‘What’s the Big Deal?’ needs big deals

Thank you all for your suggestions for “Eric’s Bad Movies” a few weeks ago, and feel free to continue contributing ideas by posting comments in that thread. Now I come to you again seeking suggestions for my other Film.com column, “What’s the Big Deal?”

The criteria are completely different for this column. The idea behind “What’s the Big Deal?” is that there are many films the average person has heard of that are supposed to be “classics,” but that maybe the average person hasn’t seen. And sometimes you’ll watch one of those movies, expecting a classic, and when it’s over you think, “Well, that was OK. But what’s the big deal?” This column is meant to lay out what the big deal is.

My experience has been that if I plop down and watch some “classic” film for the first time, without any advance preparation, often I’ll come away underwhelmed. There’s a good reason for this. A movie from, say, 1960 wasn’t made for me. It was made for people in 1960. I don’t have the same frame of reference that the film’s intended audience would have had. So then I’ll read what other people have written about the movie and I’ll realize, oh, it was the first film to do this, or a good example of that, or it came out while this trend was popular, or while this topic was in the news, or whatever. Once I have some context, it increases my enjoyment of, and my appreciation for, the film.

Basically, I’m looking for movies that are generally regarded as “classics” or “important,” where the REASON they’re such a big deal isn’t obvious from watching it. Of course, greatness that seems self-evident to one viewer might be obscure to another — which is why I’m eager to hear readers’ suggestions for films that fall under the “What’s the Big Deal?” category for them.

Here’s what I wrote when I started the column, for further background.

Here’s a list of what I’ve covered already:

All About Eve (1950)
Annie Hall (1977)
Bicycle Thieves (1948)
Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
Breathless (1960)
Casablanca (1942)
Chinatown (1974)
Citizen Kane (1941)
City Lights (1931)
Days of Heaven (1978)
La Dolce Vita (1960)
Dracula (1931)
Easy Rider (1969)
8 1/2 (1963)
The Good, the Bad & the Ugly (1966)
The Graduate (1967)
Jules and Jim (1962)
Last Year at Marienbad (1961)
M (1931)
The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
Mr. Hulot’s Holiday (1953)
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
Nashville (1975)
On the Waterfront (1954)
Psycho (1960)
Raging Bull (1980)
Rashomon (1950)
Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
Rules of the Game (1939)
The Searchers (1956)
The Seventh Seal (1957)
The Third Man (1949)
Touch of Evil (1958)
12 Angry Men (1957)
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Vertigo (1958)
Z (1969)