutionary films that have shaped cinema.

George Bell
20th May 2020
The world of cinema is constantly changing with a plethora of ideas and personalities influencing the kind of cinema we know and love (mostly). But as with anything, we wouldn’t have got where we are today without people taking risks and trying something new. Here are some of those films that went against the norm of Hollywood and ended up being some of the most influential in the entire medium.

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Image Credit: IMDB

George A Romero’s Night of the Living Dead is one of those classic horror films any cinephile has to watch. It acted as one of the building blocks for the horror genre we know today. In case you didn’t know, Night of the Living Dead is the first occurrence of zombies in any form of media (although not called that at the time). The monsters in the film are depicted as reanimated dead that stumble around and eat human flesh as a result earned George A Romero the title of “Godfather of Zombies”. It is insane how much this film has influenced the genre of horror thanks to his creation. Just think of any zombie film be it World War Z (2013), 28 Days Later (2002), or Train to Busan (2016) and they wouldn’t have happened without George A Romero. While now there is an overabundance of this horror sub-genre in cinema, and multiple shows and games as well, I think it is mostly for the better as, without zombies, life would be oh so boring.

I also think that this film is also incredibly important not just for horror but for black representation in cinema with its casting of Duane Jones as the lead, Ben. George A Romero originally intended for the role to go to a white man, as was the case for most films at the time, but as Duane’s audition was the best there, they made the decision to give the role to him. But rather than changing the script to better represent the presence of a black man, George kept it the same hence why throughout the film there is no reference to the colour of Ben’s skin. This is a brilliant step forward, even if it is sadly one of few, in black cinema as he was just presented as a person trying to survive such crazy circumstances and handles his situation remarkably and much better than the other survivors of his group, who are all white.

Star Wars (1977)

Image Credit: IMDB

The first Star Wars film had such a massive impact that it propelled the Sci-Fi genre to one of the most popular genres ever. Its brilliant use of special and practical effects opened the eyes of many film creators to just how much you could do with a camera and some tinfoil.  After A New Hope, Star Wars has become the most popular franchise ever with characters like Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Leia Organa becoming household names. It is almost impossible not to have heard of Star Wars. As a result, George Lucas became a very rich man indeed, and more than a few people wanted a piece of that pie. Basically, everyone was trying to make their own version of Star Wars, even James Bond was going to space with Moonraker (1979) just two years after Star Wars was released. Thankfully in recent years, this trend has died down but the influence of massive special effects and fights is there in most big blockbusters. Just have a look at the MCU for one.

Toy Story (1995)

Image Credit: IMDB

Did you know that Toy Story was the first entirely computer-generated feature film? Before films were either stop motion or hand-drawn. This is such a big thing now as basically all animated feature films are made using a computer with few exceptions (yes, I am looking at you, Wes Anderson). Toy Story certainly marked a changing point for many animation studios and the start of something new. The change from the normal animation style was certainly a risk for Pixar but it paid off to be sure, making the Toy Story series the spearhead for modern animation and one of the film series to influence many childhoods, mine included. While it is sad to see certain animation styles die out, it can’t be denied how brilliant some of the more modern animated films are like Toy Story 4 (2019) or the brilliant art style of Into the Spiderverse (2018). And they would be possible without a cowboy and a space ranger.

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Image Credit: IMDB

Going back to horror for a moment, it can’t be ignored how influential The Blair Witch Project was on this genre with its use of found footage camera work. Filmed to look like a real documentary as well as brilliant marketing that included a realistic website, The Blair Witch Project did something brilliant with horror. Added the element of realism to the genre. And it certainly worked. The film managed the make back a staggering 248.6 million USD from only a 60000 USD budget. This success brought forth a wave of shaky cam and found footage films that plagued the horror genre for probably a bit too long. However, it cannot be denied how clever the concept of this film was and it is no wonder why it made so much money.

Parasite (2019)

Image Credit: IMDB

So, I finally have the opportunity to talk about Bong Joon-ho’s latest work, Parasite. It is a brilliant film that I can’t deny, but I wouldn’t say it really reinvents the wheel of cinema as many people seem to think. There are many other foreign films that have addressed similar messages (a few actually by Bong Joon-ho). But I still think Parasite is an insanely important film for one reason in particular. It won the best picture at the Academy Awards. It is the first completely foreign language film to do this and I for one really hope this is the turning point for modern cinema. Many people, myself included until a year ago, just didn’t watch foreign-language films. But with Parasite’s success maybe people will give them more of a chance and as Bong Joon-Ho, and his translator, so brilliantly put it “Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.”

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AUTHOR: George Bell
One half film addict, one part computer nerd. All parts Croc lover

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