Culture Shock: Netflix Influentials

My picks for the most influential films available on Netflix.

I’m limiting myself to Netflix Streaming because, well let’s be honest, you probably should have a Netflix subscription. I’m a walking advertisement for Netflix, so I won’t bore you with the sales pitch, mostly I’m thinking of accessability here. Many of these movies aren’t likely to be found at your average Blockbuster or Redbox, but Netflix and their partners were kind enough to make these films available for streaming.

I will tell you that when I started writing this article, I had no idea how deep this particular rabbit hole went. Regardless, I had already begun the descent. With your permission and votes of interest, I will break this list down, into more manageable chunks. We’ll start with five films today, and I won’t even tell you how many more I have lined up in order to save myself some face if it turns out no one is interested. But I’m hoping some of us out there are interested in adding a little culture to our lives… for the low price of a Netflix subscription, which we, in all likelyhood, already have.

I should also note that I’m starting with early film here. You have been warned, some films have subtitles and a few are even SILENT. I’ll give you a brief summary of what makes it influential and spend little to no time on critical exposition. I’m simply telling you WHY you might want to watch it, or at the very least, be aware of the film.

Without furthur ado… I give you,

Culture Shock: The Most Influential Films Available on Netflix, Part 1:

1.  Cabiria (1914)

WHY: This Italian film was one of the first “feature length” films ever made. Directed by Giovanni Pastrone, this film is often noted as being the first popular film to make use of the “tracking shot,” where the camera is set on a dolly allowing it to follow action (*cough*Michael Bay*cough*)and move through a film set or location. D.W. Griffith is reported to have seen this film one year AFTER he made Birth of a Nation, and was upset to note that the “Fascists” made his epic look modest at best.

2. Intolerance (1916)

WHY: A monumental film. Many film historians consider it to be the greatest film committed to celluloid. I won’t make that bold of a statement, but I will say that this doozy of a film (original release clocks in at 3 hours 30 minutes) is nearly the only thing that saved D.W. Griffith from being remembered only for his controversial views. Intolerance was Griffith’s response to criticism and charges of overt racism in his previous film Birth of a Nation (also available on Netflix, but it really is racist, FYI).

Intolerance had a monstrous estimated budget of $2 million dollars, which in 1916, was unheard of. When the movie became a flop at the box-office, the burden was so great that Griffith’s Triangle Film Corporation was driven into bankruptcy. Someone really should have showed this movie to Kevin Costner when he was filming Waterworld. “Ba-dum-bump-tssssss.”

If you’ve played Rockstar’s L.A. Noire, then you likely recognize the set of Intolerance. It’s listed as a historial location in the game. In fact, you get to visit the set in game (Spoiler Alert – Condition Why Haven’t You Played It Yet?!).

3. The Battleship Potemkin (1925)

WHY: Directed by Sergei Eisenstein as revolutionary propaganda and mostly as an experiment to test his theories of film editing. Eisenstein is credited with developing the technique of the “montage.” Yes, that’s right, the montage. It started here, with russian Bolshevik propaganda. The film shocked audiences, not for it’s overt political statements and rather for it’s use of violence, which was considered to be graphic in it’s time.

Noteworthy Scene: The Odessa Steps sequence, which depicts a fictional massacre of civilians on the Odessa Steps culminating with a mother falling to the ground dying and her infant in a baby carriage rolls down the stairs in the midst of the fleeing crowd. Perhaps the best example of Eisenstein’s theory of montage, it is often referenced in modern film, notably in De Palma’s The Untouchables, Coppola’s The Godfather and Terry Gilliam’s Brazil.

4. Metropolis (1927)

WHY: Past’s Future, Ever Present. It’s hard not to understate the influence of this film on modern film. If a film has a future metropolis in it, (e.g. Blade Runner‘s Los Angeles, Fifth Element’s New York, Batman‘s Gotham City) they were likely influenced by Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and it’s New Tower of Babel.

I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes here.. but you’ve seen this, right? Well, if you watched it before 2010 it’s worth noting that this version is 25 minutes longer than the one you’ve seen.

In 2008, key scenese were rediscovered in Argentina and the film has since been restored and rereleased.

5. Un Chien Andalou (1929)

WHY:Surrealists rejoice. While not the first surreal film, it is the first of note.

Salvador Dali wrote the script with the director Buñuel based on the concept of suppressed human emotions.

Men slicing women’s eyeballs with razors, ants crawling on hands, men in nun’s outfits riding bicycles… What does it mean? You should really not ask that and here’s why:

From wikipedia:

In spite of varying interpretations made since the film originated, Buñuel made clear throughout his writings that, between Dalí and himself, the only rule for the writing of the script was that “no idea or image that might lend itself to a rational explanation of any kind would be accepted.” Moreover, he stated that, “Nothing, in the film, symbolizes anything. The only method of investigation of the symbols would be, perhaps, psychoanalysis.”

That’s a Wrap:  I hope you’ve enjoyed this initial installment of Culture Shock and my thoughts on early influential films. As you’ve probably noticed, I’ve taken the liberty of supplying you the links to add each film to your Netflix Queue via

Please let me know what you think. If you have any suggestions or comments, please post below!


About Michael Boyd

Gaming, Movies, Science Fiction and Fantasy are my passions. Combine any two of these and I typically lose my mind over whatever that thing is. Living in the Virginia suburbs of Washington D.C. with my beautiful wife and our four legged little ones. Together, we do the best we can to improve our life every day.

Posted on July 10, 2011, in Movies and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. My internet presence is standing up and doing the slow clap here. You’ve been doing a lot more than watching Korean revenge flicks, my friend. There’s a couple films here I haven’t even heard of, and I assure you I’ll now be getting on them soon.

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