Amy Ryan
July 05, 2007 AT 12:00 PM EDT

How do you define a movie’s “impact”? Is it the number of later films that follow its example? Or is it the movie’s influence on the world outside the multiplex? Alas, USA Today‘s list of “Movies with Real Impact,” the 25 milestone films of the last 25 years, doesn’t bother to answer that question. The paper’s top pick, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, is certainly a great work of popular and cinematic art, but what “impact” has it had, besides on the bottom line at New Line? Yes, it spawned the Narnia and His Dark Materials franchises and made Peter Jackson a brand-name director, but I think it’s too early to judge what sort of impact, if any, LOTR will have on moviemaking or on real life. Besides, there are many other films, including several on this list, whose legacies are far more apparent.

addCredit(“Scarface: Everett Collection”)

Some of the list items are indisputable: Pulp Fiction, Do the Right Thing, Titanic, Fatal Attraction, There’s Something About Mary (the most influential comedy of the era), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (for inspiring the creation of the PG-13 rating), El Mariachi (for launching the low-budget indie boom), Crouching Tiger, The Matrix (which surely belongs higher on the list than No. 20), Goodfellas, and sex, lies, and videotape (which put Sundance and Miramax on the map).

Others are close but not quite there. Mission: Impossible IIIis on the list for showing that Tom Cruise’s career as the signaturestar of the past quarter century could suffer some damage from hisoff-screen behavior, but where’s Risky Business, the film that effectively launched that career in the first place? Toy Story is here as the first all-CGI film, but where’s Terminator 2, the film whose blend of CGI and live-action became the norm for most big-budget spectacles? The Bodyguard is here for its massive-selling soundtrack CD, but where’s Flashdance, whose integration of film narrative and music (and music-video editing) was much more influential? Fahrenheit 9/11 is here as the top-grossing documentary, but it’s had less real-world impact than An Inconvenient Truth or Super Size Me have had (or Sicko may yet have). Where’s Scarface (pictured), which became the blueprint of so much of hip-hop culture? Where are such frequently copied movies as Lethal Weapon, Die Hard, and The Silence of the Lambs?

Of course, a list like this is subjective; you surely have your ownmovies that have had a great impact on you during the past 25 years.That’s your cue, PopWatchers…

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