If you’re as excited about film history as you are about watching new releases (or even more so), then every year is a stellar year for movies. There’s always a classic reaching an anniversary, whether it helped start the medium a century back or reshaped cinema far more recently.
In 2022’s lengthy lineup of milestone flicks, everything from Casablanca and Lawrence of Arabia to Pink Flamingos and Boogie Nights is cause to celebrate alone—and they’re just some of the films that we couldn’t actually fit onto our list below.
Picking only 10 titles is an immensely difficult task, and represents just a fraction of the important movies notching up birthdays this year, but here are ten standouts anyway.
Every time a new version of Dracula arrives, it owes as much of a debt to F.W. Murnau’s now-century-old Nosferatu as it does to any literary source material. Almost every horror movie ever made does, too, because that’s how influential this richly atmospheric German Expressionist silent masterpiece has proven over the entire genre.
Starring Max Schreck as Count Orlok, Nosferatu famously adapts Bram Stoker’s gothic-horror classic, but changed details to try to circumvent copyright. There’s obviously no denying the similarities between the two; however, it was Murnau’s movie that gave cinema its enduring image of the bloodsucking undead.
What Nosferatu is to horror, 1927’s Metropolis is to science-fiction. It isn’t just a classic—this German powerhouse is the film that every sci-fi movie since has tried to emulate somehow. As directed by Fritz Lang, it leaps into a futuristic dystopia, where class clashes and the intertwined forces of industrialisation and capitalism define modern life.
Both for its time and in general, Lang’s expressionist triumph is a sight to behold, with its set design among the most vivid visions ever committed to celluloid. And Metropolis wields its indictment of technological ascendancy as powerfully as it does those striking visuals.
Has there ever been a more perfect musical moment than when Singin’ in the Rain splashes its eponymous number across the screen? Seventy years on, seeing Gene Kelly skip through puddles as the skies open remains pure movie magic, even in a film overflowing with superb song-and-dance numbers.
Directed by Kelly with Stanley Donen, and co-starring Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor, Singin’ in the Rain is the rare Hollywood movie that surveys the industry, avoids self-seriousness, and epitomises big-screen spectacle. Grappling with the move from silent films to talkies, it’s also as witty as it is warm—and remains a pitch-perfect rom-com.
Thanks to its central chess match between a medieval knight (Max von Sydow) and Death itself (Bengt Ekerot), The Seventh Seal was always destined to claim a place in cinema history. The scenes of that boardgame showdown are the most iconic visuals that Ingmar Bergman ever crafted, in fact—and given the Swedish filmmaker’s filmography, that’s clearly some feat.
That said, this 1957 filmic giant is far more than just two unlikely figures pushing around pawns. Unpacking the greatest existential battle there is, a.k.a. that thin line between breathing and the alternative, Bergman’s adaptation of his own play Wood Painting never stops proving revelatory.
Three David Lynch films mark anniversaries in 2022, and all are worth celebrating. But while Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is one of the most terrifying movies ever made, and Lost Highway is an exceptional neo-noir, Eraserhead is a world unto itself.
Watching this 1977 surrealist debut feels like slipping into another universe, into the inimitable director’s head, and into a body horror-meets-industrialist nightmare all at once. And, unsurprisingly for a filmmaker as meticulous and singular as Lynch, every aspect of Eraserhead constantly surprises and proves sublime, from the casting of Jack Nance as Henry to the child that changes his life.
1977 was an influential year for horror dreamscapes that’d leave an unshakeable imprint on the genre, with not only Eraserhead but also Suspiria reaching screens (and within weeks of each other, too). The most famous of Italy’s giallo gems, and of Dario Argento’s, it turns an American ballet student’s (Jessica Harper) coveted enrolment in a German academy into a tormented dance through witchy terrors.
Films aren’t just about colour and sound, but the way that Argento deploys both—Goblin’s haunting score especially—is mesmerising and masterful. So too is the film overall, which isn’t ever afraid to marry gore and gloss to glorious effect.
Five decades ago, Francis Ford Coppola made cinema an offer it couldn’t refuse—and the gangster genre hasn’t been able to match it since. Mario Puzo’s novel about the Corleone family’s mafia dealings was already a bestseller, but it’s the landmark film adaptation, which the author co-penned with Coppola, that’ll forever spring to mind first whenever The Godfather is mentioned.
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Dream performances by Marlon Brando as patriarch Vito and Al Pacino as his initially reluctant son Michael are just part of the movie’s power. Also astonishing: supporting work from James Caan, John Cazale, Robert Duvall, and Diane Keaton, plus every exquisite shot.
On June 25, 1982, American cinemagoers were treated to two new releases from impressive directors that became instant sci-fi classics. One, The Thing, was a rare remake that surpassed the original. The other had audiences dreaming of androids who might dream of electric sheep.
Adapted from a Philip K Dick novel into one of the films that Ridley Scott is now best-known for, and an undisputed highlight on Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, and Sean Young’s resumes, Blade Runner swiftly became the science-fiction neo-noir benchmark. Its futuristic visuals are stunning, its Vangelis score epic, and its narrative smart and complex—its influence since release is immense.
Environmental themes have lingered in Hayao Miyazaki’s work from his very first films, but among his official Studio Ghibli output since the studio formed in 1985, they’re at their most potent in 1997’s Princess Mononoke. The iconic director proceeds with passion in this affecting tale, which tells of nature’s fight against humanity’s ravaging of the earth’s natural resources.
Indeed, 25 years on, Princess Mononoke is powerful as ever—and one of both Ghibli and Miyazaki’s greatest-ever movies. A film with a statement to make, and breathtaking visuals and a sweeping story to assist, it’s one of the best animated films ever made, too.
Diving into the world of drugs and crime in Rio de Janeiro’s Cidade de Deus neighbourhood, 2002’s City of God is energetic, engrossing, and electrifying from its opening moments, where it begins with a chicken and a gang in the titular favela. From there, co-directors Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund don’t stop until they’ve taken a raw, bold, and instantly memorable tour of organised crime in the Brazilian city.
It might’ve taken two years for Hollywood to catch up, nominating City of God for four Oscars (including Best Director) in 2004, but it swiftly became the film that defined international cinema in the early 2000s for good reason.