10 Best Films of All Time: Jacob Davis

5. Star Wars (1977)

5 Most Profound Scenes in Star Wars

There’s no doubt the Star Wars franchise has become more divisive among audience since its inception, but its original film transcends the notion of commercial filmmaking in spite of George Lucas.

Its best-remembered moments have been endlessly quoted and parodied. Its narrative style and character archetypes are hardly original – being explicitly based on the work of Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell, and Akira Kurosawa – but it shows a genuine appreciation for the films and theoretical work that inspired it, adapted to modern sensibilities and expectations.

Lucas’s biggest innovations came from his ability to identify technological talent. The avant garde film scene in Southern California gave Lucas connections to artists who created the look of lightsabers and lasers through rotoscoping, and the Dykstraflex camera system that allowed for the realistic look of space battles performed by intricately designed models. The success of Star Wars led to Lucas and his team further innovating in the visual effects space, leading to the first full use of digital cameras on a Star Wars film.

What makes this film so much better than Lucas’ directorial work on the Prequels is the focus on subtle, integrated worldbuilding through dialogue. Mentions of “the Clone Wars” and references to the Jedi as a hokey religion that has no place in their “modern” society create impressions of the universe without the constant visual noise of the Prequels. It used real locations, real sets, and costumes for aliens and robots, giving a tactile element to the film that is removed when the series turned to more advanced technological innovations. Generations have been impacted by Star Wars, and the abundant discourse on the series may never cease purely due to the greatness and influence of this film.

Recommended for you: Star Wars Live-Action Movies Ranked

4. The Shining (1980)

The Shining Review

Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is a masterful foray into horror, solidifying his status as one of history’s most versatile filmmakers.

A favorite among horror enthusiasts, it blends meticulous craftsmanship with psychological complexity that takes us on a chilling journey through a deranged, supernatural narrative, distinct from its novel inspiration. As the Torrance family grapples with isolation in the eerie Overlook Hotel, Kubrick’s deliberate pacing and visuals create an escalating sense of foreboding that lingers long after the credits have rolled.

Jack Nicholson’s portrayal of Jack Torrance’s descent into madness effectively underscores the film’s central themes of isolation, addiction, and the disintegration of the family unit due to abuse by patriarchal figures.

The film’s use of symmetry and geometric patterns paradoxically plays on both established order and disorientation, further emphasized by the long takes that evoke a feeling of immersion and draw viewers into the film’s disquieting world. The film’s vibrant color palette, along with iconic imagery such as the elevator doors of blood and the hedge maze, have become ingrained in the memory of viewers since its release.

Some may choose Psycho as the greatest horror film of all time, but the incorporation of color and the similarities to modern horror in style make The Shining a more approachable work for today’s audiences.

Recommended for you: Shelley Duvall: 3 Career-Defining Performances

3. Do the Right Thing (1989)

Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing stands as a cornerstone in the realm of contemporary cinema, marking the mainstream rise of modern America’s most important and irreverent black filmmaker. The film pulls no punches in its critique of the social dynamics of race in 1980s America, and casts an honest light on the treatment of people of color by the power structures in American society.

The film’s story explores the simmering racial tensions in a Brooklyn neighborhood over the course of a single sweltering day, incorporating a number of enigmatic characters that feel like real people. By setting the film in his home burrough, Lee is able to create a palpable sense of place that stands in as a representation of America at large as much as itself. What might be most shocking is that the issues the film addresses are still discussed and debated in 21st century America, giving an impression of prophetic filmmaking that demonstrates how little dominant American society has been willing to listen to non-white citizens despite the superficial granting of legal equality.

Spike Lee, beyond his work as a filmmaker, has been an instrumental figure in the cinematic landscape, pointing out biases within the industry and promoting artists who may have otherwise been overlooked through various programs and conferences. He is the type of filmmaker to practice what he preaches, to give an unfiltered look into his thoughts and opinions on American history that often incorporate documentary footage to contextualize his work.

Do the Right Thing encapsulates what Spike Lee wants to achieve through his social advocacy both on the individual and communal level to promote systematic change in regards to the less overt materializations of racism.

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  • <cite class="fn">CGesange</cite>

    This article covers “The Passion of Joan of Arc” by first admitting that her trial was conducted by “English-aligned Frenchmen” but then goes on to say that the film was “faithfully adapted from the event’s historical records” – meaning the trial transcript which dozens of eyewitnesses said was falsified by those English-aligned tribunal members on behalf of their faction. The transcript is contradicted on important points by all the other evidence, meaning that the film often deviates from history on those important points, instead repeating the propaganda of the people who put her to death. Yes, it has lots of close-ups that allow you to see every wart on the faces of her accusers, but this cinematic gimmick hardly makes up for the use of a propaganda document as the basis for the film. Granted, there are far worse films on the subject since many of the more modern ones were just made up completely; but nonetheless the endless gushing over “The Passion of Joan of Arc” in article after article becomes tedious after awhile.

  • <cite class="fn">Mary Robison</cite>

    I tried repeatedly to close my gaping smiling mouth while reading. So, thank you for that. thank you.

  • <cite class="fn">Jacob Davis</cite>

    I appreciate the thoughtful comment and knowledge! I do want to point out that “accurate to the record” and “the record being accurate” are two different questions. I cannot speak to the accuracy of the record, and ultimately do not care if the film is basing itself on 15th century anti-French propaganda. I also do not care about a historical fiction film’s accuracy in general unless the film is attempting to color current discourse with false information. It could be debated that the film contributes to bad historical perceptions or bad historiographical practices, but I’m not sure the film is popular enough to warrant such worry. The gushing is more about an appreciation of the filmmaking from one of the silent era’s best directors. And on the propaganda front, the film’s framing is certainly antithetical to any 15th century anti-French sentiments, as it elevates Joan and her spiritual views in a figurative and literal sense.

  • <cite class="fn">Jacob Davis</cite>

    That’s exactly how I felt writing it, though that may have been from caffeine delirium.

  • <cite class="fn">Margaret Roarty</cite>

    So fun to see a silent film on one of these lists!

  • <cite class="fn">Jacob Davis</cite>

    Silent films can be tedious for me, so I had to pick one I loved from beginning to end!

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