Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Ten Films of the Last 30 Years That Changed Movie Making

We here at The Bucket decided to take a look back over the last 30 years to try to find which films had the most impact on Film and the filmmaking industry. We poured over thousands of titles to try and find the definitive ten films that changed the way we watch and make movies. Don't get too upset if your favorite films are not on this list. It's not just about how good the movie is--it's the impact on the industry, the art, and/or the business of filmmaking. So take a look at what we've found and if you have an opinion, by all means, let us know.

Star Wars (1977) - Merchandising
Star Wars is the standard bearer for what all adventure sci-fi films aspire to. Every one of the new generation of filmmakers has tried to, in some way, capture the fun and excitement of Star Wars. Whether it's Peter Jackson (if you scroll down his films made the list as well) or ultimate Star Wars fans like Kevin Smith. Star Wars didn't just change the culture of Filmmaking it defined it. But the main thing that Star Wars did for film was to make it a commodity. Lucas wasn't just making a movie, he was making an experience. You have hats, t-shirts, books, posters, cartoons and of course TOYS. Lots and lots of toys. When I was a kid I had the regular Han Solo, the Planet Hoth Han Solo and the Carbonite frozen Han Solo. There were a gazillion figures and playsets that kept kids coming back for more decades after Star Wars was officially over. If you haven't been living in a cave for 30 years then there is no way you can claim to have never heard of it. When I went to film school I discovered that most of the kids including myself were there mostly because of what Star Wars meant to us as children. I would say it probably is and continues to be one of the greatest pieces of marketing ever to hit the civilized world , nuff said. -Jeff

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) - Reinvented the Action/Adventure
Now you might be asking why Raiders of the Lost Ark if you already have Star Wars on the list? Cody had the same question but I explained to him that most action films from '82 till today employed the same formula of ramped up action and the quick jumps from scene to scene. If you've seen Raiders you'll notice that there are very few down time scenes it's pretty much a non-stop adventure. Looking at later films like Speed, Die Hard and even the Bourne series they all pay some homage in some way to the man in the leather Jacket and Fedora. Now if you are thinking that isn't enough to actually change the industry I will add this little tidbit for you. The sequel Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was so dark and violent that the MPAA actually created a new rating, the PG-13. In '76 Spielberg was able to create a multi-million dollar hit in his first blockbuster Jaws and he was able to re-invent the action genre again in 1981 with Raiders. In my mind Raiders set the standard for action films for years to come and will hopefully re-ignite the lagging action genre with the new Indy flick coming out this May. Where there's a whip there's a way. - Jeff
Twilight Zone (1983) - Safety Regulations
Four of the most creative directors of the time were put together to do four segments that became Twilight Zone the movie. John Landis (Blues Brothers & An American Werewolf in London), Joe Dante (The Howling and Gremlins), George Miller (Mad Max) and Steven Spielberg (Raiders of the Lost Ark & Jaws). Now most people think that John Landis actually directed the entire film and the reason they think this is because of what happened during his segment. Landis' segment was about a bigot played by Vic Morrow who gets his just deserts when he is mysteriously transported back in time and is pursued by Nazis, then persecuted in the 50's as a black man. It was when his character was taken to Vietnam during the 60's when this fictional story takes a horrific turn for the worse. While shooting a scene via helicopter Landis instructs the chopper to lower itself to get a better shot of actor Vic Morrow and two Vietnamese children. There were pyrotechnical explosions which caused the helicopter to lose control and crash. Morrow and the kids were killed in the accident. There was a trial and Landis was accused of negligence. The trial lasted almost a decade and it forced the industry to change their standards and practices when it comes to safety and security. The film itself had middling box office returns mostly due to the infamous tragedy that occurred during filming. Landis' friendship with Spielberg was forever tarnished afterwards when Spielberg learned of the cavalier attitude Landis took toward filming and that he used live ammunition on set. Twilight Zone showed the dangers of filmmaking and this is why when you watch those special features to your big budget action films you can get a sense of the over abundance of safety with almost every special effects or stunts shot. - Jeff

Jurassic Park (1993) - The Summer Blockbuster

The very first "Popcorn Movie". The movie that invented the summer blockbuster. The movie that stormed the forefront of the would-be CGI revolution that was to come. Steven Spielberg brought dinosaurs back from extinction. The SFX in the movie were so good, that they still stand up to scrutiny today, 15 years later. In fact, the effects in Jurassic Park are even better than the majority of CGI heavy films that come out nowadays. I was 14 when Jurassic Park was released in theaters, during the summer of 1993. And to this day, for me, it was one of the most viscerally intense moviegoing experiences of my life. As soon as I saw that brontosaurus revealed on the big screen, I knew movies were never going to be the same. - Cody

Pulp Fiction (1994) - Indy Film Craze

One day in the early nineties some troll faced video store geek named Quentin Tarantino decided he could make good movies. Some fat, rich, Jewish guy named Harvey Weinstein over at Miramax agreed. And in 1994 they gave us Pulp Fiction - the film, that more than any other of it's time and means, was primarily responsible for the independent film craze that started in the mid-90's. The result? Film school enrollment tripled. Big screens were inundated with edgier, artsier, lower budget fare. Major Hollywood studios opened "independent", art house arms to cash in. And John Travolta got to make White Man's Burden. - Cody

Toy Story (1995) - CGI Animation

Pixar made Toy Story in 1995 - and cartoons were never the same. With groundbreaking digital animation, Toy Story would prove to be the criterion for animated films to come. Detractors argue that CGI has taken some of the art out of animation, but filmmaking, like life, constantly evolves. And I would say CGI animated paradigms like Toy Story and Shrek, are just as artistic and creative as classics like Snow White and Fantasia. - Cody

Titantic (1997) - Huge, "Titanic", Budgets

Titanic is not on this list because it's a great film. It is, btw. Some agree, some don't. Doesn't matter. Taste is subjective. Numbers are objective. And Titanic was the first film to ever have a plus $200 million dollars budget. At the time, it was Hollywood heresy - James Cameron had lost his mind and was forcing FOX to dump more and more money into a movie that was going to implode, possibly bring down the entire studio, if not Hollywood itself!!!! What happened instead? Titanic ended up grossing oooooohhhhh... $700 trillion dollars! How did this change movie making? It taught the studios that they could spend money - a lot of money - to make money - a lot of money. Nowadays, a $200 million dollar budget for a summer tentpole film is actually considered quite reasonable and run of the mill. In fact... Sony owns the record for actually spending $260 million dollars on a single piece of crap. Well, not literally a piece of crap, it was Spider Man 3. - Cody

The Blair Witch Project (1999) - Viral Marketing

Artisan pulled off one of the biggest cons in Hollywood history. Blair Witch cost about $60,000 dollars to make. It starred three nobodies. It was shot on a video camera. It ended up making... wait for it... $240 million dollars. How did they do it? How did they convince suckers, like me, that Blair Witch was going to be a phenomenon? A little something called viral marketing. Practically unheard of back in 99, Blair Witch was the first film to truly take advantage of the internet generation. Teenagers were letting their computers run their life, so why not use the computer to convince them to go see a below average, gimmicky, murky mess of a movie called Blair Witch? - Cody

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-2003) - Integral CGI Character
My precious....With those words uttered creepily by actor Andy Serkis, and the gangly visage of his alter ego Gollum director Peter Jackson had achieved an innovative way to blend CGI and real life to create a creature that becomes a living breathing monster. If you'll look below I have added a picture of the process and how this thing works. Basically actor Andy Serkis dons this leotard type outfit that covers his entire body except his face. They also attach motion sensors all over his body to duplicate his movements in every detail from eyebrows to toe wiggle. Then they create the Gollum template and place it over the actor and fini. Andy Serkis disappears and Gollum is born. This process allows the other actors to actually interact with another human being instead of a tennis ball on a piece of PVP pipe. Honestly I'm still surprised, with all of the awards that Lord of the Rings received, that Andy Serkis didn't get at least a nomination for Gollum. The Gollum process was later used in films like The Polar Express (2004) and most recently Beowulf (2007) where the films were actually filmed with actors and then overlayed with digital people. In a sense this new technology could prove vital to filmmakers of the future when home theatres have made it difficult for theatrical release as Beowulf was attempting to do with the first in a new line of 3D films that is attempting to reinvigorate the big screen experience. None of these things would have been possible if Gollum hadn't of come along and made us all believe in this crazy little hobbit like creature that talks in the third person. - Jeff

300 (2006) - High Concept R-Rated Films
Everyone thought that sandal and sword epics were over. After bad box office displays from Alexander and Troy in 2004 everyone thought the genre was over. In walked Zack Snyder and not only did he take on the critics with a spectacular Sword and Sandal flick he bucked the studio's clamoring for a PG-13 rating. He said quite clearly that his film was based on the gory graphic novel by Frank Miller and it had to be R or he would walk. Warner Brothers trusted this guy and he came up big for them he shot this bloody epic for only $60 million dollars and what did he get for his trouble? Over 200 million in domestic sales. No one believed an rated R action flick could ever make that much money especially in March. Snyder's secret was that he took the graphic novel trappings of Sin City and went two steps further to make the most complete Graphic Novel to film hybrids ever made. With Gerard Butler leading the charge as King Leonidas he gave 300 a unique and creative approach to filmmaking as they shot the entire thing on a green screen soundstage. Now with films like the Punisher, Watchmen and Sin City all due within the next year or two, studios are feeling a lot more comfortable about the R rating now that they know that it's possible if done properly to bring in the massive audiences. - Jeff


David said...

Actually it was another Speilberg film that created the summer blockbuster.

That movie be Jaws.

Cody Dee Williams said...

Disagree. If we (and, yes, that is the royal 'we') are using the term "Summer Blockbuster" in it's current vernacular - JP set the present day standard.

Captain Mike said...

Jurassic Park didn't invent the summer blockbuster, but it was the first time the general public started looking at weekend grosses.

My own additions to the list:

Animal House - R-rated comedies aimed at an audience that can't legally purchase a ticket, and pretty much any movie starring an SNL player

The Little Mermaid - The Disney Animated musical extravaganza that Enchanted now mocks

Terms of Endearment - a million chick flicks where someone dies of a terminal illness

There's Something About Mary - Name me one movie released before 1998 with a cum joke, sight gag or otherwise

Saving Private Ryan - Every hyper-violent war movie of the last decade

Captain Mike said...

OK, 5 more...

Fast Times At Ridgemont High - The Modern Teen Movie. Without it, there would be no John Hughes, no Bill & Ted, no Clueless, no American Pie, no Mean Girls, etc., etc., etc

Pretty Woman - The Julia Roberts Movie. The woman is her own genre. Smiling JR + some sassy remarks = $.

When Harry Met Sally - Still sets the standard for romantic comedies. In nearly 20 years, it's never been topped (usually because, unlike WHMS, they forget to give the leading man any personality)

Carrie - Spawner of 2 genres - The Stephen King movie, and the Teen Slasher Flick.

The Silence of the Lambs - A million lame serial killer movies.

Cody Dee Williams said...

I really think we found the definitive 10 films of the last 30 years. We are talking about broad, industry changing films. Not just films that inspired more films of a similar genre or plot. With the exception of Raiders and 300 (the most reaching of all our choices, IMO), I think the others had wide ranging impact on the entire business and/or art of filmmaking.