History of Cinema – An Infograph

I love film and I love film history; back in February I even did a podcast on it! Hollywood in particular has a super dynamic history, constantly responding to changing demands and social values, all the while absorbing cinematic influences from all over the world.

If you study film, you’ll start to learn about movements and waves. These occur when the confluence of talent, support, and timing come together just right, causing an underrepresented cinema to explode onto the international scene. These cinemas are often national cinemas that are popular in their own country but not internationally, but sometimes (especially recently) they comes from Hollywood’s own backyard. For example, right now, in addition to Hollywood being in the Franchise Era, we are also in the midst of the Mumblecore movement, the Second Black Wave, and New Queer Cinema, and on the international front we are currently experiencing the New French Extremity and also new waves from Mexico, South Korea, Romania, and Iran.

Because there’ve been so many waves and movements in the history of film, all producing great films and filmmakers, I decided to organize them. The result is the entire history of film (Hollywood centric) in one infograph.

history of film (smaller)

The chart is arranged so that the more influential the movement, the higher it is placed. Spacing/overlapping also was a factor, which is why German Expressionism is in the third international row and not the first one. Below each movement/wave, I listed films and filmmakers from the era in question. I tried to list films/filmmakers I felt were the best and most representative of the era; some films are one or the other and some films are both. Of course, “best” is a matter of opinion, so I tried to go with general consensus, but I’m sure my own opinions influenced the chart as well (there’s no way It Happened One Night, my favorite film, was not going to be included). Bold entries represent the films and filmmakers that had the most significance on the history of film.

Some thoughts on the chart:

Creating it was hard! I had to leave off so much (see omissions), and that’s even after I gave up trying to make it 8×11 or 8×14. There were simply too many movements in the 1960s and 1970s to make this chart fit on any normal sized paper.

France shows up a lot. This isn’t surprising since France has in my opinion the second greatest national cinema (after the US). And not only does France show up as much as it does, but I had to leave off even more. Like Cinema Pur, a late 1920s/early 1930s movement, which I omitted because it wasn’t as significant as the other French movements, it didn’t have a lot of films and most of what it had were shorts, and with five movements already, France was simply taking up too much space. However, both George Lucas and Walter Murch have said that Cinema Pur inspired their filmmaking, which definitely means something.

Another movement I left off was Surrealist cinema. Again, this was was left off because it was small, consisted mostly of shorts, wasn’t as influential as other movements, and also because the movement’s main filmmaker was Luis Bunuel, but most of Luis Bunuel’s significant films were made after the movement ended. Therefore, I chose to list Bunuel in the Other Notable Filmmakers section, where I could mention his most notable films, not just the ones that were released during the surrealist movement.

You can see from this chart that certain national cinemas have been more significant on the international level than others. Most world cinemas stay domestic; outside of specific movements national cinemas don’t often have a large influence on the international scene. This is why some of the biggest film industries (Bollywood, Nollywood) were omitted from this chart. However, several cinemas have continued to influence world cinema throughout their history. Most notable of course is the US, which dominates the world scene. Next most notable is France, which I discussed above. The other great world cinemas (historically) are England, Italy, Germany, and Japan. On my chart, Italy has two movements and two filmmakers in the Other Notable Filmmakers section, England has one movement and three filmmakers in the Other Notable Filmmakers section, Germany has two movements and one filmmaker in the Other Notable Filmmakers section, and Japan has two movements.

The hardest section to list example films? US indie film. Indie films can be anything from from $30,000 Clerks, made completely independent of everything, to $20,000,000 Silver Linings Playbook, made by a mini-major, to $25,000,000 There Will Be Blood, made by the indie label of a major studio. Because indie is so broad, there are tons of films that had a variety of impacts, and so how do you distill them all down to one list? Maybe I should have separated the indie section into completely independent vs mini-majors vs major studio indie labels, but that would have taken up too much space. Maybe I should have only looked at completely independent films, but that would result in some pretty glaring omissions (more than I already have, see omissions). In the end, I simply did it as one list.

One section I did branch off from indie films was B-movie/Exploitation. Many people see the B-movie/exploitation label as a pejorative, but it is not. Yes, B-movie means lesser budget than A-movie (which can mean less talented people working on the film, but not necessarily) and many B-movies are terrible, but not all are. As for exploitation, that’s not a pejorative, it’s a style.

Like the indie section, the B-movie/exploitation section was super difficult to list. First off, B-movie/exploitation started out as studio pictures, then turned indie a little after the Paramount decree. Both finding significant films in the former and figuring out how to separate the latter from the indie film section were challenging. Two, what exactly is a B-movie anyway? Much of Hollywood’s current fare can be considered expensive, glorified B-movies. Three, what makes something exploitation? For example, slasher is an exploitation genre, but would Scream, a deconstruction of the genre, be considered exploitation? And what about Halloween, the film that invented the genre? Is it possible to exploit a genre that hasn’t been invented yet? Finally, there are so many exploitation genres, all of varying degrees of popularity, I couldn’t possibly capture them all (see omissions).

Okay, next topic. Requirements. Other than a fairness to film history and my own opinions, I made very little requirements on what films/filmmakers to include on this chart. One requirement I made was that all the top ten AFI, Sight and Sound directors, and Sight and Sound critics films be on the chart. This requirement added one film that wouldn’t have been on the chart otherwise: Schindler’s List (AFI #9). My only other requirements were in the Other Notable Filmmakers section. Here I included all Palme d’Or and best film/best foreign film Academy Award winners from the directors I chose for the section. I did not make this latter requirement for the whole chart because it would have resulted in too many films, many not representative of their era.

Speaking of award winning films, the percentage of award winning films that made it on the chart:

  • Academy Award for Best Film: 23% (20 out of 88) (The Godfather Part 2 was counted with The Godfather as being included on the chart)
  • Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film: 23% (16 out of 67)
  • Palme d’Or: 28% (23 out of 83) (Fahrenheit 9/11 was not counted because it is a documentary and minus a couple exceptions (see below) this chart does not include documentaries. See omissions.)

Next up, the most represented filmmakers. Since the filmmakers listed in my Other Notable Filmmakers section had all their great films presented in list form, I am not including them here. Also, be sure to check out the omissions section for further discussion on this topic.

The most represented filmmakers on the chart are:

Five films: Steven Spielberg (Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, ET, Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List)

Four films

  • FW Murnau (Nosferatu, Faust, The Last Laugh, Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans)

Three films:

  • Sergei Eisenstein (The Battleship Potemkin, October, Strike)
  • Vittorio de Sica (Bicycle Thieves, Shoeshine, Umberto D)
  • Federico Fellini (8 1/2, La Dolce Vita, Nights in Cabiria)
  • Alfred Hitchcock (Vertigo, Psycho, North by Northwest)
  • Stanley Kubrick (2001: A Space Odyssey, Dr Strangelove, A Clockwork Orange)
  • Akira Kurosawa (Rashomon, The Seven Samurai, Yojimbo)
  • Milos Forman (The Fireman’s Ball, Loves of a Blonde, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest)
  • Jean Luc Godard (Breathless, Contempt, Pierrot le Fou)
  • Martin Scorcese (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas)
  • James Cameron (The Terminator, Titanic, Avatar) (He also directed Aliens, but I chose Alien, directed by Ridley Scott, instead)
  • John Woo (A Better Tomorrow, Hard Boiled, Mission: Impossible franchise (he directed Mission Impossible II))
  • Gus Van Sant (My Own Private Idaho, Good Will Hunting, Milk)
  • Ang Lee (Pushing Hands, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Brokeback Mountain)
  • Christopher Nolan (Memento, Inception, Marvel/DC franchise (he did the Batman trilogy))
  • JJ Abrams (Star Wars franchise (he did Episode VII), Mission: Impossible franchise (he did Mission: Impossible III), and Star Trek franchise (he did Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness), talk about the ultimate franchise filmmaker)

But really the most represented person is the one producer on the chart: Harvey Weinstein. I could have included a lot more producers, like Jerry Bruckheimer, Scott Rudin, all the classic Hollywood producers, but I chose to list directors instead. However, Harvey Weinstein was so singular in developing the indie film scene into what it is today that I felt he deserved his own mention. Five films he produced/executive produced are on the chart (Pulp Fiction, Good Will Hunting, Lord of the Rings, Kill Bill, and Silver Linings Playbook) and he is also credited with introducing the world to several more (sex lies and videotape, the Color trilogy, Clerks, Fruitvale Station).

Filmmakers in multiple eras: Filmmakers whose careers last a long time will invariable span across several eras. Additionally, international filmmakers can show up in multiple eras by moving to the US or other countries that have more production resources than their home country.

I should note that I only listed filmmakers in multiple eras if I felt their films reflected the era they were released in. For example, Scorcese continues to release significant films to this day, however, the films he’s released in the Franchise Era aren’t representative of Franchise Era filmmaking, so I did not include them. However, his best films of the previous eras, which I felt were representative, were included.

Without further ado, the filmmakers with films listed in the most eras:

Three eras:

  • Ang Lee (Taiwainese New Wave, New Queer Cinema, and the Franchise Era. The Hulk is his franchise film, although Life of Pi could have been included in that era as well)

Two eras:

  • FW Murnau (German Expressionism and the Silent Era)
  • Stanley Kubrick (Golden Age of Hollywood and New Hollywood. He also released films in the Blockbuster era but none were included as other films were more representative)
  • Martin Scorcese (New Hollywood and the Blockbuster Era. Claiming Goodfellas is representative of the Blockbuster Era might be a stretch, but I say it fits.)
  • Christopher Nolan (Indie Films and the Franchise Era)
  • James Cameron (the Blockbuster and Franchise Eras, although many of his Blockbuster Era films, like Aliens and Terminator, later became franchises, so maybe he was always a Franchise filmmaker, just ahead of his time?)
  • John Schlesinger (the British New Wave and New Hollywood)
  • Milos Forman (the Czech New Wave and New Hollywood)
  • Gus Van Sant (New Queer Cinema and Indie Films)
  • John Woo (Hong Kong Action Cinema and the Franchise Era, he did Mission Impossible II)
  • Alfonso Cuaron (the Mexican New Wave and the Franchise Era. Cuaron isn’t really a franchise filmmaker, he’s more of a blockbuster filmmaker working in the franchise era, but he did director Harry Potter 3, a major franchise film).
  • John Singleton (the First Black New Wave and the Franchise Era. He directed one of the Fast and the Furious movies, but other than that, he’s not really a Franchise filmmaker. Most of his films keep their roots in the First Black New Wave, even after the era ended.)

Several other filmmakers could have been listed in two eras but weren’t. These are discussed in the omissions section.

Non Directors: In addition to Harvey Weinstein, there are a couple other non-directors on the chart. Harold Lloyd was an actor but was included because he was number three in the Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd grouping of great silent comedians, even though he didn’t direct his films (Chaplin and Keaton did). Bruce Lee was so influential on martial arts that I included him, likewise for Jackie Chan (although he did direct the one of his films – the one I included on this chart). While Harvey Weinstein is the only producer the chart, there are several director/producers, the most notable of which is George Lucas, arguably more successful for producing than directing. Lev Kuleshov was a director and film theorist who was included for his theories on montage, not for the films he directed. And finally, a couple non-directors are called out In the film history timeline. They are: Edison: inventor, Le Prince: inventor, and Brando: actor.

Female Filmmakers: There are only five female filmmakers on this chart: Agnes Varda, Ann Hui, Catherine Breillant, Lynn Shelton, and Ava Duverney. There are also only ten films directed by women on the chart: Cleo From 5 to 7 (Agnes Varda), Penitentiary (Jamaa Fanaka), Summer Snow (Ann Hui), Fat Girl (Catherine Breillant), Boys Don’t Cry (Kimberly Pierce), Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola), The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow), Selma (Ava Duverney), Pariah (Dee Rees), and Twilight (Catherine Hardwicke). This is not enough (see omissions).

Black Filmmakers: Not only is Hollywood predominantly male, but it is really white. Other than Tyler Perry in the B-movie/exploitation section and John Singleton’s contribution to the Fast and the Furious franchise, the only black filmmakers are listed in the LA Rebellion and the two Black New Waves. Yes, some of these filmmakers have transitioned to Hollywood, but unfortunately I don’t think their Hollywood films have had the same level of influence as their Black New Wave films.

Films I’ve seen: I have seen 70% of the films on this infograph. I’ve seen 95% of the Hollywood films and 92% of all US films mentioned. Waves/movements that I’ve seen zero films from: the British New Wave (I need to get on this one), the Japanese New Wave, the 5th Generation of Chinese Cinema, the first Iranian new wave, Cinema Novo (Portugal), and all of the movements that started Third Cinema (I didn’t even know about them until I made this chart). I have seen at least one film from every other movement/wave.

Documentaries, Shorts, and Animation: There are three documentaries on this chart (The Man With A Movie Camera, The Hour of the Furnaces, Now is the Time for Violence) and four shorts (A Trip To The Moon, The Great Train Robbery, La Jette, Now is the Time for Violence). See the omissions section more more on this topic.

Those are all the thought I can think of right now. Any thoughts or questions on your end, drop me a line! I’m happy to hear them.


About Gabriel Bruskoff
I make movies! See gabrielbruskoff.com for more information.

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