For more than a century now Hollywood has been churning out hundreds of films yearly. For the overwhelming majority of them it's easy to ask the question, "Who approved that one?" How many times have we sat in theaters or popped in a DVD and been highly disappointed by the results? The fact of the matter is that less than 1 in a hundred films actually catch on with the viewing public because creating a popular movie is one of the hardest tricks to pull off in entertainment. But when it happens... well, the result is nothing less than life transforming. Because a popular movie enters the public mind as a tale which has the power to enlighten, educate and even thrill.
So, the next question is, what are the most popular movies of all time?
It's not as easy to answer as you might think. Because Hollywood has such an illustrious and deep history, there are literally thousands of movies to choose from. In fact, no less an authority on the subject than the American Film Institute has limited their list to just 100 entries. But on that list are some head scratching examples that do not qualify as "popular" but rather they are so outstandingly artistic that AFI sometimes turns a blind eye to how popular their picks are. Quality is their guiding concept.
But some of the lowest budget movies of all time have been hugely popular, especially in the horror genre, where the budget may be minuscule but the suggestion of horrific fear is stupendous. Think "Night of the Living Dead" or even "The Blair Witch Project" for examples of movies which cost little to make, had no major stars and yet caught on with the public for spectacular dollar returns.
Some movies seem to have "hit" written all over them even before they are made. Especially popular novels which have been brought to the big screen. But even a popular book doesn't guarantee a popular movie. The ingredients of a popular movie are hard to list. It all really comes down to a film finding its audience and staying true to that vision.
It's very gratifying, however, when a movie lives up to its hype and becomes a classic which the public seeks out in theaters and later on DVD or pay per view. Some examples of the most popular movies will cause even the most serious film student to wonder if they are capable of creating a movie which may qualify. But year after year thousands of filmmakers try in earnest to create the next blockbuster movie which catches fire with the public and tries to unseat an existing title on the year end Top 10 or even Top 100 lists.
So the next hundred years of movie making promise to deliver even more great examples of films which try their very best to have that rare descriptor so sought after by movie makers and movie watchers alike: becoming one of the most popular movies of all time.