The 100 Most Influential People
in the History of the Movies
Part 1

by Film 100

The authors of the Film 100 Web site (discontinued and unavailable) and published book in 1998 ranked the one hundred most influential people in the history of the movies. (The Film 100 - available in book form - expanded the data originally published on the Film 100 site.)

Facts and Commentary About the List:

  • A list of film's most important visionaries were assembled, collecting only the names of those whose work and techniques had been felt by millions of moviegoers.
  • The list celebrated individuals who produced effects that directly or indirectly created changes in the way films were made, seen, distributed, and preserved. The list traced back the ripples of influence to their originators, and gave credit where credit was due.
  • Just about every inventor and scientist connected to the film industry was originally on the list, but most were edged out by businessmen who exploited their invention.
  • Notoriety or fame played no part in the selection.
  • Joint contributions were treated as a single entry, and large governing bodies like the Screen Actors Guild were not eligible.
  • Innovations that have been credited to an anonymous person were not considered.
  • The list had to be whittled down to one hundred names which meant a long and difficult elimination process, before assigning the final ranked positions. Consequently, many popular persons were not included in this compilation.
  • Following each entry are some selected or recommended films that illustrated each person's influence and innovations.

The Film 100
(part 1, ranked)

The Film 100
Influential Role(s)
Recommended Film Viewing
1 WK Laurie Dickson

Inventor of Kinetophonograph, True "Father" of Film
Monkeyshines (1890)
Empire State Express (1896)
2 Edwin S. Porter

Director, Film Pioneer

The Life of an American Fireman (1903)
The Great Train Robbery (1903)
Tess of the Storm Country (1914)

3 Charlie Chaplin

Actor, Director, Producer, Screenwriter, Composer; "The Little Tramp"





The Immigrant (1917)
Watch for the scene in the cafeteria, where Chaplin juggles three emotional plates; the love interest, the suspicious waiter, and a growling stomach. The elegant resolution of the scene shows thoughtful and painstaking story development that few directors have taken the time to work out.
The Gold Rush (1925)
To his sight gags, Chaplin adds camera tricks in this Yukon story; notably in the transformation of Chaplin into a chicken. The dream sequences of the Tramp show that pathos was not simply a byproduct of Charlie's subtle acting, it was deliberately built up through story points.
City Lights (1931)
The highest art of the lowly Tramp. This perfectly structured film puts Chaplin through the wringer, as he tries to collect enough money to restore the sight of a blind flower girl. The curbside gags are a model of economical editing. And the final scene is pure magic.
Modern Times (1936)
4 Mary Pickford

Silent Screen's Greatest "Star" Actress, "America's Sweetheart"

Poor Little Rich Girl (1917)
Pollyanna (1920)
Coquette (1929)

5 Orson Welles

Director, Producer, Screenwriter, Actor





Citizen Kane (1941)
Blink and you're bound to miss an innovation. Chock full of film firsts, this is the measuring stick of great films. Notice the absence of titles at the beginning. Listen for music that stops dead on a character's main line. Look at the details--because you can; deep focus lets you view scenes, like Susan's suicide attempt, from front to back rather than side to side.
The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)
Probably not the finished vision Welles hoped for. But there are still touches of visual beauty, fancy camerawork, and crisp dialogue in every scene. Much like KANE, this film benefits from the ensemble that Welles would never gather again.
Touch Of Evil (1958)
Considering Welles was handed a bad script, a shoestring budget, and 42 days to shoot, this is a masterstroke. Dennis Weaver puts in a surprisingly strange part, and the dingy locations upstage the actors. Don't just look at it, listen. Radio stations, intercoms, and buzzing neon lights are cleverly used to enhance the mood.

6 Alfred Hitchcock

Celebrated British/American director

Rebecca (1940)
Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
North By Northwest (1959)
Rear Window (1954)
Vertigo (1958)
Psycho (1960)

7 Walt Disney

Animator, Producer, Executive

Steamboat Willie (1928)
The Three Little Pigs (1933)
Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs (1937)
Fantasia (1940)
Pinocchio (1940)
Mary Poppins (1964)
8 D. W. Griffith

Director, Producer, Screenwriter

The Birth Of A Nation (1915)
Intolerance (1916)
Broken Blossoms (1919)
Orphans of the Storm (1922)
9 Will Hays

Executive, Head of the "Hays Office" or MPPDA (Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, Inc.)
10 Thomas Edison

Inventor, The "Wizard of Menlo Park"
MGM Screen Biographies:
Young Tom Edison (1940)
Edison, The Man (1940)

11 John Wayne

Actor, Legendary Cinema Star - the "Duke


Red River (1948)
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949)
The Quiet Man (1952)
The Searchers (1956)
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
The Shootist (1976)
12 J. R. Bray

Pioneer of American Film Animation, Inventor of Cel System
Colonel Heeza Liar (1914)
The Debut of Thomas Cat (1920)

13 Billy Bitzer

Pioneering Director of Photography




The Birth Of A Nation (1915)
Movies that ran nearly three hours were unheard of in silent days, and since Griffith was a safe shooter, tons of film was reeled into the making of BIRTH. Griffith kept the project a close secret, working only with Bitzer on most of the film. So see it with the notion that the cameraman had great influence over many of its scenes.
Intolerance (1916)
The famous spectacle gets most of its attention from the huge sets. But someone had to capture them. Master of the long shot, Bitzer often strapped the camera to the front of a car and rode along straddled over the hood through the gargantuan Babylon.
Broken Blossoms (1919)
Way Down East (1920)
14 Jesse Lasky

Executive, Producer, Impresario in Precursor of Paramount Studios
Squaw Man (1914)
The Covered Wagon (1923)
The Ten Commandments (1923)
Sergeant York (1941)
15 George Eastman

Inventor, Photography Entrepreneur and Pioneer, Manufacturer
16 Sergei Eisenstein

Russian Director, Film Theoretician, Screenwriter
Strike (1924)
Battleship Potemkin (1925)
Alexander Nevsky (1938)
Ivan the Terrible, Parts One and Two (1945, 1946)
17 Andre Bazin

French Post WWI Film Critic, Film Theorist
18 Irving Thalberg

Production Executive
Greed (1924)
The Big Parade (1925)
Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)
A Night At The Opera (1935)
The Good Earth (1937)
19 Thomas Ince

Producer, Director, Screenwriter, Actor; The "Founder" of the Studio System of Film-making
20 Marlon Brando

Actor; Exponent of the "Method" Style of Acting
A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
On The Waterfront (1954)
The Godfather (1972)
21 Louis B. Mayer

Early Film Studio Executive; Head of MGM
Virtuous Wives (1918)
22. Greta Garbo

Legendary Actress
Flesh and the Devil (1926)
Anna Christie (1930)

Grand Hotel (1932)
Queen Christina (1933)
Not her finest film, but to get a sense of Garbo's incredibly magnetic allure, it can't be topped. Despite walking around in pants, her femininity doesn't wane. The final shot of her staring into the sea is one of film's most enduring images.
Camille (1936)
Ninotchka (1939)
Leave it to director Ernst Lubitsch to strip away the old Garbo and create a sophisticated yet fussy performance that exposed her gifts for comic timing and delivery.
23 Robert Flaherty

Pioneering Film-maker, "Father" of the Documentary
Nanook of the North (1922)
Moana (1925)
Tabu (1931)
Man of Aran (1934)
24 Lon Chaney

Actor, "The Man of a Thousand Faces"
The Miracle Man (1919)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)
By the 20s, Chaney pictures were made on his terms and he had script approval power. That's probably why HUNCHBACK is stripped of its politics and left with the relationships. This fundamental example of maid and monster is the origin for all other imitations, including Chaney's own later films.
The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
Another Beast and Beauty story, but examine the stiff, slow movements of the title character that would later become standard horror characteristics of Lugosi's Dracula and Karloff's Frankenstein.
25 Anita Loos

Screenwriter, Playwright, Novelist
The New York Hat (1912)
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1928)
Red-Headed Woman (1932)
San Francisco (1936)
The Women (1939)
26 Georges Melies

French Director, Producer, Cinematic Pioneer
Cleopatra (1899)
Le Voyage Dans La Lune (A Trip to the Moon) (1902 French)
Hamlet (1908)
27 Adolph Zukor

Executive, Early Studio "Mogul"
Queen Elizabeth (1912)
28 John Gilbert

Actor, Screen Idol
Monte Cristo (1922)
He Who Gets Slapped (1924)
The Big Parade (1925)
The Merry Widow (1925)
Flesh and the Devil (1926)
A Woman of Affairs (1928)
Queen Christina (1933)
29 Max Fleischer

Early Animator (Creator of Betty Boop and Popeye), Producer, Inventor of Rotoscope
Out of the Inkwell (1915)
Popeye the Sailor Meets Ali Baba's 40 Thieves (1937)
Gulliver's Travels (1939)
Mr. Bug Goes to Town (1941)
30 John Ford

Master Hollywood Director
The Iron Horse (1924)
Stagecoach (1939)
The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
How Green Was My Valley (1941)
My Darling Clementine (1946)
The Quiet Man (1952)
The Searchers (1956)
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
31 William Fox

Early Film Executive, Distributor
Sunrise (1927)
32 George Lucas
(1944- )

Director, Producer
THX-1138 (1971)
American Graffiti (1973)
Star Wars (1977)
33 Linwood Gale Dunn
Early Cameraman, "Master" of the Optical Printer
King Kong (1933)
Citizen Kane (1941)

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