The Top Ten Films That Deserve The IMAX Treatment

Imax exterior 1024x797 The Top Ten Films That Deserve The IMAX Treatment

This weekend, Steven Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark was re-released in IMAX theatres for a one-week exclusive engagement. I found it to be an absolutely invigorating experience, not just because is Raiders is one of my very favorite movies, but because the gorgeous cinematography, iconic action scenes, rousing John Williams score, and incredible Ben Burtt sound design all looked and sounded better than ever blown up to IMAX proportions. I do not exaggerate when I say that, for all the times I have seen Raiders, I had never seen it like this.

In this day and age, when movies come out in IMAX all the time, it seems only natural to offer an iconic adventure film like Raiders in the format. In fact, there are plenty of classic films that would do well in IMAX. Movies with incredible aesthetics that could be enjoyed to their fullest on a giant IMAX screen in the format’s 15/70 perf. 70mm film stock. While there are probably too many deserving films to count, I have picked the ten movies I would most like to see released on IMAX, and it is the topic of today’s countdown.

These are the Top Ten Films That Deserve The IMAX Treatment. Enjoy…

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10. Seven Samurai

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While this is undoubtedly one of the best films on the countdown, I have placed it at the bottom because I have no earthly idea if a film as old as Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai is fit for IMAX resolution. The existing prints could simply be too worn out and battered to undergo the IMAX DMR process, and there’s every possibility that even if it could be done, it would look awful blown up to that size.

But as long as we’re dreaming here, I would love to see this attempted, if only as an experiment. Seven Samurai has some of the greatest, most awe-inspiring cinematography of all-time. Each shot is a gorgeous work of art, lush and detailed and perfectly composed. I would pay unholy amounts of money for the chance to study such masterful photography on an IMAX screen, in such incredibly high resolution. Plus, Seven Samurai was filmed in the 1.33:1 ratio, meaning it would fill the entire IMAX screen. Given the unrivaled quality of the film, that would truly be an enveloping cinematic experience.

9. The Godfather 

the godfather The Top Ten Films That Deserve The IMAX Treatment

If you have only ever seen Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather on home video, it may strike you as a strange film to suggest for IMAX viewing. But earlier this year, I had the chance to see the recent Coppola-supervised restoration screened in 4K resolution on Cinemark’s XD screen (the theatre chain’s smaller answer to IMAX), and can attest to the fact that few cinematic experiences are as visually powerful as The Godfather.

It is a stunningly gorgeous film, and Coppola appears to have framed every single moment with the big screen in mind. Home video – even Blu-Ray – does not quite do the film’s precise, painterly cinematography justice. An IMAX re-release would be a glorious opportunity, and thanks to that aforementioned restoration, most of the work is already done.

I very much hope this happens one day.

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8. Baraka

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I really wanted to feature Godfrey Reggio’s beloved avant-garde documentary Koyaanisqatsi on this countdown, but its sister film Baraka, directed by Koyaanisqatsi cinematographer Ron Fricke, is undoubtedly better suited for the IMAX format. Both are visual tone poems depicting the wonders and challenges facing modern society, but Baraka has even greater visuals than its predecessor, largely thanks to Fricke’s employment of 70mm photography.

70mm is extremely high-resolution film stock, and when discussing IMAX, it’s something to look out for, as IMAX employs its own version of 70mm (distinguished by its large 15/70 perforations). Baraka would therefore be perfectly suited for IMAX re-release, and though I see almost no chance of it ever happening, few films deserve the IMAX treatment quite as much as this one.

7. Lawrence of Arabia

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Like Baraka, this one is a very simple equation: Lawrence of Arabia is hailed as one of the most gorgeously photographed films of all time, partially for its innovative use of 70mm film stock. Fans of the film still agree 70mm is the best way to see the film, so much so that the film is still routinely screened in the format. And IMAX, as I have just noted, is the best and biggest of the 70mm formats, one that is much more easily accessible to most viewers than standard 70mm projection systems.

Lawrence of Arabia was practically born for IMAX, and given that it has just undergone an extensive restoration for the upcoming Blu-Ray release, now would be the perfect time to strike some massive 70mm IMAX prints and release the revered masterpiece once more.

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6. Blade Runner

Blade Runner The Top Ten Films That Deserve The IMAX Treatment

Ridley Scott’s seminal science-fiction classic Blade Runner is not just one of my personal favorite movies, but one of the most visually compelling films ever made. Scott and his team crafted an absolutely jaw-dropping vision of the future, one pulsing with life, detail, and depth in each and every frame. Bleak sci-fi landscapes are common to the genre; filthy, hopeless, decaying, and completely, utterly believable future visions like Blade Runner are singular, and I would love little more than to examine the film’s remarkable visual palate on the world’s largest screen.

Sound would benefit too, of course; who wouldn’t want to hear Vangelis’ landmark electronic score blaring through an IMAX sound system? Like Raiders, Blade Runner is coming to home video again later this year, making it the perfect time for Warner Bros. to plan some special IMAX screenings.

5. 2001: A Space Odyssey 

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While we’re discussing sci-fi, we may as well salivate over the thought of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001, granddaddy of them all, on the biggest of big screens. This is another film that was originally photographed in 70mm, and that incredible resolution has always shone through. It would look better than ever on IMAX, where one’s appreciation for Kubrick’s beautifully prescient production design and special effects would rise exponentially.

One wonders if the twenty minutes of flashing neon lights in the Beyond the Infinite segment might induce life-threatening seizures at IMAX size, but that may well be a price worth paying to see one of history’s greatest films in the best format available.

4. Star Wars

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Of all the films on this list, Star Wars is the one that seems like the biggest no brainer for IMAX. It’s Star Wars, for crying out loud. It has been released, altered, re-released, and re-packaged more times than most fans can keep track of. How has Lucas resisted the IMAX allure this long? With the film’s iconic set-pieces, effects, music, and sound design, Star Wars would absolutely kill in IMAX.

Just close your eyes and imagine the death-star run on the world’s largest screen. It would be unlike anything IMAX has ever hosted before, and that’s truly saying something. Star Wars on IMAX needs to happen. Who knows? Maybe the upcoming 3D re-releases of the latter prequels will flop, and Lucas will choose to go in a different, IMAX-themed direction for the original trilogy.

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3. Princess Mononoke

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Hayao Miyazaki’s sweeping epic of Gods, men, and animals may be the single greatest animated film of all time (its only competition being Miyazaki’s other masterpieces). It is also one of the lushest, most awe-inspiring visual experiences ever committed to celluloid, and having had the opportunity to view it on a brand new 35mm print recently, I can attest to the fact that Mononoke defines the term ‘big screen experience.’ It is, simply put, one of the most gorgeous feats of artistry in cinematic history.

With that in mind, I believe it would be a wonderful fit for IMAX. Imagine what a glorious opportunity it would be to study Studio Ghibli’s wondrous animation at that size, in such a pristine format. While blowing the film up to such dimensions would undoubtedly reveal those few minor flaws that exist in the cel animation process, it would also showcase the artistry of Miyazaki and his team like never before.

Princess Mononoke also features incredibly powerful sound design, the kind that would translate flawlessly to IMAX’s bombastic, one-of-a-kind surround systems. This is one of the greatest movies ever made, and if Ghibli would one day like to give IMAX a try, Princess Mononoke is undoubtedly the place to start.

2. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

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I find it hard to believe that the opportunity to re-release Peter Jackson’s landmark trilogy on IMAX has not been exploited over the last decade. Few movies scream ‘big-screen epic’ like The Lord of the Rings, and given the trilogy’s intense popularity, it seems like an IMAX run – even a limited one – would be a major commercial success.

But alas, The Lord of the Rings has never appeared in IMAX, and the world is poorer for it. These are not only my very favorite films of all time, but some of the grandest feats of physical filmmaking ever attempted.

Few cinematic landscapes are as lush as Middle Earth, played with astonishing natural beauty by the country of New Zealand. Meanwhile, Jackson’s unprecedented battle scenes – such as the iconic siege of Helm’s Deep – practically feel born for the overwhelming IMAX format. And the impossibly rich sound design – featuring Howard Shore’s singularly brilliant film score – would be a revelation in IMAX.

With The Hobbit coming out later this year – in IMAX, no less – a re-release for the original trilogy does not seem particularly far-fetched. Summer 2013, perhaps? I would buy my tickets this very second were they available.

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1. Fantasia

Fantasia Ave Maria The Top Ten Films That Deserve The IMAX Treatment

At the time of Fantasia 2000’s release, the idea to skip commercial multiplexes altogether in favor of screening a film exclusively on 72 IMAX screens across the United States seemed absurd. Up to then, IMAX auditoriums were mostly found in museums or zoos, and mainly showed nature documentaries or science films. I have many fond memories of these times, but back then, the thought of watching a feature-length major motion picture on IMAX sounded like a completely bold and foreign concept.

Naturally, my family had to check it out. My parents bought tickets weeks in advance. At the screening, it turned out dozens of people had driven in from other states. It was a big, big deal.

When the movie started, the reason was clear: The world had never seen anything like Fantasia 2000 on IMAX. It was an overwhelming sensory experience. We were enveloped in the sheer size and scope of Disney’s remarkable animation, encircled by the symphonic music blaring loudly and clearly from all directions, and amazed by Disney’s ability to master this format for something other than nature documentaries. It remains one of the single greatest IMAX experiences I have ever had.

And here’s the crazy part: Compared to the original film, Fantasia 2000 is a massive disappointment. The animation is less impressive, the musical choices less insightful, and the entire experience dumbed down from Walt’s original vision for an interpretive visual concert. The original Fantasia is, without question, the greatest of all American animated films, an absolute triumph of aesthetics that challenges the way viewers understand visual and aural form in filmmaking.

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With that in mind, Fantasia on IMAX would be a simply mind-boggling experience. Forget the visuals for a moment. Just consider how stirring and powerful Leopold Stokowski’s classical soundtrack would sound coming out of an IMAX surround system. It would be the closest listeners could ever come to hearing the music performed live.

And the animation, of course, would hold up beautifully. It is the most lush and detailed work Disney’s team ever attempted, and moments like the erupting volcanoes in “Rite of Spring” or the mournful procession in “Ave Maria” would take on bold new dimensions expanded to IMAX size.

Disney recently restored the film for its Blu-Ray release, with cleaned-up visuals and a remastered 7.1 audio track, meaning the film has literally never been more fit for IMAX presentation. Knowing how wonderful the sequel worked in the format, I can think of no film better fit for IMAX than Fantasia. It is an overpowering audio/visual experience on its own, but on IMAX it could ascend to a whole new level.

What films would you like to see released on IMAX? Sound off in the comments below!

Follow author Jonathan Lack on Twitter @JonathanLack.

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  • Jeremy Lebens

    Baraka, Blade Runner and Godfather for sure. My goodness those three would be absolutely marvelous.

  • David R.

    Great list! I loved seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark in IMAX format last weekend. Here are just a few films that I would love to see get the IMAX treatment: The Matrix; Amadeus; The Good, the Bad and the Ugly; Terminator 2; Apocalypse Now; The Shining; Jurassic Park; It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World