A study by the University of Turin has shown that the Wizard of Oz is the most influential film of all time, just beating Star Wars.

Ask a critic to name the most influential film of all time and Citizen Kane might top the list. Ask an algorithm, and the answer is The Wizard of Oz.

Researchers at the University of Turin have developed a computer programme that measures the success of a film not by box office takings or positive reviews, but by how many times it is referenced in other films and how many spin-offs it engendered.

They assessed more than 47,000 films and found that The Wizard of Oz, that staple of Christmas viewing starring Judy Garland and released in 1939, topped the list. It was followed by the original Star Wars film and Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.

The algorithm used the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) website as its source material.

The success of a film is usually measured through its box office revenue or through the opinion of professional critics; such measures, however, may be influenced by external factors, such as advertisements or trends, and are not able to capture the impact of a film over time,” the researchers said, adding that their method challenges the idea that “the best movies are simply the ones that sell more, like any other product”.

Top 20 films by influence

1. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
2. Star Wars (1977)
3. Psycho (1960)
4. King Kong (1930)
5. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
6. Metropolis (1927)
7. Citizen Kane (1941)
8. The Birth of a Nation (1915)
9. Frankenstein (1931)
10. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
11. Casablanca (1942)
12. Dracula (1931)
13. The Godfather (1972)
14. Jaws (1975)
15. Nosferatu (1922)
16. The Searchers (1956)
17. Cabiria (1914)
18. Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
19. Gone With the Wind (1939)
20. Battleship Potemkin (1925)

Source: University of Turin/Internet Movie Database. Films rated by number of times content and techniques have been referenced by other productions.

They based their study on the “key intuition” that “a successful movie will be probably known and referenced by some of the successive ones, for honouring it or for trying to reproduce its outstanding performance”.

The Wizard of Oz has been re-made dozens of times in various forms, from a Tom and Jerry cartoon to the 1978 musical The Wiz, which starred Michael Jackson and Diana Ross.

It has been referenced nearly 3,000 times in other films and television programmes. James Stewart sang Over the Rainbow in The Philadelphia Story and, more recently, Lady Gaga hummed it in A Star Is Born. Dorothy’s famous line, “I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas any more,” makes appearances in countless films, including Avatar, Sex and the City 2 and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.

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