Film professor John “J.D.” Ackman’s movie list


Students in musical “Carrie” discuss show details with director John Ackman.

Griffin Korbel, Reporter

See list of movies at the end

Movies are something people around the world enjoy and connect with every day. John “J.D.” Ackman, director of theater at South Dakota State University, believes this, in turn, has made an extensive list of movies he thinks students should watch.

Ackman was at one time the professor for Intro to Film at SDSU. He made the list in his last couple of years of teaching intro to film and decided to keep it as an additional resource for his other classes.

The list of movies is admittedly slightly outdated according to Ackman, which is evident when looking at the list; though he believes that does not discount the quality of the list.

The list itself consists of movies dated from 1924’s Greed to 1996’s Waiting for Guffman.

“I took the best picture from all the academy awards going all the way back,” Ackman said. “Other ones were from notable international film makers, people whose films the average American isn’t going to seek out.”

Included in the list is Ackman’s favorite movie is, “Cinema Paradiso.”

Due to the foreign background of the film, it is unlikely many Americans have seen or even heard of “Cinema Paradiso;” However, Ackman found it to be a student favorite. 

“There are plenty of alums that agree with me that it is one of the best films out there,” Ackman said.

The language barrier can often be difficult to get past when watching foreign films, but Ackman was adamant to break that barrier for students.

 “One thing that students learned to enjoy was that it’s okay to watch a film with subtitles,” he said. 

The list has shown to be a resource to those who want to get a broader and richer understanding

of the art.

Both present and past students have taken an interest in the list.

“I even have alums who are long gone that will call or email, ‘Do you still have that list you handed out? I lost it,’” Ackman said.

Anna Cox, a senior communication studies major from Algona, Iowa, was impressed with Ackman’s list.

“The thing that really stands out to me the most is the variety,” Cox said. “(The movies) span many years and many genres, and that’s what really impressed me.”

Isaiah Dietz, a senior theater major from Brandon, South Dakota, credits the list as the reason for watching movies such as “The Godfather” and “Casablanca,” though his favorite movie from the list is “Blade Runner.”

“I think we are such children of the screen, whether it’s the TV or the film screen,” Ackman said. “I think a lot of culture is both reflected by and shaped by film.”

The impact on fashion culture is something that Ackman has seen firsthand. 

“There was a movie called ‘Flash Dance,’ and within six months, every college kid in America was wearing that stuff,” Ackman said. “Or ‘Saturday Night Fever’ with the disco thing.”

Current Intro to Film professor Frank Robertson believes movies can also help people escape the real world.

“It’s a way to take a break from your own reality and explore somebody else’s,” Robertson said. “We live in stressful times and sometimes revisiting those old familiar movies that we love can be a comforting place to go.”

Movies are not only an escape from reality but can also be beneficial through different methods of teaching.

“It can be a great teaching tool for history if you can find a film that has a level of historical accuracy,” Ackman said. “A perfect example is a movie like Shakespeare In Love, (which) really took great pains to recreate what the inside of the globe theater would look like full of people.”

There are many ways to teach intro to film, but both Ackman and Robertson share similar ideas when it comes to their method of teaching a film class. Both took similar approaches towards teaching the fundamentals of film making, in turn, allowing a deeper understanding of film techniques and methods. Which is something that Robertson reinforced. 

“You won’t come out of the film class being a filmmaker,” Robertson said. “But you will have a broad understanding of what goes into making a film and how that film is made.”