The history of American independent cinema as we know it began February 5, 1919 when four of the most iconic names in silent film — Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and D.W. Griffith — joined forces to create United Artists. These artists had grown frustrated with the studios that dominated Hollywood and sought to create a company that would give each of them greater creative control over their artistic work and their futures in the business. The founding of United Artists, the first independent studio in America, was a game-changer in Hollywood that would end up shaping the next century of movies.
One hundred years later, United Artists may not get the indie attention that A24, Neon, Fox Searchlight, IFC Films, and more receive but it has a legacy that any of these companies would kill to have. Whether it’s defining cinematic franchises like “Rocky” and James Bond or a handful of titles considered the greatest movies ever made (“Apocalypse Now,” “Raging Bull,” “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”), United Artists boasts perhaps the most impressive film catalogue in American indie film history.
With United Artists celebrating its centennial anniversary in 2019, IndieWire went deep into the studio’s collection to pinpoint the 50 movies that define its legacy. Take a look at the list below, and share your favorite United Artists films in the comments section.