So, we’ve just finished my first go-round of A Pictorial History of the movies.
The goal here was, since I do a Pic of the Day every day, to find something cool to do with it. I came up with the idea of going through the entire history of film, from the very first films until now, year by year, and picking only one movie per year. Which is a pretty impossible task.
But I did it, I managed it, and I even wrote something up for each movie along the way. So now I’m compiling everything into one giant list. Mostly so I can use it for reference the next time I want to try this to prevent repeats from happening. (more…)
This is the defining film of 2013. I know people will say 12 Years a Slave is the film of 2013, but it’s not. Gravity is that film. 12 Years is the most important film of 2013, but it’s not the film that defines 2013.
Put it this way – how many people were really excited about Gravity before it came out? I was. Shit, I called that movie 5 stars when it was supposed to come out in 2012. January 2012, I already said, “I’m so fucking in for this movie.” It’s not like it had that prerelease buzz of something like The Avengers. Or The Dark Knight. Or Avatar. This was a movie that, unless you were paying attention to it, you knew was a space movie that was coming out.
And then if fucking blew up. This movie brought people back into the theaters. The right way. Not in that, “We spent millions of dollars to market it, so people will come out the first weekend and not afterward because it’s not very good,” way. This was the, people came out, people went, “Holy fuck, that was amazing,” and then went back to see it. And they told their friends, “Holy fuck, did you see Gravity? You need to go right now and see that fucking movie.” That’s why this is the most defining movie of 2013. (more…)
At this point, pretty much any movie that cracks the top five all-time box office upon initial release is most likely going to be considered the film that defines its year. Though, in this particular case, it actually represents a larger trend that I’ve been discussing, which is superhero movies (Spider-Man, then The Dark Knight).
Starting with Harry Potter, franchises became the major form of big budget movie for Hollywood, and they haven’t turned back since. The trend has only taken even more of a stranglehold on the marketplace since then. Now, everything that comes out has a subtitle, designed to spawn a series of films. Movies can’t be one-offs anymore.
But The Avengers actually represents a very specific twist in the superhero genre, one that will define the next ten years of Hollywood, which is the trend of world building. And that’s what we’re going to talk about today. (more…)
How can it not be?
This was the breakout hit of 2011. This came out to little fanfare, really, and then gradually, through word of mouth, became one of the biggest comedy hits of all time.
The important thing about this film is the fact that it really brought women to the forefront of comedy. It’s not that women were never present in comedy. You think of writers like Ruth Gordon and Elaine May, and stars like Lucille Ball and so on. It’s just that, over the past 20 years, women have become marginalized. They’re always playing a type, or stuck playing the girlfriend role. Especially has comedy has become… whatever the hell it’s become. That dumb, raunchy, sophomoric Apatow shit. Which is so clearly male dominated.
So the real importance of this film is that it brought women back to mainstream comedy and allowed them to do the kind of comedy men do and have a lot of people enjoy it. (more…)
I don’t even think there’s a question about this one.
It’s the highest-grossing film of all time, was the event film of 2009, and was the biggest thing in the country that everybody was talking about for a good two montsh. It’s the only choice.
To the point where, I don’t really know what else there is to say about it.
But I’ll figure something out. (more…)
2008 actually has some choices. You can legitimately go Iron Man here.
But I was around for this time. And in my experience, having lived that summer, Iron Man was a great thing… until The Dark Knight came out.
This movie absolutely, 100% defined 2008. There’s no question about it. I’m going to document what happened and how it happened in a second, but trust me when I say – no movie captured the American public, the American culture, and Hollywood, the way this one did.
It’s this movie, and everything else is playing for second. That’s 2008. (more…)
I knew this one when it happened. No Country for Old Men got all the acclaim and all of the Oscars, but There Will Be Blood felt more like the film that was going to stand the test of time.
2007 is a tough year for a list like this, because a lot of the major movies are all sequels and franchises. The highest grossing movies of the year were At World’s End, Order of the Phoenix and Spider-Man 3. Transformers was there, but let’s be serious. That didn’t define the year. Only if you’re the MTV Movie Awards did that define the year.
300 was intriguing, but that really was only big for a few months. It was popular, but didn’t define the movie year that was 2007.
Juno was an example that I almost went with, but I don’t think that defined the year at all. It just was a movie that, like 300, became a part of the culture for a little while. Superbad – ehh, not so much. There’s really nothing that jumps out at you.
So I split the difference and went, like I did with 2006, with the film that felt like it was gonna be the one that was remembered best from the year.
2006 is by far one of the weakest years for the purposes of this list. Nothing defined it.
The top ten movies were: Dead Man’s Chest, Night a the Museum, Cars, X-Men: The Last Stand, The Da Vinci Code, Superman Returns, Happy Feet, Ice Age: The Meltdown, Casino Royale and The Pursuit of Happyness.
Of all of those, Casino Royale is the only one that can make a case for it. Because it rebooted Bond and was a great movie that gave a hurting franchise new life. But did it define 2006? Maybe on a later list, but for the first one? I can’t call that a slam dunk.
Then you look at all the other movies that came out this year. Here’s what I have that can remotely be considered a choice: Borat, Children of Men, The Departed, (I’d say An Inconvenient Truth, but that would be way too cynical a choice. Plus I hate documentaries and it’s not even a good choice) Little Miss Sunshine, Pan’s Labyrinth, and Snakes on a Plane. (And the only reason that’s there is for the joke.) There are a few more I’d like to consider (like, say, Idiocracy), but I can’t in good conscience consider them choices right now. Maybe in fifteen years. But now, I can’t. Not enough time has passed.
2006 was not a very good year for definable films. And we’re not even a decade out, so it’s hard to even gauge the time factor. So, when that’s the case, just choose the one you think is going to hold up as the best achievement in film from that year. And to me, that movie is Children of Men. (more…)
Oh really? Find me another movie we talked about more in 2005.
You can’t do it.
This “gay cowboy” movie was 2005.
All the movies that made all the money are movies we barely remember now (or only remember as parts of franchises). And trust me, none of them had the cultural impact this one did.
We were talking about this movie since it came out. People had reactions to it who hadn’t even seen it. The reaction to this movie was so strong it ALTERED THE OSCARS!
You know what other movie did that? Citizen Kane. This movie is the modern day Citizen Kane. (He said, seemingly okay with the hyperbole and unintended extra meaning there.) High Noon was the same way. Either way. There’s a long history of movies with touchy subject matter losing at the Oscars.
Brokeback Mountain is the choice for 2005. (more…)
It’s hard to argue against this one. There was actually nothing we talked about more in 2004 than The Passion of the Christ.
There are three thing that will always stick out from a year for a list like this: controversy, cash, and a controversial movie that makes cash. This was all three.
Going over the biggest moneymakers of 2004: they’re all sequels. And you can’t honestly say a sequel was the most representative film of its year. (Well, you can… and we’ll get to that. But not Shrek 2 and Spider-Man 2.) This was the third highest grossing movie of the year. This movie is still the 25th highest grossing movie of all time, ten years later. Did you know that? At the end of 2004, it was in the top 12 of all time.
And honestly, anyone who lived through 2004 knows exactly why this is the choice. This is the Lightning rod film for 2004. And it’s not like there’s a film from 2004 that represents where the culture was at on a Rebel Without a Cause level. (more…)
It took every fiber of my willpower to not make this entire trilogy the choices for 2001, 2002 and 2003. Because, to me, the Lord of the Rings was what defined 2001-2003. But I felt that wasn’t quite fair, and I’d run out of stuff to talk about, so I tried to think about it more objectively. And then I came up with just Fellowship and this one, which I thought wouldn’t have worked. So in the end, I felt it was best to just have one choice from the franchise, which meant all the honor, just like with the Oscars, fell upon this one. And this one reaped the benefits of what was achieved by the entire trilogy.
I mean, think about how ubiquitous these films were during that time. They were everywhere. They were all people talked about. They got millions of people to read the books for the first time. And even more to read them again. They got all of us invested in what used to be thought of as “fantasy” and “nerd” stories. (You know what I mean. The mainstream really never accepted this kind of realm in the past. Not the way these films told it.) They were huge deals. And despite only having three films, the franchise is one of the top ten highest grossing of all time. Those three films made a billion dollars in the US alone! I don’t see how at least one of the movies couldn’t make an appearance on this list. (more…)
X-Men was really the first one that broke through the barrier, but this is the one that started the fire.
This is the one that led us down the path of the endless superhero movies. They didn’t follow immediately, but this one led us down that path.
This was the biggest movie of 2002. By far. We’re already in the middle of Lord of the Rings mania, so that’s out. And Harry Potter is already established, so that’s out. It was a weak year for prestige fair, so that’s out. This is really the only choice you can make for 2002. Everything else pales in comparison.
This is the biggest thing that happened in 2002. (more…)
I couldn’t think of any other choice.
This is one of the ten most important movies for the trajectory of cinema between 1996 and 2005.
This is the movie that kicked off the big franchise trend. And YA adaptations.
It was this and another film that will be appearing shortly that really sealed the fate of cinema as it currently exists.
Oh, and it’s Harry Potter. For anyone under the age of 30, how is this franchise not one of the most important cultural touchstones of your life? (more…)
The choice was easy. Figuring out what to say about it was not.
This was a top 12 grosser in the US in 2000. It made $128 million. That, at the time, was unprecedented. Foreign films never made that kind of money in the US.
And you look at the other top grossers of 2000 — Cast Away you can make an argument for, the whole volleyball thing. But it felt like a weak choice. Gladiator — you could, but that’s lazy. Nothing else that made money feels particularly inspired as a choice.
But this movie does. Because this movie was a really big deal in 2000. This movie almost won Best Picture. People might not remember that. But this movie was this close to winning Best Picture.
And I think that deserves a lot of respect. Since for me, the cultural landmark film of 2000 was The Patriot. (more…)
I don’t even need 500 words for this one. This movie was 1999.
This is all we talked about, this is all we cared about. This was the movie that mattered. None of that Sixth Sense crap. This is the movie.
This movie revolutionized the action movie for the new millennium. It revolutionized special effects.
No matter what you want to say, this movie is the only film that you can choose that represents 1999. If there were only a single choice to be had, and everyone were given a chance to select their choice for what that film would be – this would have over a 90% selection ratio.
Strangely, it was between this and Armageddon. Just because I can still think of how often I heard that Aerosmith song that year.
But this is really the choice. It’s a movie that’s absolutely astounding, from the opening shot until the end. (A lot of people say it has third act problems, but whatever.)
This is Steven Spielberg’s first “serious” entry on this list. He’s actually on here five times total, which is insane (but Jaws, Raiders, E.T. and Jurassic Park were also legitimately the films from their years). But some directors are just like that. I’m not gonna choose someone else unless there’s another legitimate choice. And here, I don’t think there’s a legitimate choice.
This one might not hold up as much as Titanic on the culture scale. Titanic was everywhere that year. This one holds up on the empirical evidence side of things.
It won a bunch of Oscars, was actually the highest grossing movie of the year, and has held up as an instant classic that continues to be watched and loved by all. Why wouldn’t it be the choice? (more…)
Yes, I’m seriously going to leave that song as the only thing I say about this movie.
Because do you people remember the six months after this movie came out? Do you remember any other song playing everywhere you went?
I rest my case.
Embrace the piccolo, people. You know this was 1997 for all of us.
Was this not the most representative film of 1996?
You’ve got a friend in me
You’ve got a friend in me
When the road looks rough ahead
And you’re miles and miles from your nice warm bed
You just remember what your old pal said
Boy you’ve got a friend in me
Yeah you’ve got a friend in me
It has to be Toy Story. (more…)
Immediately looking at 1994, the choice instantly becomes between Pulp Fiction, Forrest Gump, and The Shawshank Redemption. Shawshank isn’t really a choice, because that film only gained its stature later. So the rationale for the choice becomes such: Forrest Gump made more money and won all the Oscars, but Pulp Fiction so completely and utterly changed the face of cinema that it’s really the only choice I could have made.
The amount of knock-offs of this movie that appeared over the following decade after this came out is enough to top any case all other 1994 movies could possibly have.
Honestly, this choice is really between Forrest Gump and Pulp Fiction. I’d even say Lion King is more representative of 1994 than Shawshank is. That’s just the honest truth.
But Pulp Fiction impacted cinema in so much more a lasting way than Forrest Gump did, and I think we have to acknowledge that in this choice. (more…)
Oh, you thought this was gonna be Schindler’s List, didn’t you?
Schindler’s List is the classy choice, and the one people would automatically pick because they think they’ll be considered insensitive about the Holocaust.
But it’s not the most representative film of 1993.
That title would go to Steven Spielberg’s other entry for 1993. A film that became the highest grossing film of all time after it was released, and is fucking badass all around.
Trust me, it’s the choice. And I will prove it to you thusly: (more…)
Who saw this one coming?
I didn’t. I can’t imagine any of you did.
I was pretty stuck for this year for a while. Because Unforgiven is great, but it doesn’t exemplify 1992. Wayne’s World is the same. I thought about A League of Their Own, but no. Basic Instinct was one I seriously considered. The Crying Game was probably the alternate here.
But… The Bodyguard was the second-highest grosser of the year, behind Aladdin.
And “I Will Always Love You”? Despite being a cover, it was number one on the Billboard chart for 14 weeks. Got that? 14 weeks.
The Bodyguard is the choice for 1992. (more…)