Revealed: the most influential movie of all time


1939 classic tops list calculated by computer scientists. Andrew Masterson reports.


Almost 80 years after its release The Wizard of Oz continues to be powerfully influential.

Almost 80 years after its release The Wizard of Oz continues to be powerfully influential.

Bilgin S. Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The Wizard of Oz is the most influential movie of all time, at least according to research published in the journal Applied Network Science.

In a bid to take the aesthetic heat of the debate about the relative importance of various films, computer scientists Livio Bioglio and Ruggero Pensa from the University of Turin in Italy opted to construct a ranking table for influential movies using a novel metric.

Articles purporting to establish the relative merit of movies usually use two measures, either alone or in combination: box office success and critical option. Both have obvious limitations.

Bioglio and Pensa opted for an approach which on the surface appears more quantitative, and more verifiable. They decided to look at references to particular movies that crop up post-release in other movies. These references, they write, are taken “from both the artistic and the economic point of view”.

To do this they used the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), a collection of highly detailed references to about 47,000 films. They analysed data on the year of release for each, any trends and patterns in the film industry arising as a result of its advent, and the consequent fortunes of about 20,000 directors and 400,000 actors.

The researchers admit from the outset that IMDb displays a marked bias towards North American and European films, so their results pertain only to films released within the Western aesthetic tradition.

That said, the winner is the Wizard of Oz (1939), by quite some stretch, followed by Star Wars (1977), Psycho (1960), King Kong (the original, 1933), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Metropolis (1927), Citizen Kane (1941), The Birth of a Nation (1915), Frankenstein (1931) and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937).

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  1. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s41109-018-0105-0
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