2001: A Space Odyssey

Weekend Roundtable: Do Not Delete

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.

Deirdre Crimmins

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.

David Krauss

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.

Brian Hoss

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.

Josh Zyber

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.

Your Turn

What movie would you save from erasure?


  1. Erik in Wisconsin

    This is a tough one. There are so many great movies that narrowing it down to one is nearly impossible. It’s like asking what is the best song ever. Be that as it may, I am siding with David on this one for all the reasons he mentioned and more. I have said for many years that The Wizard of Oz may not be the critics choice, but it is my choice. The music and lyrics, the choreography, the costuming, the scenery, and the timelessness of the story all blend together to create an incredibly delightful movie. I grew up in the land of black and white TV with rabbit ears and three network channels from which to choose during the 50s and 60s. It was rare to see a good movie during prime time. This one was shown once a year during April. It was the “talk of the town” among families and kids at school leading up to the night it aired. Now I can watch it whenever I want in glorious color with superb sound on a large screen TV and surround sound system. In fact, my wife and I did just watch it again about a month ago. It doesn’t get old.

  2. photogdave

    All the above choices and their explanations lead me to The Lord of the Rings trilogy (if a trilogy can count as one film in this case): Structure; cinematography; drama, action and comedy; ground-breaking special effects that are both traditional and inventive and hold up to be equal to (if not better than) subsequent films in the same genre; fantastic, immersive world-building; strong. likeable characters that have fully realized arcs; and even musical numbers!
    Also, it’s not my favorite.
    (If a trilogy doesn’t count then I think this all applies to the Fellowship of the Ring on its own, considering Boromir’s character.)

  3. Wow this is tough. My initial thought was Paris, Texas. Upon further ponderance, I think Singing In The Rain could be better since it also has the advantage of kind of being ABOUT movies.

  4. Opinionhaver

    I answered this on the other one and now that it has its own roundtable, it’s still Raiders of the Lost Ark.

  5. Bolo

    This is probably the weirdest reframing of the “desert island” scenario I’ve heard in a long time.

    I reckon I’ll go with ‘Akira’.

  6. Charles Contreras

    I have to go with Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It was a great movie to highlight the ufomania at that time. To this day I can still look up into the stars and wonder if we are truly alone…or not!

  7. EM

    Pick just one? I canʼt help thinking of a line from one of my candidates, Forbidden Planet: “…itʼs too big to evaluate!”

  8. Lord Bowler

    That’s hard to choose…

    Do I choose an important cultural movie like “The Greatest Story Ever Told” or one of my favorites “The Alamo” or a movie dramatizing a famous Historical Event for America like “The Battle of the Bulge” or ….

    So hard to pick one…

    One movie I don’t think should ever be forgotten would have to be James Cameron’s “The Abyss”.

  9. William Henley

    This is a tough one – just one movie from all of cinema history? I got to go old school and choose Gone With The Wind. I mean that score! And Clarke Gable! And some of the best examples of Technicolor ever! And a tale of America’s dark times, and the human spirit to survive at any cost. To me, this movie does not just represent cinema, it represents humanity.

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