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Complex networks study ranks the most influential films of all time

The Wizard of Oz tops the list. The rankings are based on an “influence score” determined by how many times each film has been referenced in subsequent films.’>

Enlarge / The Wizard of Oz tops the list. The rankings are based on an “influence score” determined by how many times each film has been referenced in subsequent films. (credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)

Well, this is sure to spark some intense debate. The classic 1939 film The Wizard of Oz is the most influential movie of all time, with Star Wars: A New Hope and Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho in second and third place, respectively. That’s the conclusion of a new study by Italian scientists in the journal Applied Network Science, suggesting a fresh metric for determining a film’s success, similar to that used for scientific publications.

According to co-author Livio Bioglio of the University of Turin, the usual metrics used to measure a film’s success are inadequate for evaluating its true quality and significance. Box office receipts, for example, are affected by such non-aesthetic factors as advertising and distribution, while reviews are by nature inherently subjective. Plenty of now-classic films bombed at the box office and/or were critically savaged at the time of their release. (Ahem. Blade Runner, anyone?)

The Italian scientists reasoned that maybe the science of complex networks can help. “We propose an alternative method to box office takings and reviews for analyzing the success of a film,” said Bioglio. “We have developed an algorithm that uses references between movies as a measure for success, and which can also be used to evaluate the career of directors, actors and actresses, by considering their participation in top-scoring movies.”

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