A couple weeks ago, we asked what movie you wish could be erased from all memory of its existence. For the flip side, what one single movie would you save if all other examples of the cinema art form were wiped out?
Your choice doesn’t necessarily need to be your favorite movie, but rather the one piece of art that best represents what the film medium was all about at its best.
If we can only have one film survive, and have it be the best example of the breadth of what cinema can create, I have a (near) perfect option. Hear me out on this one: The Princess Bride. It has both traditional and non-traditional narrative structure (i.e. the story within the story). It spans genres from action to horror to romance to comedy. It shows cinematography of seas and cliffs and caves and castles. It has funny editing and character arcs. Perhaps the only ingredients it’s missing are a musical number and female characters with agency. Beyond those, it’s a prime example of the many facets of cinematic storytelling.
The Wizard of Oz may be turning 80 this year, but it’s not 80 years old; it’s 80 years young. This iconic classic was made for “the young at heart,” and it continues to captivate old and new generations of moviegoers because it represents everything that movies are all about. Before Star Wars and Harry Potter cornered the market on fantasy, The Wizard of Oz made those franchises possible by infusing an otherworldly story with relatable, universal themes that emphasize personal resilience and the bonds of family. Brains, heart, and courage make us whole, and no film better emphasizes that fact than The Wizard of Oz.
It’s also an amazing technical achievement. Produced a mere 12 years after the dawn of sound and just as Technicolor was beginning to take root in Hollywood, The Wizard of Oz is a marvel of special effects wizardry. The ingenuity necessary to not only create the world of Oz, but also stage a frightening tornado without the benefit of CGI is mind-boggling. What the MGM set designers, art directors, costumers, and makeup artists were able to conjure up remains staggeringly impressive. The fact that it still holds up so well today when so many more advanced tools and toys are at the fingertips of directors only further cements this iconic film’s lofty reputation. The Wizard of Oz has touched almost everyone’s life, and once it does, it’s with you forever.
Often imitated but never duplicated, Rashomon continues to be deep, complex, and always haunting. While the story itself, both in basic outline and in the more sustaining script, can be related verbally or in text, watching the film, which is closing in on 70 years of age, is a second-to-none viewing experience. It’s only in watching the movie that the real subtleties can be conveyed. Though the film ought to stick with the viewer for an indefinite (life-long) time, further viewings and sharing will be quite fruitful. I would hope that Rashomon as a film will always be around, and that one day it will truly be understood to an enlightened extent.
I’m not sure that I’d even call it the best movie ever made (though it’s certainly in the top tier), nor my favorite to watch over and over, but if I could only preserve one film for all of eternity, I’d want it to be 2001: A Space Odyssey. Real history may not have lived up to the predictions Stanley Kubrick made for it in his science fiction masterpiece, but as a piece of motion picture art, I can hardly think of anything else that more thoughtfully examines the question of what humanity is or strives to be, while simultaneously pushing the film medium forward technically, narratively, and artistically. 2001 is filmmaking at the highest level.
What movie would you save from erasure?