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INFO VINE * 50 Films That Changed Cinema*

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INFO VINE * 50 Films That Changed Cinema* Empty INFO VINE * 50 Films That Changed Cinema*

Post by Paul Sat 27 Jan 2024, 7:21 am

50 Films That Changed Cinema

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Photo Courtesy: [LlDayo/Wikimedia Commons]
50 Films that Changed Cinema
50 Influential Films that Transformed Cinema
50 Groundbreaking Films that Influenced Modern Cinema
50 Films and How They Changed Cinema
50 Films and How They Influenced Modern Cinema
50 of the Most Influential Films in History
50 of the Most Groundbreaking Films in the History of Cinema
50 Films and How They Transformed Modern Cinema
50 Groundbreaking Films and How They Changed Cinema
50 Influential Films and How They Changed Cinema

While countless films have been released throughout the history of cinema, many come and go and leave little, if any, lasting impact. However, there are a select number of films that have truly impacted the art form and continue to influence it today in some way. Whether these films innovated through their stories, visuals, or diversity, they have made significant contributions to the evolution of motion pictures. From 1902 to 2019, here are 50 films that changed cinema.

A Trip to the Moon (1902)

In A Trip to the Moon, a group of astronomers travel to the moon by launching themselves out of a cannon. Using umbrellas to shield themselves from the sun's rays, they explore its surface and eventually encounter a group of underground-dwelling aliens called Selenites.

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Photo Courtesy: [Archives du 7e Art/DR]

Inspired by the writings of French novelist Jules Verne, A Trip to the Moon was directed by Georges Melies and released on September 1, 1902. In addition to being the first science fiction film, its special effects, storytelling, and editing were highly influential on subsequent filmmakers.

A Fool and His Money (1912)

This silent comedy film from 1912 was directed by Alice Guy-Blache, who is commonly regarded as the first female director. The story of a man who finds a large sum of money and uses it to win back the woman he loves, A Fool and His Money featured a primarily African American cast and was one of the first films to do so.

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Photo Courtesy: [IMDb]

For many years, it was believed that the film had been lost. Decades after it was produced, a copy of A Fool and His Money was discovered in a trunk that had been purchased at a flea market. Following a meticulous restoration effort, the film was shown to the public in 2018 at Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles.

The Toll of the Sea (1922)

Starring Anna May Wong, who is widely considered to be the first Chinese-American movie star in Hollywood, The Toll of the Sea premiered in New York City on November 26, 1922. Inspired by the short story Madame Butterfly, the film is about an American soldier who falls in love with a Chinese woman and the tragedy that ultimately ensues.

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Photo Courtesy: [IMDb]

In addition to featuring an Asian-American actress in a lead role, the film is notable for being the first color feature film produced in Hollywood. It would be several decades before color features would become the norm, but The Toll of the Sea will always be remembered for its contribution to the future of cinema.

4. The Lost World (1925)

Based on the novel by Arthur Conan Doyle, The Lost World tells the story of an expedition to a region of South America where dinosaurs survive. The expedition captures a dinosaur alive and brings it back to England, where it escapes and wreaks havoc.

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Photo Courtesy: [IMDb]

The pioneering stop-motion effects in The Lost World would influence films for decades, including King KongJason and the Argonauts, and Clash of the TitansThe Lost World was also one of the first films to focus heavily on dinosaurs and would serve as an inspiration for the Jurassic Park series.

Metropolis (1927)

Directed by Fritz Lang, a renowned German filmmaker who eventually fled to America to escape the Nazi regime, Metropolis was released on January 10, 1927. Set in an urban dystopia of Art Deco and Gothic architecture, the film deals with the sharp division between the privileged upper class and the subjugated workers who keep the city running.

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Photo Courtesy: [Archives du 7e Art/UFA]

While Metropolis received a mixed response upon its initial release, its visual style has had a profound influence on subsequent films including Blade Runner and Star Wars. For example, the design of C-3PO from Star Wars was heavily inspired by Futura from Metropolis. Singer and songwriter Lady Gaga has made visual references to the film in several of her music videos, including “Born This Way” and “Applause”.

The Jazz Singer (1927)

Released on October 6, 1927, The Jazz Singer was the first “talkie”, or film with synchronized sound. In the film, a young man from a devout Jewish background defies his traditional upbringing and pursues his dreams of becoming an entertainer.

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Photo Courtesy: [Warner Bros.]

Featuring six songs performed by Al Jolson, the film’s star, it was the first musical feature and served as an inspiration for the plethora of musicals that followed it. The Jazz Singer also signaled a permanent shift in the movie industry, as “talking pictures” suddenly became the new standard.

Wings (1927)

Premiering on August 12, 1927, in New York City, Wings was a pivotal film in many ways. Released less than a decade after the end of World War I, the film tells the story of two American combat pilots who become best friends, despite loving the same woman.

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Photo Courtesy: [AMPAS]

Wings garnered considerable acclaim for its flight sequences, in which the actors flew the planes with cameras mounted to the fuselages. The realism of the film was also praised and was certainly influenced by director William A. Wellman’s experience as a combat pilot during World War I. In 1929, Wings became the first film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture, as well as the only silent film to do so until The Artist in 2012.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

The first of many animated classics from Walt Disney Productions, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered at the Carthay Circle Theatre on December 21, 1937. Prior to its release, many critics had dubbed the film “Disney’s Folly” and predicted that it would be an expensive flop.

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Photo Courtesy: [Disney/RKO Radio Pictures]

Much to the surprise of the naysayers, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs received a standing ovation at its premiere and became the most successful sound film ever made. In addition to spawning the plethora of Disney films that we have today, the success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs prompted other filmmakers to produce similar films, including Max Fleischer’s Gulliver’s Travels and Victor Fleming’s The Wizard of Oz.

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

“Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore”. This is just one of the many, often-quoted lines of dialogue from the 1939 film version of The Wizard of Oz. Based on the classic novel by L. Frank Baum, the film has become a mainstay in American pop culture and continues to be regarded as a cinematic masterpiece.

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Photo Courtesy: [Warner Home Video]

When a tornado whisks Dorothy from a farm in Kansas to the magical land of Oz, she begins an exciting journey to the Emerald City to meet a legendary Wizard who can send her back home. The story, music, and imagery in The Wizard of Oz have been referenced and imitated countless times since the film’s release, and continue to appear in pop culture today.

The Women (1939)

True to its title, The Women features an entirely female cast with no male actors whatsoever, including the animals used in the film. Based on the 1936 play by Clare Boothe Luce, The Women focuses on a group of upper-class women in Manhattan and their various entanglements.

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Photo Courtesy: [MGM Studios Inc.]

Long before the days of female ensemble films like The First Wives ClubSteel Magnolias, and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, it was unusual to have a film that focused primarily on women. Ironically, a number of men factor into the plot, but they are never shown on-screen. Despite its high production costs, The Women was ultimately a success and is widely considered to be one of the best films released that year.

Citizen Kane (1941)

Inspired by the life of media mogul William Randolph Hearst, Citizen Kane was not a financial success when it was first released. While it received some positive reviews from critics, the film failed to make a substantial profit and was viciously attacked by Hearst’s own newspapers.

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Photo Courtesy: [Hulton Archive/IMDb]

Despite its less than stellar performance, Citizen Kane was nominated for Academy Awards in all nine categories and is considered to be one of the best films ever made. The film’s nonlinear narrative structure, musical score, and visual style were groundbreaking for the time and have influenced a plethora of subsequent films, including The Asphalt Jungle and Lawrence of Arabia.

The Red Shoes (1948)

One of the earliest motion pictures to focus on the art of ballet, The Red Shoes was first released on September 6, 1948. Based on the classic fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, the film tells the story of a rising ballerina who must choose between her career in dance and the composer she has fallen in love with.

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Photo Courtesy: [IMDb]

Though its reviews were mixed, The Red Shoes became the first British film to earn over $5 million at the box office. Its vivid and impressionistic visuals, particularly in the film’s climactic dance sequence, remain one of its most iconic elements and is said to have inspired films such as An American in Paris and Raging Bull.

Bwana Devil (1952)

This low budget adventure film would have likely fallen into obscurity had it not been for one major innovation: its use of 3D. Released on November 26, 1952, Bwana Devil was the very first 3D feature film produced in color, as well as the catalyst for the 3D film craze of the 1950s.

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Photo Courtesy: [IMDb]

Inspired by true events, the plot of Bwana Devil revolves around a pair of vicious lions terrorizing railroad workers in Africa and the hunters who are sent to stop them. The filmmakers hoped that the film’s 3D visuals would bring back audiences who had been lured away from theaters by the new medium of television. While Bwana Devil was far from popular with critics, their gambit paid off and the film was a huge financial success.

Godzilla (1954)

The first of many films to bear the name of the titular monster, Godzilla was produced by Toho Studios and released on November 3, 1954. In the film, a giant, dinosaur-like monster terrorizes Japan and wreaks widespread destruction.

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Photo Courtesy: [Toho Co. Ltd.]

Reviews were largely mixed when Godzilla was first released, but its massive financial success sparked the longest-running film franchise in history. The film also pioneered a new form of special effects called “suitmation”, which involves a stunt performer interacting with miniature sets while dressed as a monster or a robot. This form of special effects would also be utilized in the 1976 remake of King Kong and the hit television show Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.

Rebel Without a Cause (1955)

In contrast to previous films which depicted troubled youths as living in slums and decrepit neighborhoods, Rebel Without a Cause explored the lives of several rebellious teenagers living in the average American suburbs. Starring James Dean in his penultimate movie role, the film focuses heavily on the generation gap between teenagers and parents.

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Photo Courtesy: [Corbis]

The film also explores the declining moral values of the younger generation and the problematic parenting styles of the older generation. Not surprisingly, Rebel Without a Cause stirred quite a bit of controversy upon its release and was initially banned in Spain and New Zealand. Even so, it set a new cinematic standard with its darker depiction of youth and their struggle to be understood.

Vertigo (1958)

Directed by the legendary Alfred Hitchcock, Vertigo tells the story of a detective who is hired to investigate the wife of an acquaintance. The film received mixed reviews when it was first released but is now regarded as one of Hitchcock’s best works and one of the greatest films ever made.

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Photo Courtesy: [Universal Studios]

The story, imagery, and musical score of Vertigo have inspired many later films, including Brian De Palma’s Obsession and Paul Verhoeven’s Basic Instinct. The film was also the very first to feature computer animation, which was designed on a military computer and appears in its opening sequence of colorful spirals and patterns.

Flower Drum Song (1961)

This 1961 film adaption of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical was the first major Hollywood film to depict a primarily Asian-American cast in a contemporary setting. The novel which served as the basis for the stage musical and the film was also written by an Asian-American author.

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Photo Courtesy: [IMDb]

The story of Flower Drum Song revolves around a female immigrant from Hong Kong who travels to the United States to marry the owner of a nightclub. While the film is steeped in outdated stereotypes and even cast Japanese-American actors in Chinese-American roles, it was still groundbreaking for its time and continues to have an audience today.

Blowup (1966)

Produced during the counterculture era of the 1960s, Blowup centers on an English fashion photographer who becomes convinced that he has captured a murder in one of his photographs. The film’s sexually explicit content was a direct violation of the strict Production Code which had dominated Hollywood since the 1930s.

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Photo Courtesy: [Warner Bros.]

The massive success of Blowup prompted Hollywood to ultimately abandon the Production Code in favor of the film rating system which is still used today. Meanwhile, the premise of someone becoming an unintentional witness to a crime would be revisited by many other films and filmmakers, including Dario Argento’s Deep Red, Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation, and Brian De Palma’s Blow Out.

Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

Based on the real-life exploits of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, Bonnie and Clyde marked a noticeable shift in how graphic violence was portrayed in cinema. From the careless killings committed by Bonnie and Clyde to their own eventual demise, the film takes a brutally straightforward approach which is noticeably lacking in nuance or subtlety.

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Photo Courtesy: [Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, Inc.]

Following its release, a number of reviewers criticized the film for its glorification of the main characters and their bloody crime spree. Even so, the film drew large audiences and inspired later films such as The Wild BunchTrue Romance, and Natural Born Killers.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)

Released on December 11, 1967, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner tells the story of a young white woman who brings her new fiancee, an African-American man, to her parent’s home for dinner. The film proved to be a box office hit, even in states where interracial marriage was still illegal.

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Photo Courtesy: [MPTV]

Though the premise of the film may seem dated and overly simplistic to modern audiences, the success of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner challenged the previously held notion that films with African-American leads would not perform well in the South. The film was also nominated for 10 Academy Awards.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

One of the most ambitious and influential films ever made, 2001: A Space Odyssey is about a group of astronauts who set out for Jupiter after a mysterious monolith is discovered on the Moon. Famous for its minimal dialogue, complex imagery, and use of classical music, the film is widely regarded as the standard for all science fiction cinema.

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Photo Courtesy: [Warner Bros.]

In addition to its financial success, the film received four Academy Award nominations and was praised for its innovative and convincing special effects. Few films have enjoyed the longevity of 2001: A Space Odyssey, which continues to generate theories and discussions about the meaning of its story and visuals.

Midnight Cowboy (1969)

The story of an unlikely friendship between a con man and a male sex worker, Midnight Cowboy was quite a source of controversy when it was released. Mainstream films with LGBT themes were practically nonexistent at the time, and due to its “possible influence upon youngsters”, Midnight Cowboy was rated X by the Motion Picture Association of America.

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Photo Courtesy: [Everett Collection]

When the film received the Academy Award for Best Picture, becoming the first X-rated film to do so, it signaled another key change in the entertainment industry. The spectrum of films that could receive the honor of an Academy Award had been noticeably broadened, opening the floodgates for new kinds of stories to be told on the silver screen.

Shaft (1971)

Starting in the 1970s, African-American men and women began to be prominently shown as heroes in film and television, rather than villains, victims, or side characters. Despite being criticized for their heavy stereotyping, these “blaxploitation” films quickly grew in popularity. The first of these films to be produced by a major Hollywood studio was Shaft, which was seen as an important step in furthering the cinematic representation of the African-American community.

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Photo Courtesy: [MGM, Inc.]

In the film, a Harlem mobster hires Detective John Shaft to rescue his kidnapped daughter from Italian mobsters. The success of Shaft saved MGM Studios from bankruptcy and spawned a number of similar films, including several sequels.

The Godfather (1972)

Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather is another prime example of a film that has become so ingrained in the cultural consciousness, that it continues to be quoted and misquoted nearly half a century after its release. Spanning 10 years, the film centers on the Corleone's, an organized crime family who were originally from Sicily.

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Photo Courtesy: [Paramount Pictures]

The Godfather was showered with praise by film critics upon its release, broke several box office records, and eventually became the highest-grossing film of 1972. The film’s depiction of an organized crime family was a marked contrast to that of previous films and has remained influential ever since.

Westworld (1973)

When the androids at a Western-themed amusement park malfunction and begin attacking the guests, movie history is made. For a few brief moments in which the audience gets to see from an android’s point of view, digital computer animation was used as part of a film narrative for the first time.

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Photo Courtesy: [MGM Studios]

The premise of Westworld, which involves a human-like machine killing people, would be explored in a different way in James Cameron’s The Terminator. The concept of a theme park running amok would be revisited by director Michael Crichton himself, in his 1990 novel Jurassic Park.

Jaws (1975)

With Jaws, director Steven Spielberg created the first summer blockbuster and the highest-grossing film of the time. In the film, a vicious great white shark attacks beachgoers at Amity Island, prompting the local police chief, a marine biologist, and a grizzled shark hunter to seek it out in an attempt to destroy it.

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Photo Courtesy: [Universal Pictures]

Nearly every major aspect of Jaws has become a staple in popular culture, including its iconic musical score. The film solidified Steven Spielberg as a Hollywood director and spawned a wave of sequels and similar films, including OrcaPiranha, and Grizzly.

Star Wars (1977)

Upon its release, Star Wars surpassed all expectations and became one of the most successful films in cinematic history. In addition to becoming the highest-grossing film ever made at the time of its release, Star Wars solidified the modern business model for Hollywood, where films are heavily promoted and receive wide releases during peak times of the year. The story of Luke Skywalker and his rescue of Princess Leia from the clutches of the Galactic Empire has become known across the world. 

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Photo Courtesy: [Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM]

Inspired by the Flash Gordon series of the 1930s, Star Wars ushered in a new era of high-concept films with cutting edge special effects unlike anything audiences had seen before. The success of Star Wars revitalized the space opera subgenre of science fiction and prompted the creation of similar films like Battlestar GalacticaMessage from Space, and Starchaser: The Legend of Orin.

Halloween (1978)

Following in the footsteps of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and Bob Clark’s Black Christmas, John Carpenter’s Halloween essentially created the modern slasher film and maintains a presence in the genre today. Despite minimal advertising, the film quickly became one of the most successful independent productions in history.

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Photo Courtesy: [Compass International Pictures]

On Halloween night, escaped killer Michael Myers returns to his hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois. While Michael stalks a teenage babysitter and her friends, his psychiatrist Dr. Loomis desperately tries to find him and put an end to his killing spree. The success of Halloween prompted other filmmakers to produce similar, low-budget “slashers”, such as Friday the 13thMy Bloody Valentine, and The House on Sorority Row.

Blade Runner (1982)

Like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner has had a profound effect on the science fiction genre. Set in a futuristic dystopia, the film centers on a human police officer tasked with hunting down a group of escaped synthetic humans, or “replicants”.

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Photo Courtesy: [Warner Bros.]

The film’s production design and visual style remain its most iconic elements and have inspired many subsequent films, television series, and video games. Furthermore, the music and dialogue in Blade Runner have been reused in more music than any other film from the 20th century.

Tron (1982)

Tron was the first film to place live actors in a digital environment, which is quite fitting given its premise. The story of Tron revolves around a computer programmer who is transported inside the software world of his computer, and his attempt to escape.

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Photo Courtesy: [Walt Disney Productions/Lisberger-Kushner Productions]

One of the earliest films to extensively use computer-generated imagery to realize its special effects, Tron has developed a substantial cult following over the years. The film also spawned a successful franchise that continues today.

The Breakfast Club (1985)

With its story of five relatable teenagers from different social cliques who have to spend a Saturday in detention together, The Breakfast Club is one of the quintessential films of the 1980s. Over the course of the film, the students gradually open up to each other and finally become friends.

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Photo Courtesy: [The Kobal Collection/Universal Pictures]

The first of the “Brat Pack” films which starred members of its primary cast, The Breakfast Club would soon be followed by St. Elmo’s FirePretty in Pink, and Blue City. The film continues to be remembered for its honest portrayal of teenagers and the challenges they face in high school.

The Last Emperor (1987)

Released on October 4, 1987, The Last Emperor chronicles the life of Puyi, the last imperial ruler of China. Based largely on Puyi’s own autobiography, the film became the first Western production to shoot in the Forbidden City, the former imperial palace in which Puyi once lived in.

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Photo Courtesy: [Artisan Entertainment/Columbia Pictures]

Since the premiere of The Last Emperor, China has continued to be a popular destination for Western filmmakers. After the film’s release, it was nominated for nine Academy Awards and won all of them.

Batman (1989)

When Tim Burton created his film version of Batman, films based on comic books were few and far between. The casting of Michael Keaton as Batman initially garnered quite a negative response, with Warner Bros. Studios receiving thousands of letters from unconvinced fans.

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Photo Courtesy: [Warner Bros.]

Despite the initial skepticism, Batman proved to be one of the most successful films of 1989. Its success paved the way for subsequent Batman films as well as the modern superhero film genre, which continues to dominate the box office today.

Beauty and the Beast (1991)

Disney had been attempting to adapt the classic French fairy tale “Beauty and the Beast” for over 50 years before they finally released their 1991 film version. The first animated Disney film to have its story developed by a screenwriter, rather than being developed during the animation process, it premiered on November 13, 1991.

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Photo Courtesy: [Walt Disney Productions]

Following its release, Beauty and the Beast was acclaimed by critics and audiences alike and made cinematic history by becoming the first animated film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. The film also became the first animated feature to win a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture and was eventually adapted into a long-running Broadway musical.

Basic Instinct (1992)

Upon its release in 1992, Basic Instinct became notorious for its graphic content and was the subject of much discussion and criticism. In the film, a detective investigating the murder of a retired rockstar becomes involved with the main suspect, a mysterious writer who may have ulterior moves.

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Photo Courtesy: [CAROLCO]

In spite of the controversy it generated, Basic Instinct has since been recognized for its depictions of sexuality, which were considered groundbreaking for a mainstream Hollywood film. Thriller films with similar themes and subject matter soon followed, including Disclosure and Jade.

The Joy Luck Club (1993)

Centering on a group of Chinese-Americans in San Francisco, The Joy Luck Club was released on September 8, 1993. It was the first film to tell a contemporary story about Asian-Americans since Flower Drum Song, which had been released over 30 years earlier.

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Photo Courtesy: [Hollywood Pictures]

Despite the critical and financial success of The Joy Luck Club, it would be almost another 30 years before another contemporary Hollywood film about the Asian-American experience would be released. That film would be Crazy Rich Asians, which was released in 2018.

Pulp Fiction (1994)

The second film to be directed by Quentin Tarantino is often regarded to be his best. Pulp Fiction premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on May 21, 1994, and won the highest prize awarded, the Palme d’Or. Set in the criminal underbelly of Los Angeles, the film takes its title from the pulp magazines of the early to the mid-20th century.

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Photo Courtesy: [Miramax]

Considered to be a masterpiece of postmodernist filmmaking, Pulp Fiction was nominated for seven Academy Awards and received a number of other accolades. The influence of Pulp Fiction can still be seen in films produced over 20 years after its release, as can its impact on independent cinema.

Toy Story (1995)

The success of Toy Story in 1995 signaled the beginning of a major shift in feature animation. Up until this point, films produced using traditional animation techniques had dominated the genre, such as An American Tail and The Lion King.

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Photo Courtesy: [The Walt Disney Company]

The first entirely computer-animated feature film, Toy Story follows two unlikely friends, a cowboy doll and an astronaut action figure, as they try to get back to their owner. The film outgrossed Disney’s Pocahontas and was regarded as one of the best productions of the year. From then on, films made using solely computer animation became more and more common.

Titanic (1997)

Released on December 19, 1997, James Cameron’s epic film about the infamous sinking of the R.M.S. Titanic utilized a combination of physical models and groundbreaking computer-generated visuals to depict the legendary ship and its surroundings. In addition to its spectacular effects, the film became notable for replacing Jurassic Park as the highest-grossing film ever made.

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Photo Courtesy: [Paramount Pictures]

Titanic had also been the most expensive film ever made, and its massive success was a surprise to those in the media who had predicted that the film would be a costly disaster. The film also won 11 of the 14 Academy Awards it was nominated for.

The Matrix (1999)

Just two years after Titanic, another film was released which set new standards for special effects in cinema. Directed by the Wachowskis, The Matrix tells the story of a computer hacker who discovers that his entire reality is a simulation created by intelligent machines.

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Photo Courtesy: [Warner Bros. Ent.]

Among the film’s groundbreaking special effects was a technique known as “bullet time”, in which the audience views a scene at normal speed as the events onscreen happen in slow motion. The Matrix was a huge success and is considered to be one of the best science fiction films ever made.

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

When it was first released, many believed that The Blair Witch Project and its story about a group of amateur filmmakers who go missing was real. The film had been marketed primarily through the internet and was the first mainstream film to do so.

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Photo Courtesy: [Haxan Films/Artisan Entertainment]

As a result, curious and terrified audiences flocked to theaters to see The Blair Witch Project, which consists of supposedly recovered footage from the missing filmmakers. The film was a critical and commercial hit and spawned the “lost footage” subgenre of horror films.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)

Based on the best-selling fantasy novel by J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was released on November 16, 2001. The film became the highest-grossing film of the year and the second highest-grossing film ever made at the time.

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Photo Courtesy: [Warner Bros.]

The success of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone proved that film adaptation of fantasy novels could be extremely successful. In the years that followed, many similar adaptations made their debut on the silver screen, including The Chronicles of NarniaThe Golden Compass, and The Lord of the Rings.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

The film adaption of the final installment in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy was a landmark for the fantasy genre and cinema as a whole. It was the highest-grossing film of the year and replaced Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone as the second highest-grossing film ever. 

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Photo Courtesy: [New Line Cinema]

The Return of the King was also nominated for 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and won all of them. Along with Ben-Hur and Titanic, the film holds the record for winning the most Academy Awards.

The Passion of the Christ (2004)

The Passion of the Christ, which depicts the final hours before the death of Jesus of Nazareth, was the subject of much controversy upon its release in 2004. Some claimed the film presented the Jewish community in a negative light, while others insisted that the film’s graphic violence was excessive and distracting.

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Photo Courtesy: [Icon Distribution Inc.]

Despite the film’s polarized reception, it was an undeniable success at the box office and is currently the highest-grossing Christian film ever made. A number of independent websites sprung up on the internet following the release of The Passion of the Christ, which furthered the discussion of the film and its impact on those who had seen it.

Avatar (2009)

In 2009, James Cameron once again topped the box office with his highly innovative film Avatar. In addition to becoming the highest-grossing film of the time and the first film to earn over $2 billion at the box office, it prompted a resurgence in 3D cinema.

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Photo Courtesy: [Twentieth Century Fox]

Those who had speculated that the film would fail were quickly proven wrong, as Avatar proved to be popular with both critics and audiences. The stunning and ambitious visuals in the film were praised due to their innovation and realistic appearance and raised the bar considerably for computer-generated imagery.

The Avengers (2012)

Upon its release on May 4, 2012, The Avengers set a new standard for superhero films and blockbusters in general. In the film, a team of costumed heroes must join forces to defeat an alien invasion. Featuring characters from all over the Marvel Comics universe, The Avengers was the first ensemble superhero film of its kind.

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Photo Courtesy: [Marvel Studios]

Like the previous films from Marvel Studios, The Avengers was a commercial success and became the year’s highest-grossing film. The film’s success prompted Marvel Studios to continue expanding their cinematic universe, resulting in a number of sequels and spin-offs.

The Hunger Games (2012)

Based on the best-selling novel by Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games tells the story of a teenage girl who volunteers to take her younger sister’s place in an annual televised competition. This competition, known as the Hunger Games, involves 12 boys and girls who must fight to the death.

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Photo Courtesy: [Lionsgate]

While some considered its premise to be derivative, The Hunger Games was extremely popular at the time of its release. The success of the film and its sequels resulted in the feature film adaptations of similar dystopian novels, including Divergent and The Maze Runner.

Black Panther (2018)

Based on the Marvel Comics superhero of the same name, Black Panther was released on February 16, 2018. It was an instant success and is currently the highest-grossing film focused on a single superhero.

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Photo Courtesy: [Disney/Marvel Studios]

In addition to starring an African-American actor, the film was directed by an African-American director. The success of Black Panther proved that African-American heroes and narratives can appeal to audiences all over the world.

Captain Marvel (2019)

Released in the midst of the superhero film craze, Captain Marvel stood out from its competition by focusing on a female superhero. While not the first female superhero film ever made, Captain Marvel achieved an unprecedented level of success with critics and audiences alike.

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Photo Courtesy: [Disney/Marvel Studios]

In the film, Carol Danvers becomes the superhero Captain Marvel while finding herself in the middle of a galactic conflict. Captain Marvel became the highest-grossing film focusing on a female superhero, as well as the first female-led superhero film to earn over $1 billion worldwide.

Parasite (2019)

At the 2020 Academy Awards, Parasite made cinematic history by becoming the first non-English film to win the award for Best Picture. It was also the first South Korean film to win an Academy Award, of which it ultimately won four. While in theaters, it received rave reviews and became the highest-grossing film ever made in South Korea.

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Photo Courtesy: [Barunson E&A/CJ Entertainment]

The recent successes of films like Captain Marvel, Black Panther, and Parasite show new levels of diversity and representation in cinema. It is exciting to think about what new innovations and progressions we will see in the years and decades to come. By looking at the history of film, we can understand where we have come from and appreciate where we are going.

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