Walter Murch, ACE is one of the few editors where saying his name is enough to let you know what he’s done, and providing a filmography or list of awards seems redundant, but…
Murch was nominated for an Oscar for sound and won a BAFTA for editing and another for sound for The Conversation. He was nominated for another Oscar for editing Julia. He won an Oscar for sound and was nominated for an Oscar for editing Apocalypse Now. In 1991 he was nominated for two separate Oscars for editing for Ghost and The Godfather Part 3. He won a Career Achievement Award from the Cinema Audio Society. Won a BAFTA, an EDDIE and two Oscars for sound and editing on The English Patient. He was nominated for an ACE Eddie for The Talented Mr. Ripley. He was nominated for a BAFTA an EDDIE and an Oscar for Cold Mountain. And he won an EDDIE and was nominated for an Emmy for Hemingway and Gellham.
That doesn’t include his other work including the re-edit of Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil, doing sound for the 1970 Rolling Stones documentary, Gimme Shelter. Writing George Lucas’ first film, THX1138. And cutting other films including The Unbearable Lightness of Being, The Godfather Part 3, Jarhead, the documentary Particle Fever, and Tomorrowland. His imdb page lists 66 films over six plus decades.
Today we’re discussing his latest work, four years in the making, a documentary called Coup 53. Walter invited me to see it at a small investor screening in San Francisco in December 2019. To understand our conversation, I’ll explain a bit about the documentary.
The title refers to the overthrow – by the British government with help from the US – of the democratic government of Iran, seemingly, purely to protect British oil interests. The film is led, on camera, by the director, British/Iranian citizen, Taghi Amirani. At our investor screening, Taghi surely knew what he had in the participation of Murch and made him the star of the screening – but Murch also actually appears in the film as the editor of the film, with several scenes shot in his editing room.
In addition to the actual coup and fallout from the coup, the film uses footage from a previous 1985 documentary: End of Empire. But, in using that footage, they discovered that a bombshell revelation by a former MI6 spy had been edited out of the original documentary. In fact, his entire appearance and multiple incredibly damning soundbites were all missing from the documentary and – even though they had all of the original footage and filmed interviews – this spy – Norman Darbyshire – was completely missing from the raw footage. AND though there was a transcript found of the interview, the actual sections used in the film had been cut out of the pages – probably with an exacto knife – leaving page after page with large redacted sections of the best parts, literally cut out of the pages. He had been scrubbed clean.
BUT, eventually a single COMPLETE transcript of his interview was located – turning the search for Darbyshire’s footage and transcripts into something of a detective mystery, which is played out in the documentary, much of it in Murch’s cutting room.
Because of the revelatory nature of Darbyshire’s missing soundbites and interview, Amirani recruited Ralph Feinnes to play Darbyshire, reading the missing comments – filmed in the same hotel room at the Savoy that the original had been recorded.
It’s quite a film.
On the night of the screening, I interviewed Murch for more than two hours. Those interviews consisted of me asking about the editing of five films Walter asked me to watch, and another series of questions I generated asking for clarification of things Murch had said in his book, “In the Blink of an Eye,” and in Michael Ondaatje’s book in which he interviews Murch called – “The Conversations.”
There was another entire series of questions I presented to him, posted by members from the editing social group, Blue Collar Post Collective. All of those will be presented in the coming weeks. Trust me, it’s a treasure trove for Walter Murch fans and editors in general.
Thanks for your patience in letting me set up this interview about Coup 53 which I recorded in January 2020 over Skype with Murch in London, where he has been editing the documentary.
HULLFISH: It’s so wonderful to talk to you again. How are you?
MURCH: Very good.
HULLFISH: Are you feeling very at home in England?
MURCH: Yes. My wife Aggie is English, and we have a home in London, but I’m one of those people who finds it interesting to be wherever I happen to be.
HULLFISH: Let’s talk a little bit about Coup 53. Thank you for inviting me to see it with you in San Francisco. One of the biggest questions I’ve got about it is: What was your input about being part of the story? You actually appear in the film, working in your cutting room.
MURCH: Yes. It grew organically — like the film as a whole. There was not a script, to begin with. We had an increasingly huge amount of material – ultimately 532 hours, the most I’ve ever had to deal with. And as the story began to condense it started to center around the mystery of why a specific MI6 operative – Norman Darbyshire – was cut out of a British documentary – End of Empire – about the Iran coup that was made in 1985 by Granada ITV Television. In the interview, he admitted that not only were the British involved in the coup but that HE was the one who was directing the coup and that he was involved in the 1953 murder of the chief of police of Tehran.
It was a kind of Khashoggi-like torture-murder situation. When MI6 found out about the interview, they asked for his whole interview to be pulled from End of Empire.
We found out about this through our accidental discovery of the original director’s copy of the Darbyshire transcript, which was given – along with a stack of other original research material – to one of the consultants on the film, who now lives in Paris. Luckily, he kept all of this in his basement.
In addition, it turned out that all the 16mm out-takes from End of Empire were given to the British Film Institute for research purposes. We managed to get access to them, and then digitise them, hoping to find the original Darbyshire film. But out of all the several dozen interviews, Darbyshire’s alone was missing.
Because this all came out of our exhumation of these outtakes from 35-years ago and because the forensics had a cinematic quality, Taghi Amirani — the director — and I – the editor – got involved, onscreen, in telling the story.
Also, early on, we both decided that the coup was such a contentious topic that we couldn’t pretend to take a God’s-eye-view of what the truth of this was. It had to be told from a specific point-of-view — which was Taghi’s — as a split Iranian-British citizen. He has dual passports and until the age of 15, in 1975, grew up in Iran. From that point on, he has lived in the United Kingdom, so he can understand both points-of-view. He appears in the film and because of this cinematic quality to the mystery, I show up in a couple of scenes as well.
HULLFISH: It’s kind of played as a detective story.
MURCH: Yes. There’s a detective aspect to it, absolutely. Again, that emerged spontaneously out of the process of making the film. At the beginning, we thought it was just going to be kind of a History Channel-type doc: “Here’s what happened story” but when we uncovered this transcript, one thing led to another.
There’s still lots about the cover-up that we don’t know at the moment. Some things have unfolded subsequent to finishing the film and we expect even more to come out once the film gets distributed.
HULLFISH: Some of the structural questions that I have are how you balanced that detective-story part with the part that’s actually about what happened with the coup. Talk to me about trying to balance those two aspects and figure out where you should be at any point in the story.
MURCH: The real focus of the film, from Taghi’s point-of-view, was to tell the story of what happened around the coup in 1953 — how it came about, what happened on a day-by-day basis — four days in August — and then what were the downstream ramifications.
The mystery part of it — the detective-story part — got us to the point that we were able to get Ralph Fiennes to come in and channel this MI6 individual — Norman Darbyshire — and in a sense recreate the interview that was given in 1983, but which had been deleted.
We tried to find the original interview footage, but we just kept running up against a brick wall. People said, “We don’t remember. No. That never happened.” We just simply had to get on with telling the story.
So we end the film with a couple of questions which have to do with: Where is that original interview? We don’t know. We don’t know really how it was taken out. We have a couple of testimonies about it, but we didn’t want the film to become just the mystery of uncovering the missing interview.
The uncovering of the mystery is interwoven in the first half of the film, but once Fiennes is in place as Darbyshire, the detective story drops away. Certain things are going to come out once the film gets distributed. There’s going to be a reaction from the people involved who are still alive and we’re making a kind of a “Coup 53.1” half-hour summation of things that happened after the making of the film.
HULLFISH: How did you start to organize this massive amount of material?
MURCH: I created four timelines — each of them about three or four hours long — one of them was simply our historians. It was just the experts: Stephen Kinzer, Ervand Abrahamian, David Talbot, and Malcolm Byrne. We called that the TBAK sequence. Talbot, Abrahamian Byrne, and Kinzer. It was simply nothing but them — in a sense talking to each other because Taghi asked each of them more or less the same kinds of questions. So I was able to take out his questions and just have them interweave with each other because each of them had different ways of talking about what happened and they knew different things — each of them contributed a different facet to the diamond, so to speak.
And then I did the same thing with all of the End of Empire archive material, which we digitized….
We had access through the BFI to all of the outtakes from that program. These are people — all of whom are now gone — so we had them talking about the events.
And then I did another sequence which was all of our Iranian voices. These are Iranians who are still alive at the time of filming who were involved in the events of 1953. And then I assembled a sequence for all of the archive material. So making the film was like weaving a carpet out of these various sequences, jumping from one “warp” to the other “woof” at the appropriate moment.
HULLFISH: And how did you build those four sequences? Did you try to do them somewhat chronologically?
HULLFISH: Then you wove the throughlines together.
MURCH: That produced a single eight-and-a-half-hour timeline. That was back in June of 2018. At that point, we were wondering, is this a Ken Burns-type “History of the Vietnam War?” Is it a four or six-part series? Or are we going to try to condense it down into a feature-length film?
It turned out we didn’t have the financial or the time resources to do the whole eight-hour series. And also it was right around that time that Ralph Fiennes agreed to come on, and he’s such a powerful gravitational attractor that once he was in the film, the film really wound itself up around him being Norman Darbyshire.
HULLFISH: You chose to cut this in Premiere. What about Premiere suits either you or suits this project in general?
MURCH: Well it was an exploration. I began digital editing using the Avid in 1995 on English Patient and then after about 7 years I switched to Final Cut. Then Final Cut did what they did in 2011, killing support for version 7. And after that I jumped back and forth between Avid and Final Cut 7 when it had become a zombie program, on borrowed time.
On Tomorrowland, I was using Avid. And when Coup 53 came up I thought, “Well, I’m interested in the different dialects — the different languages — that each of these editing systems had and I had never used Premiere,” so it was a way of investigating the program. You don’t really know a program until you’ve actually gotten your hands into it and worked on a film with it. And so I decided to make the leap to Premiere. It all worked out very well, in the end.
HULLFISH: Was your previous documentary, Particle Fever on Avid?
MURCH: Particle Fever was Final Cut 7. By that time it was already two or three years into zombie-hood and it was bumping up against the 32-bit ceiling frequently.
HULLFISH: Did you use your storyboard methodology on this film? Putting cards on a wall?
MURCH: In terms of images or cards?
MURCH: Yes. In fact, you see it in the film. Some of those scenes that were shot in the editing room, you see these colored cards up on the wall. That was how Taghi and I wrote the original eight-hour timeline — by thinking about what things are essential scenes for this story in its biggest version. And then I would cut a little card and decide on the right color and decide on the right size and then up on the board it would go. And then once we had all of them in a provisional structure then we started moving them around — seeing how we could improve that structure.
And at a certain point you just kind of leap off the diving board and start putting stuff together.
HULLFISH: You clarified my question about images or cards. So, on some films you actually take stills.
MURCH: I did this also on Coup 53. When material would come in, I would just drop little markers on frames that really seem to represent something essential about this particular shot or about this particular sequence.
Ironically, the whole origin of this idea was when I was doing preparatory material on The Right Stuff — Philip Kaufman’s film – back in 1982. What we were doing was collecting all of the archive material that was ultimately used in that film. And rather than sit there and take notes I thought, “Well, why don’t I just take pictures of it?”
Of course, back in those days, this was pre-digital, so I was actually taking photographs of the film itself on a lightbox and then developing those pictures and putting them up on the wall. This idea of doing that arose out of a documentary situation because Phil was very interested — in The Right Stuff and also in Unbearable Lightness of Being — of using documentary footage and integrating it with the story itself.
HULLFISH: Your methodology also includes — and you just alluded to it — that the cards are different sizes and even sometimes different shapes. Can you describe that or why you do that?
MURCH: If you think about the counterexample — imagine that the cards are all three by five cards and they’re all white. When you walk into the room in the morning you’re looking at a snow flurry — as Donald Rumsfeld said — a bunch of snowflakes. It’s just a bunch of similarly-sized rectangles. So to know what it is that’s on those cards you have to actually go up to them and read what’s on the card.
By using colors you’re talking to a different part of the brain and the colors mean different things to me about the emotional content of the scene. And if it’s a big scene then it tends to be a bigger card if it’s a kind of connective-tissue scene, then it’s as thin as I can make it.
And if it’s what I call a “pivot scene” or an “elbow scene” — a scene where the direction of events suddenly change — then I make that scene into a diamond shape. Graphically, this shape declares “This is a pivot scene. Things are leading up to this scene, and after this, things are not going to be the same as they were before.” In any film, there are probably six or seven of those diamond-scenes.
The ultimate answer is: when I come in in the morning and the first thing I see is a wall of color, it communicates something to me in a wordless way that every time I see it, I learn something more about the film’s structure.
HULLFISH: What are some of those colors. Can you give us some examples of the colors you use?
MURCH: Well, just pretty much as you would expect. A scene that has emotional intensity or violence tends to be at the red end of the spectrum — yellow or red. Sometimes I combine two colors in the same card. A border, which is one color, and then the center of the card is a different color. Things that are more contemplative or more informational tend to be at the cooler end of the spectrum.
I don’t spend a great deal of time thinking about it. Otherwise, you spend all your time doing cards and not doing the film. So it’s really a pretty quick, gut-level answer, “Well, what color shall I make this card? Oh, I think red with a little yellow. Ok, that’s it.”
Once I decide that I don’t reconsider it after that point.
HULLFISH: But then you’re using those colors to kind of think, “Oh man, I’ve got four red cards right next to each other.”.
MURCH: Exactly. I remember working on The English Patient. On that film, the desert was red and yellow and the monastery was gray and blue. Anthony and I would say, “There’s a whole big blue section. We’ve got too much blue here. Let’s see if we can intercept it with a little red from the desert.”
It’s just exactly the same kind of decisions you would make if you were doing a painting. You would say, “Oh, I think it needs a touch of red here” except a film is something that exists in time. But, when you look at a whole series of cards, you’re seeing the whole film in a single flash — which is a whole other interesting way of thinking about it.
HULLFISH: In the book The Conversations — which Michael Ondaatje wrote from multiple conversations with you — You talked about how editing is similar to the writer’s brain when you’re trying to organize things. That sounds like a very similar kind of writing-ish idea.
HULLFISH: Do you feel like you’re exercising different muscles when you’re cutting docs than when you’re cutting scripted narrative?
MURCH: Yes. Particularly in the early stages because of this writing aspect. When you’re editing a scripted film you are more in the position of being a musical interpreter, so to speak, of what is written. You’re the pianist playing the concerto and your contribution — particularly in the early stages when you’re assembling the film — is, “I think I’m going to land hard on this chord and I think I’m going to dance delicately and quickly through this section.” So, you’re playing all of the notes, but you’re deciding as an editor how to play, how to interpret, those notes.
Whereas on a documentary, you are deciding what notes are going to get played in the first place. You are composing, you are orchestrating. So it’s a hybrid form. You’re definitely creating something that did not exist beforehand, but you’re not doing it with words on a page, you’re doing it with colored pieces of paper and with little symbols on a screen that turn into a timeline.
HULLFISH: You’ve argued that every documentary film editor should have a writing credit.
MURCH: Yes, I absolutely feel that, having done it. It was interesting in submitting Coup 53 to festivals. They would not credit the editor. They said we don’t do that. We credit the director and the writer. The preference is just to credit the director and perhaps sometimes credit the writer. But they never credit the editor. For a documentary that’s a silly decision once you really know what it takes to edit a documentary film.
HULLFISH: It’s an odd misunderstanding of the form, for a film festival committee.
MURCH: Exactly. I think it will change over time. The onslaught of documentaries over the last 15 or 20 years is just incredible — since the beginning of the digitization of the media.
Both documentaries and animation have had this huge surge of creativity as the direct result of the digitisation of the film process. If I could talk to myself when I was at film school 55 years ago and say, “Here’s the landscape in 2020,” I think the resurgence of animation and documentary would have surprised me the most because in the mid-60s both of those forms were languishing in a relatively quiet point in their evolution.
HULLFISH: Do you think it’s because the digitization has also created a democratization?
MURCH: It’s also just given us new chisels with which to make the sculpture.
With Coup 53 we had 532 hours of material. In film terms it would have been impossible to try to wrangle that. It would have amounted to 16 tons of 35mm film. It just wouldn’t have been possible.
HULLFISH: I was with you when they were setting up the screening room for the film and you had a decibel meter with you. When you’re editing are you as fastidious with your monitoring levels?
MURCH: I check the levels every week or so to make sure nothing has drifted. I use that little $35 Radio Shack meter. It’s a wonderful — inexpensive but very effective — way to get pretty exact calibration.
I edit in a 3.1 environment (left-center-right plus sub-woofer) so you have to make sure that all of those channels are balanced against each other. And then that makes the exporting to the mix stage very transparent. If you’ve made sure that your monitors in the editing room are correct then you can volume-graph the music and export that as well.
I was rubber-banding — volume-graphing — all of the stems of the music and then we simply exported each of those stems and they came into the board in the mix and the music mixer only has to moderate the overall level. The music mixer doesn’t have to chisel around each of the words or in the narration or the sound effects. That’s already been taken care of. I have already done that in the editing room
HULLFISH: Were you temping with stuff as you went? Or did you have the composer as you were going?
MURCH: It was temped. When we brought the composer, Robert Miller, on board, we showed him the film with temp music. We did the same thing on Particle Fever. (Robert also did the music of Particle Fever) He’s a very talented composer and doesn’t mind — in fact, enjoys — the dialogue with the temp score.
Some composers don’t like to do that but in this case — given the film and given the personalities of the people involved — this was a very quick and effectively transparent way to work.
HULLFISH: What were some of the things that you temped with? How did you determine that palette of music?
MURCH: It’s a mystery to me. I have access to some music libraries and it’s the equivalent of what farmers do — or used to do — when they go dowsing for water. You grab hold of a stick in the shape of a Y and you start wandering around the farm and when you feel a tug you think, “I’m going to dig here.”
Why I decide to use a particular piece of music? It’s a mystery to me. But I’m good at it, I think. My intuitions are good. Of course, I’m always course-correcting as the film evolves.
All of the temp music I used on Coup 53 was new to me. I wasn’t reusing cues that I’ve used in the past, because of the subject matter. I was tending toward the kind of a Middle Eastern sound or a fusion sound of Western and Eastern. In discussions with Robert, that was where we wanted him to go — to find a way to fuse west and east.
HULLFISH: Were a lot of those music choices things that were from film or did you go with just interesting things you were listening to CDs and the radio?
MURCH: The latter. They’re not music cues from other films.
HULLFISH: Is temping from film scores more something you’d do in narrative?
MURCH: I started doing this on THX 1138 back in 1969. I temped the music for that film using mostly classical music but slowing it down and making it go backward and otherwise distorting it. When we showed the film to Lalo Schifrin, the composer, he said, “I love this temp. I tell you what I’m going to do. I’m just going to transcribe the temp note for note and then recreate it with an orchestra.”
There was one cue that was an exception, but in fact, that’s what he did. It was thrilling and weird to go to the recording session and see this orchestra at Warner Brothers performing — note-for-note — this temp that I did, except I know that if you take the opening of THX and play it backward and speed it up four times, it’s Pergolesi from the 1700s.
HULLFISH: One of my questions — which you’ve already proven wrong — was about when you were building Coup 53, did you build little stories and then build those smaller stories into a larger whole? But you kind of talked about this tapestry idea. Did you build what I call a radio-cut or the bones of the documentary and then cover it with visuals? Were you doing the writing part and then deciding how to make it visually interesting or were you doing that as you went?
MURCH: The visually interesting part would be what we did with animation in the film. We had the radio play — so to speak — which was the testimony of the people who were there when the coup was actually happening. But in 1953 there were no iPhones so there was no film of that event.
Whereas if something like that had happened today, as we know from watching the news every day, these kinds of events are covered by a thousand different cameras and you just have to simply find a way to get access to what people are filming.
That’s sort of what happened on Unbearable Lightness — where we used the coup, the Russian invasion of Prague — using documentary footage. But that was 1968, so in 15 years cameras had shrunk to the point that students could go out and film the Russians invading Prague, but that was not the case in 1953 in Iran, so the question was: how are we going to make this testimony visually interesting?
The idea emerged to do this kind of oil painting animation that would not try to recreate the events themselves but to invoke what might be going through the mind of the witnesses as they were telling the story – as if if you could do an fMRI (functional MRI) of their brain as they’re recounting these events, maybe that’s what it would look like.
HULLFISH: Did the structure of the documentary — or did your idea change — when Feinnes came on to do this reading? Because otherwise you’ve got this fascinating information — a bunch of transcripts that had been discovered — but you had no visuals to support them. You’re looking at these incredible transcripts and wondering, “What do we do with this?”
MURCH: Right. Well, it evolved through some stages. We went through the 14-page transcript and made selections as End of Empire did back in the mid-80s. “Oh, this is good. This is good. We can build something out of this.” And then we had Dan Farrell – my associate editor at the time – record it.
But once we knew that Ralph might do it, I used stills of Ralph to indicate where we might actually see him. And then ultimately Ralph himself came in and then his actual performance replaced those sections of the film.
HULLFISH: But was there a plan before you knew you had him?
MURCH: No. We knew that we had to find somebody to read this transcript. And we didn’t know who we were going to get, so we just had to start somewhere. As crude as it was that’s how we got started. I had met Ralph Fiennes when I was editing The English Patient, and as it turned out, Ralph had contacted me in 2018 about editing his film White Crow, and so I was thinking about him and proposed him to Taghi, who then thought about re-filming the Darbyshire interview in the Savoy Hotel.
And then luckily Ralph said “yes” and we were able to get him for an afternoon for a shoot at the site of the original Darbyshire interview at the Savoy Hotel. At the time, Ralph was starring in Shakespeare’s Anthony and Cleopatra, playing at the National Theatre right across the Thames from the Savoy Hotel!
HULLFISH: Is there anything that you do to try to keep yourself from being overwhelmed? Because this was an enormous project. It probably grew, but at the beginning just thinking, “I don’t even know where to start.”.
MURCH: There are a lot of nights when I would wake up at 3:00 in the morning saying, “What am I doing?” And on top of this is the fact that I don’t speak Persian. We had to go through a winnowing process where Taghi would do a preselect of sections that were good and then those sections were subtitled. We had a graduate student come in to subtitle them. And then I would just start working with that material.
So that was another added thing. 30 percent of the film is in a language that I didn’t understand, to begin with, and it’s such a complicated and very contentious story. It’s the old thing of a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. You just say, Well, once we begin somewhere that reduces the burden by so much and every step you take after that it gets easier and easier to deal with it. It’s still challenging, but it’s not so terrifying. I think every documentary and every writer whoever sits down in front of a computer to write a story faces the same thing: “Where do I begin? It’s such a big topic.”
HULLFISH: It sounds like one of those steps in a thousand miles was to just generate those four main timelines.
MURCH: Right. Exactly.
HULLFISH: One of the things that I remember being a revelation to me when I was able to talk to the first documentary film editor I was ever able to talk to was that they said, “Oh, I sent my director out to get these shots.”
I was amazed at the footage they had and they said, “I had to ask for that stuff.” Is that something that you did? That you got to a point where you said, “We really need you traveling in a train through Iran or whatever.” Were there moments where you said, “We need something here and this is what I think we need.”
MURCH: Yeah. But very, very few. Taghi is just an inveterate filmer of things. That was how we got to 532 hours. A lot of the film was shot using FilmicPro in 4K on the iPhone. He shot so much stuff that there was always something that I could go to.
The whole idea of sliding the cut-up transcript together with the complete transcript was one of my suggestions about how to visualize the good sections of this transcript.
HULLFISH: That was genius. I believe that when we had that screening in San Francisco when those sections slid together perfectly, people gasped. When you see the transcripts slide through each other — these cut-out holes — and they match, that’s really cool.
MURCH: It’s very simple, but simple things are sometimes very effective.
HULLFISH: I really loved the idea of weaving four through lines.
MURCH: We actually said, “This is like making a Persian carpet” because it’s a Persian story and if you think of each of these lines as a thread in the carpet — that’s how you make a carpet. We frequently thought of the film as a patterned carpet that had that kind of visual and thematic density – the warp and woof – that a carpet does.
HULLFISH: You didn’t color-code those four sequences, did you? So that you could see how often one was woven into another?
MURCH: I didn’t. Now that you mention it, I could have done but in fact, I didn’t do that.
HULLFISH: That would be really fascinating to see. Walter, thank you so much for giving your time. I really appreciate it.
MURCH: Always a pleasure to talk to you.
The first 50 interviews in the series provided the material for the book, “Art of the Cut: Conversations with Film and TV Editors.” This is a unique book that breaks down interviews with many of the world’s best editors and organizes it into a virtual roundtable discussion centering on the topics editors care about. It is a powerful tool for experienced and aspiring editors alike. Cinemontage and CinemaEditor magazine both gave it rave reviews. No other book provides the breadth of opinion and experience. Combined, the editors featured in the book have edited for over 1,000 years on many of the most iconic, critically acclaimed and biggest box office hits in the history of cinema.