When someone ranks their ‘Mount Rushmore’ of any category, they tend to misinterpret what that means. People will rattle off their top four without really giving it thought (‘For my Mount Rushmore of women give me Emma Stone, Emma Watson, Scarlett Johannsen, and Anna Kendrick.’) Like, really, man? You’re gonna put two Emma’s and have only actresses on your Mount Rushmore and not even consider the implications that might have?
A ‘Mount Rushmore’ must represent something bigger. They didn’t just put the best four U.S. Presidents on Mount Rushmore, because that would’ve been impossible to determine. Instead, they chose them to each fill key roles, making sure their four selections make a group that looks good together, and yet also each stand well individually.
The same goes for film. There is no definitive list of the four greatest movies. Each should fill one of those same roles, as four U.S. Presidents do so well on what would’ve otherwise been an eyesore of a mountain in South Dakota. So, before we get into naming any of the faces of Movie Mount Rushmore, let’s define each of the roles.
Role One: The Granddaddy of Them All
Currently filled by the first U.S. President, George Washington, The Granddaddy of Them All is the single most important face on that mountain. Like the lead-singer of a rock band, this figure is both a member of the group, and the leader. This spot has to be filled by the movie which came first, the one upon which history shines an unblemishing light, and the one which, if you had to cut three movies off the mountain, is the one that would remain.
· Must be the oldest of the four.
· Must have a lasting impact on all those that came after.
· Everyone has heard of it.
Role Two: The Explorer
While Thomas Jefferson didn’t do the exploring himself, he did nearly double the size of the United States with the Louisiana Purchase, and thus deserves credit as the guy who pushed the limits of the U.S. This movie is known as the movie that took what we thought could be done, and went twice as far. This could be in special effects, cinematography, or even writing. The film just needs to be well known for it.
In addition, Thomas Jefferson has a lot of descendants, so we want an actor in that movie to also be known for getting serious action.
· The movie went beyond what people thought was possible at the time.
· This is a movie that almost everyone has heard of, even if they don’t like movies that much.
· A main actor of the movie slang major wood.
Role Three: The Badass
Theodore Roosevelt is a badass. In the 1880’s this guy left politics to start a ranch in North Dakota, and became a cowboy. Then he became a deputy sheriff, and would round up criminals like some kind of mustached bounty hunter. He then somehow became the Police Commissioner of New York City, and would follow cops around on their beats to make sure they were doing their jobs. Then he became Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Governor of New York, Vice President, and finally President for 8 years. Badass.
· When people think of this movie, the first thing they think is ‘that movie is badass.’
· Nobody really loves this movie because of what a great movie it was, they love it because it’s iconic. And badass.
· At least one good mustache in there.
Role Four: The Underdog
Abraham Lincoln is undeniably one off the best U.S. Presidents ever. Part of that might be that he was assassinated in office, so history is kind to him. But he is one of history’s best because he, more than any other President, was set up to fail, and came through amazingly. When he came into office, the country was falling apart, a huge population chunk was literally owned by a different population chunk, and on top of that the VP they gave him (Andrew Johnson) was so bad he later became the first President to be impeached. And still, this guy nailed it. Lincoln reunited the country, ended slavery, and probably would’ve prevented Andrew Johnson from becoming President if he hadn’t been killed (We won’t hold that against him).
· If you described the set-up to someone, they would not expect much from the movie.
· It’s amazing anyway.
· Someone in it has since died. (Preferably by assassination)
We have our four figures who make up Mount Rushmore. The Granddaddy of Them All, The Explorer, The Badass, and The Underdog. Let’s start with the most important:
The Granddaddy of Them All: Citizen Kane (1941)
This mystery/drama from the mind of Orson Welles is considered by many as the greatest movie of all time. The quasi-biographical film depicts the life of newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst through the character Charles Foster Kane (played by Welles). During the film, a reporter delves into the life story of Kane in an attempt to find the meaning behind his last word: “Rosebud.” Revered for being ahead of its time in everything from screenwriting to cinematography, Citizen Kane was nominated for nine academy awards. As one of the most famous movies of all time, the film is the perfect fit as Granddaddy of Them All. Let’s get into why that is.
Requirement One: Must be the oldest of the four.
This 1941 movie will certainly be the oldest of our four. The fact that the movie is nearing 80 years old and is still one of the most revered films of all time is why it is a perfect fit in this slot, as George Washington is still revered in much the same way.
Requirement Two: Must have a lasting impact on all those that came after.
You betcha. While many aspects of the film were revolutionary, and influence film to this day, the cinematography is what stands out most. Films today use Deep Focus, a technique pioneered in Citizen Kane. This technique of having everything in frame in focus, including the background, was revolutionary at the time and is used frequently in film today.
Requirement Three: Everyone has heard of it
Have you ever met even a moderately educated person who hasn’t heard of Citizen Kane?
The Explorer: Star Wars (1977)
Need a movie that pushed the limits of filmmaking, propelling its genre into a whole new world of popularity? Look no further than the original Star Wars. This film, which started a cultural phenomenon and broadened science fiction to be more than just a genre for nerds, depicts the tale of Luke Skywalker, a farm boy who, through a chain of events, learns his powers of ‘the force,’ helps free a kidnapped Princess, and becomes the de facto leader of a rebellion against the Galactic Empire (I just pushed the limits of sentence length). Star Wars earns our ‘Explorer’ designation because of how it pushed the limits of both sound and visual effects to a level that had not been seen before. But just to make sure, let’s see if it meets our requirements.
Requirement One: The movie went beyond what people thought was possible at the time.
At the 50th Academy Awards, Star Wars won Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, Best Sound and Best Visual Effects. The New York Times called the film “the most elaborate, most expensive, most beautiful movie ever made.”
I feel like that’s enough said.
Requirement Two: This is a movie that almost everyone has heard of, even if they don’t like movies that much.
Have you ever met even an un-educated person who hasn’t heard of Star Wars?
Requirement Three: A main actor of the movie slang major wood.
Carrie Fisher admitted to having an affair with Harrison Ford during the filming of Star Wars. Ford was 34 and married. Fisher was 20.
Conclusion: Ford slang major wood.
The Badass: Die Hard (1988)
Is there a movie more badass than Die Hard? No, obviously, or it’d be the movie for this category. The name alone: Die Hard. There isn’t a more badass movie title out there. And just for effect, I’ll point out every badass thing in the synopsis for you. This movie tracks the story of an off-duty cop (badass), John McClane, who is visiting his estranged wife at her office Christmas party, when the entire building is taken hostage (badass) by German terrorists (badass). McClane manages to sneak away (badass), and throughout the film kills off the terrorists (badass) one by one in an attempt to save everyone in the building (badass), despite receiving little help (badass) from the policeman outside the building. Sounds pretty badass, right?
Requirement One: When people think of this movie, the first thing they think is ‘that movie is badass.’
Yep. Well, people might think “Isn’t it crazy that Bruce Willis used to have hair?” but I trust that soon after, they’d think of how badass the movie is.
Requirement Two: Nobody really loves this movie because of what a great movie it was, they love it because it’s iconic. And badass.
How many Oscars did Die Hard win? Zero. How many Golden Globes? Zero. Die Hard isn’t beloved because it’s an amazing feat of filmmaking. It’s beloved because it’s fucking badass.
Requirement Three: At least one good mustache in there.
Reginald VelJohnson, portraying Sgt. Al Powell, pulls off a fantastic cop mustache.
The Underdog: Good Will Hunting (1997)
‘There’s a guy in Boston who is more charismatic, smarter, and cooler than everyone else. He gets the girls he wants, he talks his way out of anything, and yet he complains a lot, and we’re going to watch a movie about him whining about the struggles that come with being better than everyone else. Also it’s written by and starring two guys who have never done anything noteworthy in film before. And we got one of the funniest comedians ever, but we’re gonna make him play a totally serious role.’
Do you want to watch that? No. And yet Good Will Hunting is considered one of the better movies of all time. That’s because despite all the setbacks, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck managed to write one of the most compelling scripts ever, and they along with Robin Williams perform it to near perfection. The movie tells the story of Will Hunting, a kid from south Boston who happens to be a genius in everything from U.S. history to high level mathematics. The film delves into his struggles in his personal life and his lack of commitment that stem from his harsh upbringing, which he is led to discover by his counselor Sean (Robin Williams). While Will Hunting himself isn’t an underdog, the movie certainly is:
Requirement One: If you described the set-up to someone, they would not expect much from the movie.
Did you want to watch the movie based on my first description? If you did I highly question your taste in movies.
Requirement Two: It’s amazing anyway.
Though it didn’t win Best Picture that year (Titanic), it was nominated for nine academy awards, and won two: Williams for Best Supporting Actor, and Damon and Affleck for Best Original Screenplay.
Requirement Three: Someone in it has since died.
Rest in Peace Robin Williams. You gave one of the best supporting performances of all time in this movie, and have a well-earned spot on Movie Mount Rushmore.
There you have it. Our movie Mount Rushmore is Citizen Kane, Star Wars, Die Hard, and Good Will Hunting.
I’m not here to argue that those are the four best movies in film history (In case you were wondering, the answer to that is Fast and Furious 7, Fast and Furious, La La Land, and Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift). I’m saying that in the same way Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln were the group that deserved to have their faces carved into a mountain, these four films deserve their place on Movie Mount Rushmore. We have our Granddaddy of Them All, our Explorer, our Badass, and our Underdog. And they deserve your appreciation.