Five Important Hollywood Movies, and Why These Films Matter

Hollywood shapes our culture


There are many Hollywood films significant for their effect on society. Often a movie will change the way films themselves are perceived. Perhaps they add to the legacy of filmmaking as an art form, with breakthroughs in sound or picture quality, animation, or special effects. For example, Avatar offered a 3-D film unlike any we have ever seen before, and in doing so set a new standard for 3-D effects. A movie might also become noteworthy for its contributions to popular culture. Decades ago, Saturday Night Fever helped make disco a fashionable musical style, and campuses across America held toga parties and food fights after Animal House premiered.

Some films are noteworthy for more subtle reasons. Nuances in plot or character development can cause us to perceive a story in unexpected ways. We might find ourselves liking unusual characters or feeling sympathy toward villains. We might cry when we thought we would laugh. When Hollywood accomplishes a breakthrough on this level, it adds texture and complexity to the art of storytelling. These efforts are typically replicated in other films, and they become an important component of cinematic storytelling.

The movies listed here are not from a “top” or “favorite” films list. The following five movies helped shape Hollywood storytelling or popular culture in significant ways. Some changes are innovative and groundbreaking, while others are more subtle in their effect on the history of filmmaking. All are from different film genres, but they share a common theme.


The Godfather

These movies share a common theme

The Corleone family.  Vito was known as the "Godfather"
The Corleone family. Vito was known as the "Godfather"
Animated magic from American Pop.  Little Pete and Tony on the streets
Animated magic from American Pop. Little Pete and Tony on the streets
Minnesota Fats and Fast Eddie shoot a game of pool
Minnesota Fats and Fast Eddie shoot a game of pool
Jesus and Judas Iscariot agonize over events to come
Jesus and Judas Iscariot agonize over events to come
The mysterious Stranger rides into town.  Is anyone safe?
The mysterious Stranger rides into town. Is anyone safe?
A modern-day anti-hero
A modern-day anti-hero

Five significant films


The Godfather (1972--Crime. Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Talia Shire, Diane Keaton, Robert Duvall.) Mario Puzo’s immensely popular novel is brought to life through Francis Ford Coppola’s masterful direction and a star-studded cast. This film is highly respected by critics worldwide and is considered one of the finest movies ever made. According to Wikipedia, Entertainment Weekly voted it the greatest film of all time, and the American Film Institute lists it as the second greatest American film ever, after Citizen Kane.

This powerful movie is riveting from start to finish. The acting is superb throughout and includes perhaps Marlon Brando’s most memorable role. Al Pacino was a relative newcomer before his performance as Michael Corleone catapulted him to stardom. The other outstanding members of this cast also did not disappoint.

The Godfather is significant in its portrayal of mobsters and ruthless killers as multifaceted personalities with many admirable qualities. It blurred the boundaries between good guys and bad guys and paved the way for more complex depictions of mobster life, evinced by Goodfellas and the television series The Sopranos. It suggests that perhaps there is nobility in even the most hardened of criminals.

American Pop (1981—Animated.) Animated feature film produced by Ralph Bakshi. American Pop traces four generations of a Russian immigrant family through the music of each successive era. Zalmie, Benny, Tony and Pete each travel a different path with music the common theme. Along the way is heartbreak and pain for each of them, and their collective story is sad but touching. Zalmie has ties with the mob, Benny is killed in World War II, Tony succumbs to drugs, and Pete is raised in the streets and on the road. The tale is one of survival, but frequently on the most basic levels and with modest results. Although “Little Pete” earns a modicum of success by the end of the story that eludes his ancestors, it is gained through a life of desperation and compromise.

Before there was Toy Story, Cars and the Impossibles—there was Ralph Bakshi’s incredible animated films. His techniques were revolutionary and bridged the gap between Disney and their adopted son, Pixar. Bakshi owed his remarkable animation techniques to a process called rotoscoping, where live actors were filmed with the footage drawn over by animators. Bakshi also utilized water colors, computer graphics, live action shots and archival footage to create this illustrative masterpiece.

The Hustler (1961—Drama. Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason, Piper Laurie, George C. Scott.) Paul Newman stars in one of his greatest roles as “Fast Eddie” Felson, a small-time pool hustler who dreams of a shot at the big time. He challenges Minnesota Fats (Gleason) to a high-stakes game of pool and finds himself involved with an unscrupulous manager Bert Gordon (Scott). Bankrolled by Gordon, Felson eventually beats Fats, but is warned never to enter a pool hall again.

This movie is important for several reasons besides outstanding performances by Newman, Gleason and Scott. It is credited with helping to spark a resurging interest in pool. Pool champion Willie Mosconi has a cameo in the movie, and another player later assumed the name Minnesota Fats to gain notoriety on the pool circuit.

The focus of the movie is on unsavory characters in immoral situations, but they are portrayed with such depth of feeling, we understand and sympathize. In the first half hour of this riveting movie, Fast Eddie plays Minnesota Fats in a high stakes game of pool and the depiction of Fats dominating Felson both physically and psychologically as they play is masterful.

Jesus Christ, Superstar (1973—Religion. Ted Neeley, Carl Anderson, Yvonne Elliman.) Categorized at times as both a religious film and a musical, Jesus Christ, Superstar popularized the term “rock opera” with its story of the final week in the life of Christ. The story is told entirely through music, with Judas serving as the audience’s “eyes.” Judas feels Jesus is a brilliant man, but not God. He is worried that the adoration of the masses has gone to Jesus’ head, and ultimately feels he has no choice but to betray him.

The strength of this movie lies both in the music and in depicting Judas, Pilate and the rest as human, emotionally torn figures. Jesus Christ, Superstar was originally criticized by religious groups, but was ultimately well-received and is now included in any discussion of films about the life of Christ. It is credited with helping many American youth “find” God through encompassing religion in a rock-and-roll package. Shot on location at the ruins of Advat in Israel, it is a visually stunning offering from director Norman Jewison.

High Plains Drifter (1973—Western. Clint Eastwood.) Clint Eastwood directs and stars in this western film about a stranger hired to protect timid residents of the mining town Lago from three gunfighters. The three gunmen previously killed Lago’s sheriff, and because the Stranger experiences nightmares of a brutal death, it is suggested that he is a reincarnation of the murdered marshall. He abuses the townsfolk mercilessly while teaching them to defend themselves from the gunmen, and in the end he kills the gunfighters and presumably exacts his vengeance—both on those that murdered him and the cowardly citizens of Lago who stood by and watched him killed in his previous life.

When Eastwood’s Stranger rides into the town of Lago, everyone he encounters is so corrupt that not only do we sympathize with the vicious actions he perpetrates against the town, we applaud them. He protects a town that does not deserve his services and makes them pay a price for their safety. This movie is significant not by virtue of establishing the “unknown stranger rides into town” convention, but for (more or less) ending it. It is in many ways the best of Eastwood’s western films—he is completely comfortable in the genre and stamps it with his own style and character. He performed his role so well there was no reason to revisit it in subsequent films.


Fast Eddie explains pool excellence

What do these movies have in common?


There are many significant movies that influenced Hollywood or society in general, and these are far from the most important. These five movies, however, are linked thematically: they take us inside the psyche of “villains” or unsavory characters and display their humanity. From Pontius Pilate to Vito Corleone; from “Fast Eddie” Felson and Minnesota Fats to Little Pete; from Judas Iscariot to the mysterious Stranger, we are shown people committing unscrupulous acts and are asked to understand and sympathize. We are made to realize that circumstances have shaped the actions of these individuals and in some cases, we might respond in a similar manner. Villains become heroes and good and evil are relative terms. It is even more impressive that this message is delivered in such a variety of genres. From these movies sprung powerful films such as A Clockwork Orange, Midnight Cowboy, and anti-heroes who believe the ends justifies the means, like “Dirty Harry” Callahan and Wolverine. These fine movies helped make Hollywood films what they are today.


Jesus Christ, Superstar: Heaven on Their Minds

Rooting for the Bad Guys

Do you root for anti-hero/villains in movies like the Godfather?

  • No, movies should not glorify unscrupulous people and actions
  • Sometimes, depending upon the situation
  • Yes, all the time
See results without voting

Please leave a comment about this article 42 comments

msorensson profile image

msorensson 6 years ago

I only saw Godfather. I thought it was excellent. I do not watch these films and get into them. They are made for entertainment, nothing more. I see them as an art, not by a single man but a whole group of men, particularly the film editor and the sound editor.

I look at them from a technical point of view, the sounds, the sights, how the director captured a scene, how the actors showed emotions without speaking.

For the most part that is why I watch the films. I have had no qualms about walking out of the movie theater in 15 minutes if it does not capture me.

There are quite a few movies that I have watched for the lessons. Dune, Children of Dune, The Devil's Advocate and quite a few others.

I thought it interesting that you look at them with another eye, so thank you.


drbj profile image

drbj 6 years ago from south Florida

The films: The Godfather, The Hustler and High Plains Drifter had the most impact for me and I appreciate your retelling a summary of these films, and choosing them for their depictions of "bad guys" as perhaps the "good guys."

Well-researched and well-written, Mike. Thanks.


samboiam profile image

samboiam 6 years ago from Texas

High Plains Drifter is an all time classic. I thoroughly enjoyed this. Voted it up.


Youngcurves19 profile image

Youngcurves19 6 years ago from Hawaii

I have never seen any of these movies Heard of the God father of course just haven't gotten to it since I am a romance kinda woman


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

msorensson, thanks for reading. I will admit I enjoy movies. I view films as art as well, and note creative nuances that make a film special. I also believe that movies contribute to popular culture through the stories and the way they are told. It might not be immediate, but films also influence subsequent films, and might therefore affect societal trends indirectly or belatedly.

As always, I greatly appreciate your comments.

Mike


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

drbj, thanks for your comments. I considered the science fiction movie "A Clockwork Orange" and the drama "Midnight Cowboy" as further examples of the "bad as good" theme. In A Clockwork Orange, the central character is the leader of a vicious gang that becomes a sympathetic figure when the government transforms him into a law-abiding citizen through mind-altering techniques. In "Midnight Cowboy," the "heroes" are a male prostitute and a sick homeless man. Pretty powerful stuff.

The idea that if we can get into someone's head we will see an evil person as good or, at least, conflicted fascinates me, and it is a compelling aspect of cinematic storytelling.

Thanks again for your comments.

Mike


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Samboiam, thanks for reading. I loved High Plains Drifter as well--it was an outstanding movie.

Thanks again for your comments and your rating.

Mike


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Youngcurves19, thanks very much for reading. I will admit that none of these movies have much in the way of romance going for them, but if you get the chance, you might find them interesting anyway. I appreciate your stopping by and commenting. Thanks again.

Mike


suzyh1951 6 years ago

Very enjoyable article. My favorites change back and forth every day, but the ones you mentioned changed the landscape for sure.


Shinkicker profile image

Shinkicker 6 years ago from Scotland

Interesting choices Mike.

Do you know I've never seen 'The Hustler' I need to put that oversight right soon.I'll need to watch 'High Plains Drifter' again and 'The Outlaw Josey Wales' for that matter.

Great Hub


Lady_E profile image

Lady_E 6 years ago from London, UK

Aaaawh... I haven't watched any of those films. The God Father is very popular and I have had lots of opportunities to watch it, but I just haven't. (I had in mind it's about men being mean to each other) lol.

I enjoyed reading the Hub and as I scrolled down I saw this: Ten Favorite Tom Cruise Movies. So, I'm heading there. I've watched a lot of Tom Cruise Movies.

Cheers and Best Wishes. :)


coffeesnob 6 years ago

Mike

I thought I would be the first to say I hadn't seen any of these movies, But I see I am in good company. Actually I am not much of a movie person - but I do like cartoons :-) Especially the old school ones. I will from time to time get into a movie - but not much. It comes in short spurts. But I do like reading your hubs and so..her I am. be blessed

CS


newdiabolic316 profile image

newdiabolic316 6 years ago from Wichita, KS

Interesting read Mike. I haven't seen American Pop or Jesus Christ Superstar. My favorite of the bunch is "The Hustler." I'm a huge Paul Newman fan, "Cool Hand Luke" is my favorite movie of his.

I wrote my first hub a couple of days ago, about Terrance Jones. I hope to bring some of my other blogs over to hear, as well as maybe start my own Jayhawk basketball hubs (some of which will be re-hashed from our previous comments). Check it out if you have time.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

suzyh1951, thanks for reading. I appreciate your stopping by and commenting on this article.

Mike


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Shinkicker, I appreciate your stopping by. The Hustler is a very fine movie with superb performances by Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason and George C. Scott. Have you ever seen "The Color of Money?" Newman reprised his role as Fast Eddie, at it was pretty good, also.

Thanks again for your comments.

Mike


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Elena, I appreciate your stopping by. The Godfather is very much about a bunch of men being mean to each other, there is no doubt about it. The central characters are not nice people. There is an undertone of honor, however, and that is what makes the film remarkably complex. There was concern when it came out that it would glorify violence, but most feel that didn't happen.

Thanks again for stopping by, and for leaving a comment on my Cruise movies hub. I appreciate it very much.

Mike


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

coffeesnob, thanks for reading. I don't get to as many movies now as I once did-you will note that all of these movies are decades old, and I am more familiar with that era than more recent movies. I do find them an art form, and usually I can appreciate a film on some level, even if it isn't considered very good.

I love old cartoons also, by the way. I always felt the Flintstones was a cartoon that rivaled many other forms of storytelling--I found it a tremendously creative cartoon.

Thanks for visiting, I always appreciate your comments.

Mike


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Newdiabolic, thanks for stopping by. Glad to see you've joined us here--I think you will like it. I am a huge Paul Newman fan as well. He was a magnificent actor and a very dignified man. Cool Hand Luke was great, and so was Butch Cassidy.

I will stop by and check out your Terrence Jones blog. He has been in the papers recently--kind of makes me glad he didn't truly consider KU.

Thanks for stopping by.

Mike


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines

Mike, thanks for this hub. I have seen all of these movies except High Plains Drifter. I think I will search for that. Maybe I will find a copy in some stores that sell/rent out old films.

I agree with you, these movies did have impact. I like your analysis.

Thanks very much for sharing.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Jill, thanks for reading. I think High Plains Drifter should still be around in some stores--hope you're able to find it. (Out of the five movies I've mentioned here, usually it is American Pop that folks haven't seen. Nice to find that folks have watched it...)

Thanks again for reading, and have a good weekend.

Mike


prettydarkhorse profile image

prettydarkhorse 6 years ago from US

Execellent points again Mike, you seem to have analyzed social pehenomenon into another level, and good choices fo films for your main poinst -- villains are understood better,

Take care and enjoy Sunday, Maita


JannyC profile image

JannyC 6 years ago

I still have never see GodFathers shame on me. Nice points made though quite true in the familiar themes there never looked at flims that way. Nice job


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Maita, I thank you for your kind words. You raise an interesting point in that perhaps as viewers we relate more to villains than heroes. I hadn't actually considered the idea to the extent you state it--that villains are understood better. Thank you for the excellent observation, I will have to give that some thought.

Once again, I hope you had a great weekend, and thanks for your comments.

Mike


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Hey, Janny--how ya doing? Never saw the Godfather movies? Those are my favorite of the gangster genre, and I have been known to label the Godfather both the best novel and the best movie I have ever read. That being said, I know a lot of people never bothered with them because it was felt the book and movie glorified violence. We get such a clear look into the motivations of these men along the way, however, that we begin to empathize. It was this realization that made me think of other movies where this could be said.

Anyway, hope you'll look for the movies someday. I kinda like 'em.

Thanks for your comments; hope your weekend was a good one.

Mike


anjalone3 6 years ago

It is well written and are well informative, helpful tips are well includes a budget is.

I encourage you to write further to be you.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Anjalone, thank you very much for reading. I appreciate your comments and kind words.

Mike


Joy56 profile image

Joy56 6 years ago

i so enjoyed reading this hub..... i have not seen all the films, but i do agree with you about films being important, they paint a picture somehow, if you know what i mean.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Joy, thanks for reading. Films do indeed paint a picture--they sometimes capture a moment in history, a mood or a feeling. At other times, they paint a picture of how we wish life could be if we had a choice. Films are art and the pictures they show us are valid.

Thanks again for your comments, they are greatly appreciated.

Mike


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia

Brilliant analytical piece, Mike!


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Habee, thanks for reading and for the kind words. They are greatly appreciated.

Mike


Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 6 years ago from East Coast, United States

Mike, this was an interesting take on important movies. I did not know what to expect from the hub, so enjoyed it. I hate to admit that I've never watched any of the Godfather movies all the way through and have been taken to task for this many times. One of these days....


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Dolores, thanks for stopping by. I loved the Godfather movies, but I realize they are not everyone's cup of tea. I saw them as movies about family and honor, but they are also movies about men doing evil things, so--I understand your passing them by. I do recommend them, but only if you can look past the violence.

Thanks again for taking a peek at this hub and seeing what I had in mind--I appreciate it.

Mike


Storytellersrus profile image

Storytellersrus 6 years ago from Stepping past clutter

I did see Jesus Christ Superstar, although out of your list this is the only one! Are these guy films? I wonder. I read your comment to Just A Voice and wanted to know more about you. I was born in Wichita... driven through Lawrence...

I wonder what would be my top five movies. Gone with the Wind? Probably would make the list; strong women roles. Women who don't need men necessarily. I am going to read your Man hub next. Thanks.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Storytellersrus, thanks for reading. I never really thought of these as guy films, but I suppose they could be considered as such. A cowboy flick, a gangster film, a movie about hustling pool and an animated film about some pretty desperate folks--I will concede the notion of these as guy films. I do think they stand out, both in their respective genres and as examples of important Hollywood films. And, I also think they stand out for their portrayal of the anti-hero.

I never actually considered them to be my favorite films, although the Godfather and Jesus Christ, Superstar would certainly be among my favorites. Gone With the Wind would certainly make any favorites list, of course. What else would you have on your list.

Always pleased to meet a fellow Kansan! When have you passed through Lawrence last? I would invite you to read a hub I wrote about why I like Kansas.

Thanks for stopping by, I greatly appreciate your comments! Take care.

Mike


Storytellersrus profile image

Storytellersrus 6 years ago from Stepping past clutter

Hello Mike! I last passed through your sunflower state when I drove with my eldest to Rutgers... two years ago. Wow. A long time.

Let's see, other favorite movies for me would be Terms of Endearment, because it is SO female. One of the most powerful was Sophie's Choice but I will not ever watch that movie again, it was so painful. I also loved As Good As It Gets and also Jack Nicholson's Something's Gotta Give if I am being honest here, lol. I am old enough to completely get Last Chance Harvey, starring one of my top favorite actors Dustin Hoffman. And I always loved Target with Gene Hackman. Enough for now, I guess! I enjoyed your hub, thanks!


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Storytellersrus, thanks for reading. I hoped you liked Kansas when you passed through--I know the western side of the state can sometimes seem monotonous. Eastern Kansas is very pretty, however.

I loved Terms of Endearment. I thought Jack Nicholson did a fantastic job. When he found himself caring about Aurora in spite of himself, it was a touching moment. In the hands of a lesser actor, it could have come across as fake or unreal. Nicholson made it work. Jack Nicholson, Dustin Hoffman and Gene Hackman are three of my favorite actors ever, and the movies you have mentioned are outstanding.

Thanks again for stopping by, I appreciate it.

Mike


Rob Hanlon profile image

Rob Hanlon 5 years ago from Epicentre of everywhere

Came across the link to this Hub whilst looking at a question on Hollywood movies and enjoyed reading it, thank you ~ I have watched all of the movies highlighted or mentioned and enjoyed all of them in what they portray.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Rob, thanks for stopping by and reading. These five movies are indeed among my favorites, and they should be on any film-lover's must-see list. Thanks again for reading.

Mike


meow48 profile image

meow48 5 years ago from usa

really enjoyed this article. i have seen all but the animated movie. i remember how controversial Jesus Christ Superstar really was at the time. we did not talk about it in church at all, and i snuck into the drive in to watch it. hee. oops, now i aged myself, hee. thankyou for writing such an interesting article. take care.


Paul Bisquera profile image

Paul Bisquera 4 years ago from Los Angeles

Mike, love your hub! My only wish is that you included some great horror films like "Rosemary's Baby" or "The Omen" and "The Exorcist" which were influential in the horror genre.

Other than that, a super hub!


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 4 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Meow, thanks for your comments, and I apologize for taking so long to respond. I saw Jesus Christ, Superstar in the theater and loved it, but it was certainly not a topic for the Catholic Church I attended. After movies like "The Last Temptation of Christ", it was seen in a softer light and actually embraced.

Sounds like we might be close to the same age. Thanks for your comments.

Mike


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 4 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Paul, thanks for stopping by. I actually considered including "The Exorcist" here, but took the article in a slightly different direction instead. "The Exorcist" was a huge film for me, and I felt it pumped life into the horror genre for the next decade. I remember watching the film in Colorado, and probably the only thing that allowed me to finish the movie was NOT knowing what was coming next. It was extremely difficult to view after I knew what was going to happen.

"Rosemary's Baby" and "The Omen" were great movies, also. Thanks again, Paul.

Mike

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