An academic study claims it has established that the most culturally significant Hollywood film ever made is the 1939 Technicolor musical The Wizard of Oz.
In a paper entitled Cross-evaluation of Metrics to Estimate the Significance of Creative Works, issued by Illinois’ Northwestern University, the study’s authors – Max Wasserman, Xiao Han T Zeng and Luís AN Amaral – analysed the “movie connections” section of the Internet Movie Database in an effort to uncover the “most cited” film – and, therefore, the most influential. Their resulting table excludes any film less than 25 years older than the citee, to reinforce the sense of what the paper calls “lasting importance”.
The Wizard of Oz, which starred Judy Garland and Frank Morgan, heads the list with some 565 so-called “long-gap citations”, a considerable distance ahead of the first Star Wars movie (released in 1977), which took second spot with 297. Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 thriller Psycho came in third with a score of 241, followed by the wartime classic Casablanca with 212. The top five is rounded out by another film first released in 1939, the sprawling civil war epic Gone With the Wind.
The authors acknowledge that film-makers are under no requirement to cite their influences, unlike academia, but that their statistical table of “long-gap citation” – as opposed to other measures, such as Metacritic or IMDb user ratings, correlate more closely with a more conventional arbiter of cultural significance, the National Film Registry established by the US Congress. Each of the top five films was added to the registry in 1989 as part of its opening induction, with the exception of Psycho, which was added in 1992.
The most recent film in the table is Star Wars Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back, first released in 1980 and placed at number 32, with 56 citations, while the oldest are two Universal-produced horror films, both from 1931: Frankenstein, starring Boris Karloff, and Dracula with Bela Lugosi. The former, in seventh place with 170 citations, did better than the latter, in 18th place with 90.
Top 10 most influential Hollywood films
1. The Wizard of Oz 565 citations
2. Star Wars 297
3. Psycho 241
4. Casablanca 212
5. Gone With the Wind 198
6. King Kong 191
7. Frankenstein 170
8. The Godfather 162
9. Citizen Kane 143
10. 2001: A Space Odyssey 143
This article was written by Andrew Pulver, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 20th January 2015 08.45 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010