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Data Reveals Most Influential Movies

If you go by ticket sales, the most popular film of all time is Gone With the Wind. GONE WITH THE WIND CLIP: “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.” That is adjusting for inflation, by the way. 

But a movie’s take at the box office is influenced by ad budgets, distribution, reviews—so box office may not be the best measure of a movie’s cultural influence. To address that question, researchers gave movies the big data treatment—by analyzing the complex network of connections between 47,000 movies on the Internet Movie Database, IMDb. 

The popular movie site tracks every time a film has been referenced or spoofed, featured or remade: all factors that indicate a movie’s influence on subsequent films. And by analyzing those connections with a handful of algorithms—including Google’s PageRank algorithm—the data scientists came up with a new number one: another 1939 flick by the same directors, which has been spoofed more than 300 times, and referenced by nearly 3000 movies:

The Wizard of Oz. WIZARD OF OZ CLIP: “Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” Dorothy’s adventure was followed by the original Star Wars, the original Psycho, King Kong, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. The full ranking is in the journal Applied Network Science. [Livio Bioglio and Ruggero G. Pensa, Identification of key films and personalities in the history of cinema from a Western perspective]

The analysis does have limitations: It favors older films, and the underlying IMDb data has been shown to be biased towards Western movies. That is, the products of western civilization, not shoot-em-ups. 

As for Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara? They still made the list, but down at number 19.  GONE WITH THE WIND CLIP: “After all, tomorrow is another day!”

—Christopher Intagliata

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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