40. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Director: Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez
Stars: Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams, Joshua Leonard
If, 20 years from now, you find yourself in the bind of having to explain how found footage became the technique in horror movies, you have to trace it back to the source, to the little indie that did, The Blair Witch Project.
Released in 1999, the film wanted you to see it as non-fiction, the actual record of three students pursuing a local legend in Maryland. (Yes, this is also the film that has got you into countless arguments with dummies who think that recent incarnations of Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Paranormal Activity are based on true events.) Costing less than a million dollars, The Blair Witch Project went on to gross about 250 times that amount.
This is the model for countless films, and to be an informed, developed viewer of film, you have to go back to the blueprint. —RS