History of Film Timeline
(http://www.filmsite.org/milestones.html - accessed 09.06.10)
Pre-1900s - Part 1
Year Event and Significance
The Greek Aristotle was the first to observe and describe how he saw a light after-
effect: a persistent image (that slowly faded away) after he gazed into the sun.
The Roman poet and philosopher Titus Lucretius Carus described the principle of
persistence of vision - the optical effect of continuous motion produced when a
series of sequential images were displayed, with each image lasting only
The Greek astronomer and geographer Ptolemy of Alexandria discovered (and
proved) Lucretius' principle of persistence of vision.
Belgian optician and showman Etienne Gaspard Robertson's Phantasmagoria - a
kind of amusement 'horror show' designed to frighten audiences that became popular
late in Europe. He produced the show with a 'magic lantern' on wheels (which he called a
1790s Phantascope or Fantascope), usually out of view of the audience, to project ghostly-
looking, illusory images that changed shape and size, onto smoke or onto a
The Frenchman Peter Mark Roget (famed as the author of Roget's Thesaurus)
rediscovered the persistence of vision principle.
The Belgian scientist Joseph Antoine Ferdinand Plateau, who had studied the
phenomenon of persistence of vision, developed a spindle viewer or spinning wheel
called a phenakistoscope (aka Fantascope or Magic Wheel), the first device that
allowed pictures to appear to move - and considered the precursor of an animated
film (or movie). [The device was simultaneously invented by Austrian Simon von
William George Horner invented the first zoetrope (which he called a daedalum or
daedatelum), based upon Plateau's phenakistoscope. It was a very crude, mechanical
1834 form of a motion picture 'projector' that consisted of a drum that contained a set of
still images. When it was turned in a circular fashion, it created the illusion of
The zoetrope, another animation toy, was invented by French inventor Pierre
British photographer Eadweard Muybridge took the first successful photographs of
motion, producing his multiple image sequences analyzing human and animal
locomotion. California senator Leland Stanford commissioned Muybridge to
determine whether the 4 legs of a galloping horse left the ground at the same time,
1872- so he set up 24 still cameras along a racetrack. As a horse ran by the cameras, the
1878 horse broke strings which were hooked up to each camera's shutter, thereby
activating the shutter of each camera, capturing the image and exposing the film.
Soon after, the photographs were projected in succession with a viewing device
called a Zoogyroscope (aka Zoopraxiscope). Viewing the photos in sequence
comprised a primitive movie.
The praxinoscope (which refined the long-established zoetrope with mirrors rather
than slots) was invented and patented by the Frenchman Emile Reynaud. In 1892,
Reynaud opened his Theatre Optique in Paris with a theatrical form of his 'movie or
animation' device designed for public performances. The device reflected out, in
long segments, the sequential, hand-painted drawings that were on long broad strips
inside the drum.
Etienne Jules Marey in France developed a chronophotographic camera, shaped like
1882 a gun and referred to as a "shotgun" camera, that could take twelve successive
pictures or images per second.
Pioneering British inventor William Friese-Greene collaborated with John Rudge to
make an enhanced magic lantern, one of the earliest motion picture cameras and
projectors, termed a Biophantascope, to project photographic plates in rapid
succession. He claimed to have sent Thomas Edison (who denied receiving
1886 anything) details of his camera designs, but received no replies. In 1890, Friese-
Greene received a patent for his 'chronophotographic' camera, capable of taking up
to ten photographs per second using perforated celluloid film, but his experiments
met with limited success, unlike Edison. However, he became the first man to ever
witness moving pictures on a screen.
Daeida, the wife of real-estate developer Harvey Henderson Wilcox, named her
ranch in Cahuenga Valley "Hollywood". [Another origin, though probably
inaccurate, of the "Hollywood" name may be from the toyon, popularly known as
Nitrate celluloid film (a chemical combination of gun cotton and gum camphor) was
invented by American clergyman Hannibal W. Goodwin.
Edison filed his first caveat (a Patent Office document) in which he declared his
1888 work on future inventions, anticipating filling out a complete patent application for
his Kinetoscope and Kinetograph (a motion picture camera).
George Eastman introduced the lightweight, inexpensive "Kodak" camera, using
1888 paper photographic film wound on rollers, and registered the trademarked name
French inventor Louis Augustin Le Prince developed a single-lens camera which he
used to make the very first moving picture sequences (of traffic on a Leeds, England
1888 bridge), by moving the film through a camera's sprocket wheels by grabbing the
film's perforations. Presumably, it was the first movie ever shot and then shown to
Pre-1900s - Part 2
Year Event and Significance
Henry Reichenbach developed (and patented) durable and flexible celluloid film
1889 strips (or roll film) to be manufactured by the pioneer of photographic equipment,
George Eastman, and his Eastman Company.
William Kennedy Laurie Dickson, commissioned by Thomas Alva Edison, built the
first modern motion-picture camera and named it the Kinetograph.
William K.L. Dickson filmed his first experimental Kinetoscope trial film,
Monkeyshines No. 1, the only surviving film from the cylinder kinetoscope, and
apparently the first motion picture ever produced on photographic film in the United
States. It featured the movement of laboratory assistant Sacco Albanese, filmed with
a system using tiny images that rotated around the cylinder.
Thomas Edison and his assistant W.K.L. Dickson also developed or invented the
Kinetoscope, a single-viewer peep-show device in which film was moved past a
light. The first public demonstration of motion pictures in the US using the
Kinetoscope occurred at the Edison Laboratories to the Federation of Women‟s
Clubs on May 20, 1891. The very short film‟s subject in the test footage, titled
Dickson Greeting, was William K.L. Dickson himself, bowing, smiling and
ceremoniously taking off his hat. Edison filed for a patent for the Kinetoscope in
1891, granted in 1893. On Saturday, April 14, 1894, a refined version of Edison's
Kinetoscope began commercial operation.
The Limelight Department, one of the world's first film studios, was officially
established in Melbourne, Australia. In the next nine years, it produced arguably the
June, first feature-length film (a series of 13 films titled Soldiers of the Cross (1900)
1892 delivered as a 'multi-media' presentation of songs, slides, films and scripture) and
documentary film (the Federation of Australia ceremony (January 1, 1901)) in the
Thomas Edison displayed 'his' Kinetoscope projector at the World's Columbian
Exhibition in Chicago and received patents for his movie camera, the Kinetograph,
and his peepshow device. Edison also held the first public exhibition of films shot
using his Kinetograph at the Brooklyn Institute in early May.
Edison constructed the world's first motion picture studio in New Jersey, a
1893 Kinetograph production center nicknamed the Black Maria (slang for a police van),
on February 1, 1893, at a cost of $637.67.
Fred Ott's Sneeze (aka Edison Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze), the first film made
1894 in Edison's Kinetograph (the Black Maria) in 1893 and noted for the first medium-
closeup, became the first film officially copyrighted on January 7.
The earliest color hand-tinted films ever publically-released were Annabelle
Butterfly Dance (1894), Annabelle Sun Dance (1894), and Annabelle Serpentine
Dance (1895) featuring the dancing of vaudeville-music hall performer Annabelle
Whitford (known as Peerless Annabelle) Moore, whose routines were filmed at
Edison's studio in New Jersey. Male audiences were enthralled watching these early
depictions of a clothed female dancer (sometimes color-tinted) on a Kinetoscope - an
early peep-show device for projecting short films.
The first Kinetoscope parlor, consisting of a row of coin-operated kinetoscopes
(single-viewer, peep show device) opened at 1155 Broadway (in a converted shoe
store) in New York City for business on April 14, 1894 -- it was called the Holland
April 14, Brothers' Kinetoscope Parlor. The first commercial presentation of a motion picture
1894 took place here. The mostly male audience was entertained by a single loop reel
depicting clothed female dancers, sparring boxers and body builders, animal acts and
everyday scenes. Soon, peep show parlors were set up in penny arcades, hotel
lobbies, and phonograph parlors in major cities across the US.
The first public testing and demonstration of the Lumieres' camera-projector system
(the Cinematographe) in their basement. During the private screening - a trial run for
March their public screening later in the year (see below), the Lumieres caused a sensation
22, 1895 with their first film, Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory (La Sortie des Ouviers de
L'Usine Lumiere a Lyon), although it only consisted of an everyday outdoor image -
factory workers leaving the Lumiere factory gate for home or for a lunch break.
In New York on Frankfort Street, a device called the Eidoloscope Projector (aka the
Pantoptikon) was demonstrated for the NY press by Woodville Latham - one of the
April 21, first public exhibitions of motion pictures in the world. Latham was credited with the
1895 "Latham Loop" - a feature of movie projectors involving a loop to feed the film
smoothly. (This showing preceded the landmark exhibition of the Lumieres in Paris
by about eight months. See below.)
A filmed boxing match between Australian fighter Albert Griffiths (Young Griffo)
and Barnett, titled Young Griffo v. Battling Charles Barnett (filmed on the roof of
Madison Square Garden on May 4, 1895 by Woodville Latham and his sons Otway
and Grey) was the first motion picture in the world to be screened before a paying
audience, at a storefront at 153 Broadway in New York City. The four minute B&W
silent film premiered on May 20, 1895, more than seven months before the Lumière
brothers showed their film in Paris (see below).
Sept-Oct, C. Francis Jenkins and Thomas Armat projected Kinetoscope films at the Cotton
1895 States Exposition, Georgia USA, using their Phantascope projector.
In France, two brothers Auguste and Louis Lumière invented the Cinématographe
which was patented in early 1895. It was a combination hand-held movie camera
and projector, capable of showing an image that could be viewed by a large
audience. They held their first public screening or commercial exhibition - often
considered "the birth of film" or "the First Cinema" - when they projected a motion
picture onto a screen for the first time at Salon Indien at the Grand Café on the
Boulevard des Capucines in Paris. The 20-minute afternoon program shown to an
invited audience of 35 people included ten short films with twenty showings a day.
The ten shorts included the famous first comedy of a gardener with a watering hose
(aka The Sprinkler Sprinkled, Waterer and Watered, or L'Arrouseur Arrose), the
factory worker short (La Sortie des Ouviers de L'Usine Lumière à Lyon, or Workers
Leaving the Lumiere Factory), a sequence of a horse-drawn carriage approaching
toward the camera, and a scene of the feeding of a baby. The Lumieres also became
known for their 50-second short Arrivee d'un train en gare a La Ciotat (1895)
(Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat), which some sources reported was shocking to its
first unsophisticated viewing audience. With a few exceptions, the early films were
mostly documentaries (or films of every-day life) - or so-called actualités.
In the early 1890s, Edison and Dickson also devised a prototype sound-film system
called the Kinetophonograph or Kinetophone - a precursor of the 1891 Kinetoscope
with a cylinder-playing phonograph (and connected earphone tubes) to provide the
unsynchronized sound. The projector was connected to the phonograph with a pulley
1895 system, but it didn't work very well and was difficult to synchronize. It was formally
introduced in 1895, but soon proved to be unsuccessful since competitive, better
synchronized devices were also beginning to appear at the time. The first known
(and only surviving) film with live-recorded sound made to test the Kinetophone
was the 17-second Dickson Experimental Sound Film (1894-1895).
The Execution of Mary Queen of Scots (1895) contained the first special effect (in-
camera), reportedly, of the controversial execution (decapitation) of Mary, Queen of
Scots (Robert Thomae) on the execution block, using a dummy and a trick camera
1895 shot (substitution shot or "stop trick"). In the short sequence, Mary knelt down, and
put her head on the block as the executioner raised a large axe. When the axe was
brought down, her head rolled off the chopping block to the left - where the
executioner picked it up in the final frame and held it up.
Edison's Company (because it was unable to produce a workable projector on its
own) purchased an improved version of Thomas Armat's 1895 movie projection
machine (the Phantascope, originally invented by C. Francis Jenkins in 1893), and
renamed it the Vitascope. It was the first commercially-successful celluloid motion
April 23, picture projector in the US. Thomas Edison presented the first publically-projected
1896 Vitascope motion picture (with hand-tinting) in the US to a paying American
audience on a screen, at Koster and Bial's Music Hall in New York City, with his
latest invention - the projecting kinetoscope. Customers watched the Edison
Company's Vitascope project a ballet sequence in an amusement arcade during a
The Kiss (1896) (aka The May Irwin Kiss) was the first film ever made of a couple
kissing in cinematic history. May Irwin and John Rice re-enacted a lingering kiss for
Thomas Edison's film camera in this 20-second long short, from their 1895
1896 Broadway stage play The Widow Jones. It became the most popular film produced
that year by Edison's film company (it was filmed at Edison's Black Maria studio, in
West Orange, NJ), but was also notorious as the first film to be criticized as
scandalous and bringing demands for censorship.
Alice Guy-Blaché, generally acknowledged as the world's first female film director
(with France's Gaumont Film Company), was the first film-maker to contribute to
1896 the development of narrative film-making, with her first film made in April of 1896,
the one-minute in length fictional film La Fée aux Choux (The Cabbage Fairy).
Some historians consider it the first ever narrative fiction film.
The roots of horror films (and vampire films in particular) may be traced back to
French film-maker Georges Méliès' two-minute short film Le Manoir du Diable
(1896) (aka Manor/House of the Devil, or The Devil's Castle), although it was meant
to be an amusing, entertaining film.
The Spanish-American War drew camera operators to Cuba, but they were shut out
by the U.S. Army. Since they could not capture the battles on film, many went into
studios and created them using models and painted backdrops -- the start of scale-
The oldest major talent agency in Hollywood was the William Morris Agency,
1898 founded in 1898. However, its first offices were in New York City, and it didn't
move out to the LA area until around 1930.
Using the Chronophone process, Alice Guy-Blaché continued to make primitive
sound films in France.
Two of the earliest westerns (or cowboy-related) films were both Edison films made
at Black Maria: the one-shot (less than one minute short) Thomas Edison's Cripple
Creek Bar Room Scene - with the 'first' western saloon setting, and Poker at Dawson
The French magician Georges Melies became the film industry's first film-maker to
use artificially-arranged scenes to construct and tell a narrative story, with
Cendrillon (aka Cinderella). Melies wrote, designed, directed, and acted in hundreds
1899 of his own fairy tales and science fiction films, and developed techniques such as
stop-motion photography, double and multiple-exposures, time-lapse photography,
"special effects" such as disappearing objects (using stop-trick or substitution
photography), and dissolves/fades.
The first known Shakespearean film, an adaptation of one of the Bard's plays, was
the UK film King John, with the title character played by stage actor Sir Herbert
1899 Beerbohm Tree. Directed by William K.L. Dickson and Walter Pfeffer Dando, and
composed of only four short scenes, only one survived - the last scene of the King's
1900s - Part 1
Year Event and Significance
Movies became a popular attraction in amusement arcades, music halls, traveling
fairs, wax museums, and vaudeville houses in many countries.
The Eastman Kodak company first introduced the Brownie camera, a very simple
cardboard box camera that used roll film. Its original list price was $1.00.
With the arrival of electricity, Broadway set out white lights stretching from 13th to
46th Street in New York City, inspiring the nickname "the Great White Way."
Thomas Edison's "Black Maria" film studio, often called America's first movie
studio, was closed, and it was demolished two years later.
The first permanent movie house exclusively designed for showing motion pictures
was Thomas Tally's Electric Theater, built in Los Angeles (on South Spring Street)
1902 in 1902 - the first for the city, and one of the first modern movie palaces. It was also
a precursor to the more ubiquitous nickelodeons that opened in 1905. Tally was the
first to show a color film there, in 1912.
Georges Méliès, a magician-turned-filmmaker, introduced innovative special effects
in the first real science fiction film, Le Voyage Dans La Lune, aka A Trip to the
1902 Moon. This was his 400th film - a narrative fantasy of long shots strung together,
punctuated with disappearances, double exposures, and other trick photography and
American director Edwin S. Porter, chief of production at the Edison studio, helped
to shift film production toward narrative story telling with such films as the first
realistic (or documentary) film The Life of an American Fireman and The Great
Train Robbery, one of the first westerns (filmed on the East Coast in New Jersey -
not in Hollywood). The latter, a 12-minute dramatic film, was the first to use modern
film techniques, such as multiple camera positions, filming out of sequence and later
editing the scenes into their proper order. There were 14 scenes with parallel cross-
cutting between simultaneous events. It was also memorable for its audience-
shocking scene (placed at the beginning or end) of a cowboy shooting his pistol
directly at the camera.
The first male movie star, and first Western star, was Max Aronson, aka Bronco
Billy, Max Anderson, and Gilbert M. Anderson, who made his first film appearance
in The Great Train Robbery (1903), as a bandit, a passenger who was shot in the
back, and a tenderfoot dancer.
1903 Hollywood was officially incorporated as a municipality.
1904 Narrative film began to become the dominant form.
Georges Méliès released the first two-reel film, The Impossible Voyage (aka Le
1904 Voyage a Travers L'Impossible) - at about 20 minutes in length, it was about five
times longer than the average film at the time.
Marcus Loew founded Loew's Theatres - it would eventually become the longest-
lived theater chain in America.
The first film exchange (or distribution company) in the US, the Duquesne
Amusement Supply Company, was founded in Pittsburgh, PA by Harry, Albert, Sam
and Jack Warner for the distribution of films -- it was the precursor to Warner Bros.
Pictures. (Some sources claimed it was formed in 1907).
Harry Davis and John Davis opened their first movie theater, dubbing it a
nickelodeon, in Pittsburgh. The opening feature was The Great Train Robbery. The
name for the converted dance hall or theater was derived from the cost of admission
-- a nickel -- and the Greek word for theater -- "odeon."
Cooper Hewitt mercury lamps made it practical to shoot films indoors without
The American entertainment trade journal Variety began publication. It published its
first film review on January 19, 1907 - often cited as the first film review in history,
in an expanded section of the magazine that covered new vaudeville acts and
reviews of films.
The British melodrama Rescued by Rover was produced (by Cecil Hepworth). It was
a very early example of suspenseful cutting and traveling shots.
J. Stuart Blackton made the earliest surviving example of an animated film - a 3-
minute short or cartoon called Humorous Phases of Funny Faces. It was the first
cartoon to use the single frame method, and was projected at 20 frames per second.
1906 In the film, a cartoonist's line drawings of two faces were 'animated' (or came to life)
on a blackboard. The two faces smiled and winked, and the cigar-smoking man blew
smoke in the lady's face; also, a circus clown led a small dog to jump through a
The world‟s first feature-length film at 70 minutes in length, The Story of the Kelly
1906 Gang (aka Ned Kelly and His Gang), premiered in Melbourne, Australia. Cinema
briefly flourished there.
1906 The Biograph film studio opened in New York City.
Edwin S. Porter directed the amusing fantasy film Dream of a Rarebit Fiend, using
trick photography. [The name was based on a Winsor McCay newspaper comic strip
- McCay served as the film's writer.] It was the Edison Company's most popular film
of the year.
1900s - Part 2
Year Event and Significance
About 5,000 nickelodeons existed throughout the United States. Many studios were
created to keep up with the increased demand for films. In 1907, The Saturday
Evening Post reported that daily attendance at nickelodeons exceeded two million.
In 1907, the Chicago Daily Tribune denounced nickelodeons as firetraps and tawdry
corrupters of children. Nickelodeons spread and numbered between 8,000 to 10,000
by 1908 with 200,000 customers a day, charging five cents for a movie accompanied
by a piano.
The first film-makers arrived in Los Angeles. Filmmakers began to realize that the
Los Angeles area was a good filming area with a favorable climate and a variety of
natural scenery. The first movie was also made in Los Angeles soon afterwards (see
1909). Previously, movies were filmed in New York City and in Fort Lee, NJ.
The first feature-length (90 minutes) film produced in Europe was L'Enfant
1907 Prodigue (aka The Prodigal Son) (Fr.), directed by Michel Carré and shot at the
French film production company, the Gaumont Film Company.
Edwin S. Porter directed Rescued From an Eagle's Nest, another Edison production.
Richard Murphy created a mechanical eagle for this early film (starring future
director D. W. Griffith in his first major screen role) - in the scene, a stuffed eagle
with movable wings kidnapped a baby and battled the heroic father.
The Bell and Howell Company, founded by Chicago movie projectionist Donald H.
Bell and camera repairman Albert S. Howell, developed a film projection system.
Their firm went on to revolutionize motion picture photography and projection
The first documentary re-creation, Sigmund Lubin's The Unwritten Law (1907)
(subtitled "A Thrilling Drama Based on the Thaw-White Tragedy") dramatized the
true-life murder -- on June 25, 1906 -- of prominent architect Stanford White by
mentally unstable and jealous millionaire husband Harry Kendall Thaw over the
affections of showgirl Evelyn Nesbit (who appeared as herself in the one reel film).
[Alluring chorine Nesbit would become a brief sensation, and the basis for Richard
Fleischer's biopic film The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing (1955), portrayed by Joan
Collins, and E.L. Doctorow's musical and film Ragtime (1981), portrayed by an
Oscar-nominated Elizabeth McGovern.]
Nine leading film producers or manufacturers (including Biograph that joined forces
with Edison) set up the Motion Picture Patents Company (MPPC), a.k.a. "the Trust."
It was an attempt to legally monopolize production in the burgeoning American film
industry. Ten producers were granted licenses to use equipment authorized by the
Trust, while everyone else was ruled to be running illegal film production
operations. The trust formed a subsidiary called the General Film Company in 1910
to use intimidation and violence (with threats of not selling or leasing licensed
equipment) against independents or any other distributors who purchased and
showed motion pictures from any other company. Kodak agreed to sell film stock
only to member companies.
1908 There were over 8,000 movie theaters (nickelodeons) throughout the US.
The Adventures of Dollie, a story of a young child kidnapped and in peril, was the
first one-reel film directed by D. W. Griffith (in the same year that he started as a
1908 director at American Mutoscope and Biograph Company in New York City). It was
released and debuted in New York. Griffith would go on to direct 450 one-reel films
for Biograph in the next five years, developing many innovative techniques.
The 8-minute UK short film A Visit to the Seaside (aka A Visit to the Seaside at
Brighton Beach, England), directed by George Albert Smith, was the first
commercially-produced film in natural color - using the revolutionary Kinemacolor
process (a two-color additive process) invented by Smith himself. It was first
exhibited in 1908, then shown publically in 1909 in London, and later released in the
US in late 1910.
1908 The first detective films, the Nick Carter series, were released in France.
The first real horror film, William Selig's 16-minute Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde, was
premiered in Chicago.
French director Emile Cohl's animated short film Fantasmagorie was considered the
first fully animated film. About a minute in length, it consisted solely of simple line
drawings (of a clown-like stick figure) that blended, transformed or fluidly morphed
from one image into another.
The first film for which a totally-original film score was specifically composed was
1908 for the silent film The Assassination of the Duke de Guise (aka L'Assassinat du duc
de Guise), by classical composer Camille de Saint-Saëns.
The Selig Polyscope Company established the first permanent film studio in the Los
Angeles area, at 1845 Allesandro Street (now Glendale Blvd.) in Edendale [present
1909 day Echo Park]. The first dramatic film to be completely made on the West Coast, in
Los Angeles, California, was debuted by Selig - In the Sultan's Power, from director
The New York Times published its first movie review, a report on D. W. Griffith's
The first 'independent' film, arguably, released as the first film from the IMP
Company (Carl Laemmle's Independent Moving Picture Company), was the one-reel
Hiawatha. It was not affiliated with the Motion Picture Patents Company (MPPC)
newly-formed in 1908.
There were about 9,000 movie theaters in the United States. The typical film was
only a single reel long, or ten- to twelve minutes in length, and the performers were
anonymous. Acting in a movie was looked upon as degrading compared with stage
acting, so actors were never identified by name.
1909 The New York Times coined the term „stars‟ for leading movie players.
An American court ruled that unauthorized films infringed on copyrights, in a case
1909 over the 1907 film version of Ben-Hur. As a result, film companies began buying
screen rights to books and plays.
Comedian Ben Turpin was mentioned in a trade journal, and became the first
American film actor to have his name published.
Cameraman Billy Bitzer became the first to film entirely indoors using artificial
35 mm was recognized as the international standard film gauge. It has remained the
dominant film gauge since that time.
The Broncho Billy series, with 400 episodes, popularized westerns. Gilbert
Anderson became the first cowboy hero and perhaps the first recognizable character
in American films. In 1909, Tom Mix made his first western, in Oklahoma.
1910s - Part 1
Year Event and Significance
Thomas Edison introduced his Kinetophone, a sound-film process which made
1910 talkies a reality. However, his attempt to combine the phonograph and motion
pictures failed commercially.
Carl Laemmle set up his own Independent Motion Picture Company (IMP) to
counteract the Edison Trust.
Laemmle introduced the star system, causing the rise of the American movie star
phenomenon, by hiring now-forgotten Florence Lawrence ("The Biograph Girl"),
one of Biograph's anonymous stars, and beginning a massive publicity campaign. By
most accounts, Lawrence was the first US motion picture "movie star." Carl
1910 Laemmle orchestrated a shameless but spectacular, high-profile 'publicity stunt' in
March of 1910, with rumors of her death in a street-car accident in St. Louis, and her
subsequent resurrection at the IMP Company's St. Louis premiere of her first IMP
film (The Broken Oath, aka The Broken Bath), in April of 1910. She was the first
film star to make a 'personal appearance' (as a publicity stunt).
The first screen credit was given to Florence Lawrence, in IMP's short crime
1910 romance The Broken Oath (aka The Broken Bath), directed by her husband Harry
Dialogue titles began to appear with regularity. Studios began distributing publicity
stills of actors and actresses.
The first US multi-reel "feature" film was Vitagraph's five-reel Life of Moses. It was
shown at a single sitting in New Orleans. Such multi-reel films weakened exhibitors'
1910 control of their programs (i.e., prior to this development, exhibitors effectively
"edited" the program by arranging their selections of short films without directorial
Film companies began to move to the area later known as Hollywood. Los Angeles
The first film made in Hollywood, by Biograph and director D.W. Griffith, In Old
California, was released.
For the first time, Hollywood purchased the rights to adapt a novel from a publisher
1910 (Little, Brown & Company who published Helen Hunt Jackson's novel Ramona), for
a D.W. Griffith film to be made in 1910.
John Randolph Bray patented the cel process, pioneering true animated cartoons
with structured story lines.
1910 The first movie stunt -- a man jumped into the Hudson River from a burning balloon.
The first Frankenstein monster film in the US was Edison's Frankenstein, a 16-
minute (one-reel) version made by the Edison Motion Picture Studios and starring
Charles Ogle (uncredited) as the monster, and Mary Fuller as Frankenstein‟s fiancée
1910 Elizabeth. The film was directed and written by J. Searle Dawley and filmed in the
Bronx; the monster appeared misshapen and pathetic rather than horrifying in this
first film adaptation of Mary Shelley's novel.In this early version, the Monster was
created in a cauldron of chemicals.
Vaudeville press agent William Foster launched his Foster Photoplay Company, the
first African-American film production company (to produce "race films" as they
were called), in Chicago. It produced primarily slapstick comedies starring black
1910 Max Factor created the first makeup formulated especially for film.
The Motion Picture Patents Company (MPPC) tried to monopolize film distribution
1910 and absorb independent distributors by setting up the General Film Company.
Independent William Fox responded by making his own films.
In Denmark, Fotorama introduced the multi-reel documentary film Den Hvide
1910 Slavehandel (The White Slave Trade) - one of the first examples of a vice film, and
the first time film was used to study prostitution.
The first US 'feature film' was released when the two parts of D. W. Griffith's Enoch
1911 Arden were screened together, running twice the normal length of films at the time.
The two parts became a two-reel featurette shown in its entirety - an industry first.
The first feature-length film to be released in its entirety in the US was the 69-
minute fantasy/horror epic Dante's Inferno (It.) (aka L’Inferno), inspired by Dante's
14th century poem The Divine Comedy. It opened in New York on December 10,
1911 at Gane‟s Manhattan Theatre. It was made by three directors Francesco
Bertolini, Giuseppe de Liguoro, and Adolfo Padovan, took two years to make, and
cost over $180,000.
1911 Pennsylvania became the first state to pass a film censorship law.
New York Herald comic-strip animator Winsor McCay debuted the first animated
1911 cartoon, Little Nemo in Slumberland (with 4,000 hand-drawn cels), with each frame
The first US fan magazine Motion Picture Story Magazine debuted in February. The
1911 Moving Picture World and The Motion Picture News also offered interviews and
gossipy columns about the personal lives and careers of the stars.
IMP star Florence Lawrence was interviewed in 1911 in Motion Picture Story
Magazine - often considered the first movie star interview.
1911 The Nestor Company built the first full-time studio in a district of Los Angeles
known as Hollywood. It was the first movie studio based in Hollywood. As a result
of the independents desire to escape the restrictions of the MPPC, Hollywood was
soon to become the motion-picture capital of the world.
1911 Credits began to appear regularly at the beginning of motion pictures.
1911 Pathe's Weekly was the first regularly-released US newsreel.
Photoplay, the first true movie "fan" magazine, debuted and gave rise to the whole
idea of a celebrity and fan culture. By the early 1920's, over a dozen such magazines
crowded the news-stands with names like Cinema Art, Film Fun, Motion Picture
Journal, Movie Weekly, Picture Play, and Screenland.
Carl Laemmle merged IMP and other studios to found the Universal Pictures
Company, which was to become the first major, long-lasting Hollywood studio.
Mutual Film Corporation was formed. Jesse Lasky also formed the Jesse L. Lasky
1912 Feature Play Company in partnership with his brother-in-law Samuel Goldfish (later
renamed Goldwyn) and Cecil B. DeMille. Significantly, the independents made
longer 'feature' films than the short one-reelers produced by the MPPC. By 1912,
fifteen film companies were operating in Hollywood.
Adolph Zukor founded an independent film studio named the Famous Players Film
Corporation, with distribution arranged with a new organization named Paramount
1912 by 1914. Paramount Pictures is one of the oldest American motion picture studios.
Its logo - a majestic mountain peak - still remains recognizable, making it the oldest
surviving Hollywood studio film logo.
Canadian writer and actor Mack Sennett (the "King of Comedy") formed the
Keystone Film Company (and Studio) in Glendale, a suburb of Los Angeles. The
first Mack Sennett Keystone production was Cohen Collects a Debt. The first
1912 Keystone Kop film from the studio, Hoffmeyer's Legacy, was released in late 1912.
Nearly every major comic performer in America worked at Keystone during this
time, including Fatty Arbuckle, Mabel Normand and Charlie Chaplin, in mostly
slapstick comedy films.
Adolph Zukor's Famous Players' first release (opening in New York City at the
Lyceum Theatre) was the four-reel French import Queen Elizabeth (aka Les Amours
de la Reine Élisabeth) with famous stage actress Sarah Bernhardt in the title role. It
1912 was the first full-length drama shown in the United States, and the third film to be
shown in its entirety, in its US premiere in July. New York society elites attended
the premiere of the film, helping to extend the film's reach (and the entire medium of
film) to the upper classes.
The first American serial film was the Edison Company's melodrama What
Happened to Mary? (1912) (12 episodes, each consisting of one-reel), starring
actress Mary Fuller. A print version of the storyline was concurrently published in
McClure's Ladies' World magazine.
H. A. Spanuth's five-reel production of Oliver Twist was released - it was the first
US-produced feature film to last over an hour, and to be shown in its entirety.
The five-reel Richard III, starring Frederick Warde, is thought to be the earliest
surviving complete feature film made in the US.
The rare and restored German film Night and Ice (aka In Nacht und Eis) was one of
the earliest disaster films. This film was the first of many feature films about the
1912 doomed ship that sank in 1912 on its maiden voyage, after striking an iceberg. This
film was made and released a few months after the RMS Titanic's actual sinking! It
was of epic length (35 minutes) in comparison to other films of the time. Also that
same year, Saved From the Titanic, a one reel, 10 minute film, was also released (it
premiered on May 14, 1912, a month to the day after the ship collided with the
iceberg) - the second film about the disaster - it was based upon actress, star and
screenwriter Dorothy Gibson‟s true story of her own survival.
D. W. Griffith‟s The Musketeers of Pig Alley was released - possibly the first
gangster or organized crime film.
Thomas Ince pioneered the role of film producer by devising standard production
budgeting formulas and introducing a detailed shooting script.
Kalmus formed the Technicolor Company to market early versions of the color
Director Enrico Guazzoni's overblown but successful two-hour spectacle Quo
Vadis? was released - one of the first films with over two hours running time. It is
often considered the first successful feature-length motion picture. Italian epics
would briefly dominate the international film market.
William Fox established The Fox Film Foundation - soon to become one of
Hollywood's foremost studios.
Motion pictures moved out of nickelodeons and into real theaters. The first movie
palaces began to appear in 1913. Movies became longer and more expensive as
movie companies started hiring the biggest names in theater to star in their movies.
1912- Motion picture acting gained respect and was no longer looked upon as degrading,
1913 due in part to greater attendance from the American middle-class. The public singled
out certain actors and actresses as special favorites. Some of the actors and actresses
who were the very first movie stars included cowboy actor Bronco Billy Anderson
and comedian John Bunny.
1910s - Part 2
Year Event and Significance
"Hollywood"'s name was formally adopted. It replaced the East Coast as the center
of the burgeoning movie industry.
IMP's first feature-length film release - the first major American feature-length
exploitation sex film - was the six-reel melodrama (and faux documentary) Traffic in
Souls (1913) (aka While New York Sleeps). The film premiered in New York City on
November 24, 1913 at Joe Weber's Theater. It was a "photo-drama" expose of white
slavery (entrapment of young women into prostitution) at the turn of the century in
NYC, although the film exploitatively promised steamy sex in its advertisements.
This was one of the first films to understand that 'sex sells,' although its producers
worried that a 'feature-length' film on any subject wouldn't be successful. It was the
most expensive feature film of its time at $57,000, although its record earnings were
The American director D. W. Griffith, director of hundreds of short films, was
credited with defining the art of motion pictures. In making his films, Griffith used
filming techniques still used today. Such filming techniques included altering
camera angles, using close-ups in a dramatic way, breaking scenes up into multiple
shots, and more. Previously, filmmakers kept the camera in one position which was
generally 12 feet away from the actors and at a right angle to the set. In 1913,
Griffith finished his contract with Biograph films in NYC and left, because he
wanted to make feature-length films. His production company became an
autonomous production unit partner in Triangle Pictures Corporation with Keystone
Studios and Thomas Ince.
The first episode of the first cliff-hanger serial was released, for the multi-episode
Selig Polyscope film The Adventures of Kathlyn, starring Kathlyn Williams as the
heroine. Harold MacGrath's novel of the same name was released in early 1914, a
few days after the theatrical film release (in late 1913), to be concurrently sold in
bookstores. This was the first novel based on a movie, with stills taken from the
1913 The first feature-length western was Lawrence B. McGill's six-reel Arizona.
1913 The first film to feature an all-Native American cast was Hiawatha.
John Randolph Bray's first animated film, The Artist's Dream (aka The Dachshund
1913 and the Sausage), the first animated cartoon made in the U.S. by modern techniques
was the first to use 'cels' - transparent drawings laid over a fixed background.
Denmark's Atlantis (1913), another ship-sinking story influenced by the Titanic tale
- and filmed off the coast of New Zealand, was one of the first full-length films ever
made - it had a 1 hour, 53 minute running time. This version of the story from
1913 director August Blom appeared to sink a full-scale boat for realism. It was a very
realistic and naturalistic-looking Titanic film with a well-staged action scene of the
ship's sinking. It was also one of the most popular films of the silent decades, and a
worldwide smash hit.
French director Louis Feuillade‟s Fantomas series popularized the crime serial.
Young Cecil B. De Mille's first motion picture was The Squaw Man - it was the first
feature-length film produced in Hollywood by a major film studio (it was distributed
by Famous Players-Lasky Corporation). It was the first film to use an art director.
However, it wasn't the first film to be made in Los Angeles.
The start of the Great War (WWI) interrupted European motion-picture production
and eventually brought it to a halt when there were signficant shortages of power
1914 and supplies. It never recovered its dominance in the marketplace. The American
motion-picture industry thrived on business and viewership in the European market,
using their profits to produce even bigger and better motion pictures.
Lois Weber became the first woman to direct a feature film in the US - the Rex
1914 production of The Merchant of Venice, in which she also played the role of Portia.
She co-directed with her husband Phillips Smalley (who played the part of Shylock).
Charlie Chaplin's first film, Making a Living, was released. The silent comedian
debuted his trademark mustached, baggy-pants 'Little Tramp' character in Kid Auto
Races At Venice. It would become his most famous character. This was a year in
which he made dozens of films and became filmdom's first great star.
At Keystone, Mack Sennett made the first American feature-length comedy - Tillie's
1914 Punctured Romance, starring Marie Dressler, Mabel Normand and Charlie Chaplin
(in his first feature film).
Winsor McCay created Gertie the Dinosaur, the first "interactive" animated cartoon
1914 and character, and the earliest example of combined 'live action' and animation. The
brontosaurus dinosaur's appearance made Gertie the first animated cartoon star.
Serials regularly added cliffhangers as one of their features, in multi-part serial films
1914 such as The Perils of Pauline with 20 episodes, featuring Pearl White as the 'damsel
in distress' title character.
The first feature-length color film, The World, the Flesh, and the Devil, in
Kinemacolor, premiered in London.
Grand cinema houses were regularly replacing cheaper nickelodeons. For example,
1914 the first movie "palace", The Strand, opened at Times Square in New York with
seating for 3,300.
Bert Williams appeared as an actor in his first film Darktown Jubilee. It was one of
1914 the first movies to use an African-American actor in blackface, rather than using a
white person in the same role in blackface.
The influential three-hour Italian silent film from Giovanni Pastrone, Cabiria, was
an early example of spectacular and monumental epic film-making. It laid the
pattern and groundwork for future big-budget feature-length films (by the likes of
D.W. Griffith and Cecil B. DeMille). Its story of 3rd century BC Ancient Rome
1914 included sequences of the eruption of Mt. Etna and Hannibal's crossing of the Alps
with elephants (with an early example of tracking shots). The landmark film was
shot on location in North Africa, Sicily and the Italian Alps, and reportedly
contained the first use of trucking shots (which became known as 'Cabiria'
movements). It was also the first film to be screened at the White House.
Paramount Pictures was founded in Los Angeles as a start-up company in order to
release the films of Jesse Lasky and his Famous Players Company, and soon became
the first successful nation-wide film distributor. More changes would occur
involving Paramount in 1916.
Charlie Chaplin, a silent actor and pantomimist, was recruited to Keystone Studios
from an English variety act, and became Mack Sennett's most important discovery.
Chaplin made 35 short Keystone films for Mack Sennett in 1914. In Chaplin's
second picture, the 11-minute Kid Auto Races in Venice, he invented his immortal,
trademark Little Tramp character as he attended a 'baby-cart' race in Venice,
The Photo-Drama of Creation (aka the Eureka-Drama in its abbreviated version), a
1912 religious production by Charles Taze Russell through the auspices of the
Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (representing the Bible Student Movement),
was the first major screenplay which incorporated synchronized sound (recorded
speech), moving film, and magic lantern color slides. Since its run-time was 8 hours
(480 minutes), the b/w show (with some hand-colored slides), providing a religious
survey from the time of Creation to the end of the Millenium (the 1,000 year reign of
Jesus Christ), was divided into 4-part sets. Multiple copies of sets were made so that
it could conceivably be shown in 80 different locations at the same time. It was
introduced at a premiere in January of 1914 in New York, and was later screened
that summer in Germany. By the end of the year, it was estimated that 9 million
people had seen the production in North America, Europe, and Australia.
Pioneering film-maker D. W. Griffith's technically brilliant, 3-hour Civil War epic,
The Birth of a Nation, premiered with a phenomenal ticket price of $2 -- it was
based on The Clansman, a novel by Thomas Dixon, Jr. Griffith's film popularized
the expressive close-up, naturalistic acting, the flashback and other elements (i.e.,
exciting cross-cutting, a last minute rescue) that endure today as the structural
1915 principles of narrative filmmaking. It introduced the historical epic and period piece
as a film genre and defined the language of film. Although it was the most
extravagant and expensive film up to that time (at a budget of approximately
$110,000), it was also highly controversial because of its racist theme. It was the
first US motion picture shown in the White House, where President Woodrow
Wilson described it as "writing history with lightning."
Producer/director Thomas H. Ince introduced a 'factory system' - a method that
1915 would be used to mass produce films. Different films in various stages of production
would be systematically rotated through his movie studio. Ince appointed a group of
supervisors called producers who each had control over a certain number of pictures.
Sometimes, ten or more movies were being produced in his studios at one time.
Charlie Chaplin's first masterpiece, The Tramp, produced by the Essanay Company
1915 in Chicago, showed the early development of his well-known character with baggy
pants, bowler hat, walking cane, funny stride, and oversized shoes.
The Bell & Howell 2709 movie camera allowed directors to film close-ups without
physically moving the camera.
William Fox led a successful fight against Thomas Edison's Motion Pictures Patents
Company (the Edison Trust). A federal court declared the Patents Company (and its
subsidiary, the General Film Company) to be an illegal restraint on trade and an
illegal monopoly, and fined over $20 million. It was soon officially dissolved and
disbanded in the face of anti-trust legislation. The trust's appeal was dismissed in
In Mutual Film Corporation v. Industrial Commission of Ohio, the Supreme Court
1915 ruled that states may censor films, encouraging scrutiny of movies during future
Theda Bara (an anagram for "Arab Death", but born as Theodosia Goodman) starred
in A Fool There Was, personifying the "vamp," the female temptress and sex
symbol, and became an overnight sensation. She was one of the first "sex symbols"
Writer Louis Feuillade directed the epic, nightmarish crime serial The Vampires (aka
Les Vampires, Fr.), an almost seven-hour silent film masterpiece (in 10 episodes of
varying lengths) that told about an exotic, cross-dressing Parisian gang leader and
temptress named Irma Vep (an anagram for Vampire) played by Musidora, whose
group of gangsters terrorized the city. It was shot on location in Paris during the war
years, and was banned from showings because of its depictions of crime.
Prolific American film director Lois Weber released her feature-length lyrical
parable The Hypocrites. She played multiple roles in the production of the film - as
actress, director, writer, and producer. The film was controversial for its depiction of
full female nudity. The character of the Naked Truth (literally a nude woman),
reminded people of their hypocritical greed for money, sex and power. The film was
also praised for its use of multiple exposures and complex film editing.
The Technicolor Motion Picture Corporation was founded in Boston, Massachusetts.
The company pioneered the development of color film processes known as
Technicolor, beginning to be regularly seen in Hollywood films in the 1920s and
continuing for many decades.
D.W. Griffith's expensive follow-up film to The Birth of a Nation (1915) was the
monumental historical and dramatic epic Intolerance, told with parallel cross-cutting
between its four stories, symbolically linked by the image of Lillian Gish rocking a
child. Each story told of intolerance and injustice in four different historical periods -
1916 - a Modern Story, a French story, a Babylonian story (with the largest set in film
history up to its time), and a Biblical story. Its film-making techniques would be
adopted and displayed in the works of future film-makers, such as Eisenstein and
Coppola. With a budget of almost $2 million (the most expensive film of all time), it
became the first multi-million dollar box-office 'bomb' in film history.
The Jesse L. Lasky Company merged with its friendly rival, Adolph Zukor's Famous
Players Film Company, to form the Famous Players-Lasky Corporation. The
corporation consolidated its production and distribution divisions with Paramount,
and audiences began seeing "Paramount Pictures".
Samuel Goldfish (later renamed Samuel Goldwyn) and Edgar Selwyn established
The salary of Charlie Chaplin, filmdom's first major star, went from $125 to $10,000
weekly, when he signed on with the Mutual Film Corporation.
The first autobiography of a movie star was silent screen star Pearl White's Just Me,
published in 1916..
The earliest vampire feature film was director Arthur Robison's German silent film
Nachte des Grauens (1916), aka Night of Terror, with strange, vampire-like people.
Lois Weber's controversial drama Where Are My Children? was about the subject of
1916 abortion, in a story about a district attorney (Tyrone Power in an early role) who
discovered that his wife had used illegal abortion services.
The first film to feature an African-American actor was the short comedy film A
Natural Born Gambler (1916), starring Biograph's Bert Williams, a vaudeville
comedian who had become known by appearing in the Ziegfeld Follies (joining it in
1911). It was the first time that an African-American produced, wrote, directed, and
starred in a film. [Note: Williams was actually born in the Bahamas, and was of
The first African-American owned studio, the pioneering The Lincoln Motion
Picture Company, was founded.
Max Fleischer invented the rotoscope to streamline the frame-by-frame copying
process. It was a device used to overlay drawings on live-action film.
The first feature-length motion picture produced in two-strip Technicolor in the US
1917 was The Gulf Between. It was also the third feature-length color movie. It is
considered a lost film, with only a few frames surviving.
Famed westerns director John Ford made his first film, the two or three-reel The
Tornado, now considered a lost film.
The independent African-American filmmaker Oscar Micheaux formed the
1918 Micheaux Film and Book Corporation. His first feature films were released the
The four Warner brothers, Jack, Albert, Harry and Samuel, opened their first West
The first Tarzan film, the black and white Tarzan of the Apes, premiered at the
Broadway Theater in New York, with the first actor to portray Edgar Rice
Burroughs' 'Lord of the Jungle', Elmo Lincoln, as an adult. Technically, the 'first'
Tarzan, a 10-year old youthful Tarzan in the same film, was portrayed by Gordon
Griffith. It was the first film adaptation with the Tarzan character, based on Edgar
Rice Burroughs' original novel Tarzan of the Apes.
The US Supreme Court ordered the Motion Picture Patents Company (MPPC),
known as the "Edison Trust", to disband.
Early cartoonist and animator Winsor McCay's 12-minute propagandistic,
documentary-style The Sinking of the Lusitania, an animation landmark, was the
1918 first serious re-enactment of an historical event - the torpedoing of the RMS
Lusitania by a German U-boat on May 7, 1915, resulting in the loss of almost 2,000
passengers. It was one of the earliest films to utilize cel animation.
1919 Charlie Chaplin, D. W. Griffith, Douglas Fairbanks, and Mary Pickford established
United Artists in an attempt to control their own work. UA would distribute and
produce their own films. Pickford starred in Daddy-Long-Legs, her first film as an
The technique of test screenings of films to obtain audience feedback was pioneered
by Harold Lloyd.
Producer/director Oscar Micheaux released his first film The Homesteader, starring
pioneering African-American actress Evelyn Preer, thereby becoming the first
1919 African-American to produce and direct a motion picture feature film. He also
directed the feature-length Within Our Gates (1920) the following year, his earliest
surviving directorial effort.
Walt Disney teamed with Ub Iwerks to form Iwerks-Disney Commercial Artists
(later known as Ub Iwerks), to create cartoon animations.
Germany's silent expressionistic landmark classic, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, was
released - by director Robert Wiene. It told about a ghost-like hypnotist-therapist in
a carnival named Dr. Caligari (Werner Kraus) who called from a state of sleep his
performing somnabulist (and haunted murderer) -- a pale-skinned, lanky, black
leotard-wearing Cesare (Conrad Veidt). The shadowy, disturbing, distorted, and
dream-nightmarish quality of the macabre and stylistic 'Caligari,' with twisted
alleyways, lopsided doors, cramped rooms, overhanging buildings, and skewed
cityscapes, was shot in a studio. It was brought to Hollywood in the 1920s, and later
influenced the classic period of horror films in the 1930s - introducing many
standard horror film conventions.
Max and Dave Fleischer's "Out of the Inkwell" series premiered, introducing KoKo
the Clown, one of the first animated characters.
Felix the Cat first appeared. Originated by young animator Otto Messmer, the
(unnamed Felix) cat's first two cartoons were the five-minute Feline Follies (1919)
and Musical Mews (1919), when Felix was known only as "Master Tom." Feline
Follies was a segment of the Paramount Magazine, a semi-weekly compilation of
short film segments that included animated cartoons. By the third Felix cartoon, The
Adventures of Felix (1919), Felix took his permanent name.
1920s - Part 1
Year Event and Significance
The movement of German film Expressionism was established
with Robert Wiene's The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, filmed in 1919
and released in 1920. Its bizarre sets, angular camera angles and
make-up influenced future literary and cinematic styles, notably
the cycle of Universal's horror films in the 30s, and film noir in
Producer John Randolph Bray's (and Bray Picture Corporation's)
The Debut of Thomas Cat was the first color (2-color process)
cartoon, using the expensive Brewster Natural Color Process (a
2-emulsion color process), an unsuccessful precursor of
Technicolor. This was the first animated short genuinely made in
color using color film. However, some sources have claimed that
the Natural Colour Kinematograph Company's In Gollywog
Land (1912, UK) was the earliest, using Kinemacolor.
1920 It was the "marriage of the century" when stars Mary Pickford
and Douglas Fairbanks married in late March, after divorcing
their spouses. He bought a lodge for his new bride -- named
Pickfair, which soon became the social center of movieland, and
served as a gathering place for politicians, journalists, artists, and
Douglas Fairbanks starred in the popular swashbuckler
adventure film, The Mark of Zorro as the masked hero - the first
of many film versions of the 1919 story "The Curse of
Capistrano" by Johnston McCulley. It was the first film released
through United Artists, recently formed in 1919 by Fairbanks,
Chaplin, D.W. Griffith, and Mary Pickford.
Alice Guy, the world's first female filmmaker and a key figure in
1920 the development of narrative film, directed her final film, the
feature-length Tarnished Reputations.
Director George Melford's and Famous Players-Lasky's
melodramatic The Sheik debuted and established star Rudolph
Valentino as cinema's best-known lover. It was one of the first of
numerous exotic and erotic (at least for the day)
romance/adventure films for men and women alike, designed to
stimulate box office success. Valentino reached the peak of his
stardom in this year, and also starred in Metro Pictures' The Four
Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
Silent comic star/director Charlie Chaplin's first feature-length
film (a six-reeler) and first film as producer, The Kid, was
released, with a star-making role for young Jackie Coogan. Both
a slapstick comedy and a soap opera tearjerker, it inspired future
1921 films such as The Champ (1931) (teaming another popular child
star Jackie Cooper with Wallace Beery) and Three Men and a
Baby (1987). Chaplin's young 13-year old co-star Lita Grey, who
portrayed a tempting angel in the film, became his second wife
Heavyweight silent-screen comedian Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle
signed a $3 million contract with Paramount and celebrated with
a wild party in a San Francisco hotel. There, he was arrested for
the alleged rape and murder of 25 year-old bit-player/actress
Virginia Rappe. Tabloids sensationalized the crime and made up
1921 stories about Arbuckle's 'bottle party.' The multiple manslaughter
trials against the innocent actor always ended with the finding of
'not guilty,' but Arbuckle's career was over after two hung juries
and a subsequent acquittal. As a result, the public conceived of
Hollywood as wild and scandalous -- and pressures were brought
to bear on the industry.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sued Famous Players-
1921 Lasky for violating anti-trust laws by refusing to allow
independent films to play in its theaters.
D.W. Griffith's film Dream Street, with experimental sound (in
its introductory prologue) using inventor Orland E. Kellum's
Photokinema, has been regarded as the first feature film to use
Writer/director Lois Weber's The Blot was released, a tale of
class struggle, with a plea for social tolerance and consciousness
toward the working class (clergy and teachers) struggling to
survive and make a living.
Robert Flaherty's Nanook of the North, a record of Inuit Eskimo
life, was the first feature film documentary or non-fictional
narrative feature film. [The word "documentary" was reportedly
first used in February, 1926, by John Grierson in his review of
Flaherty's Moana (1926) for the New York Sun. The term may
also have been used 12 years earlier by famed photographer
Edward Curtis in a prospectus for his Seattle-based Continental
Film Company, referring to his film In the Land of the
Headhunters (1914).] Flaherty's film helped to usher in the
documentary film movement, although it raised some
controversy because it 're-created' or staged some of its hunting
scenes, rather than being truly non-fictional.
Russian filmmaker Lev Kuleshov experimented with montage, a
new editing technique pioneered by Russian filmmakers.
Nervous Hollywood censored itself by creating the Motion
Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA) - later
renamed as the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA),
to be headed by former postmaster General Will H. Hays. The
Hays Office (as it would be called), a film review board
(censorship division), was created to serve as Hollywood's public
relations organization, and to clean up the motion picture
A New York York State Court ruled that actors cannot prevent
the re-editing or re-release of a film in which they appeared.
The Toll of the Sea debuted as the first general release (widely-
distributed or commercial) Hollywood feature film (five-reels,
1922 approx. 54 minutes) to use the improved two-tone Technicolor
process. It also starred Anna May Wong (as Lotus Flower), the
first prominent Asian-American leading lady.
The Power of Love was the first 3-D feature film shown to a
paying film audience, at the Ambassador Hotel's 'theater' in Los
Angeles. The stereoscopic film was projected dual-strip in the
red/green anaglyph format, making it both the earliest known
1922 film that utilized dual strip projection and the earliest known
film in which anaglyph glasses were used. The film utilized and
may have been the only commercial film produced in the dual-
camera, dual-projector system developed by Harry K. Fairhall
and Robert F. Elder.
German director F. W. Murnau's influential, expressionistic
vampire film Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horror (aka Nosferatu
eine Symphonie des Grauens, Germ.) initiated a trend for Gothic
tales of horror. It was considered the first genuine vampire
picture. It starred Max Schreck as Count Orlok - a rat-faced
vampire. Without authorized rights to the Bram Stoker novel,
Murnau had to rename his vampire Nosferatu, Count Dracula
was named Count Orlock, and the action was changed from
Transylvania to Bremen.
45 year-old director William Desmond Taylor was found
murdered in Los Angeles with a bullet in his back. There were
over a dozen potential suspects in the mysterious scandal,
including Keystone Kops heroine Mabel Normand, 19 year-old
blonde starlet Mary Miles Minter who starred in Anne of Green
1922 Gables, Minter's protective mother, and houseman Henry
Peavey. Eventually, nobody was ever arrested or tried for this
sensationalistic and fascinating crime, although combined with
the Fatty Arbuckle case in 1921 and Wallace Reid's drug-related
death in early 1923, a new age of censorship would soon be
dawning for Hollywood.
German Shepherd Rin Tin Tin became cinema's first canine star
- and helped save its studio (Warner Bros.) from bankruptcy
during the silent era. Rin Tin Tin made almost 30 films for the
studio, beginning with The Man From Hell's River.
The first Walt Disney cartoon was Little Red Riding Hood, one
of his Laugh O Grams studio productions that he made at his
own animation studio in Kansas City before relocating to Los
Angeles shortly thereafter.
Impresario Sid Grauman opened the Egyptian Theatre in
Hollywood -- the first 'movie palace' outside of downtown Los
1922 Angeles. It had Hollywood's first film premiere on October 18,
1922 - showing UA's silent swashbuckler Robin Hood, starring
The four Warner brothers' film distribution and production
business was incorporated and called Warner Brothers Pictures
Inc. - one of the first large film studios. They released the 6-reel
comedy-drama The Gold Diggers.
At the Rivoli Theatre in New York, Lee de Forest demonstrated
a sound-on-film method for recording sound on the edge of the
1923 film strip, called Phonofilm. He projected a series of short
musical films featuring vaudeville performers. It would become
the industry standard.
One of the highest-grossing films of the year was Paramount's
and James Cruze's feature-length western The Covered Wagon. It
was an expensive effort which cost $800,000 yet brought $4
million at the box-office. The film was the historical drama of a
wagon train in the mid-1800s moving westward, encountering
harsh environmental and weather conditions (a river crossing and
prairie fire), and of course, hostile Indians. Hollywood was
encouraged to produce many more westerns in subsequent years.
Handsome silent era actor Wallace Reid was appearing, on
average (over a seven-year period) in as many as one feature
film every seven weeks, when he died of influenza at the age of
1923 32. The real cause of his death was a weakened immune system
due to his addiction to morphine (allegedly often supplied by the
studio to keep him working) and his alcoholism. This was one of
many scandals that would rock Hollywood and eventually lead
to attempts to clamp down and prompt the implementation of the
motion picture production code in the early 1930s.
Director Cecil B. DeMille's first version of The Ten
Commandments was the most expensive film ever made and
featured the largest set ever constructed in movie history to that
time - the 'City of the Pharoah' (120 feet tall, 720 feet wide, and
with massive Egyptian statuary weighing 1,000,000 pounds). Its
'parting of the Red Sea' scene featured state-of-the-art special
effects, and some segments were filmed in early Technicolor.
After the film, the director ordered the set in San Luis Obispo
County (California) buried -- 60 years later, archeologists
uncovered it. DeMille remade his silent epic in 1956.
The Hollywood (originally HOLLYWOODLAND) sign was
built for $21,000.
The Fleischer Brothers (Dave and Max) produced the first
1923 feature-length animation (a documentary), titled The Einstein
Theory of Relativity.
Animator Walt Disney, for Laugh-Gram Studios, directed his
first cartoon (his first unfinished pilot film), the 12-minute short
Alice's Wonderland (aka Alice in Slumberland). It was never
released theatrically. The Alice comedies of the mid-20s, as they
were later known, were a major stepping stone in Disney's
The Fleischer Brothers made the first animated films (cartoons)
that featured a soundtrack, in a series of 36 films released in the
mid-1920s called Ko-Ko Song Car-Tunes (1924-1927) - the
precursors to karaoke. The first sound cartoon was one of the
Song Car-Tunes -- Mother Pin a Rose on Me. They were also the
first audience participation films, with sing-along lyrics and a
'bouncing-ball' helper. They included Has Anybody Here Seen
Kelly? (1926), When The Midnight Choo-Choo Leaves For
Alabam' (1926), Comin' Tho' The Rye (1926), Margie (1926),
My Old Kentucky Home (1926), Tramp, Tramp, Tramp-The Boys
Are Marching (1927), By The Light Of The Silvery Moon (1927).
In My Old Kentucky Home, Bimbo said to the audience: “Follow
the ball and join in everybody.”
Erich von Stroheim directed the influential Greed, a 10-hour epic
based on Frank Norris' novel McTeague. The movie was brutally
1924 edited down into a 2-hour length before theatrical release - an
early example of directorial vs. studio conflict, and one of
cinedom's 'lost films'.
1924 Theaters showed the first double features.
The future MGM studio was formed out of the merger of three
US film production companies: Marcus Loew's Metro Pictures
Corporation (1916), Goldwyn Pictures Corporation (1917)
1924 (known as Metro-Goldwyn), and the Louis B. Mayer Pictures
Company (1918). MGM was destined to become the dominant
studio of Hollywood's Golden Age during the 30s, under Louis
B. Mayer's direction.
The first film produced by the newly-formed studio MGM was
He Who Gets Slapped (1924), starring Lon Chaney, although it
wasn't their first released film - its release was postponed until
the end-of-year holiday season to bring in more profits with
1924 increased audiences. He Who Gets Slapped also featured the first
appearance of the MGM lion (a lion named Slats). The famous
MGM lion roar (from a lion named Jackie) in the studio's
opening logo, however, was first recorded and viewed in White
Shadows of the South Seas (1928) - via a Gramophone record.
The silent, propagandistic, Soviet sci-fi epic Aelita (1924) (aka
Aelita: Queen of Mars), at 120 minutes, was both the first big-
budget film made in Russia, and the first feature-length science-
fiction film (about space travel). Other early sci-fi silent films
included Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927) and Woman in the Moon
(1929), and Britain's futuristic High Treason (1929).
F.W. Murnau's The Last Laugh, with revolutionary camera work
by the celebrated German cinematographer Karl Freund,
virtually invented a host of new techniques for a mobile camera
C.B.C. Film Sales Company (founded by brothers Jack and
1924 Harry Cohn, and Joseph Brandt) officially changed its name to
Columbia Pictures Corporation.
Most of the major Hollywood motion-picture studios had been
established by this time, including the Big Five (Warner
Mid-to Brothers, Fox (later 20th Century Fox), RKO, Loew's Inc.
late (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)), Paramount (from Famous
1920s Players-Lasky)), and the Little Three (United Artists, Universal,
and Columbia). All of these studios used Thomas H. Ince's
efficient and profitable filmmaking "factory system".
The great Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein directed
Battleship Potemkin, a film celebrating the 20th anniversary of
an unsuccessful Russian Revolution in 1905 and a portrait of
mutiny aboard a battleship named Potemkin. His influential film,
considered one of the greatest of all time, effectively established
the dialectic film montage technique, especially in the Odessa
Steps sequence (copied later - in tribute - in films such as Brazil
(1985), The Untouchables (1987), and comically in Naked Gun
33 1/3: The Final Insult (1994)), as an important structural
method to evoke a dramatic response from the juxtaposition of
two clashing film shots. Non-linear editing in future films, such
as Pulp Fiction (1994) owe their stylistic techniques to this film.
The epic silent film Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ was released -
it cost a record-setting $3.95 million to produce, but the
blockbuster for MGM grossed $9 million on its first release. It
was notable for its use of a hanging miniature - to fill in the
upper tier portion of the coliseum (with fake spectators) for the
famed chariot race sequence. It also contained some two-color
Technicolor sequences (e.g., the triumphant processional
1925 One of silent film genius Charlie Chaplin's classic masterpieces
featuring the Tramp character was released -- The Gold Rush.
Chaplin directed, produced, starred in, and scripted the film. It
became the highest grossing silent comedy film of all time.
Universal foreshadowed their success in the horror genre with
Rupert Julian's expressionistic The Phantom of the Opera,
starring Lon Chaney, Sr. ("The Man of a Thousand Faces") in
his most notable role as the partially-disfigured "Phantom" in the
Paris Opera House. It set the prototypical style for the studio's
cycle of classic horror films in the early 30s - the decade of
Universal's monster movies (Dracula, Frankenstein, the Mummy,
The first feature-length dinosaur-oriented science-fiction film to
be released was The Lost World. It was also the first feature
1925 length film made in the US with the pioneering first major use
(primitive) of stop-motion animation with models for its special
The first in-flight movie, a black & white silent film from First
National titled The Lost World, was shown in a WWI converted
Handley-Page bomber during a 30-minute flight from London to
Paris in April for Imperial Airways. It featured pioneering stop
motion special effects by Willis O'Brien. [Some sources claim
that the first aerial 'movie' was four years earlier in August of
1921 - a short film called Howdy Chicago that was shown
aboard an 11-seat Aeromarine Airways hydroplane, named the
Santa Maria, which circled Chicago during the Pageant of
Western Electric and Warner Bros. agreed to develop a system to
make movies with sound.
A title card in the silent epic war film The Big Parade
1925 demonstrated one of the earliest uses of a curse word in a US
film: "March and sweat the whole damned day..."
1920s - Part 2
Year Event and Significance
In New York, Warner Brothers debuted Don Juan, the first
Vitaphone film (developed by Bell Telephone Laboratories in
1926) and the first publically-shown 'talkie' with synchronized
sound effects and music (but no dialogue) - starring John
Barrymore. It was the first mainstream film that replaced the
traditional use of a live orchestra or organ for the soundtrack (a
recorded musical score of the New York Philharmonic), and
successfully coordinated audio sound on a recorded disc
synchronized to play in conjunction with a projected motion
Russian director Sergei Eisenstein's classic landmark film
1926 Potemkin (1925) (aka Battleship Potemkin or Bronenosets
Potyomkin) opened in the US (in New York City in December).
The early death of 31 year-old silent screen star and idol
Rudolph Valentino, noted for 14 films (including The Sheik
(1921) and the sequel The Son of the Sheik (1926)) in a short
seven-year career, caused a frenzy among his fans during his
New York funeral.
The oldest surviving feature-length animated film (with
silhouette animation techniques and color tinting), The
Adventures of Prince Achmed (aka Die Abenteuer des Prinzen
Achmed), was released in Germany.
Flesh and the Devil marked the start of the famous (on and off-
screen) romance of Greta Garbo and John Gilbert during
1926, Hollywood's Golden Age. The film reportedly had love scenes
1928 with the first-ever horizontal-position kiss in American film, and
the first Hollywood film with an open-mouthed French kiss
between the two stars - who were obviously in love in real-life.
Actor-producer-star Douglas Fairbanks' ultimate pirate film
(silent), The Black Pirate, was historically significant - the
adventure swashbuckler was the first full-length blockbuster
color film. (The two-color process was first introduced in The
Toll of the Sea (1922) - see above, and in some sequences of
Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1925) - also, see above.) It
boasted the use of an early experimental Technicolor (two-color)
process, although it was also filmed in black and white.
A newer and better recording system for putting synchronized
sound-on-film called Movietone was developed by Theodore W.
Case and Earl I. Sponable for William Fox of the Fox Film
Corporation. In this system, the sound track was placed onto the
actual film next to the picture frames, rather than on a separate
synchronized disc as in the Vitaphone system.
Fox released They're Coming to Get Me, a five-minute black and
white short that was the first 'talkie' using the Movietone system.
1927 The first feature film released using the Fox Movietone system
was Sunrise (1927), directed by F. W. Murnau -- the first
professionally-produced feature film with an actual soundtrack.
The effective end of the silent era of films came when Warner
Brothers produced and debuted The Jazz Singer, the first widely-
screened feature-length talkie or movie with dialogue. The
musical, starring popular vaudevillian Al Jolson, had
accompanying audio (with a sound-on-disc technology) which
consisted of a few songs by Jolson and a few lines of
synchronized dialogue. In his nightclub act in the film, Jolson
presented the movie's first spoken ad-libbed words: "Wait a
minute, wait a minute, you ain't heard nothin' yet." The film had
about 350 spontaneously ad-libbed words.
Fox's Movietone newsreel, the first sound news film, was
produced. The first recording of a news event was the takeoff of
1927 Charles Lindbergh's plane from New York on May 20, 1927 on
his historic flight across the Atlantic to Paris, the inspiration to
create Movietone News.
At the height of his career during the decade of the 20s,
comedian Buster Keaton (who equally rivaled silent comic
director/star Charlie Chaplin), known as "The Great Stone Face"
made many short films and twelve feature films, including his
timeless masterpiece The General. His distinctive films were
noted for their trademark wit, satire, acrobatic agility and stunt-
work, and fantasy. Other well-known works at this time included
Our Hospitality (1923), The Navigator (1924), Sherlock, Jr.
(1924), and Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928).
Director Abel Gance's celebrated epic film Napoleon
experimented with wide-screen and multi-screen effects, used
rapid-fire editing (influenced by Eisenstein's Potemkin (1925)),
free-wheeling camera movement (influenced by Murnau), and a
unique multi-projector system. It was the precursor to the wide-
screen Cinerama process that debuted in 1952.
Director Fritz Lang's classic dystopian vision of the future, the
expressionistic Metropolis exploited massive sets and lavish set
design, clever special effects, stylistic shadowing, oblique
camera angles and labryinths, and physical effects like realistic
miniatures and hydraulically-produced flooding. It was
1927 considered a costly box-office disaster at the time and its
notorious German producer, the UFA (Universumfilm
Aktiengesellschaft) had to be bailed out by U.S. interests.
Brigitte Helm served as the film's real Maria (an oppressed
working girl) and as the evil robotic doppelganger of herself -
cinematic history's first android or robot.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS)
was founded. Its president was Douglas Fairbanks, and its first
awards ceremony was held in 1929, to honor films in 1927 and
1927 Motion picture film became standardized at 24 fps.
The Hays Office issued a memorandum, "Don'ts and Be
Carefuls," a code of decency telling the studios eleven taboos or
things to avoid in the "Don'ts" section (and twenty-six items in
the "Be Carefuls" section), including profanity, 'licentious or
1927 suggestive nudity,' illegal traffic in drugs, any inference of sex
perversion, white slavery, miscegenation, sex hygiene and
venereal diseases, scenes of actual childbirth, children's sex
organs, ridicule of the clergy, and willful offense to any nation,
race or creed.
Grauman's Chinese Theater opened in Hollywood, California,
1927 famed for hand and footprints of various film stars and
All-American half-back football star Johnny Mack Brown, a
future star of B-westerns for over two decades, signed a contract
with MGM, thereby becoming the first sports star to sustain a
career in motion pictures.
Paramount's film titled It opened, with an early appearance by
Gary Cooper and starlet Clara Bow as a lingerie salesgirl, who
soon became known as the "It Girl". "IT" referred to sex appeal.
She had already been dubbed "The Brooklyn Bonfire" and "The
Hottest Jazz Baby in Films." The film was also noted as having
the earliest known use of a zoom lens in a US feature film, in its
RKO (Radio-Keith-Orpheum) Pictures, evolving originally from
the Mutual Film Corporation (1912), was created in the merger
of the Radio Corporation of America (RCA), the Film Booking
Office (FBO) and Keith-Albee-Orpheum, a major Vaudeville
corporation. It was established as a subsidiary of RCA and
joined the ranks of the major Hollywood studios.
The first Mickey Mouse film, Plane Crazy, was debuted on May
15, 1928. Walt Disney also introduced the first popular animated
cartoons with synchronized sound later in this year: Steamboat
Willie (on July 29, 1928, in limited release) and Galloping
Gaucho (on August 2, 1928). Steamboat Willie - Mickey's first
sound cartoon, was then re-released on November 18, 1928 with
1928 sound and premiered at the 79th Street Colony Theatre in New
York - it was the first cartoon with post-produced synchronized
soundtrack (of music, dialogue, and sound effects) and was
considered Mickey Mouse's screen debut performance and
birthdate. It was the first sound cartoon that was a major hit. The
character of Mickey Mouse was modified from Disney's earlier
character Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.
The gangster melodrama The Lights of New York was released
by Warner Brothers as the first 100% all-talking feature film.
This first Warner Bros. gangster film was unexpectedly
successful, grossing over $2 million.
Danish director Carl Theodor Dreyer's startling and influential
The Passion of Joan of Arc used minimal sets, extremely oblique
1928 and other unusual camera angles, and excruciatingly huge close-
ups to create a virtually new visual language soulfully expressive
of the martyr's (Maria Falconetti) suffering psychology.
Paramount became the first studio to announce that it would only
Warners' follow-up film and melodramatic musical, The Singing
Fool, was released in both sound and silent versions. It contained
the first hit song from a talking movie, Al Jolson's performance
of Sonny Boy.
Director Germaine Dulac released the classic The Seashell and
the Clergyman) (aka La Coquille et le clergyman, Fr.), the first
surrealist film, although many have claimed Un Chien Andalou
1928 (1929) by Luis Bunuel (and Salvador Dali) a year later was the
first. The latter film, filled with irrational and shocking images,
opened with the infamous scene of the slashing of a woman's
eyeball with a razor blade.
The first Academy Awards were announced and awarded during
a ceremony, with Paramount's Wings (1927) winning Best
1929 Picture (based on production). It was the only silent film to win
an Oscar for Best Picture. A second 'Best Picture' category for
artistic merit (a category dropped the next year), was awarded to
Sunrise (1927). Emil Jannings and Janet Gaynor were the first
Best Actor and Best Actress winners - for multiple films.
Actress Mary Pickford was the first performer to conduct a
marketing campaign for an Academy Award, in the second year
of its offering, by inviting all of the judges to her home for tea at
her 22-room Pickfair mansion -- her ploy worked and she
1929 actually won the Best Actress honor (awarded in 1930) for her
overly-emotive performance in her first talkie, the melodramatic
Coquette (1928/29). Pickford and Fairbanks also starred together
in the box-office flop The Taming of the Shrew - a misguided
effort to bolster their stardom.
Hollywood released its first original (backstage) musical. It was
MGM's first all-talking picture The Broadway Melody - a Best
Picture Academy Award winner and the first musical to spawn a
series of Broadway Melody sequels that stretched out to 1940
(the final film starred Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell). The
musical film genre was born with the coming of sound films.
In Old Arizona was released -- the first full-length talkie film to
be shot outdoors and not in a studio.
Director Erich von Stroheim's last silent film Queen Kelly,
starring Gloria Swanson, (partial footage seen in Billy Wilder's
Sunset Boulevard (1950), also starring Swanson and von
1929 Stroheim), was not finished due to its expensive and elaborate
production, and disagreements between Swanson and the
director. Producers also balked at the idea of completing it -
when the demand was increasing for sound films.
The 1925 musical Cocoanuts was made into a film with the
1929 Marx Brothers -- their first film, shot at Paramount's Astoria
Studios on Long Island.
The first full-length, modern sound ("First 100% Natural Color,
Talking, Singing, Dancing Picture") motion picture produced
entirely in color (two-strip Technicolor), director Alan
Crosland's musical On With the Show, premiered in New York
1929 City on May 28, 1929. [Note: Previously, The Cavalier (1928),
technically the first feature-length sound film completely in
Technicolor, had only music and sound effects with silent title
cards.] The second Technicolor 'talkie' film was Gold Diggers of
Broadway (1929), also from Warner Bros.
The first important, feature-length sound documentary was the
German film, Melodie der Welt (aka Melody of the World).
George Eastman demonstrated his first movie in Technicolor in
MGM's and director King Vidor's all-black musical Hallelujah!,
shot on location, introduced post-synchronization to film-
making. It was also the first sound-era film with an all-black cast
to be produced by a major studio. The action was originally shot
without sound, which was later added in the studio as a
separately recorded sound track containing both naturalistic and
The enthusiastic public demanded to see more movies with
sound. Theaters rushed to install sound equipment. Movie
attendance increased to 110 million, almost double the movie
attendance in 1927. The independent studios couldn't compete as
successfully with the four major studios (Fox, MGM,
Paramount, and Warners) in the production of sound films.
1929 Walt Disney Productions was formed.
Mickey Mouse's first words were spoken in his ninth cartoon
1929 short The Karnival Kid (1929) when he said the words: "Hot
dogs!" [Walt's voice was used for Mickey.]
Alfred Hitchcock's Blackmail was his first sound film (and the
UK's first full-length talking picture) -- and featured one of his
earliest cameo appearances - a custom that would become a
regular feature of his films (and the films of many others).
Soviet director Dziga Vertov's The Man with a Movie Camera -
a quintessential experimental, avante-garde film and an excellent
example of a "city symphony" documentary, was regarded as
1929 "pure" visual cinema. Its views of Moscow, Kiev, Odessa and of
Soviet workers and machines contained radical hyper-editing
techniques, special visual effects, wild juxtapositions of images,
and double exposures.
Rouben Mamoulian's musical drama Applause, one of the
earliest Hollywood musicals during the first full year of sound
pictures, was a liberating, innovative breakthrough film at a time
of 'static' and stultified film-making with bulky immobile
1929 cameras on sound stages. He introduced revolutionary camera
techniques (including rhythmically moving and inventive shots,
and the use of two cameras at the same time) and experiments
with sound (use of overlapping or interlacing soundtracks, sound
cues, auditory montages, and background noise).
Dorothy Arzner directed The Wild Party - it was 24 year-old star
Clara Bow's ("Hollywood's Whoopie Girl") first talkie -- a tale
about "Jazz Age" youth in a collegiate picture that was
exceedingly popular at the time. In the film, she played the part
of a wild and sexy student who became involved with one of her
young professors (Fredric March) at Winston College for
Women. Clara Bow's sound career as an actress was soon
The film careers of many silent film stars ended due to their
voices being unsuitable for the new medium, or due to the fact
that their voices didn't match their public image. Others,
however, such as Greta Garbo, and the comedy team of Stan
Laurel and Oliver Hardy successfully adapted to sound.
1930s - Part 1
Year Event and Significance
1930s The most popular film genres of the time were musicals, gangster films, newspaper
movies, westerns, comedies, melodramas and horror movies. Warner Bros.
inaugurated the crime-gangster film, with its Little Caesar (1930) (starring Edward
G. Robinson as a small-time hood) - the first talkie gangster film, and The Public
Enemy (1931) (noted for James Cagney pushing a grapefruit into the face of moll
girlfriend Mae Clarke).
This was the era which has been predominantly referred to as "The Golden Age of
Hollywood" by film critics and historians, and considered the apex of film history.
(Some have extended the time period into the 50s). The "Golden Age" came to a
close with the breakup of the studios and declining attendance from challenges
brought by shopping centers and television.
Public pressure (mainly from the Catholic Church) applied further censorship
guidelines and clearly outlined what was acceptable (and unacceptable) in films
within the industry. Pre-marital sex, alcoholism, immoral and criminal activity,
among other subjects, led to the establishment and adoption of the Motion Picture
Production Code. As head of the MPPDA, William Hays established this new code
of decency, known in short as the Production Code or Hays Code.
The Marx Brothers starred in Animal Crackers - it was the second of many classic
Marx Brothers films (their first film was The Cocoanuts (1929), also for Paramount
1930 Studios). It was also the last of their films to be taken from one of their stage
successes and the last to be filmed on the East Coast on Astoria sound stages before
they transferred to Hollywood.
Greta Garbo starred in her first talkie, Anna Christie, advertised with the tagline:
1930 GARBO TALKS!, and speaking her first line of dialogue with: "Give me a whisky,
ginger ale on the side. And don't be stingy, baby."
The first feature-length prison film was released, MGM's The Big House, starring
1930 Wallace Beery in a breakthrough role (following the death of Lon Chaney, Sr. who
was scheduled to be the main lead actor).
Two ex-Disney animators -- Hugh Harman (1903-1982) and Rudolf Ising (1903-
1992), began to make the first cartoons for Warner Bros. They drew the 5-minute
pilot film named Bosko The TalkInk Kid (1929) - the first synchronized talking
animated short/cartoon (as opposed to a cartoon with a soundtrack), with a little
black boy character named Bosko who actually spoke dialogue. The Bosko pilot
film was the impetus for the birth of Warners Bros.' Looney Tunes. The black and
white Sinkin' in the Bathtub, with Bosko in the starring role, was the earliest talking
'Looney Tune', released on May 30, 1930.
The animation sequence (about a safari hunt in Africa by bandleader Paul
Whiteman) created by Walter Lantz (the creator of Woody Woodpecker) in The
King of Jazz (1930) was the first 2-strip Technicolor animation ever produced. It
featured Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.
A prototype of the squeaky- and baby-voiced cartoon queen Betty Boop (voiced for
most of the 30s by Mae Questel) was introduced in a Fleischer Brothers' Bimbo
Talkartoon entitled Dizzy Dishes (1930) - with her appearing as a long-eared puppy
The movie industry began to dub in the dialogue of films exported to foreign
The first daily newspaper for the Hollywood film industry, The Hollywood Reporter,
had its debut.
1930 British director Alfred Hitchcock's second all-talkie thriller Murder was the first film
in which a character's (Sir John Menier, played by Herbert Marshall) thoughts were
heard in voice-over.
French director René Clair's musical romance Under the Roofs of Paris (aka Sous
1930 les toits de Paris, Fr.), was an unexpected musical hit with groundbreaking use of
the new technology of sound. It was the director's first sound film.
Double features emerged as a way for the unemployed and the middle-class to
occupy their time.
Howard Hawks' gangster film Scarface used an X motif throughout. The film was
specifically targeted by the Production Code for its violence, sexual innuendo, and
for its ending (that was re-edited to demonstrate that good ultimately triumphed over
evil). The film was also forced to be re-named Scarface: The Shame of the Nation.
The first of Universal's series of classic horror films was released: Dracula with
Bela Lugosi, and Frankenstein with Boris Karloff.
African-American filmmaker Oscar Micheaux's The Exile was the first feature-
1931 length sound film from a black director - it was advertised as the first Black
The Best Picture-nominated Trader Horn, by director W.S. Van Dyke, was notable
as the first non-documentary production to be filmed in Africa. Some of its jungle
stock footage was later used for MGM's first Tarzan film with Johnny Weissmuller,
Tarzan, the Ape Man (1932).
German director Fritz Lang's influential and suspenseful M was released (Lang's first
sound film), starring Peter Lorre in a breakout role as a child serial killer. One of the
earliest talkies that effectively used sound, it was also the first serious psychological
crime film/melodrama about a serial killer. In the plot, Lang experimented with
sound (and the striking pioneering use of leitmotif, to associate a sound with a film
character) - a blind balloon salesman (Georg John) heard the killer's haunting, tell-
tale whistling of "In the Hall of the Mountain King" from Edvard Grieg's Peer Gynt
Suite No. 1 before an off-screen killing.
According to various sources, the pre-Code film A Free Soul (1931) starring Norma
Shearer has a 14-minute, uninterrupted monologue scene played by Best Actor-
winning Lionel Barrymore as a defense attorney in a courtroom - it was the longest
take in a commercial film, accomplished by using two cameras simultaneously.
Disney's short talking film Flowers and Trees was the first in the Silly Symphony
series. It premiered in July of 1932 at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. It
1932 was also the first animation short to use 3-strip (or three-color) Technicolor (as was
Disney's Three Little Pigs (1933)). It won the first Academy Award for Best Short
Subject - Cartoon (animation).
Rouben Mamoulian's pivotal musical Love Me Tonight shaped the technical
language of movie musicals in the sound era, by smoothly integrating the songs into
1932 the film's plotline. It also featured the first zoom shot (into a window) and the first
asynchronous sound, and also other dazzling special effects such as slow-motion,
fast-motion, and split-screens.
The film career of 4 year-old child star Shirley Temple (born in 1928), probably the
most famous child actress in history, began when she appeared in various shorts
(such as the 'Baby Burlesks' series with her first film War Babies (1932)) and in her
feature film debut, The Red-Haired Alibi (1932). Fox signed five-year old Shirley to
a contract in 1933. She would become one of the biggest box-office stars in the mid
to late 1930s (1936-1938).
Director Victor Halperin's independent, low-budget horror film White Zombie, was
the first 'true' zombie film. It was the first feature-length zombie film - the archetype
and model for all subsequent zombie films. It starred Bela Lugosi as hypnotic and
sinister Haitian sugar mill owner "Murder" Legendre with zombie slaves, was
deliberately made with minimal dialogue, and filmed to be visually atmospheric and
Legendary French director Jean Renoir directed Boudu Saved From Drowning (aka
Boudu sauvé des eaux, Fr.), a critique of the French bourgeoisie, in its tale of an
1932 urban bum (Michel Simon) who was rescued by a bourgeois bookselling gentleman
and brought to his apartment. The story served as the basis for Paul Mazursky's
Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986) with Nick Nolte.
MGM's Tarzan, the Ape Man, was the first Tarzan talkie, and also MGM's first
Tarzan film (it was the first of six MGM Tarzan films starring Johnny Weissmuller
and co-star Maureen O'Sullivan as Jane, stretching from 1932-1942). It was also
notable as the only MGM Tarzan film that was based upon the original "Lord of the
1932 Jungle" character in the Edgar Rice Burroughs stories. This film introduced the
chimpanzee Cheeta, and provided the Weissmuller yodel yell (produced by MGM's
sound department), although the ape-call originated in a 1929 part-talkie serial
(starring Frank Merrill). The star swimmer Weissmuller was chosen for the role, in
part, because he was a gold medals winner in the 1924 and 1928 Olympics.
Warners' producer Leon Schlesinger assembled the 'gods of animation', including
Tex Avery, Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, and Bob Clampett.
Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, although minor players, made their debut and
danced in their first joint movie together, RKO's Flying Down to Rio. With King
Kong, this film saved RKO from bankruptcy. The couple appeared early on in a
sensual, show-stopping dance number called "The Carioca" -- the dance required the
dancers to touch foreheads while clapsing hands - and then execute a turn without
losing forehead contact. Flying Down to Rio was most memorable for the title
1933 number, with airplane wing-dancing/walking, skimpily-attired chorus girls atop
biplane wings (filmed in an airplane hangar with wind machines and a few planes
hanging from the ceiling - enhanced with backdrops of Rio and Malibu Beach). The
film was also notable in that the film's sexy star, Dolores Del Rio, was the first
major star to wear a two-piece women's bathing suit ever seen onscreen. [Note: a
brief scene showed a two-piece bathing "sun-suit" being modeled on a beach in
Three on a Match (1932) a year earlier]
The classic adventure-action film King Kong, a "Beauty and the Beast" tale, featured
the "Scream Queen" Fay Wray, and astonishing stop-motion special effects
animation from Willis O'Brien, and ending with the iconic image of Kong atop the
Empire State Building. It was one of the first major films to have a life-like (stop-
motion) animated central character, alongside live-action. It was the first film
heavily promoted and marketed on the radio.
One of the first feature-length musical scores written specifically for a US 'talkie'
film was Max Steiner's score for RKO's King Kong. It was the first major
Hollywood film to have a thematic score rather than background music, recorded
using a 46-piece orchestra. After the score was completed, all of the film's sounds
1933 were recorded onto three separate tracks, one each for sound effects, dialogue and
music. For the first time in film history, RKO's sound department head Murray
Spivak made a groundbreaking sound design decision - he pitched the effects to
match the score, so they wouldn't be overwhelming and so they would complement
1933 The backstage drama/musical 42nd Street, choreographed by Busby Berkeley,
revitalized the over-exposed musical and saved Warners from bankruptcy. The film
established Berkeley as the most talented choreographer of musical production
Two other Busby Berkeley productions made at the same time, Gold Diggers of
1933 and Footlight Parade, launched dance and musical extravaganzas with creative
camera angles and innovative staging. From 1933-1937, Berkeley created musical
numbers for almost every great musical produced by Warner Bros.
The notorious Czechoslovakian film Ecstasy (1933) (aka Extase) with Hedwig
Kiesler (Hedy Lamarr) contained nudity and sexual situations (intercourse and
simulated orgasm). It was the first theatrically-released film (non-pornographic) in
1933 which the sex act was depicted (although off-screen). It was unusual at its time for
depicting obvious female sexual pleasure (ecstasy) during orgasm (simulated) from
the effects of oral sex. The film was, arguably, the first to depict female orgasm on-
Jean Vigo directed the influential social commentary film Zero For Conduct (aka
Zéro de conduite, Fr.), about a full-scale rebellion in a French boys' boarding school
against tyrannical authority, a film that was banned by censors until the late 1940s.
The film closely resembles Lindsay Anderson's If... (1968).
The Payne Fund study, Our Movie-Made Children, argued that films shaped
1933 Theaters began to open refreshment stands.
1933 The Screen Writers Guild was established.
The first drive-in movie theater was opened on June 6th at the Camden Drive-In in
Pennsauken, New Jersey with the showing of the second-run film Wives Beware
1933 (1932), starring Adolphe Menjou. It was known simply as "Drive-In Theater"
although the actual name was the "Automobile Movie Theater." Admission was 25
cents for each car and an additional 25 cents for each person.
The films of bawdy and buxom Mae West, such as She Done Him Wrong and I'm No
Angel, raised the criticism of various groups over her racy, double-entendre-laden
dialogue and her costumes, and hastened the move toward greater censorship the
following year. The other sex goddess known as the "original blonde bombshell" --
the sensual Jean Harlow, also caused Hollywood to raise its eyebrows, especially
after her appearances in Howard Hughes' Hell's Angels (1930), Platinum Blonde
(1931), The Public Enemy (1931), Red Dust (1932), Red Headed Woman (1932),
and Dinner at Eight (1933).
Deluge was the first 'end of the world' big-budget disaster/science-fiction film (from
1933 RKO) in the sound era, featuring revolutionary visual effects to depict and simulate
turbulent tidal waves hitting New York City.
1930s - Part 2
Year Event and Significance
Frank Capra's It Happened One Night became the first film to sweep the Academy
Awards, winning Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Best Adapted
Screenplay. The same feat would be repeated with One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
(1975) and The Silence of the Lambs (1991).
1934 Donald Duck debuted in The Wise Little Hen.
1934 An amendment to the Production Code established the Production Code
Administration (PCA), which required all films to acquire a certificate of approval
before release, or face a penalty of $25,000. The members of the MPPDA agreed not
to release or distribute any film that didn't carry the seal. The MPPDA appointed
Joseph Breen as the director of the PCA to enforce the Production Code. John Ford's
The World Moves On was the first film to receive a production seal granted by the
Hays Office under its new guidelines. The era of 'separate beds' was inaugurated.
The Catholic Church formed the Legion of Decency to boycott any film that didn't
use the Production Code as a guideline.
Louis de Rochemont began the documentary newsreel film series, The March of
Warner Bros. became the first studio to shut down its German distribution office to
protest the Nazi's anti-Semitic policies.
The first use of 3-strip Technicolor in a live-action sequence (in the film's final
1934 scene), was in MGM's musical/romance operetta adaptation The Cat and the Fiddle,
starring Jeanette MacDonald (in her MGM debut film) and Ramon Novarro.
RKO's 2-reel short La Cucaracha was the first live-action film to use a three-strip
Color movies were first widely shown in the late thirties, although hand-tinted or
toned films were standard practice in the 1910s and 1920s, and two-strip
Technicolor had emerged in the late 1920s. Technicolor sequences were included in
DeMille's The Ten Commandments (1923), MGM's Ben-Hur (1925) and Universal's
The Phantom of the Opera (1925), and various early sound musicals included two-
1935 strip Technicolor production numbers as spectacular highlights. Walt Disney was the
first to use the new and improved three-color (three-strip) Technicolor system in his
animated shorts Flowers and Trees (1932) and The Three Little Pigs (1933), while
RKO's and Rouben Mamoulian's Becky Sharp (1935) was the first feature-length
Technicolor film - a milestone film dramatizing William Makepeace Thackeray's
novel Vanity Fair with Miriam Hopkins in the title role.
The first official Mickey Mouse film in color was released, Disney's 9-minute The
British director Alfred Hitchcock became an internationally-famous figure for his
thrillers including The 39 Steps and later The Lady Vanishes (1938).
1935 Century Pictures and Fox Film merged to form 20th Century-Fox.
The U.S. Treasury Department upheld a Commissioner of Customs decision to
prohibit the import of the notorious Czechoslovakian film Ecstasy (1933) (aka
1935 Extase) with Hedwig Kiesler (Hedy Lamarr), because it contained nudity and sexual
situations (intercourse and simulated orgasm). This marked the first time customs
laws were used to prevent a film from entering the US.
The first trade paper Oscar advertisement appeared to promote MGM's coming-of-
age comedy, Ah, Wilderness!
In the Warner Bros.' film G-Men, James Cagney didn't play the typical "tough guy
gangster" as usual but took the role of a federal lawman. The film industry's new
censorship laws only allowed gangsters on the screen if they were being captured or
killed by FBI men. This new heroic image signaled a shift in Hollywood's portrayal
of the government agent, mostly due to the propagandastic intentions of FBI head J.
Edgar Hoover (who ruled the agency from 1924 until his death in 1972).
1935 Pricewaterhouse (now PricewaterhouseCoopers) has managed the Academy Awards
balloting process since 1935 - all but the first six years of the Oscars.
Director Leni Riefenstahl's controversial, historically-important documentary film
The Triumph of the Will (aka Triumph des Willens, Germ.) was an effective
propagandistic effort documenting the 1934 Nazi Party Congress and rally in
John Ford's American film The Informer had an impressive, emotionally-moving,
Academy Award-winning musical score (with an Irish flavor) written by famed
composer Max Steiner, and encouraged the future development of musical
soundtracks and accompaniments.
Dudley Nichols, the screenwriter for Ford's The Informer, became the first winner to
refuse his Oscar award on political grounds, during a union boycott that was being
held during the awards ceremony.
Chaplin's Modern Times, mostly silent although with various sound effects,
commented upon the effects of the Great Depression.
The Negro Improvement League protested The Green Pastures, the first all-black
film since King Vidor's Hallelujah! (1929). It was a reenactment of Bible stories set
1936 in the world of black American folklore and filled with cliches and racial stereotypes
of the time. The organization criticized it as "insulting, degrading and malicious"
and perpetuating unacceptable stereotypes.
Composer and Warners' animation department musical director for over two
decades, Carl W. Stalling chose "Merrily We Roll Along" (mostly used for Merrie
Melodies) and "The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down" (mostly used for Looney Tunes)
as the distinctive theme songs for Warners' cartoons.
The romantic drama The Trail of the Lonesome Pine was the first three-strip
Technicolor feature shot entirely on location (away from the studio). It was directed
by outdoor action-adventure, western, drama, and war film director Henry
Hathaway, and starred Henry Fonda, Fred MacMurray, and Sylvia Sidney.
Walt Disney's Silly Symphonies short animated film, The Old Mill, was the first
cartoon to be produced with the multi-plane camera, which gave an increased sense
of movement and depth. It won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film
The first full-length animated feature, Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,
1937 was released - made for a budget of $1.5 million. It was the top moneymaker in
1938, when it made an astronomical $8 million.
The first film pairing of young stars Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland was in
Thoroughbreds Don't Cry.
Luise Rainer won the second of her back-to-back Best Actress Oscars for her
performance as the strong and silent O-Lan, a self-sacrificing Chinese peasant farm
1937 wife in The Good Earth. Her first win was for her performance in The Great
Ziegfeld (1936). She became the first multiple Oscar winner, and was the first to win
an award two years in a row.
The musical comedy A Damsel in Distress (with music and lyrics by George and Ira
Gershwin and based on a P.G. Wodehouse story) was best known as the first Fred
Astaire/RKO film to not feature Ginger Rogers (non-dancer/singer Joan Fontaine
was substituted), after they famously teamed up together in Flying Down to Rio
(1933) through their last previous joint appearance in Shall We Dance (1937). It was
also the first Astaire film to be a box-office flop. To make up for their
miscalculation, RKO quickly recast the celebrated dance team of Astaire and Rogers
in the next year's Carefree (1938).
Blonde bombshell Jean Harlow was the first film actress to appear on the cover of
the popular Life magazine, on May 3, 1937, only a month before her tragic death at
age 26 due to uremic poisoning on June 7, 1937, before the completion of filming
for Saratoga (1937) with Clark Gable.
1937 Louis B. Mayer (of MGM studios) had the highest salary in the US at $1.3 million.
For the first time, a group of movie stars organized a committee, the Motion Picture
Democratic Committee, to support a political party.
African-American leaders publically called on the Hays Office to make roles other
than doormen, maids, and porters available to blacks.
The first appearance of an early prototype of Bugs Bunny, possibly the greatest
cartoon character of all-time, as Porky Pig's antagonist in Warners' Porky's Hare
Hunt. He would appear fully-developed and in his first starring role in Tex Avery's
Oscar-nominated A Wild Hare (1940).
The first and only on-screen kiss between the memorable dancing-singing
partnership of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers was in their 8th RKO film, Carefree.
Russian director Sergei Eisenstein directed the epic film Alexander Nevsky (aka
Aleksandr Nevskiy, Russ.), a nationalistic film that presented the medieval story of
the 13th century Russian prince Alexander Nevsky (Nikolai Cherkasov) -- enhanced
with a score by Sergei Prokofiev. The film's most memorable battle scene was on the
ice (that started to crack) at frozen Lake Peipus in 1242 between the invading
barbaric Teutonic knights and the Russian army - both wielding spears and axes.
The California Child Actor's Bill, better known as the Coogan Law (after 21 year
old Jackie Coogan who sued his parents for mismanaging and exploiting his career
and spending his acquired fortune as a young star) was enacted. To protect the
earnings of child actors, it required that fifteen percent of a child's earnings be set
aside in a trust that cannot be tapped without a court order until the child comes of
age. Various child labor laws and other similar acts have since been established.
Later, Coogan became known for playing Uncle Fester on The Addams Family
Spencer Tracy won his second Best Actor Oscar in early 1939. He had won the 1937
Oscar for his role in Captains Courageous and then this 1938 award for Boys Town.
This was the first time that an actor had won the Oscar in consecutive years.
This year has often been called the "greatest year in film history" by film buffs,
movie historians, and critics, chiefly due to the inordinate number of classic films.
Some of the greatest films ever made were released in 1939, including Gone With
the Wind, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,
Ninotchka, Stagecoach, The Wizard of Oz and Wuthering Heights. In France, both
1939 Marcel Carné's Daybreak (aka Le Jour Se Lève) and Jean Renoir's The Rules of the
Game (considered by some to be the greatest film of all-time, but banned during the
German occupation) were released. Other major classic films in 1939 included Beau
Geste, Dark Victory, Destry Rides Again, Love Affair (later remade as An Affair to
Remember), Only Angels Have Wings, Gunga Din, Midnight, Of Mice and Men, The
Women, Young Mr. Lincoln, and many more.
Gone With the Wind, directed by Victor Fleming and starring Clark Gable and
1939 Vivien Leigh, was premiered. This big-screen adaptation of Margaret Mitchell's
best-selling novel was a 222-minute Civil War epic drama that went on to profitably
gross $192 million. Its casting call for the lead female role of Scarlett O'Hara ended
up being one of the biggest ever with multiple actresses being considered for the
highly desired role. It was nominated for thirteen Oscars, and won eight statues
(including Best Picture) - a record for its time, and two special awards in the awards
ceremony in early 1940. It was the first color film to win Best Picture. Best
Supporting Actress Hattie McDaniel became the first African-American performer
to win an Oscar (she was also the first African-American nominee for an Oscar, and
the first African-American guest at the awards ceremony).
John Ford's classic western Stagecoach was the first film that the director shot in
1939 Utah's Monument Valley -- the site would repeatedly be used as the locale for most
of his other Westerns.
With his supporting roles in Frank Capra's You Can't Take It With You (1938) as
Donald and Gone With the Wind as Uncle Peter, Eddie "Rochester" Anderson
became the first black performer to appear in more than one Oscar-winning Best
Picture. This led to his top billing in the MGM musical Cabin in the Sky (1943).
The future rival to film -- television -- was formally introduced at the New York
1939 World's Fair in Queens. The Radio Corporation of America (RCA) unveiled a
display of its first TV sets for sale to the American public.
end of The eight largest US film studios raked in 90% of US film profits at the end of the
the 1930s 1930s.
1940s - Part 1
Year Event and Significance
Disney released its animated feature film masterpiece Pinocchio - one of the best
1940 examples of the studio's animation talent. This was Disney's second feature-length
animated film, following after Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937).
Disney's groundbreaking Fantasia introduced a "Fantasound" 'stereo-like', multi-
channel soundtrack (an optical 'surround-sound' soundtrack printed on a separate
35mm reel from the actual video portion of the film). It cost about four times more
than an average live-action picture.
The first of the seven Bob Hope-Bing Crosby "Road" films (spanning 1940-1962)
was released: Road to Singapore.
The first agents began to assemble creative talent and stories in exchange for a
percentage of the film's profits.
Alfred Hitchcock's first American film, Rebecca, won Best Picture at the awards
1940 ceremony in 1941. It competed against another Hitchcock film - Foreign
John Ford directed The Grapes of Wrath, his most famous black and white epic
drama - the classic adaptation of John Steinbeck's 1940 Pulitzer Prize-winning,
widely-read 1939 novel. This film was the most popular left-leaning, socialistic-
themed film of pre-World War II Hollywood.
Actor/director/producer/writer/composer Charlie Chaplin released his first 'talkie'
1940 feature film, The Great Dictator. Charlie Chaplin was the first to ever receive three
simultaneous nominations, as producer, actor, and screenwriter for the film.
Famed cartoon character Bugs Bunny first said his famous line ("Eh, what's up,
1940 Doc?" voiced by Mel Blanc) in his fourth, Oscar-nominated Tex Avery cartoon, A
Wild Hare (1940) - the first true Bugs Bunny cartoon with Elmer Fudd as a rabbit
hunter (and noted for Elmer's first use of his 'wabbit' voice). Bugs finally received
his identifiable name by his fifth cartoon, Elmer's Pet Rabbit (1941).
Tom & Jerry, created by Hanna & Barbera, were debuted by MGM in Puss Gets the
Boot. (Tom was called Jasper and Jerry didn't have a name yet.)
Many sources have claimed that director Boris Ingster's Stranger on the Third Floor
was the first full-featured film noir. It starred Peter Lorre as the sinister 'stranger'
(cast due to his creepy performance in M (1931)), in a story about the nightmarish
after-effects of circumstantial testimony. See also 1941.
Howard Hawks' speedy and hysterically funny, modern-style screwball comedy His
Girl Friday, was one of the best examples of its kind in film history. Although it had
a 92-minute running time, the breath-taking, fast-paced film had more than enough
1940 dialogue for a 3-hour movie. It was best remembered for its overlapping dialogue
and simultaneous conversations - and it marked one of the earliest instances in
which characters would deliberately (and realistically) talk over the lines of other
Director/scriptwriter Preston Sturges' political satire The Great McGinty was noted
for its Oscar-winning Best Original Screenplay. Sturges was the first Hollywood
scriptwriter to direct his own work - and he was also the first director to win the
1940 Academy Award for his own original screenplay. It was the first time a film in
Hollywood opened with the credit: "Written and Directed By." He was able to retain
greater control over and exercise greater protection of his own creations, signaling
the days when a writer could also be the director and/or producer.
Dave and Max Fleischer, in an agreement with Paramount and DC Comics,
produced a series of seventeen Superman cartoons in the early 1940s. The first
Superman short, Superman, introduced the terms "faster than a speeding bullet" and
"Look, up in the sky!"
24 year-old Orson Welles, called America's "boy wonder" or wunderkind, directed
and acted in Citizen Kane, a movie about a powerful newspaper publisher named
Charles Foster Kane (modeled after William Randolph Hearst). "Boy genius" Welles
was the first to ever receive simultaneous nominations in four categories: as
producer, actor, director, and writer. It has been the most highly-regarded film in
cinematic history, with many ground-breaking film techniques. The controversial
1941 film, banned from advertising in all of Hearst's newspapers, was noted for its
creative experiments with sound (i.e., overlapping dialogue and layered sound), for
its numerous complex flashbacks (and non-linear storytelling), and for Gregg
Toland's cinematography, including innovative camera angles (low-angle shots
revealing ceilings), montage, mise-en-scene, deep-focus compositions, tracking
shots, whip pans, lengthy takes, and dramatic or expressionistic low-key noirish
Reclusive Swedish actress Greta Garbo retired early at age 36, after the release of
the disastrous box-office flop Two-Faced Woman. She quit the film business, left
Hollywood, and remained out of the spotlight until her death of natural causes in
A Senate subcommittee launched an investigation of whether Hollywood was
1941 producing films to involve the United States in World War II. It was dissolved
shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor in late 1941.
Bette Davis became the first female president of the Motion Picture Academy of
Arts and Sciences.
1941 The first, generally-acknowledged film noir was released, John Huston's directorial
debut film The Maltese Falcon. It was the first detective film to use the shadowy,
nihilistic noir style in a definitive way. The mystery classic was the privotal work of
novice director John Huston. The cycle of classic film noirs with a recognizable
visual style, would last until 1958.
The Society of Independent Motion Picture Producers was founded by Mary
Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, Walt Disney, Orson Welles, Samuel Goldwyn, David O.
Selznick, Alexander Korda, and Walter Wanger. The Society aimed to preserve the
rights of independent producers in an industry overwhelmingly controlled by
studios. Citizen Kane (1941) and Fantasia (1940) were among the acclaimed films
produced by Society members.
The first Hollywood musical to acknowledge that World War II (1941-1945) was
occurring was MGM's and Busby Berkeley's Babes on Broadway, a Mickey Rooney
and Judy Garland teaming, in the film's special salute to Britain (then fighting
valiantly against the Nazis) in the number Chin Up! Cherrio! Carry On!
The longest uninterrupted screen kiss, clocking in at 3 minutes and 5 seconds, was
found in the film You're in the Army Now, between Jane Wyman and Regis Toomey
1941 - a recod that held until it was replicated or broken by Big Top Pee-Wee (1988). The
world record for the longest on-screen kiss was then surpassed by the 6 minute kiss
in the film Kids in America (2005).
Best Picture-winning Casablanca, based on the play Everybody Comes to Rick’s and
set in 1941 war-time Morocco, premiered in New York. Altogether, its director
Michael Curtiz made over 40 films in the decade of the 30s, and over 150 films in
his entire career, from the silent era to the early 1960s.
Jacques Tourneur's moody and intelligent Cat People, producer Val Lewton's first
1942 film at RKO, influenced future film-makers by showing how subtle and suggestive
horror could be effectively generated.
During the war, Nazis in occupied France banned English-language films -- Frank
Capra's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) was the last film shown.
The first of numerous Hollywood films to take up the U.S. cause of World War II
1942 was Wake Island, followed by other morale-boosting feature films such as Flying
Black actor Paul Robeson, who had starred in Show Boat (1936), said he wouldn't
1942 make any more films until there were better roles for blacks. His last film was Tales
of Manhattan (1942).
Tweety Bird, originally pink-colored, debuted in Tale of Two Kitties, a spoof on the
popular comedy team of Abbott and Costello. Tweety Bird's first cartoon appearance
with lisping cat Sylvester was in Tweetie Pie (1947) -- it won an Oscar for animator
Friz Freleng. This was the first Warner Brothers cartoon to win an Oscar!
During a War Bond tour, popular star and actress Carole Lombard was killed in a
The war years had a distinct influence on Hollywood. The Office of War
Information (OWI) stated that film makers should consider seven questions before
producing a movie, including this one: "Will this picture help to win the war?" The
1942- War Production Board imposed a $5,000 limit on set construction. Wartime cloth
1943 restrictions were imposed, prohibiting cuffed trousers and pleats. Klieg-lit
Hollywood premieres were prohibited. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor,
Hollywood turned out numerous anti-Japanese films, some of them quite racist, such
as Fox's Little Tokyo, U.S.A.,which dealt with the controversial subject of Japanese
internment. The OWI then cracked down on the artistic license of Hollywood
beginning in 1943. The Office of Censorship prohibited the export of films that
showed racial discrimination, depicted Americans as single-handedly winning the
war, or painted our allies as imperialists.
Orson Welles directed his second motion picture, The Magnificent Ambersons, noted
for dialogue that was realistically spoken.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences commenced with an award
1942 category for Best Documentary - Short Subject, won for the first time (in the 1942
awards ceremony) by the Canadian production Churchill's Island (1941).
Lena Horne was the first African-American woman to sign a long-term contract with
a major studio (MGM) as a specialty performer, meaning that she was initially cast
in parts and subplots (usually separate singing scenes) that could be edited out for
showings in Southern theaters.
Errol Flynn was charged with three counts of statutory rape of two teenagers: 15
year-old Peggy LaRue Satterlee and 17 year-old Betsy Hansen, although later
acquitted during his Los Angeles trial in 1943 since the girls were portrayed as
morally-lax groupies. His career and personal life suffered as a result. The risque
expression "In Like Flynn" may have been derived from his alleged sexual
indiscretions and womanizing.
Warner Bros' nostalgic, shamelessly-patriotic, entertaining black and white Yankee
Doodle Dandy was one of the first computer-colorized films released by
1942 entrepreneur Ted Turner in 1985 (on George M. Cohan's alleged birthday July 4th -
naturally!). James Cagney was the first Best Actor Oscar winner to take home the
Oscar for an appearance in a film musical.
1943 20th Century Fox began distributing pinups of leggy actress Betty Grable.
Columbia Pictures released its first Technicolor film, a western called The
Desperadoes with Glenn Ford and Randolph Scott.
Director Vincente Minelli's Cabin in the Sky opened, starring Eddie "Rochester"
Anderson, Louis Armstrong, Lena Horne, and Ethel Waters. Stormy Weather,
starring Cab Calloway, Lena Horne, Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, and Fats Waller,
was also released.
1943 The War Production Board ordered theaters to dim their marquee lights at 10 p.m.
The UPA (United Productions of America) was formed by a group of animators who
broke away from Disney, following a five months artists' strike in 1941. The
intentions of the film production company were to promote freedom of expression in
the field of animation.
The precursor of Italian neo-realism was Luchino Visconti's Ossessione, the
director's first film. Loosely adapted from James M. Cain's pulp novel The Postman
1943 Always Rings Twice, it enraged fascist censors and inspired the term neorealism. The
movement would really take hold from the mid-40s to the mid-50s, with its main
exponents being Visconti, Roberto Rossellini and Vittorio De Sica.
Female director Dorothy Arzner directed the war melodrama First Comes Courage,
her last feature film, starring Merle Oberon.
Influential Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein published The Film Sense, a film
theory book that took a critical look at film and its impact, using his experiences in
creating Strike (1925), Battleship Potemkin (1925), October: Ten Days That Shook
the World (1927), Old and New (1929), and Alexander Nevsky (1938), and including
a defense of his use of "montage".
The 18-minute silent, surrealistic feminist film Meshes of the Afternoon, co-directed
by husband and wife Alexander Hammid and Maya Deren (who also starred as the
film's two major characters, The Man and The Woman) and shot in 16mm, was
1943 influential in ushering in the post-WW II American avant-garde (experimental) film
movement. It was called a "dream" or "trance" film, due to the fact that its day-
dream plot (filled with poetic imagery of the subconscious) was filmed without a
Superhero Batman was the first DC Comics character to have his own serial -
Batman (1943), a fifteen-episode wartime serial with cliffhangers, starring Lewis
Wilson as smug playboy Bruce Wayne and alias Batman - "America's No. 1 crime
1940s - Part 2
Year Event and Significance
The first Golden Globe awards ceremony took place at 20th Century Fox Studios, at
1944 first marked by the awarding of scrolls (not statuettes) to honorees (not nominees)
who were announced earlier.
1944 The US government eased restraints on the depiction of brutality by the Japanese.
A Los Angeles court ruled, in the so-called "Havilland decision" - that Warner Bros.
had to release actress Olivia de Havilland after her seven-year contract expired,
1944 ruling that the studio could not add time to her contract to make up for the periods
when she was on suspension. This ruling undercut studios' ability to lock actors into
The federal government reopened its anti-trust cases against the studios, and called
for the divestiture of the studios' theaters.
Billy Wilder's cynically-dark masterpiece, Double Indemnity, a hard-boiled tale
adapted from another James M. Cain novel (with Raymond Chandler as the co-
scenarist), represented the peak of 'film noir'. Both lead actors, Barbara Stanwyck
and Fred MacMurray (both playing against type) gave the performances of their
1944 careers, with MacMurray providing an effective first-person narration. Although the
film had a steamy crime plot (an adulterous evil woman plots the murder of her
husband through her association with an insurance investigator), it was able to
follow the prescriptions of the Hays Code while still infusing the story with
controversial sex and murder scenes.
Producer/director Otto Preminger's mystery drama Laura, was one of the most
stylish, elegant, moody, and witty classic film noirs ever made, featuring an
ensemble cast of characters. Trailers for the compelling film promised: "Never has a
woman been so beautiful, so exotic, so dangerous to know!"
The first TV ad for a film was broadcast by Paramount, in the second TV station
(KTLA) that the studio had launched/established in Los Angeles in 1943.
The first film advertised on TV in a 30-minute promotion in 1944 was the classic
Preston Sturges comedy The Miracle of Morgan's Creek.
At the conclusion of the war, the federal government ended restrictions on the
1945 allocation of raw film stock, midnight curfews, and bans on outdoor lighting
displays as well as censorship of the export and import of films.
1945 Roberto Rossellini's influential landmark film Open City formally introduced Italian
Neo-Realism, marked by a gritty, authentic and realistic post-war film style.
Characteristics included the use of on-location cinematography, grainy low-grade
black-and-white film stock and untrained actors in improvised scenes. The socially-
aware, documentary-style film captured the despair and confusion of post-World
War II Europe. [Another film that provided a seminal example of this post-war style
was Vittorio De Sica's The Bicycle Thief (1948).] Italian Neo-Realism, portrayed by
film-makers Rossellini, Luchino Visconti and Vittorio De Sica, lasted until 1952. It
would have a tremendous influence on the development of future 'avant-garde' films
with intense character studies (i.e., surrealistic cinema from Federico Fellini and
Michelangelo Antonioni, cinema verite, the French New Wave and the maverick
films from the New Hollywood).
The Screen Extras Guild (SEG), a union representing the interests of persons
regularly cast as extras, was organized.
The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), an organization created in
1938 with the goal of domestically stopping subversive activities, un-Americanism
and communism, was made into a permanent standing committee under
Congressman John Rankin (of Mississippi). By 1947, the Hollywood motion picture
industry became one of its main targets when the committee initiated an
investigation of Communist influence there.
Marcel Carné's three-hours in length French resistance romantic classic The
1945 Children of Paradise (aka Les Enfants du Paradis, Fr.) was made during a time of
Nazi occupation in France, and filmed in secret over a two-year period.
The rarely-seen film Momotaro: The Holy Soldier of the Sea, financed by (and
starring) the Japanese Imperial Navy and directed by Mitsuyo Seo, was the first
feature-length anime film ever made. The unique art form of anime films from
Japan, characterized by stylized colorful graphics depicting vibrant characters in
fantastic or futuristic action-filled plots, would become increasingly popular in the
One of the earliest (if not the first) Hollywood film to feature the use of judo (martial
1945 arts) in fight sequences was in Blood on the Sun, starring James Cagney as an
American newspaper editor who exposed militaristic plans for Japanese expansion.
The first "musical biography" based on the life of a composer/songwriter was
Warners' Night and Day, with Cary Grant as Cole Porter.
The first of three films director Alfred Hitchcock made with star Ingrid Bergman
was Spellbound (1945), followed by Notorious (1946) and Under Capricorn (1949).
The Cannes Film Festival debuted in France on the French Riviera. Billy Wilder's
1946 The Lost Weekend (1945) was the first Best Picture Oscar-winning film to also win
Cannes' top prize (known now as the Golden Palm or Palme d'Or).
Universal Pictures merged with the independent production company International
Pictures to become Universal International.
Disney's first live-action feature film The Song of the South was released, with three
major segments of animation; it was based upon Joel Chandler Harris' Uncle Remus
folk tales regarding Br'er Rabbit; due to extensive protests (mostly by the NAACP)
1946 over the stereotypical representations of blacks in the film and the film's
romanticizing of slavery, the controversial film was never released on home video
for US audiences; the film's hit song "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" won the Academy
Awards Oscar for Best Song.
1946 Bobby Driscoll, the child star of Song of the South and Treasure Island (1950), was
the first actor to sign a long-term contract with Disney Productions.
David O. Selznick announced that he would release his films by himself rather than
through United Artists.
Director William Wyler's The Best Years of Our Lives debuted, and won Oscars for
Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actor in 1947. It was a classic post-
war film that accurately and poignantly portrayed the readjustment of veterans and
1946 their families after their return home. Double amputee and amateur actor Harold
Russell (as Homer Parrish) became the only actor to win two Oscars for playing the
same role. He was awarded a special Academy Award for "bringing aid and comfort
to disabled veterans," and then also won the year's Oscar as Best Supporting Actor.
The impressionistic, fantasy-romance film Beauty and the Beast (aka La Belle et La
Bête, Fr.), directed by Jean Cocteau, was released in post WW II France. It was an
1946 adaptation of Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont's 1756 fairy-tale. It inspired the
Disney animated classic Beauty and the Beast (1991), the first and only full-length
feature animated film to be nominated for Best Picture by AMPAS.
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPPA) withdrew its seal of approval
for obsessed producer/director Howard Hughes' controversial 'sexy' western epic
about Billy the Kid titled The Outlaw (1943), featuring busty starlet Jane Russell in a
low-cut peasant blouse. (The film was released for a 10-week run in 1943, then
1946 withdrawn, and re-released three years later.) Hughes refused to submit film ads in
his ad campaign (such as "What are the two reasons for Jane Russell's rise to
stardom?") to the MPAA for seal approval, and sued the organization, but eventually
backed down. The release of the mediocre, fictional film ended up as an example of
triumphant ballyhooing and film marketing.
The Motion Pictures Code allowed films to show drug trafficking so long as the
scenes did not "stimulate curiosity."
The first ever "original soundtrack album" was MGM's release of the soundtrack for
its film musical Till the Clouds Roll By -- it was first soundtrack album ever made
from a live-action film musical; its first release was on a 78 RPM album, then later
on 33 RPM LP and on compact disc. The Jerome Kern soundtrack was MGM
Records' first soundtrack album. [Note: Disney's movie soundtrack of a few of the
songs from its animated musical film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) were
available on a limited RCA two-record set - the only other previous soundtrack
The Supreme Court ruled that the practice of block booking violated federal anti-
1947 trust laws. When the court failed to order the studios to divest themselves of their
theaters, government prosecutors appealed.
The Actors Studio, a rehearsal group for professional actors, was established in New
York City by Elia Kazan, Robert Lewis, and Cheryl Crawford. It soon became the
epi-center for advancing "the Method" - a technique of acting that was inspired by
Konstantin Stanislavski's teachings. It later gained fame through the leadership of
Lee Strasberg in the 1950s, whose clients included Marlon Brando, Marilyn Monroe,
and James Dean.
In Washington, D.C., the HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee)
subpoened 41 witnesses, its first wave of witnesses in an investigation of alleged
communist influence in the Hollywood movie industry. Witnesses included the
'unfriendly' "Hollywood 19" (13 of 19 were writers). In 1948, the "Hollywood 10"
(Alvah Bessie, Herbert Biberman, Lester Cole, Edward Dmytryk, Ring Lardner, Jr.,
John Howard Lawson, Albert Maltz, Samuel Ornitz, Adrian Scott, and Dalton
Trumbo) were charged with contempt of Congress and jailed for refusing to
cooperate with its inquiries and answer the question, "Are you now or have you ever
been a member of the Communist Party?" 84 of 204 supporters of the Hollywood 19
or 10 who signed an amici curiae Supreme Court brief were blacklisted. Many
promising and established careers were destroyed by anti-Communist blacklisting -
reflected in the growth of sci-films showing paranoia of aliens and anything foreign
in the 50s decade.
1947 The Motion Pictures Code forbade derogatory references to a character's race.
Britain imposed a 75 percent duty on Hollywood films and the American studios
responded by boycotting the British market. The boycott ended in 1948.
Director Alfred Hitchcock's last film under contract with producer David O.
Selznick was The Paradine Case.
MGM's Cynthia (1947) was the coming-of-age film for budding 15 year-old screen
star Elizabeth Taylor, in which she played the title role of small-town, physically-
1947 frail, musically-talented teenager Cynthia Bishop. She received her first (grown-up)
on-screen kiss from beau Ricky Latham (Jimmy Lydon) in a scene on a front porch
following their attendance at the Spring Prom.
The Supreme Court's anti-trust Paramount Decree or Decision ruled that the major
movie studios were guilty and had to end their monopolization of the industry. They
were forced to divest themselves from owning theater chains, by selling them off.
RKO announced that it would divest itself of its movie theaters. Block booking, the
system by which an exhibitor was forced to buy a whole line of films (both popular
films and B films) from a studio was also deemed illegal by a court decision that
legislated the separation of the production and exhibition functions of the film
industry. This marked the beginning of the end of the studio system.
Warner Bros. was the first to show a color newsreel -- its subject was the
Tournament of Roses Parade (Pasadena, CA) and the Rose Bowl.
Director Alfred Hitchcock's first color feature film was the experimental Rope, the
1948 first of four films with James Stewart, followed by Rear Window (1954), the remake
The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), and Vertigo (1958).
Hamlet was both the first British production and the first non-American or non-
Hollywood (foreign-made) film to be presented with the industry's top honor - Best
1948 Picture. Its British director/actor/producer, Laurence Olivier, was the first actor to
direct his own Oscar-winning performance (a Best Actor Academy Award). He was
the first non-American director to win Best Picture.
Vittorio De Sica's landmark, post-war The Bicycle Thief (1948), was another superb
example of film-making from the Italian Neo-Realism movement. It was honored
with a Special Academy Award in 1949 as the "most outstanding foreign film" many
years before an official category was created. [The film served as the impetus for the
creation of an official Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 1956.] And it was
the 1950 Golden Globe Award winner for Best Foreign Film. De Sica's film was
also noted as the first film widely-distributed without the Hays Office seal of
approval (for its refusal to cut two scenes involving urination and a bordello).
Paramount signed a consent decree, agreeing to separate its production and
1949 distribution activities. Loew's (owner of MGM), 20th Century Fox, and Warner
Bros. were ordered to divest themselves of their theaters.
Hollywood made one of its earliest attacks on racism with director Elia Kazan's
melodrama Pinky, one of the many post-war 'problem pictures'. The film was noted
for using a white actress (Jeanne Crain) to portray a light-skinned black woman who
fell in love with a white man.
Scandalizing herself, Ingrid Bergman and her lover and Italian film-maker Roberto
Rossellini (both married at the time) started a family, eventually having three
1949 children together. She was pregnant at the time of her marriage, branded as
"Hollywood's apostle of degradation," denounced by senators, religious leaders, and
citizens' groups, and forced to move away from the US.
Inspired by the work of Willis O'Brien in King Kong (1933), Ray Harryhausen
animated the stop-motion gorilla in Mighty Joe Young, although the work was
1949 mostly credited to O'Brien. This was Harryhausen's first feature film for which he
created stop-motion animation. His career in stop-motion animation would last until
his final feature film, Clash of The Titans (1981).
The first musical feature film to be shot (partially) on location (in New York City,
including exterior sites such as Coney Island, the Statue of Liberty, Rockefeller
Plaza, and Central Park), was MGM's On the Town, although most of the film was
shot in the studio.
The first appearance of both the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote was in the Warner
Bros' cartoon Fast and Furry-ous. Intended to be a one-time only appearance, their
popularity called for another cartoon produced 3 years later, Beep, Beep (1952), and
then a continuing series.
Director Robert Rossen's Best Picture-winning All the King's Men was a
fictionalized account (based upon the Pulitzer Prize-winning and best-selling 1946
novel by Robert Penn Warren) of the rise and fall of a backwoods rebel - a story
inspired by the rule (and abuse of power) of Louisiana's colorful and dictatorial state
governor (1928-32) and Democratic U.S. Senator (1932-35) - the notorious Huey
Pierce Long - "The Kingfish."
Now that the big studios (such as Warners) were forced to divest themselves from
owning lucrative theater chains, many Hollywood stars were making their last films
(or were about to make their final film) under long-term contracts with the studio
(i.e., Olivia de Havilland in 1946, Ida Lupino in 1947, Edward G. Robinson in 1948
(with Key Largo), Ann Sheridan and Bette Davis in 1949 (with Beyond the Forest),
Humphrey Bogart in 1951 (with The Enforcer), and Errol Flynn in 1953).
1950s - Part 1
Year Event and Significance
Hollywood began to develop ways to counteract free television's gains by the
increasing use of color, and by introducing wide-screen films (i.e., CinemaScope,
Techniscope, Cinerama, VistaVision, etc.) and gimmicks (i.e., 3-D viewing with
cardboard glasses, Smell-O-Vision, etc.).
Film theater attendance drastically declined due to the rise of television.
John Howard Lawson and Dalton Trumbo were imprisoned and the eight remaining
members of the Hollywood Ten were convicted of contempt of Congress.
1950 Japanese director Akira Kurosawa released Rashomon.
Studio control of stars further eroded when James Stewart signed a precedent-setting
independent (or free-lance) contract to share in the box-office profits (45% of the net
profits) of the Anthony Mann western Winchester '73, and for the film version of the
stage comedy Harvey. In fact, for all his Universal Studios films (including Bend of
the River (1952), and The Far Country (1954)), Stewart took no salary in exchange
for a large cut of the profits -- a very lucrative deal. As a result, he earned
increasingly high salaries, became a pioneer of the percentage deal (a performer
accepted a reduced or non-existent salary in exchange for a percentage of the box
office profits), and was the industry's top box-office star by mid-decade. For
Winchester '73 alone, Stewart earned $600,000.
The career of former silent star Gloria Swanson (nominated and lost for Best
Actress) was revitalized with the release of Billy Wilder's black comedy Sunset
Boulevard. It was nominated for eleven Academy Awards and won three - for Story
and Screenplay, B/W Art Direction/Set Decoration, and Best Score. Swanson was
1950 nominated for Best Actress (and lost). Wilder's film was controversial for its
unflinching look at the Hollywood studio system and its politics, and for its casting
of former and current Hollywood legends as themselves to add a touch of reality
(Cecil B. DeMille, Hedda Hopper, Buster Keaton, Anna Q. Nilsson, H.B. Warner,
Ray Evans, Jay Livingston) or a close facsimile (Erich von Stroheim).
The melodramatic, sordid underbelly of theater show biz with dozens of quotable
lines, producer Darryl F. Zanuck's All About Eve, earned a then-unmatched record of
14 Academy Award nominations and won six, including Best Picture (Zanuck), Best
Director (Joseph L. Mankiewicz), and Best Supporting Actor (George Sanders).
Although widely considered to be Bette Davis' best film role as the petulant, angry
1950 aging diva Margo Channing -- who uttered one of the most famous lines in film
history ("Fasten your seatbelts - it's going to be a bumpy night!") -- she, along with
co-star Anne Baxter in the title role of Eve Harrington cancelled each other out and
lost Best Actress honors to Judy Holliday in Born Yesterday. Thelma Ritter and
Celeste Holm were also nominated in supporting roles, giving All About Eve a
record four female acting nominations.
James Dean participated in a Pepsi-Cola commercial - his first acting job (paying
$30) that launched his career.
King's Solomon's Mines was the first MGM film in the talkie era made without a
Animator Jay Ward, working with Alexander Anderson, Jr (whose idea was first
turned down at Terrytoon Studios), created the immensely-popular animated,
serialized NBC-TV show Crusader Rabbit, through their new company Television
Arts Productions. It was the first American animated series produced especially for
television. The show originally aired from 1950 -1952 and also had a color version
in 1957, with both Lucille Bliss and GeGe Pearson providing the voice of the Don
Quixote-like title character. It told about knight-in-armor Crusader Rabbit and his
tiger companion Rags, combatting nemesis Dudley Nightshade, with episodes
ending in a cliffhanger.
Legendary film critic and theorist Andre Bazin established the influential and
distinguished Cahiers du Cinéma (literally 'cinema notebooks'), arguably the most
influential film magazine in film history. Future filmmakers and critics, such as
Jean-Luc Godard, Eric Rohmer, Francois Truffaut, Claude Chabrol, and Jacques
Rivette contributed to the publication, advocating the auteur theory and proposing
the use of more individualistic styles. Their ideas and writing gave rise to the French
New Wave (Nouvelle Vague) by the end of the decade, and brought respectability to
the idea of film as a legitimate field of study.
The Motion Pictures Production Code specifically prohibited films dealing with
abortion or narcotics.
1951 HUAC opened a second round of hearings in Hollywood to investigate communism
in the film industry, leading to the blacklisting of 212 individuals actively working
in Hollywood at this time.
Indebted United Artists was sold to a syndicate headed by two New York
entertainment lawyers, Arthur Krim and Robert Benjamin.
Marking the decline of the old Hollywood studio system, this was the first year in
1951 which the Best Picture Oscar was given to the film's producers rather than to the
studio that released the film.
To combat the threat of television, the Cohn brothers (of Columbia Pictures)
founded a television production company subsidiary named Screen Gems.
Christian Nyby's The Thing, (ghost-directed by Howard Hawks), one of the earliest
examples of an alien invader film, featured filmdom's first space monster.
One of the most thoughtful science-fiction films ever made, Robert E. Wise's
allegorical The Day the Earth Stood Still, was released, featuring the most famous
phrase in sci-fi history -- "Gort, Klaatu barada niktu" -- as well as stunning, state-of-
the-art visual effects and a Bernard Herrmann score. The classic cult film was also
the first of many 50's Cold War-inspired science-fiction films, and featured the first
modern robot, the silver giant Gort.
MGM's lavish, big-budget, Technicolor historical epic Quo Vadis was released,
starring Robert Taylor, Deborah Kerr, and Peter Ustinov. It was filmed on location
1951 in Italy with a cast of thousands, in the pre-Cinemascope era. According to sources,
it set the record for the number of costumes used (32,000) in a single film. This film
also marked Sophia Loren's film debut -- in a bit part as a slave.
A Streetcar Named Desire was the first film ever to win three Acting Oscars. Vivien
Leigh, Karl Malden, and Kim Hunter succeeded and were presented with awards,
although Marlon Brando lost in the Best Actor category to Humphrey Bogart for The
Disney's Alice in Wonderland failed at the box-office, offsetting its profits from the
previous year's successful full-length animation Cinderella (1950).
To avoid losing the battle with television, Hollywood counterattacked with 3-D
films. The first feature-length 3-D sound film released was Bwana Devil, inspiring a
flood of other quickly (and often cheaply made), but sometimes successful 3-D
features, such as Robot Monster (1953), It Came From Outer Space (1953), and
House of Wax (1953). [The first feature-length 3-D film was The Power of Love
Paramount's wrap-around, big-screen Cinerama debuted - a break-through technique
that required three cameras, three projectors, interlocking, semi-curved (at 146
degrees) screens, and four-track stereo sound. A travelogue of the world's vacation
spots, with a thrilling roller-coaster ride was shown in This Is Cinerama - it
premiered as the first Cinerama film shown to the public. Paramount's wrap-around,
big-screen Cinerama was the first real widescreen feature film format.
1952 Universal International was sold to Decca Records.
Although generally considered the greatest screen musical of all time, Singin' in the
1952 Rain had only two Oscar nominations (without a win) -- Best Score and Best
Supporting Actress (Jean Hagen).
The first film to win a Golden Globe award for Best Motion Picture (comedy or
1952 musical) - a newly-created category - was An American in Paris (1951), in the 1952
In further warfare against television and rival 3-D movies, Hollywood developed
1953 wide-screen processes, such as 20th Century Fox's anamorphic CinemaScope, first
seen in Henry Koster's Biblical sword-and-sandal epic The Robe.
Otto Preminger's The Moon Is Blue, used the then-forbidden word "virgin" - this
deliberately violated the Motion Picture Production Code and led to picket lines. It
was the first studio-produced film from Hollywood that was released without an
approved code seal from the Production Code Administration - deliberately as a test
case. It proved to be a major hit film (grossing $6 million) despite its lack of a seal
The Academy Awards were televised for the first time - (on March 19, 1953), on
black and white NBC-TV.
Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu's classic family drama Tokyo Story (aka Tokyo
1953 Monogatari, Jp.), the best film of his entire career, illustrated how changing times in
Japan had severed the virtue of honoring one's parents.
Following the lead of James Stewart a few year earlier, seven-year contracts with
actors were replaced by single-picture or multi-picture contracts.
Actress Ida Lupino (one of the few female directors of her era) directed the thrilling,
noirish B-film drama The Hitch-Hiker -- the most successful film in her career. It
1953 was the story, based on a true-life account, of a cold-blooded, sadistic, psychotic
mass murderer and kidnapper (William Talman). Its release during the height of the
McCarthy "Red Scare" era reflected US paranoia about strangers.
Director George Stevens' mythic western Shane was released - it was the second
film of his "American trilogy," positioned between A Place in the Sun (1951) and
1953 Giant (1956). It was nominated for five Oscars (Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor
- Brandon de Wilde, Best Supporting Actor - Jack Palance, Best Director, and Best
Screenplay). It won the Oscar for Best Color Cinematography.
1953 Buena Vista Distribution Company was formed to act as Disney's film distributor.
1953 The first animated 3-D cartoon in Technicolor, Melody, was premiered.
Warner Bros' first 3-D film, the horror classic House of Wax, by director Andre de
Toth, was the first 3-D film released with a stereo soundtrack. It also effectively
launched the horror film career of Vincent Price, who portrayed horribly disfigured
sculptor Prof. Henry Jarrod.
Although MGM's Kiss Me Kate was often noted as the first stereo-optic 3-D musical
1953 - in full Technicolor, it could be argued that Paramount's Those Redheads From
Seattle (1953) with Rhonda Fleming was first by about a month.
Two classic, alien-invasion science-fiction films reflected Cold War tensions, the
Red Scare and paranoid anxiety - typical of many 50s decade films: William
1953 Cameron Menzies' Invaders from Mars, and Jack Arnold's It Came From Outer
Space -- also made in 3-D. The best of these films arrived a few years later: Invasion
of the Body Snatchers (1956).
To promote the launch of the B-movie The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, Warner
Brothers ran an expensive $200,000 publicity campaign aimed at teens, including
heavily advertising it on TV and radio. It was one of the first films to exploit the
1953 medium of television (that was ironically taking away business from movie theaters)
and to employ a theatre booking strategy of launching the film in a large number of
theaters. The strategy worked, and the film became the sleeper hit of 1953 - creating
a whole sub-genre of atomic age, giant monster action films.
The provocative film, From Here to Eternity (1953), was based on James Jones'
hefty, 859-page smoldering 1951 novel of the same name. Its sprawling and
complex story-line about Army life with its bold and explicit script (with strong
1953 language, violence and raw sexual content) was at first considered unsuitable (and
unfilmable) for the screen. The ground-breaking film's subjects (ill-suited for
television) included prostitution, adultery, military injustice, corruption and
violence, alcohol abuse, and murder.
Director Henri-Georges Clouzot's suspenseful thriller The Wages of Fear (aka Le
Salaire De La Peur, Fr/It) established the director's reputation as the "French
Hitchcock" with its tension-filled tale of the death-defying truck driving of
nitroglycerine across treacherous terrain in Central America.
Walt Disney achieved a milestone in the 1954 awards ceremony - as the individual
with the most Oscar wins (4) in a single year. He won the award in four awards
1953, categories: Best Cartoon Short Subject: Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom (1953), Best
1954 Documentary Short Subject: The Alaskan Eskimo (1953), Best Documentary
Feature: The Living Desert (1953), and Best Two-Reel Short Subject: Bear Country
Federico Fellini released the classic Italian film La Strada (aka The Road, It.). It
1954 won the first official Academy Award for Best Foreign-Language Film, awarded in
Paramount Studio's first VistaVision widescreen production was director Michael
Curtiz' hit film White Christmas, an Irving Berlin musical.
The adult-themed Animal Farm (1954), an allegorical tale based on George Orwell's
1954 1945 satirical political novel, was the first animated color feature film made in
Dorothy Dandridge was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress, the first
African-American ever nominated, for her role in Carmen Jones. (Ironically, in
2000, Halle Berry - the first African-American actress to ever win the Best Actress
Oscar for Monster's Ball (2001), won the Emmy and the Golden Globes awards
playing the title role in the critically-acclaimed HBO television movie Introducing
Dorothy Dandridge (1999).)
Graphic design genius Saul Bass began his legendary career (spanning over 40 years
until his last film Casino (1995)) as title designer for Carmen Jones, and later gained
his first major recognition for his work for The Man With the Golden Arm (1955).
His revolutionary work broke tradition by using jagged lines and bold designs to
redefine title credits and poster images. He was best known for his work with Alfred
Hitchcock, Otto Preminger, Stanley Kubrick - and later with Martin Scorsese.
On the Waterfront nearly swept the Academy Awards with eight wins, including
1954 Best Picture, Best Actor (Marlon Brando), Best Supporting Actress (Eva Maria
Saint), and Best Director (Elia Kazan).
Japan gave birth to the long-running series of Godzilla monster films with Ishiro
Honda's Gojira, featuring Godzilla in his screen debut.
Akira Kurosawa's epic tale Seven Samurai reinvented the western film genre. (It was
remade by John Sturges as The Magnificent Seven (1960).)
Dragnet from Warner Bros. was the first theatrical film based on a TV show of the
same name (the then-popular B/W TV show ran from 1951-1959). Its star Jack
Webb (as Sgt. Joe Friday) turned it into a feature (color) film, and served as the
The American Releasing Company was founded by James H. Nicholson and
Hollywood lawyer Samuel Z. Arkoff -- the precursor of American International
Pictures (AIP) in 1956, noted for its low-budget exploitation films and drive-in
movies for the profitable teenage market. Their first film was writer/producer Roger
Corman's The Fast and the Furious (1954) starring John Ireland and Dorothy
Malone. The horror films of Bert Gordon, Roger Corman's series of adapted Edgar
Allan Poe horror films with Vincent Price, biker and drug-related films in the 60s,
the 'beach party' films of Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon, the teenage monster
film cycle (i.e., I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957)), and the earliest films of Jack
Nicholson, Robert De Niro, Francis Ford Coppola and Peter Bogdanovich (and
many others) were AIP productions. Emphasis on these sensationalist sub-genres
(beach party films, kung fu films, biker films, juvenile delinquency pictures, monster
and horror films, women-in-prison films, etc.) would be imitated by countless other
independent production companies and film-makers.
1950s - Part 2
Year Event and Significance
Two film adaptations of author George Orwell's cautionary novels, the UK's first
animated feature film Animal Farm (1954) and director Michael Anderson's film
noirish 1984 (1956), starring Edmond O'Brien, Jan Sterling, and Michael Redgrave,
were altered. It was revealed in the late 1990s that the CIA was partly responsible
for modifying or softening Orwell's message in both films during the European post-
war era, to make the tone of each film more overtly anti-Communist. Both works
were changed to include more upbeat endings. [Ironically, the same distortions were
made by MCA-Universal Studios for Terry Gilliam's version of Brazil (1985) -
another film about a futuristic totalitarian society.]
The Todd-AO widescreen process (with 65-mm (or 70-mm) wide film) was
successfully introduced with director Fred Zinnemann's Oklahoma! It was also the
1955 first of the Rodgers & Hammerstein operettas, and it was the first Broadway show to
integrate the music, songs and dances as an essential part of the story and character
Tragically, James Dean -- the prototype of a rebellious adolescent -- was killed in a
car accident at age 26, driving his new 550 Porsche Spyder. His car collided with a
1950 Ford at 5:45 p.m. at the intersection of Routes 466 and 41 near Cholame,
California. He had appeared in only three films: East of Eden (1955), Rebel Without
a Cause (1955), and Giant (1956) - released posthumously. Both of his Best Actor
Oscar nominations — for East of Eden and Giant — were also given posthumously.
Movie studios opened their vaults for television rentals and sales. RKO Radio
1955 Pictures sold its film library to TV. RKO's King Kong (1933) was first televised in
the US in 1956.
The first feature animation in CinemaScope, Walt Disney's Lady and the Tramp,
1955 was released in the US. It also marked Disney's first full-length cartoon based on an
original story rather than an established classic.
Disneyland opened its first theme park in a former orange grove in Anaheim,
California at a cost of $17 million.
Blackboard Jungle was the first film to feature a rock-'n'-roll song, "Rock-Around-
The-Clock." (sung by Bill Haley and His Comets during the credits). It was the first
major Hollywood film to use R&R on its soundtrack. It inspired the next year's
popular R&R film, Rock Around the Clock (1956).
1955 United Artists withdrew from the Motion Pictures Association of American
(previously named the MPPDA) when it refused to issue a Production Code seal to
its controversial film about drug addiction, director Otto Preminger's The Man With
the Golden Arm, starring Frank Sinatra. The film's success helped to loosen
restrictions on such films. The code was amended to permit portrayals of prostitution
and abortion as well as light profanity (the use of the words 'hell' and 'damn').
The International Confederation of Art House Cinemas (CICAE - Confédération
Internationale des Cinémas D‟Art et Essai) was founded in Wiesbaden, Germany, to
1955 promote the diversity and visibility of all types of cinema. [An art house is a theater
dedicated to the exhibition of films for a specialized audience, either classic revivals
or new releases, frequently foreign or independently produced domestic films.]
The modest Best Picture-winning sleeper film Marty was the first award-winning
film (awarded in 1956) to be adapted from a dramatic televised play broadcast
earlier. It was also the second Best Picture Oscar-winning film to also win the top
prize (known as the Golden Palm (Palme d'Or)) at Cannes, and the shortest Best
1955 Picture winner (at 91 minutes). The promotional campaign for the film was more
expensive than the film itself ($400,000 vs. $343,000) -- a Hollywood first. Tactics
included offering 16mm prints of the film for viewing by Academy members - the
pioneering forerunner of sending out videotape (or DVD) screeners many years
The first atonal score for a narrative, feature-length Hollywood commercial film was
1955 in Vincente Minnelli's and MGM's The Cobweb - Leonard Rosenman's avant-garde
soundtrack was perfectly suited for the film's private psychiatric clinic setting.
Indian director Satyajit Ray's first film, the low-budget, coming-of-age tale Pather
Panchali (aka The Song of the Road, or The Lament of the Path), was the first of an
"Apu Trilogy" followed by Aparajito (1956) (aka The Unvanquished) and Apur
Sansar (1959) (aka The World of Apu); it realistically portrayed low-class poverty in
India through the eyes of its adolescent protagonist Apu (Subir Banerjee). It was the
first Indian film to receive major critical attention internationally.
Federico Fellini's Italian film La Strada, released in 1954, was the winner of the first
official Academy Award for Best Foreign-Language Film -- awarded in 1956.
Before this, there had only been a Special Academy Award (from 1947-1949) and an
Honorary Academy Award (from 1950-1955) for Best Foreign Film.
After making 16 movies together, the Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin film duo broke
up, after the comedy/musical Hollywood or Bust.
The beautifully-elegant actress Grace Kelly, "Hollywood's Fairy Tale Princess",
married Prince Rainier III of Monaco. After appearing in such films as High Noon
(1952) opposite Gary Cooper, John Ford's Mogambo (1953) opposite Clark Gable
1956 and Ava Gardner, films for Alfred Hitchcock (as his icy cool blonde) including Dial
M For Murder (1954), Rear Window (1954), and To Catch a Thief (1955), her Best
Actress-winning The Country Girl (1954), and High Society (1956), Kelly retired
The film industry forbade racial epithets in films, but began to permit references to
abortion, drugs, kidnapping, and prostitution under certain circumstances.
Two science-fiction classics: Forbidden Planet and Invasion of the Body Snatchers,
Legendary producer/director Cecil B. DeMille remade his own 1923 silent epic, The
Ten Commandments -- it was his last film, and his first and sole widescreen feature
film. It was nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Picture, and
provided actor Edward G. Robinson with a comeback role after he was unfairly
blacklisted in the 1950s.
Rock Around the Clock featured disc jockey Alan Freed and the group Bill Haley
and His Comets (singing the title song) and many others (such as the Platters and
Freddy Bell and The Bell Boys). It was the first film entirely dedicated to rock 'n'
Vincente Minnelli's Tea and Sympathy was one of the first key films dealing with
Elvis Presley's first film, Love Me Tender, was released, followed by Jailhouse Rock
1956 the next year. Elvis Presley also made an appearance on the TV variety show "The
Ed Sullivan Show".
The Wizard of Oz (1939) was first televised on CBS-TV on November 3rd -- an
1956 event that would become an annual holiday season event. It was the first feature-
length film broadcast on TV.
The first practical videotape recorder (VTR) was developed by the AMPEX
1956 Corporation in 1951. The first commercially-feasible ones (with 2 inch tape reels)
were sold for $50,000 in 1956. Videotape became a staple of TV productions.
Short on cash (like many Hollywood studios), Warner Bros. agreed to sell film
rights to almost 800 feature films and 1,800 shorts to the Lansing Foundation.
For the controversial film Baby Doll, the longest billboard ever made was placed in
1956 Times Square (NYC), displaying an image of star Carroll Baker (as Baby Doll) lying
in a crib, in a sundress, and sucking her thumb.
Le Monde du Silence/The Silent World (1956, Fr.), a nature documentary co-directed
by Jacques Yves-Cousteau and Louis Malle, was the Palme d'Or winner - the first
documentary to win this award. It also was the first film to use underwater
cinematography to show the ocean depths in color.
The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences' bylaws denied eligibility for
Oscar nominations or consideration to anyone who admitted Communist Party
membership or refused to testify before the House Committee on Un-American
Roger Vadim's ...And God Created Woman was released in the US (heavily
1957 censored), starring international French starlet and pouty sex kitten nymphet Brigitte
Bardot, ushering in a new level of sexuality into films.
The Caribbean romance film Island in the Sun was noted as groundbreaking in the
late 50s for its two inter-racial romances. There was hugging and kissing in the inter-
racial romance between local West Indian dime store clerk Margot Seaton (Dorothy
Dandridge) and the governor's white aide David Archer (John Justin); the film was
1957 notable for being the first Hollywood film with an inter-racial screen kiss; in another
parallel romance, however, there was only the holding of hands (reflecting a double
standard regarding the black male) between Joan Fontaine as socialite Mavis
Norman and Harry Belafonte as politically-ambitious black union official David
The high-grossing teenage-oriented horror film and cult classic from the exploitation
studio American-International, I Was a Teenage Werewolf, starred Michael Landon
in a dual role. This rock and roll horror film (the first?) made popular the term "I
Was A Teenage...".
The famed Universal monster Frankenstein appeared for the first time in color, in
UK Hammer Studio's version The Curse of Frankenstein directed by Terence Fisher,
with Peter Cushing as Baron Victor Frankenstein, and Christopher Lee as the
Monster. This film marked the advent of a long cycle of the studio's stylistic gothic
horror films for the next few decades, with Lee also playing the famed Dracula
vampire, as in Fisher's Horror of Dracula (1958) the next year.
Swedish director Ingmar Bergman's allegorical and influential classic art film The
Seventh Seal (aka Det Sjunde Inseglet, Swe.), told of a symbolic chess game between
black-robed Death (the Grim Reaper) and a 14th century knight (Max von Sydow) --
a treatise on God's existence and on life and death.
The number of drive-in theaters in the U.S. peaked near 5,000. The mania for horror
and science-fiction films also peaked in the late 50s.
Following the success of Best Picture-winning Around the World in 80 Days (1956),
producer Michael Todd (the third husband of Elizabeth Taylor) and co-developer of
the Todd A-O sound system, was killed in a plane crash near Albuquerque, New
Mexico on March 22, 1958. Taylor went on to 'steal' married actor Eddie Fisher
(Todd's best friend) away from Debbie Reynolds. Following a quickie divorce,
Fisher married Taylor the same day - May 12, 1959.
The naturalistic, documentary-like cinéma verite (Fr.) technique (also called "direct
cinema" (US) or "free cinema" (UK), and literally meaning 'film truth') began to
1958 spontaneously flourish in the late 50s and early 60s. It was characterized by the use
of non-actors, hand-held cameras, on-location shoots, and non-intrusive filming
Two of the more notable, low-budget alien-invasion and aberrant monster films were
released: The Blob (with Steve McQueen in his first starring role) and The Fly.
Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece of obsession, Vertigo, misunderstood and panned by
critics when first released, used the 'smash-zoom' (track out and zoom in
simultaneously) visual effect to simulate vertigo in the main protagonist (James
Orson Welles' Touch of Evil, with its incredible and breathtaking, three-minute,
1958 uninterrupted crane tracking shot under the opening credits, was the last of the film
noirs in the classic period.
The Cohn brothers (Harry and Jack), in control of Columbia Pictures since the 20s,
were posthumously succeeded by Abe Schneider and Leo Jaffe. (Columbia had three
successful Best Pictures in the 50s: From Here to Eternity (1953), On the Waterfront
(1954), and The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957).)
This year was marked with more Hollywood scandal for actress Lana Turner, known
for her highly publicized affairs with men like Howard Hughes, Tyrone Power and
Frank Sinatra. A small-time gangster named Johnny Stompanato was fatally stabbed
with a butcher knife by Turner's 14 year-old daughter, Cheryl Crane during an
incident of abuse in their home in Beverly Hills. During the inquest (filmed for TV),
she nearly collapsed on the stand during dramatic testimony. The killing was
declared a justifiable homicide by the coroner's jury. The scandal actually jump-
started Turner's career, with her most successful film ever, Imitation of Life (1959).
The Decks Ran Red, MGM's sea-faring suspense drama, featured the first inter-racial
screen kiss, between Stuart Whitman (as crew member Leroy Martin) and Dorothy
Dandridge (as the cook's flirtatious wife Mahia). See Tamango (1959) in the
following year for a repeat of this milestone.
Polish director Andrzej Wajda's wartime drama Ashes and Diamonds (aka Popiol i
Diament, Pol.), the third in a trilogy of films, appealed to Polish youth. It was an
anti-war film about resistance members in post-war Poland who were ordered to
assassinate a Communist leader.
The French "New Wave" (La Nouvelle Vague) movement (dubbed with the term in
1959) was marked by the works of forerunner Roger Vadim, and by the release of
Claude Chabrol's Le Beau Serge (1958) (aka Bitter Reunion), followed shortly by
Francois Truffaut's feature film debut The 400 Blows (Les Quatre Cents Coups) and
Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless (A Bout de Souffle). These inexpensive films were
typified by the use of the jump cut, the hand-held camera, natural lighting, non-
linear storytelling, on-location shootings, and loose, improvised direction and
editing. Other French "New Wave" releases in the same year included Marcel
Camus' Black Orpheus, Claude Chabrol's Les Cousins, and Alain Resnais'
Hiroshima Mon Amour. The innovative film movement would last until the mid-
1960s and remain an important influence on later film-making (i.e., the works of
John Cassavetes, Quentin Tarantino, and others).
The chariot race sequence in director William Wyler's Best Picture-winning, wide-
screen Technicolor epic blockbuster Ben-Hur set the standard for all subsequent
action sequences. It was the first film to win eleven Oscars (it lost only in the
Screenplay category), breaking the record of 8 Oscar wins originally set by Gone
With the Wind (1939) and 9 Oscar wins set a year earlier by Gigi (1958). The
spectacle of the film was designed to lure audiences away from their televisions.
The comic team of The Three Stooges made their last (180th) film, Sappy
Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty, shot in Technirama, was the second animated feature
shot in widescreen, and the most expensive animated film to date (at $6 million).
50s B-horror film director and impresario schlockmeister William Castle created the
Percepto format for The Tingler. It consisted of installing small electric motors
1959 under the theatre seats and shocking viewers with a mini-jolt of buzzing vibration
when Vincent Price appeared on screen or when blood-curdling screams were
Aroma-Rama, an experimental, short-lived scenting system developed by inventor
Charles Weiss, was introduced to add over 50 scents to Carlo Lizzani's Italian
documentary film about Red China titled Behind the Great Wall (narrated by Chet
Huntley), by filtering 'Oriental' aromas into the auditorium through the air-
conditioning system. The following year, a competing process was called Smell-O-
Tamango, Hal Roach's film about a slave ship voyage en route to Cuba from Africa,
was noted as having the second inter-racial screen kiss, between slave ship Captain
John Reiker (Curt Jurgens) and his slave mistress/concubine Aiche (Dorothy
Dandridge). The film was initially banned due to its inter-racial romance.
In October of this year, violet-eyed, buxom Elizabeth Taylor made history when she
secured a contract with 20th Century Fox in October 1959 to star in Cleopatra
1959 (1963) - she simultaneously became the highest-paid performer in the history of
Hollywood at $1 million, the first Hollywood star to receive the monumental sum
for a single picture.
1960s - Part 1
Year Event and Significance
The master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock's psychological horror-thriller film Psycho
terrified audiences. It served as the "mother" of all modern horror suspense films,
featuring Bernard Herrmann's famous and memorable score with shrieking, harpie-
like piercing violins, and the notorious shower scene. It was the first American film
ever to show a toilet flushing on screen.
Alfred Hitchcock received his fifth and last nomination as Best Director for Psycho
1960 (1960). His four previous nominations (all losses) were for Rebecca (1940), Lifeboat
(1944), Spellbound (1945), and Rear Window (1954).
Michael Powell's disastrous Peeping Tom, a UK film about a voyeuristic
photographer and sadistic serial murderer, was so vilified at the time of its release
that it nearly destroyed Powell's career. However, critics, archivists, and other film
enthusiasts, notably Martin Scorsese, have championed the film since then.
The talented scriptwriter Dalton Trumbo, one of the Hollywood Ten, received full
credit for writing the screenplays for Preminger's Exodus and Kubrick's Spartacus,
thus becoming the first blacklisted writer to receive screen credit. In 1960, Trumbo
was finally reinstated in the Writers Guild of America. This official recognition
effectively brought an end to the HUAC 'blacklist era'. (After his blacklisting, he
1960 wrote 30 scripts under pseudonyms, such as the co-written Gun Crazy (1949) with
the pseudonym Millard Kaufman, and Roman Holiday (1953) under the name Ian
McLellan Hunter (he was properly credited and given a posthumous Oscar for the
latter in 1992). He also won the Best Writing: Original Story Oscar for The Brave
One (1956), written under the front name of Robert Rich. He wasn't presented with
his award until May of 1975, almost 20 years later.)
31 year-old Stanley Kubrick was brought in to salvage the epic costume drama
Spartacus (originally directed by Anthony Mann) -- a highly-successful production
1960 by star Kirk Douglas. It was auteur Kubrick's sole work for hire - he was able to
avoid Hollywood almost completely afterwards, and began to direct movies on his
The first feature film released in Panavision was Billy Wilder's The Apartment
1960 (1960). The film was also the last B/W film to win the Best Picture Academy Award
Oscar until Schindler's List (1993).
Gimmicky Smell-O-Vision, developed by Mike Todd, Jr., son of the famed
showman, piped odors or scents (through a "scent vent") to each seat in a theatre
auditorium. Scent of Mystery (aka Holiday in Spain) was the only film made in
Smell-O-Vision. (Over twenty years later, cult director John Waters paid homage to
Smell-O-Vision with scratch-and-sniff "Odorama" cards for his classic film Polyester
The decline of Italian Neo-Realism was evidenced by director Federico Fellini's epic
film La Dolce Vita and Michelangelo Antonioni's L'Avventura.
Exploitation producer/director Roger Corman directed the original version of the
low-budget horror comedy The Little Shop of Horrors, featuring an early appearance
by actor Jack Nicholson. The cult film, a satire of the teen horror exploitation film,
was later created in differing versions, including a big-budget off-Broadway rock
musical in 1982 (and subsequently a Broadway production), director Frank Oz's
expensive musical comedy remake Little Shop of Horrors (1986) (with an Oscar-
nominated song: "Mean Green Mother From Outer Space"), and a Saturday morning
cartoon series called Little Shop in 1991.
Although the tradition of embedding 5-pointed pink stars in the sidewalk ("the
Hollywood Walk of Fame") along Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street was
established by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce in 1958, it wasn't until
February 9, 1960 that the first star was awarded to actress Joanne Woodward.
Low-budget showman William Castle (known as "The King of Ballyhoo") released
his first "Illusion-O" feature film, 13 Ghosts - audience members were given red-
and-blue colored 'ghost-viewers' in order to see the ghosts on-screen in the haunted
The Brandenberg Gate in Berlin, Germany was closed during the production of Billy
Wilder's Cold War comedy One, Two, Three (1961), forcing the studio to build a
replica on a sound stage. The closing of the Gate was the precursor to the
construction of the Berlin Wall -- and led to the film's famous opening lines,
1961 delivered in voice-over: "On Sunday, August 13th, 1961, the eyes of America were
on the nation's capital, where Roger Maris was hitting home runs #44 and 45 against
the Senators. On that same day, without any warning, the East German Communists
sealed off the border between East and West Berlin. I only mention this to show the
kind of people we're dealing with - REAL SHIFTY!"
Sophia Loren was the first foreign-language performer to win the Best Actress prize
1961 for Two Women (1960) - in a film that was not in English. She currently remains the
only actress to win an acting Oscar in a foreign-language film.
Alain Resnais' enigmatic, puzzling, hallucinatory, and dream-like Last Year at
Marienbad (aka L'Année Dernière à Marienbad, Fr.), was a film that explored the
themes of time, truth and memory. It was one of the first films in a strong wave of
post-war European art movies in the early 1960s.
The 1957 Broadway hit West Side Story was adapted for the big screen, receiving
eleven Academy Award nominations and winning all but one - Best Adapted
Screenplay. Its achievement as a ten Oscar winner was only surpassed by three other
films (each with eleven Oscars): Ben-Hur (1959), Titanic (1997), and The Lord of
the Rings: The Return of the King (2003). Its many Oscars included wins for Best
Picture, Best Supporting Actor (George Chakiris), Best Supporting Actress (Rita
Moreno), and Best Director (co-directors Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins). The
Best Director Oscar marked the first time that awards went to co-directors, and
Robbins was the only Best Director Oscar winner to win for the only film he ever
Audrey Hepburn starred as NYC socialite Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's.
1961 Henry Mancini won two Oscars (Best Score and Best Song - Moon River) and four
Grammy Awards for his musical score.
TWA exhibited the first in-flight feature film on a regularly-scheduled commercial
1961 airline. It was MGM's By Love Possessed, starring Lana Turner and Efrem
Zimbalist, Jr., shown on TWA flights from New York to Los Angeles.
The film How to Marry a Millionaire (1953), the first wide-screen CinemaScope
1961 Hollywood comedy, was the first film to be aired on the weekly NBC series
Saturday Night at the Movies - in September of 1961.
Method actor and maverick auteur film-maker John Cassavetes' low-budget, black
and white, non-Hollywood studio film Shadows, was his first directorial effort -
deliberately created as a contrast to Hollywood's studio system. The self-financed,
self-distributed cinema verite film (initially shot in 1957) with a jazzy score was a
story about an inter-racial couple. It was first publically screened in 1958, but then
withdrawn, reshot in 1959, and then re-released - first to European audiences and
then to US audiences in 1961. Shot on 16-mm film and using a non-professional cast
and crew, the improvisational film symbolized the emergence of the New American
Cinema movement, and inspired the growth of underground films and other
independent ("indie") and personal works.
The daringly courageous, landmark UK film, Victim, a noirish thriller starring
leading man Dirk Bogarde, was the first important British film with a non-
judgmental homosexual theme - a major turning point. It was the first English-
language film to use the word "homosexual." Without prejudicial stereotypes, its
1961 message was tolerance at a time when homosexuality was considered a crime in the
UK and US. [Six years later, the Sexual Offenses Act of 1967 finally decriminalized
homosexuality between consenting adults over the age of 21 (with a number of
exceptions) in the UK.] As it pushed the boundaries of permissiveness, it was denied
a 'seal of approval' from the MPAA for its US release in 1962.
Marilyn Monroe's last completed film, before her death in 1962, was director John
1961 Huston's anti-western The Misfits (1961) -- it was also the last film of screen icon
1962 More than 700 foreign-language films were released in US theaters during 1962.
36 year old sex symbol Marilyn Monroe died (August 5) in the Los Angeles area
(Brentwood) in a Mexican style bungalow of an apparent drug overdose. She was in
1962 the midst of filming with director George Cukor in Something's Got To Give (1962).
Speculations arose over her associations with President John F. Kennedy and his
Dr. No inaugurated the successful, long-running, and highly profitable James Bond
series of action films based upon Ian Fleming's works, with its first Agent 007 --
unknown actor Sean Connery. Other lead characters included George Lazenby,
Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig. Two non-
canonical Bond films were Casino Royale (1967) and Never Say Never Again
The controversial production of Lolita, the first of Kubrick's films produced
independently in England, was marked by a long casting search for the proper
'Lolita', the appointment of Vladimir Nabokov to write the screenplay for his own
lengthy novel, Kubrick's rewriting (with co-producer James B. Harris) of Nabokov's
unacceptable versions of the script, and the threat of censorship and denial of a Seal
of Approval from the film industry's production code.
1962 Universal was purchased by talent agency MCA.
1962 Government regulations forced studios out of the talent agency business.
The multi-directed Western epic How the West Was Won was the first non-
1962 documentary Cinerama film. It was also one of the last to use the old three-camera
technique, that produced visible lines between the three panels.
Marlon Brando was paid $1.25 million for his role in MGM's flop Mutiny on the
1962 Bounty (1962) as Fletcher Christian. It was a record sum - he was the first actor to
break the $1 million threshold.
Sidney Poitier won the Best Actor Academy Award (awarded in 1964) for Lilies of
the Field, thereby becoming the first African-American to win this award. This was
the only instance in the 20th century that this award was given to an African-
Director Shirley Clarke's mainstream, fictional feature crime film The Cool World, a
cinema verite-style examination of the rise of the Black Power movement and street
1963 gangs among African-Americans in the inner-city, was the first commercial film
venture to be shot on location in Harlem. It was also the first feature film produced
by documentarian Frederick Wiseman.
The most expensive film ever made (in terms of real costs adjusted for inflation) --
and one of the biggest flops in film history -- opened: Cleopatra, starring Elizabeth
Taylor, Rex Harrison, and Richard Burton. Negative publicity was generated by the
off-screen extra-marital affair conducted between major stars Elizabeth Taylor and
1963 Richard Burton (as Julius Caesar) (married to Eddie Fisher and Sybil Burton
respectively) - in the long run, it was beneficial for the film's bottom line, since it
became the most expensive film made-to-date. The stars' off-screen indiscretions
helped (although they were criticized on moral grounds), but it took many years for
the film to recoup its enormous costs.
Elizabeth Taylor was the first female star (or actress) to be paid a record $1 million
for a film, for her lead role in the legendary epic film Cleopatra (1963).
Stanley Kramer's It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, an epic comedy with a lengthy
running time (originally 175 minutes) and a huge cast (present day comedians and
cameos from many big-name legendary stars from the past), was the first big-budget,
all-star comedy extravaganza.
Ampex, which had developed the world's first practical videotape recorder in 1956
for TV studios, began to offer its first consumer version of a videotape recorder, sold
through the Neiman-Marcus Christmas catalogue for $30,000 - a non consumer-
Friz Freleng (and David DePatie) created the cool, bluesy 'The Pink Panther'
animation with a pink feline character for the opening credits of The Pink Panther.
The low-budget, exploitative, and successful film company - American International
Pictures (AIP), founded in 1956, released their first "beach" film (mostly to drive-in
theatres), the first of a 'beach movie' cycle of films - the musical comedy Beach
1963 Party. It was designed to appeal to the lucrative teen market, and was the first of a
number of films to star popular singer Frankie Avalon and grown-up ex-Disney
Mickey Mouse Club Mousketeer Annette Funicello (as Dolores or "DeeDee" in later
The first theater originally designed (by inventor Stanley Durwood of American
Multi-Cinema, now AMC Theatres) as a multiplex (a multi-screen movie theatre)
1963 opened in the Ward Parkway shopping center in Kansas City - it was called Parkway
Twin (for its two screens). Megaplex screens (with up to 24 screens) and stadium-
style seating would become additional features.
Buxom, platinum blonde sex goddess/siren Jayne Mansfield appeared naked (breasts
and buttocks) in the unrated sex farce Promises! Promises! (1963). Mansfield
became the first mainstream actress to appear nude in an American feature sound
film. (The honor would have been held by Marilyn Monroe in Something's Gotta
1963 Give (1962), but she died during production.) The original version was banned in
many cities (including Cleveland) and substituted with an edited version. The
provocative film was heavily publicized in Playboy's June 1963 issue, with pictures
to prove it, that led to the magazine's publisher Hugh Hefner being charged with
obscenity (and later acquitted) -- the only time in his life.
The first feature-length made-for-TV movie, an action film titled See How They Run
and starring John Forsythe and Senta Berger, was broadcast on NBC-TV for its
world premiere. It was the first broadcast of Project 120, an innovative deal between
Universal and NBC.
Michelangelo Antonioni's and cinematographer Carlo DiPalma's visually-impressive
1964 French-Italian co-production Red Desert made spectacular use of the recently-
perfected telephoto lens, to create a shallow depth-of-field. It was also Antonioni's
first film in color, used in extreme and expressive ways.
1964 The mockumentary A Hard Day's Night, the first Beatles film, premiered.
Sony began marketing the first reel-to-reel (video tape recorder) VTR designed
1964 specifically for home use in 1964 -- however, widescale consumer use of video tape
recorders didn't really take off until the mid-1970s.
Director Stanley Kubrick's brilliant, satirical, provocative black comedy/fantasy
regarding doomsday and Cold War politics was released, Dr. Strangelove or: How I
Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. The landmark film - the first
commercially-successful political satire about nuclear war, was a cynically-
objective, Monty Python-esque, humorous, biting response to the apocalyptic fears
of the 1950s.
Goldfinger (1964), the third James Bond film in the long-running series, was the
1964 first James Bond film to receive an Academy Awards Oscar - Best Sound Effects
Editing. It was also the first Bond film to receive an Academy Awards nomination.
Ronald Reagan's last feature film appearance was in director Don Siegel's post-noir
1964 crime thriller The Killers in which he played 'heavy' or bad-guy crime boss Jack
Browning - the first time he had ever played a villain.
The film version of the Broadway musical The Sound of Music premiered. At the
time of its release, it surpassed Gone With the Wind (1939) as the number one box
office hit of all time. Nominated for ten Academy Awards, it came away with five
major wins including Best Picture and Best Director (Robert Wise).
Sidney Lumet's The Pawnbroker became the first major Hollywood film to daringly
and boldly feature a sequence of partial nudity (the bared breasts of Thelma Oliver),
essential to the plot. However, it received the infamous "condemned" rating from the
Catholic Church's Legion of Decency.
A small-time TV comedy writer Woody Allen wrote his first feature length
screenplay for director Richard Donner's unexpectedly-successful sex farce What's
New Pussycat?, with Allen in his first major screen role. Because the writer/star
disliked the film, he would proceed to his directorial debut for What's Up, Tiger
Lily? (1966), a satire/spoof of quickly-made, badly-dubbed, exploitative, Japanese
spy films, made in the style of Mystery Science Theater 3000.
Blonde teen star and the original Gidget character - Sandra Dee - was the last major
star still under exclusive contract to a studio (Universal).
Director John Lamb's nudist film, The Raw Ones, that extolled the virtues of a
naturist lifestyle, was the first to openly show genitalia -- now allowed after a 1963
1965 legal decision that ruled such displays of private parts were not obscene. This was an
essential linkpin between the non-genital 'nudie-cutie' films of the late 50s, and the
hard-core porn films of the 70s.
The first Oscar-winning performance for a short, backside nude scene was for Julie
Christie's portrayal of Diana Scott - an ambitious, vain, irresponsible, ruthless,
promiscuous, and selfish hip, mini-skirted London model who tempted a serious-
minded married journalist (Dirk Bogarde), and then tired and became a decadent,
international celebrity/swinger, and finally ended up living a meaningless life as a
disillusioned, bored wife of an Italian prince in Darling.
1960s - Part 2
Year Event and Significance
Sweeping revisions were made in the Hays Code regarding the standards of decency
for films, suggesting restraint in questionable themes, rather than forbidding them
completely. In the new code of the Motion Picture Association of America, virtue
and the condemnation of sin were still encouraged. However, it eliminated previous
prohibitions of "lustful kissing" and "passion that stimulates the base emotions," and
permitted certain films to be labeled "recommended for mature audiences."
The ground-breaking UK Swinging 60s comedy film Georgy Girl became the first
film to carry the label "suggested for mature audiences" - or M rating.
After an appeal by Warner Bros., Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? became the first
film containing profane expletives and frank sexual content (ie., "Hump the
Hostess") to receive the MPAA's Production Code seal of approval, although the
most extreme profanity was removed (i.e., "Screw you"). It was the first American
film to use the expletive 'goddamn' and 'bugger'. It was also the first film to be
1966 released with an M-rating ("Suggested for Mature Audiences") warning. [The film
was noted for its four acting nominations (one for every member of the four-person
cast).] The second film to receive an MPAA exemption (and seal of approval)
shortly afterwards was Alfie despite the use of the forbidden word "abortion." These
exemptions marked the beginning of the breakdown of the existing system of
industry self-regulation and censorship, and the relaxing of code standards.
MGM distributed Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow Up, the director's first non-Italian
feature, in defiance of demands that it make cuts. Jane Birkin and Gillian Hills,
acting as teenaged groupies in the film, displayed glimpses of full-frontal female
nudity, introducing American film audiences to their first view of pubic hair.
Paramount's purchase by Gulf & Western marked the beginning of a trend toward
studio ownership by diversified, multi-national conglomerates.
The Legion of Decency changed its official name to the National Catholic Office for
1966 Motion Pictures and, in respect to Pope John XXIII's policy of modernizing Catholic
thought, announced a more progressive attitude.
1966 The 'Oscars' or Academy Awards ceremony was first broadcast in color.
The first indigenous African (Senegalese) feature film was writer/director Ousmane
Sembene's debut feature-length film Black Girl. It was also regarded as the first sub-
Saharan African film from an African filmmaker to receive international attention
The ABC-TV network paid a record $2 million for airing rights to The Bridge on the
1966 River Kwai (1957) - the screening attracted over 60 million viewers, and set a
precedent for higher fees for hit theatrical films sold to television.
The Star Trek TV series had its debut on network television on September 8, 1966 --
this popular and most successful science-fiction series of its kind was extremely
influential in future years for various other versions, including the release of a
Saturday morning animated version from 1973-74, and the first of many big-budget
theatrical feature films in 1979 (there were a total of eleven Star Trek-related feature
films by 2009).
The first "spaghetti western," Sergio Leone's A Fistful of Dollars, opened in the
United States, starring Clint Eastwood as the "man with no name." It was the first
screen collaboration between Leone and Eastwood. (The western had earlier
premiered in 1964 in Florence, Italy.)
Director Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde was promoted with the slogan for its anti-
heroes: "They're young. They're in love. They kill people." The anti-establishment,
violent film, originally criticized at the time of its release, was aimed at youth
audiences by its American auteur and producer/star Warren Beatty.
Mike Nichols became the first director to earn $1,000,000 for a single picture — for
The Graduate (1967).
Director/producer Roger Corman's visually-surrealistic The Trip (with a screenplay
by actor Jack Nicholson), an American International Pictures (AIP) film, was the
first Hollywood film to show the effects of taking psychedelic drugs (LSD). It was
the ultimate late 1960s exploitation hippie film, with star Peter Fonda.
Jack Warner, co-creator of Warner Bros., sold his remaining interest in the company
1967 to a Canadian corporation called Seven Arts Ltd. for $84 million. The company
became known as Warner-Seven Arts.
New Line Cinema was formed, marking its niche with films like director John
Waters' Pink Flamingo and Polyester.
The first contemporary music (rock 'n roll concert) industry film, Monterey Pop
(1968), was filmed at the historic Monterey International Pop Festival in California,
1967 featuring such performers as Jimi Hendrix, The Who, The Mamas and the Papas,
Janis Joplin and more. It was the precursor to Michael Wadleigh's concert
documentary of the late 60s rock fest, Woodstock (1970).
In the Heat of the Night was the first Best Picture Oscar winner to be adapted into a
regular prime-time television series, in 1988, with Carroll O'Connor as Sheriff Bill
Gillespie and Howard Rollins as Virgil Tibbs. It was also the only true 'who-dun-it'
detective story that won Best Picture.
Sony introduced a portable (but bulky), expensive, out-of-studio, black-and-white
1967 video camera system (or video tape recorder - VTR) called the PortaPak -- it
inaugurated the modern era of video.
Two UK films were released in this year - both noted for the first use of the four-
1967 letter word 'f--k': director Michael Winner's film I'll Never Forget What's 'is Name
The first major (commercially-released) US studio film to include the word 's--t' in
its dialogue was Richard Brooks' In Cold Blood. It was also said a year later in
1967 Boom! (1968, UK) (spoken by actress Elizabeth Taylor as Flora 'Sissy' Goforth: "S--
t on your mother!" Note: Taylor was the first actress to say 's--t' in a major motion
French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard's chaotic and apocalyptic experimental film
Weekend told about a weekend car trip involving a massive traffic jam symbolizing
the collapse of the modern consumeristic society, including one of the longest dolly
shots in cinematic history.
Writer/director Charlie Chaplin's romantic comedy A Countess From Hong Kong,
starring Marlon Brando and Sophia Loren, was Chaplin's first color (and
1967 widescreen) film, and the first to be funded by a major studio (Universal Pictures). It
was his last-directed film and ended up a major flop. Chaplin appeared in a small
cameo role as an unnamed, elderly steward.
A new voluntary ratings system was developed and went into effect in late
November by the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) - it was
1968 announced by its President Jack Valenti. The new system classified films according
to their suitability for viewing by young people, in four categories: "G" for general
audiences; "M" for mature audiences; "R," no one under 16 admitted without an
adult guardian (later raised to under 17 years of age); and "X," no one under 17
admitted. The four criteria used in the ratings included theme, language, violence,
and nudity and/or sexual content. Many parents thought films rated M contained
more adult content than those that were rated R; this confusion led to its replacement
in 1969 by the rating of GP (or General Public, or General Audiences, Parental
Guidance Suggested). In 1970, the GP (or earlier M) rating was changed to PG:
Parental Guidance Suggested, and the age limit was increased to 17. [The PG ratings
category would again be revised in 1984.]
Brian De Palma's draft-dodger comedy Greetings, (Robert DeNiro's debut film), was
1968 the first film in the US to receive an X rating by the MPAA for nudity and profanity
(in its original release), although it was reduced to an R rating.
Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey reinvented the science fiction genre. It
introduced the character of HAL, a computer that could see, speak, hear, and think
like its human colleagues aboard the spaceship, and fantastic special effects of outer-
space by Douglas Trumbull.
The flesh-eating zombie sub-genre of films was given a boost with George A.
Romero's cheap, stark black and white horror flick, Night of the Living Dead.
The classic science fiction film, Planet of the Apes was one of the pioneering,
modern multimedia marketing blockbusters, spawning not only four sequels and two
1968 television series spinoffs, but merchandising, such as action figures. It provided both
solid entertainment value, and an effective, politically-charged message of social
The German film Maedchen in Uniform (1958) (first filmed in 1931) was the only
1968 lesbian film seen publicly in the US --- until the release of Robert Aldrich's X-rated
The Killing of Sister George.
Peter Bogdanovich was the first critic and film scholar to become a Hollywood
writer-director, with his directorial debut for Targets, made for American
International Pictures. He deliberately revered past American directors in his own
work which extended into the 70s.
Writer/director John Cassavetes' Faces was the first independently-made and
distributed American film to reach mainstream audiences. Cassavetes himself has
been considered to be "the father of independent cinema in America." The stark and
grainy look of this amateurish-looking, non-studio, ragged film about infidelity (over
two hours long, and made with a hand-held camera in 16mm) was told as an
improvisational character study. It was a highly-influential, low-budget independent
cinema verite film that had a highly individualistic style (with unscripted and often
Midnight Cowboy, starring Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight, became the only X-
rated picture to ever win an Oscar for Best Picture (the rating was later changed to
an R). More and more mainstream films contained sexual content that was
unacceptable only a few years earlier.
ABC-TV programmer Barry Diller created "The Movie of the Week." By 1971,
ABC was airing Tuesday and Wednesday night versions.
1969 Sony introduced a new device -- the videocassette recorder (VCR) for home use.
Kinney National Company, a New York conglomerate whose interests included
1969 parking lots and funeral homes, acquired Warner-Seven Arts and in 1972 renamed
the company Warner Communications Inc.
After her last film, Fox's Mr. Belvedere Goes to College (1949), former child star
Shirley Temple entered politics after raising a family - she was appointed U.S.
1969 ambassador to the United Nations. Later, she served as U.S. ambassador to Ghana
(1974-1976) and Czechoslovakia (1989), and during the late 70s was the U.S. Chief
A new wave of independent film-making in Hollywood (dubbed "The New
Hollywood") was signaled by Dennis Hopper's anti-Establishment release of the
low-budget Easy Rider. Its phenomenal success shook up the major Hollywood
1969 studios. This movement was termed Hollywood's New Wave (fashioned after the
earlier French New Wave), and would last through the next decade. Hopper's next
experimental film The Last Movie (1971) was less successful, both commercially
and critically, and sounded a death-knell for his own ambitious film-making efforts.
Sam Peckinpah's ultra-violent western The Wild Bunch was exceptional for its non-
glorification of bloodshed, and its slow-motion, heavily-edited, stylized views of
multiple deaths -- it was influential for other filmmakers ranging from Martin
Scorsese to John Woo to Quentin Tarantino in years to come. Due to its violence,
1969 the film was originally threatened with an X-rating by the newly-created MPAA
(Motion Picture Association of America), but an R-rating was its final decision. A
so-called 'director's cut' version of the film, threatened with an NC-17 rating when
submitted to the MPAA ratings board in 1993 prior to a re-release in 1994, held up
the film's re-release for many months.
African-American film-maker and cinematographer Gordon Parks directed his own
autobiographical The Learning Tree, and became the first black director of a major
1969 feature film for a major US studio. This laid the groundwork for Parks' next film --
the landmark blaxploitation action film Shaft (1971) with Richard Roundtree - a
very successful cross-over film.
A three-day rock music festival, dubbed Woodstock, occurred in a large farming
field in upstate New York, attracting 400,000 young people for an outdoor concert
marked by drug use, nudity, food shortages and profanity, as well as superb
1969 performances by the rock stars of the era. The landmark concert was captured in
director Michael Wadleigh's successful widescreen (and split-screen) rockumentary
Woodstock: 3 Days of Love & Music (1970) - winning the Best Documentary
1970s - Part 1
Year Event and Significance
George C. Scott won the Best Actor Oscar for his memorable performance in Patton
but then refused the gold statuette and didn't attend the awards ceremony.
Disaster films became a main staple of films in the 70s -- the trend began with
1970 Airport (1970). The entire disaster film craze was really kick-started by The
Poseidon Adventure (1972).
The IMAX wide-screen format premiered in the Fuji Pavilion at the EXPO '70 in
Osaka, Japan, with the 17-minute film Tiger Child.
Nevada millionaire Kirk Kerkorian bought MGM in 1970, and then promptly
downsized the company. He sold off acres of the studio's real estate of backlots, and
1970 its valuable film memorabilia (such as Dorothy's The Wizard of Oz ruby slippers) for
a fraction of its real value. The sell-off financed an expansion of Kerkorian's hotel-
casino investments, and began a decline for the studio.
1970 Mike Nichols' war comedy Catch-22, an adaptation of Joseph Heller's 1961 book,
was the first US film to depict an individual (Martin Balsam as Col. Cathcart)
defecating on a toilet seat, and unwinding a long piece of toilet tissue, while non-
chalantly talking to earnest Chaplain Tappman (Anthony Perkins). Both actors also
appeared earlier in Hitchcock's thriller Psycho (1960) - another film with a toilet first
-- the first on-screen toilet flush.
The popular landmark tear-jerker and commercially-successful film Love Story,
adapted from Eric Segal's screenplay and thin novel, was the first modern romance
film blockbuster. Its story of a rich boy/poor girl romance, was backed by
Paramount's fast-living head of production Robert Evans. It averted the struggling
studio from financial collapse, and beautiful Ali McGraw (Evans married the starlet)
was put on the January 11, 1971 cover of Time Magazine. Evans later made the
equally-successful The Godfather (1972) and The Godfather, Part 2 (1974) films
and Chinatown (1974) in the early 70s.
Following in the tradition of the "Kitchen Sink" UK films in the 50s and 60s,
director Ken Loach's low-budget, documentary-style, second feature-film Kes,
released in 1969, has since been regarded as one of the best British films ever made
(it was a Best Film nominee for the 1971 BAFTA Film Awards). The dark and
moving independent film was a heartbreaking, authentic, coming-of-age family
drama about an abused 15 year old working-class Yorkshire boy who found meaning
in his life by raising a baby kestrel (falcon). Surprisingly, the starkly-truthful and
socially-conscious naturalistic film was never released commercially in the US.
Let It Be was released, the last film starring the Fab Four; this effort chronicled the
1970 Beatles recording their last-produced Apple studios album - a comeback attempt that
actually led to their breakup.
Dennis Hopper's Easy Rider (1969), Bob Rafelson's Five Easy Pieces (1970), and
Peter Bogdanovich's The Last Picture Show (1971) were representative of the New
Hollywood movement of unconventional auteur directors with new ideas and
personal visions. In 1971, USC film school graduate George Lucas released his first
full-length feature film, THX 1138.
For her performance in Women in Love (1969, UK), actress Glenda Jackson became
one of the earliest performers to win an Academy Award for Best Actress for a role
1970-71 in which she appeared significantly nude. The first Oscar-winning performance for a
short, backside nude scene was for Julie Christie's portrayal of Diana Scott in
Yugoslavian director Dušan Makavejev's controversial, X-rated, montage-filled,
avante-garde, documentary-fiction film titled W.R.- Mysteries of the Organism was
reportedly the first film to depict full frontal nudity amidst its plentiful nude sex
scenes and frank dialogue about free love, masturbation and orgasm. The film
engendered intense criticism and censorship demands, and was banned in the
director's own native Yugoslavia.
The blaxploitation film genre, with anti-Hollywood films aimed at a primarily
African-American audience, was born with Melvin Van Peebles' groundbreaking
Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song! -- the first commercially-successful black-
themed film. It forced Hollywood to acknowledge the monetary potential of the
untapped, urban African-American market (similar to the effect Easy Rider (1969)
1971 had on its countercultural audiences) as a result of this influential film. The
landmark crime/action blaxploitation film Shaft, starring Richard Roundtree as a
defiantly-proud black hero, was directed by Gordon Parks and would become a
major cross-over hit. From then on through the end of the decade (but mostly in the
first half of the decade), over 200 films would be released by major and independent
studios which featured major black characters (and some black athletes such as Jim
Brown and Rosie Grier), to profit from the black movie-going audiences. Clint
Eastwood and Charles Bronson would play similar hard-edged roles for whites.
Blaxploitation cinema experienced a revival in the late 1990s, with Larry Cohen's
Original Gangstas (1996), reuniting stars from the earlier era. The director of Pulp
Fiction (1994), Quentin Tarantino, paid homage to the blaxploitation genre twenty-
five years later with Jackie Brown (1998), starring Pam Grier.
The success of blaxploitation films led to an onslaught of other black exploitation
genres, with numerous remakes or lesser imitations ranging from westerns to martial
arts kung fu films to horror and gangster films. Sample films included Hit Man
(1972), Blacula (1972) and Blackenstein (1973), and Larry Cohen's Black Caesar
Early 70s (1973). However, the vast majority of these films were still distributed, produced,
and controlled by non-blacks. All of the blaxploitation films set the stage for Hip
Hop music and subculture, future directors such as Spike Lee and John Singleton,
and movies like Harlem Nights (1989), Posse (1993), the Beverly Hills Cop series,
and Pulp Fiction (1994).
Two films released about the same time resurrected the controversy over violence in
films: (1) Stanley Kubrick's satirical A Clockwork Orange - rated X and responsible
for copy-cat crimes in the UK, prompting the director to withdraw the dystopic film
about social conditioning and free will from distribution for many years; and (2)
Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs - criticized for glorifying violence rather than
commenting upon it, re-edited for an R-rating, and banned in England for 30 years.
A Clockwork Orange was the first film to use Dolby technology noise reduction for
its sound recording.
The independent film Billy Jack (1971) was the first film of its kind to be marketed
as a 'BlockBuster wide-release' at many theatrical venues on the same day. This was
a change from the previous strategy called a platformed release (testing a film in a
1971 few major metropolitan markets to first see if results were positive, before
expanding its market). This same marketing strategy was used for Spielberg's first
summer blockbuster Jaws (1975) - and paved the way for the method in which all
major releases are done today.
Mario Bava's influential and controversial, bloody Italian horror-thriller Bay of
Blood (aka Twitch of the Death Nerve) was the grandfather of all slasher films, for
its characters (five murderers) and thirteen gruesome murders, including a machete
to the face, a spear for impalement of two lovers, a hanging, a stabbing, etc. Friday
the 13th, Part 2 (1981) reportedly copied some of its death scenes verbatim from the
The popular, low-budget, adult-oriented, X-rated Deep Throat, the second hard-core
pornography feature film released in the US (after Behind the Green Door)
1972 contributed to the explosion of the porn industry and 'porn chic' by being exhibited
in many mainstream film theatres. It was one of the most financially successful films
ever made (grossing over $1,000,000, but costing only $24,000 to make).
HBO transmitted its first cable television programming (via microwave
transmission) to 365 subscribers in Wilkes-Barre, PA -- this marked the start of pay-
TV service for cable. Sometimes a Great Notion (1970), starring Paul Newman and
Henry Fonda, was the first film to be broadcast, commercial-free and uncut, on the
new premium cable TV network in its debut programming, along with a hockey
The AVCO Cartrivision system (for CARTRIdige teleVISION) was a combination
1972 receiver / recorder / playback unit. It was also the first videocassette recorder to have
pre-recorded tapes of popular movies (from Columbia Pictures) for sale and rental --
three years before Sony's Betamax VCR system emerged into the market. However,
the company went out of business a year later.
1972 Sony introduced the U-Matic line of video cassette recorders.
Italian-American director Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather, a reinvention of
the gangster genre, was finally released. It won three Oscars from its ten
nominations, including awards for Best Picture, Best Actor (Marlon Brando, who
refused to accept the award) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Mario Puzo and Francis
Ford Coppola). Sacheen Littlefeather declined Marlon Brando's Best Actor Oscar in
the 1973 awards ceremony as a protest against government Indian policies. The
Godfather was the first US film to gross $100 million domestically at the box office
in its initial release.
After making a few short films and documentaries, Italian-American director Martin
1972 Scorsese's first Hollywood feature film was the low-budget Roger Corman-produced
exploitation film Boxcar Bertha.
Director Bernardo Bertolucci's controversial, X-rated Last Tango in Paris was
released to protest and criticism due to its explicit sexual content. Actor Marlon
Brando and Bertolucci both earned Oscar nominations - making them the only Oscar
nominees for an X-rated film that hasn't been re-rated since its release.
Ralph Bakshi's Fritz the Cat was the first X-rated animated feature-length film in
1972 Hollywood history. It was also the first independent animated film to gross more
than $100 million at the box office.
Warner Bros. had its first major hit with the sensational and shocking The Exorcist,
an originally X-rated film that was released as an uncut 'R' rating which allowed
1973 minors to view the film if accompanied by an adult. The landmark film encouraged
the trend for big-budget horror films, other cheaply-made imitations - and more
The once-powerful MGM Studios abandoned most of its movie-making business
because of a string of failures due to ownership changes and bad production choices
by head Kirk Kerkorian, who sold MGM's distribution system, and gradually
distanced himself from the daily operation of the studio.
The science-fiction classic Westworld was the first movie to make use of "digitized
1973 images", a primitive term for what has evolved into CGI (computer-generated
imagery) in the present day.
To maximize profits from weekend audiences, the industry decided to move major
film openings from mid-week to Fridays.
George Lucas' idea for Star Wars was declined by Universal and subsequently
accepted by Twentieth Century Fox after his success with his second feature film -
the nostalgic American Graffiti. The film recreated the feel, landscape, and sounds
of early 60s, small-town America - an historical time period (of JFK's Presidency
and the New Frontier before the jarring assassination of late 1963 and the rest of an
unpredictable era) that had since been irretrievably lost. Advertising posters and
theatrical trailers for the film asked: "Where were you in '62?", making viewers
reflect back to the pre-Beatles era. It was one of the biggest hits of the year, with
unknown but up-and-coming star Harrison Ford. With its great financial success, 28
year-old Lucas joined the ranks of a new breed of directors, including Steven
Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola. The film was noted for seamlessly lacing its
story with a classic rock-n-roll soundtrack composed of over forty hits (often
emanating from cruising car radios, or the school dance's record player). Other later
youth-oriented films imitated this film's use of a pop soundtrack.
In negotiations with Fox, George Lucas wisely cut his directing fee for Star Wars
(1977) by $500,000 in order to gain ownership of merchandising and sequel rights.
In a revolutionary approach to Hollywood film-making and merchandising, Lucas
wisely accepted the small fee of $175,000 in return for the much more lucrative
forty percent of merchandising rights for his Star Wars Corporation. Merchandising
of movie paraphernalia associated with the film encouraged an entire marketing
industry of Star Wars-related items (i.e., toys, video games, novelty items at fast
food restaurants, etc.).
The first full film score written by a popular artist for a film was in director Sam
1973 Peckinpah's Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, with music by pop artist Bob Dylan.
Dylan also made his acting debut as the mysterious Alias, one of Billy's sidekicks.
Tobe Hooper's milestone cult slasher film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was
released, inspired by the real-life Wisconsin serial killer Ed Gein (also responsible
for Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960)), featuring a horrifying, mask-wearing,
chainsaw-threatening Leatherface character.
Director Roman Polanski's neo-noir Chinatown, starring Jack Nicholson, was
released, and grossed $30 million - much more than its budget of $6 million.
1974 Twenty-five percent of the film was financed by a tax shelter syndicate which
received about 10 percent of the profits in return -- this avenue of film financing has
since been closed by order of federal regulation.
Best Director-winning Francis Ford Coppola's critically-acclaimed, Best Picture-
winning gangster epic sequel The Godfather, Part II, -- actually a prequel -- was one
1974 of the rare instances in which the sequel was superior to the original film. It became
the first 'sequel' to win Best Picture. It would help launch the trend toward
The hit disaster film Earthquake featured a new, short-lived movie gimmick called
Sensurround, which used large speakers to create synchronized vibrations in theaters
by means of thumping, high-decibel bass sounds. The scenes of the crumbling
destruction of Los Angeles by a powerful earthquake were accompanied by the first
use of low-frequency bass rumbling (responsible for the film's only Academy Award
1974 Oscar win: Best Sound Oscar) and quite impressive special effects. There were only
three other films employing Sensurround: the all-star war film Midway (1976), the
summer thriller Rollercoaster (1977), and the TV show crossover Battlestar
Galactica (1978). Three serious detriments regarding this gimmick were the costly
installation of speakers, the potential of structural damage to older theatres, and the
disruptions caused for adjoining multiplex theatre auditoriums.
1974 People Magazine was launched.
Hunger, an animated film short (11 minutes long) without dialogue from the
National Film Board of Canada (and director Peter Foldes) was the first to use
computer digitization to interpolate (or 'fill in') the animated action between various
key cells drawn free-hand, although it had experimentally been demonstrated with
his earlier film, Metadata (1971). The film's director was the first animator to use
computer animation (a computer-assisted 'key-frame animation' system) that
imitated conventional cel animation. Black and white animated illustrations
appeared against a colored backdrop, with surrealistic figures that fluidly dissolved
and reshaped themselves to take new forms - an early and primitive example of
morphing. It was the first computer-animated film to be nominated for an Academy
Award in the Best Short Film (Animated) category. It also won the Jury Prize at the
Cannes Film Festival that same year.
1974 The first Claymation film, the 11-minute long Closed Mondays, which won the Best
Animated Short Film Oscar award, was produced and co-directed by Will Vinton
and Bob Gardiner. The short was the first instance of Claymation animation, using
3-D clay figures filmed with stop-motion animation. This animated short was
included in the theatrical release of the compilation feature film Fantastic Animation
In the era before video stores and widespread availability of films for viewing, the
LA-based, premium cable outlet Z Channel exerted a tremendous impact on the film
industry. One of the first pay cable stations, it provided a wide variety of innovative
programming from its troubled head Jerry Harvey in the 80s, including on-air film
festivals, foreign films, hard-to-find rare classics, non-mainstream films, original
and uncut 'director's versions,' works of new talent (actors, directors, and writers),
1974 late-night European softcore features (often starring Laura Antonelli), and the airing
of other independent productions. The channel often regenerated interest in
critically-acclaimed films that had flopped on initial release (i.e., Oliver Stone's
Salvador (1986) or Robert Altman's McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971)). By the late
80s, the cable channel was eventually forced out of the market by giants HBO and
Showtime when it was acquired in 1988 by a company that decided to combine its
movie programming with sports.
"The Way We Were" - the Academy Award-winning title song of the romantic
drama The Way We Were (1973), featuring singer Barbra Streisand and Robert
Redford as star-crossed lovers, topped Billboard's Hot 100 chart for a short time in
early 1974. It was Streisand's first number-one pop hit single on Billboard's Hot 100.
Future horror-filmmaker John Carpenter's directorial debut came with his low-
1974 budget Dark Star (1974), originally a student project enlarged to feature length; it
was a major spoof of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).
1970s - Part 2
Year Event and Significance
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was the first film to take all the major awards
1975 (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor, and Best Actress) since
Frank Capra's It Happened One Night (1934).
Steven Spielberg's Jaws was the first modern 'blockbuster' film to top the $100
million record in box-office business in North America (cruising past previous pace-
setters Gone With the Wind (1939), The Sound of Music (1965) and The Godfather
(1972)). It earned its 27 year-old director (and Universal Studios) a place in
Hollywood. Part of Jaws' financial success was due to the fact that Hollywood
preceded its release by three nights of TV ads during prime time on all the networks
1975 - a massive TV marketing campaign costing $700,000. It was also booked into 460
theatres for its opening weekend - a record! - making it one of the first major films
to open in wide-release throughout the country (another prominent film that also
opened in wide-release was the independent film Billy Jack (1971)). The film's
tremendous success spurred Hollywood studios to aggressively look for further
modern blockbusting, 'big-event' films that could break weekend box-office records
- fueled by increasingly more expensive ad campaigns.
Robert Altman's low-budget, Oscar-nominated ensemble film Nashville followed the
interlocking lives of a huge eclectic cast of twenty-four main characters - one of
1975 Altman's trademarks. The quirky film was shot in under 45 days, and was the first
major release that had actors perform live in front of the camera during their song
1975 Writer/director Peter Bogdanovich's throwback 30s musical, At Long Last Love, was
the first film since the "Golden Age of Hollywood" in the early 30s to have its
musical numbers recorded live (instead of lip-synching).
The first full frontal female nudity (an open crotch shot) in a major-studio American
film was in Roger Corman's exploitation film Capone, a biopic about Chicago
gangster Al Capone (Ben Gazzara). The female actress was Susan Blakely (as Iris
Crawford), who spread her legs while getting out of bed with Capone.
The Sony Corporation introduced the 1/2 inch Betamax video format and
1975 videocassette recorder (VCR) for consumer home use, with the capability of
recording up to one hour.
Jim Sharman's The Rocky Horror Picture Show, a film version of the original
international stage hit, was a commercial failure when originally released, but has
since achieved major cult film status, and has been considered the longest-running
'midnight movie' of all time.
The unusual, nationally-distributed, low-budget B/W feature film Deafula marked a
strange milestone - it was the first, and only, horror (vampire) film shot using
1975 American Sign Language (Amesol), a technique dubbed "Signscope." It was shot
without sound originally and no spoken dialogue, although a monotone soundtrack
was later dubbed in, loosely translating the signs.
Director George Lucas, John Dykstra and producer Gary Kurtz created a facility
called Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) in Lucas' own studio (Lucasfilm) in Marin
County (Bay Area of Northern California) to help in the creation of special effects
and miniature models for his first film in a trilogy -- Star Wars (1977). One of its
1975 customized inventions was a motion-controlled camera (the "Dykstraflex") to film
the spectacular space-ship dogfight in the finale. Since then, the award-winning ILM
(under the umbrella of Lucas Digital, Ltd.) has become the industry standard. It has
been a major player in the development of advanced and computer-generated visual
effects for scores of films, and the top effects house for Hollywood.
Kathleen Nolan was named the first female National President of the Screen Actors
1975 Guild (SAG), initially for a two-year term. She was re-elected in 1977 to serve a
HBO (Home Box Office) bet its future on satellite programming distribution, when
it signed a 6-year, $7.5 million contract to allow access to RCA's recently-launched
communications satellite Satcom I. HBO inaugurated its satellite-delivered cable
service nationwide with the live transmission of the Ali vs. Frazier boxing match
("Thrilla in Manila") in October, 1975. The move made HBO the first successful,
satellite-delivered pay cable service in the US.
Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel debuted their PBS-TV film review show, a monthly
show originally titled OPENING SOON...at a Theatre Near You, on Chicago's PBS
affiliate WTTW. After a few successful seasons, it was re-named Sneak Previews in
1975 1977, and soon became a weekly show - and was one of the highest-rated shows of
its kind in TV history. The milestone show helped to pioneer interest in film
criticism (beyond print). After a contractual dispute, the critics left the series in 1982
to start At the Movies.
The first feature film to be encoded with a Dolby Stereo optical soundtrack was Ken
Russell's Lisztomania (1975).
The Steadicam, developed by Garrett Brown, was used for the first time in Rocky,
and then fully exploited in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining (1980).
1976 Italian film director Lina Wertmuller became the first woman to be nominated for
Best Director for Seven Beauties (1976, It.).
JVC (in Japan) introduced the VHS (originally for vertical helical scan, and later
Video Home System) 1/2 inch video format. The first VHS cassettes and players,
which cost about $885 each, were released by JVC in October. The system was
designed to compete with Sony's Betamax magnetic tape system, with a longer
recording time. In 1977, RCA began marketing the first VCRs in the United States
based on JVC's system, capable of recording up to four hours. By now, Japanese
manufacturers had taken over the VCR market. The videocassette recorder became a
1976 mass market consumer item in the late „70s, primarily in two formats: VHS and
Sony's Betamax. The VHS system soon became the home video recording standard
for almost two decades (until the rise of DVD technology), although it was in many
ways technically inferior to the high-quality Betamax. By 1987, VHS had acquired
about 95% of the consumer market. The new technology was considered a threat to
the film industry but in subsequent years was re-evaluated as a boon when studios
discovered videos to be a major source of income. By 1986, the home video
industry's annual gross rentals exceeded rentals paid for films by the theatres.
Gone with the Wind (1939) first aired on network TV and drew a huge audience over
1976 two nights - about 34 million people - the largest ever film audience to watch a
feature film on television.
Director Barbara Kopple's Harlan County, U.S.A., another Academy Award winner
1976 for Best Documentary, documented a Kentucky coal miners' strike in the early 1970s
against the Eastover Mining Company.
Nagisa Oshima's shocking and controversial film, In the Realm of the Senses (aka Ai
No Corrida, Jp.), told of extreme, all-consuming sexual obsession, madness and
immersion (bordering on pornography in its uncut version). It was seized and
banned by US Customs and postponed in its censored release, for its scenes of
1976 unsimulated fellatio and penetration, and for genital dismemberment and auto-erotic
asphyxiation. This erotic Japanese masterpiece about painful passion told the story
of a torrid, increasingly intense and dangerous, true-to-life, almost non-stop sexual
affair between gangster businessman/inn owner Kichizo (Tatsuya Fuji) and one of
his maid-servants, former prostitute Sada Abe (Eiko Matsuda) in mid-1930s Japan.
Director Bernardo Bertolucci's epic political tale, 1900 (aka Novecento), was
released - at 255 minutes (although some versions were cut). The monumental film
was produced by three American movie studios and represented three countries
(Italy, France, and W. Germany). It was basically a history of Italy in the first half of
the 20th century, seen through the eyes of its two characters (Robert De Niro and
British actor Peter Finch was awarded the Best Actor Oscar for his role as crazed,
suicidal, UBS network anchor-man and fired 'mad prophet of the airwaves' Howard
Beale in Network (1976) - memorable for his immortal line: "I'm mad as hell and I'm
not going to take this anymore." Finch's award was presented post-humously (he
died on January 14, 1977, just shortly before the awards ceremony). He was the
fourth actor to be honored with a posthumous nomination and the first and
posthumous winner for Best Actor - later supplemented with Heath Ledger's
posthumous nominaton and win for Best Supporting Actor for The Dark Knight
Beatrice Straight won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, the shortest role to win an
acting Oscar, for her less than eight minutes of screen time in Network, with only 8
1976 speaking parts (of approx. 260 words). (Runner up: Judi Dench for about ten
minutes of screen time as Queen Elizabeth I in Shakespeare in Love (1998), with 14
speaking parts (of approx. 446 words).)
George Lucas' space opera Star Wars, made for $11 million, was released in theaters
in mid-summer and grossed nearly $200 million on its first release, topping Jaws
(1975) as the highest earning film to date and generating an astoundingly lucrative
merchandising campaign. It truly revolutionized movie merchandising. After
adjusting for inflation, its US gross profit was second only to Gone with the Wind
(1939). It ultimately helped to resurrect the financial viability of the science-fiction
genre, a category of films that was considered frivolous and unprofitable, and its
exhilarating, action-paced computer-generated effects thrilled audiences. Until Jaws
(1975) and then Star Wars, the summer was typically Hollywood's slow season --
not true afterwards.
Star Wars was nominated for ten Academy Awards (including Best Picture), and
won in six (mostly technical) categories. One of its negative influences was that it
accelerated a trend towards special-effects-laden blockbuster films targeted at young
people. It generated a remarkable two sequels (for the original trilogy) and three
prequels, and led to the equally-successful collaboration between Spielberg and
Lucas for Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).
Director John Badham's Saturday Night Fever created a disco-dancing craze,
1977 popularized disco music, made a star of John Travolta, and the extremely popular
songs by the BeeGees encouraged the future popularity of movie soundtracks.
Director/writer Steven Spielberg's successful science-fiction classic Close
Encounters of the Third Kind, presented a unique view of aliens as benign and kind -
-- and saved Columbia Pictures from bankruptcy by being the studio's biggest
grossing film up to that time.
Woody Allen's semi-autobiographical romantic comedy Annie Hall, a marked
departure from Allen's earlier slapstick-filled pictures, won the Best Picture honors
over the special-effects blockbuster Star Wars, and gave the director/star/writer two
1977 Oscars (Best Screenplay and Best Director). The costuming of the title character
(Best Actress winner Diane Keaton) -- dubbed the 'Annie Hall' look -- created a
fashion craze. Woody Allen became the first director to win an Academy Award for
a film he starred in.
Canadian writer/director David Cronenberg's low-budget horror film Rabid starred
ex-porn film star Marilyn Chambers (the ex "Ivory Snow girl") in the lead role as
1977 Rose, a mutant predator with vampirish blood cravings following plastic surgery. It
was a notable cross-over role for the former hard-core adult film actress - she was
one of the first adult stars to cross over into a mainstream film.
Andre Blay, who had founded an audio/video production and duplication company
in 1968 called Magnetic Video, established the first video distribution company (in
Detroit, Michigan) in 1977 to license, market and distribute half-inch videotape
cassettes (both Betamax and VHS) to consumers. It was the first company to sell
pre-recorded videos. He offered the first group of fifty best-selling movies (from
Twentieth Century Fox) to the public through a direct-mail sales operation called the
Video Club of America, advertised in TV Guide. His revolutionary company ushered
in the lucrative era of home-video.
George Atkinson of Los Angeles began to advertise the rental of 50 Magnetic Video
titles of his own collection in the Los Angeles Times, and launched the first video
rental store, Video Station. It was a 600-square-foot storefront on Wilshire
Boulevard. In order to raise capital, Atkinson charged $50 for an "annual
membership" and $100 for a "lifetime membership," which provided the opportunity
to rent the videos for $10 a day. Atkinson was threatened with a lawsuit for renting
the videos, but quickly discovered that U.S. copyright law gave him the right to rent
and resell videos he owned. Within five years, he franchised more than 400 Video
Station stores across the country.
Respected 43 year-old Polish director Roman Polanski had sex with a 13-year-old
girl (Samantha Gailey (now Geimer)) following champagne (and allegedly,
quaaludes) in actor Jack Nicholson's hot tub. Known for directing Rosemary's Baby
(1968) (his debut Hollywood film) and the highly-acclaimed Chinatown (1974)
which revitalized the film noir genre, and for being the widower of the brutally-
murdered Manson victim and 26 year-old pregnant wife Sharon Tate in August,
1969, Polanski pleaded guilty to a single count of unlawful sexual intercourse with
1977 the minor but fled to France in 1978 before his sentencing. In exile, he went on to
direct Tess (1980), Frantic (1988) (featuring the first starring role of Emmanuelle
Seigner - his future wife), the erotic thriller Bitter Moon (1992), and The Pianist
(2002), which was nominated for Best Picture and won three Oscars, including Best
Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Director (unclaimed, since he remained a
fugitive from US justice). [Footnote: After 31 years as a fugitive, 76 year-old Roman
Polanski was arrested in Switzerland in 2009 while enroute to the Zurich Film
Festival, with possible extradition to the US to face sentencing for his conviction.]
David Begelman, the executive head of Columbia studios, was suspended for
confessed embezzlement and forgery. In late 1977, he was reinstated, but then by
early 1978, Hollywood gossip columnists Rona Barrett and Liz Smith exposed the
story to a mass audience, dubbed "Hollywoodgate". Shortly afterwards, Begelman
was reinstated and then running United Artists for MGM, while actor/whistleblower
Cliff Robertson was blacklisted for four years.
Philips introduced the video laser disc (aka laserdisc and LD) -- the first optical disc
storage media for the consumer market. Pioneer began selling home LaserDisc
players in 1980. Eventually, the laserdisc systems would be replaced by the DVD
("digital versatile disc") format in the late 1990s.
Disney licensed its cartoon compilations to MCA's DiscoVision - these were the first
Disney videos available to the public.
Grease continued the explosion of rock-music hit films (after Saturday Night Fever
(1977)) - again featuring super-star John Travolta paired with singer Olivia Newton-
John - they were the "oldest" teenagers in America at the time. Its success led to a
disastrous run of inferior imitators, including: Thank God It's Friday (1978), Can't
Stop the Music (1980), Xanadu (1980), The Apple (1980), Grease 2 (1982), Staying
Alive (1983), etc.
Orion Pictures Corporation was formed as a joint organization between Warner
Bros. Pictures and three disgruntled, top-level executives at United Artists, who left
over disagreements with UA's parent company Transamerica about lack of control
and conflict over the future film Heaven's Gate (1980).
Vietnam Era films began to appear at the end of the 70s, including Hal Ashby's
Coming Home, Sidney Furie's The Boys in Company C, Ted Post's Go Tell the
Spartans, Best Director-winning Michael Cimino's controversial Best Picture-
winning The Deer Hunter, and Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now (1979).
At first, John Carpenter's low-budget teen slasher film Halloween began the teen
slasher film cycle. It was dismissed as schlock by most critics, until championed by
the Village Voice and the 'Ebert & Siskel' Sneak Previews PBS-TV review show as a
1978 work of art. For many years, it was the highest grossing independent film of all time,
and ushered in a glut of other similarly gory films (such as Friday the 13th (1980)
and Prom Night (1980)). Unfortunately, it spawned numerous, often routine and
mediocre sequels (seven sequels and a remake by 2007).
Marlon Brando broke the $3 million mark for an actor's earnings, when he was
reportedly paid a salary of $3.7 million and over 11 percent of the gross (his total
1978 earnings were $14 million) for his 10-minute cameo appearance (shot over 12 days)
as Jor-El, the title character's father in the blockbuster Superman: The Movie. He
also received top-billing (with Gene Hackman) over Christopher Reeve.
National Lampoon's Animal House, a wildly-successful gross-out teen comedy with
unrefined humor - about an anarchic party-animal frat house at fictitious Faber
College, was the first $100 million hit comedy. It was one of the earliest films to be
targeted directly at the teenaged audience - and set the stage for further Hollywood
films made just for that demographic. It ushered in a growing era of gross-out teen
Miramax Films was originally created as a small production company to distribute
low-budget, quirky independent and arthouse films. It started when brothers Bob and
Harvey Weinstein purchased and renovated a run-down movie theater in Buffalo,
N.Y., and turned it into a profitable college art house. They started as distributors by
1979 acquiring the rights to the concert film The Secret Policeman's Other Ball, which
cost them $180,000 and grossed $6 million. [In the following two and a half
decades, until Disney split with its partner in 2005, the Weinsteins-run Miramax
would garner $4.5 billion in grosses from its films, almost 250 Oscar nominations,
and a reputation for creating controversy.]
Disney-trained animator Don Bluth, who was an animator for Disney's Robin Hood
(1973), The Rescuers (1977), Pete's Dragon (1977) and The Many Adventures of
Winnie the Pooh (1977) broke away and formed Don Bluth Productions with a
1979 group of disgruntled animators. His first notable non-Disney work was the animation
sequence of Xanadu (1980). His first independent feature-length animation was The
Secret of N.I.M.H. (1982), and his first big hit was the Spielberg-co-produced
animation An American Tail (1986).
1979 The Black Hole was Disney's first PG-rated feature film.
The China Syndrome, a film about a fictional nuclear plant that faced near melt-
down, starred Jane Fonda and Jack Lemmon. It opened 11 days before an actual
partial nuclear reactor core melt-down accident occurred at the Three Mile Island
nuclear facility in Pennsylvania.
The first film utilizing Dolby's 70mm "Split Surround" format was Francis Ford
Coppola's Apocalypse Now.
Woody Allen's Manhattan was released -- his first film using a widescreen (2.35:1)
Panavision process. At Allen's insistence, the studio's contract required that the film
had to be shown in letterbox format in any home video release or broadcast/cable
showing -- therefore, it was the first film released in letterbox format for home
video. At the time, the FCC regulations that didn't permit blank areas of the screen
(bars above and below caused a bit of a problem.
Ridley Scott's Alien, 20th Century Fox's extremely suspenseful, superior space
1979 science-fiction horror film, was the first R-rated film to have merchandising aimed
The Australian film-making industry experienced a revival or renaissance (new
wave) of production after many years of sporadic growth, with increased
government financing. Examples of films portraying Australian culture and history
at this time of Australia's film-making resurgence included Peter Weir's Picnic at
Hanging Rock (1975), The Last Wave (1977) and Gallipoli (1981), Fred Schepisi's
The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1978), Gillian Armstrong's My Brilliant Career
(1979), Bruce Beresford's Breaker Morant (1980), and the unexpected success of
Mel Gibson in the first Mad Max (1979) film.
The popularity, profitability and success of HBO (Home Box Office) in the mid-
1970s helped spur the growth of cable TV, and soon after, new satellite-delivered
Late basic and premium cable TV networks were successfully competing against the
1970's to major TV networks in the late 70s and early 80s, including premium movie channels
Early such as: Viacom's Showtime (1976, with satellite broadcast in 1978), Warner
1980's Amex's The Movie Channel (1979), Time/HBO's own Cinemax (1980), the Disney
Channel (1983), American Movie Classics (1984), and other Pay Per View (PPV)
channels, to name a few.
1980s - Part 1
Year Event and Significance
Ronald Reagan was elected the first movie-star president of the United States, noted
for films such as Kings Row (1942) and Bedtime for Bonzo (1951).
36 year-old Sherry Lansing became the first female to head a major studio when she
became president of 20th Century Fox studios.
UA premiered Heaven's Gate (1980) in late 1980, and then withdrew it for re-
editing, and re-released it in 1981. The disastrous film marked the start of the death-
knell of the American Auteur period that had blossomed in the 1970s, with original
works by directors and producers, including Martin Scorsese (Mean Streets (1973),
Taxi Driver (1976)), Peter Bogdanovich (The Last Picture Show (1971)), Woody
Allen (Annie Hall (1976)), and Michael Cimino (The Deer Hunter (1978)).
Exemplifying dedication to the art of realistic acting, Robert De Niro set the world
1980 record for most weight gained for a film by gaining 50-60 pounds to play boxer Jake
LaMotta in Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull.
The Tinto Brass/Bob Guccione (publisher of Penthouse Magazine) trashy, adult-
rated film Caligula (1979) engendered controversy over its graphic sexual content
(self-rated for MA - Mature Audiences only), when released in the US in 1980. The
high-profile film was a remarkable production, considering that it featured eminent
film actors (John Gielgud, Peter O'Toole, Malcolm McDowell, and Helen Mirren)
and an adapted screenplay by Gore Vidal.
Director Rainer Werner Fassbinder's epic drama Berlin Alexanderplatz, originally 15
and a half hours in length, was serialized into 14 parts (of varying lengths) for
television viewing. Three years later in 1983, it was also released for theatrical
viewing to US theaters.
The acclaimed British director and "Master of Suspense" Alfred Hitchcock died at
the age of 80. He was often noted as the originator of the "thriller" genre, the
director of England's first feature-length sound film Blackmail (1929), the director of
1980 one of Hollywood's 3-D pictures Dial M for Murder (1954) and the originator of all
slasher films Psycho (1960). His films were known for their themes and characters:
an innocent man wrongly-accused (i.e., North by Northwest (1959)), sexual
obsession (i.e., Vertigo (1958)), McGuffins, and cool blondes.
Katharine Hepburn won her record fourth acting Oscar - Best Actress for her
1981 performance in On Golden Pond. She became the first performer to win that many
Best Actress awards - the most successful actress in the award's history.
The Best Picture winner this year was a surprise and major upset win for British
producer David Puttnam's low-budget Chariots of Fire, directed by Hugh Hudson,
with seven nominations and four wins. The win signaled the start of another mini-
British renaissance of film awards for this year and the next - with Gandhi (1982)
soon breaking all British film Oscar records.
MGM made a comeback when it was split into a hotel empire and a movie company
in 1980, and then acquired United Artists. UA was on the verge of bankruptcy due to
the disastrous Heaven's Gate (1981). The regular release of James Bond films
provided most of the studio's hits for the remainder of the decade.
MTV, a music video channel on cable, was launched 24/7. Its style of fast-moving
montage was influential on films such as Flashdance (1983).
Only one actor in film history, James Coco, was nominated for two opposing awards
1981 in the same year, an Oscar and Razzie, for his supporting role in Only When I Laugh
Steven Spielberg's summer box-office hit Raiders of the Lost Ark was a breathlessly-
paced throwback to cliff-hanging, non-stop action/adventure films of the past. This
was the first collaboration between two legendary American film-makers, producer
George Lucas and director Spielberg. Spielberg's phenomenally successful film, that
cost only $23 million and made more than $200 million, contributed to the demand
for bigger blockbusters. It was the first of three Indiana Jones films (from 1981-
1989), and went on to make Harrison Ford a major, bankable A-list star (in addition
to his original Star Wars appearances).
43 year-old Actress Natalie Wood accidentally drowned off Catalina Island, during
the filming of Peter Hyam's Brainstorm (1983), thereby necessitating the alteration
and rewriting of the final film around her disappearance. Ironically, the film dealt
with the question of the afterlife.
The disco film musical Can't Stop the Music (1980) won the First Golden Raspberry
Awards - a recognition given to the most banal and awful 'turkey' film of the year.
Director/actor/producer/writer Jamie Uys's film The Gods Must Be Crazy - a comedy
about a Kalahari desert Bushman named Xi who decided to take a journey to the
1981 edge of the world to return a peculiar foreign object (a Coca-Cola bottle) to the gods
- became the biggest foreign box office hit in history, although it wasn't released in
the US until 1984 (after it broke records internationally).
Cult director John Waters paid homage to 60s' era Smell-O-Vision (inspired by
1981 William Castle's mystery film Scent of Mystery (1960)) with scratch-and-sniff
"Odorama" cards for his classic film Polyester.
John W. Hinckley Jr. attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan on March
30, 1981. Notoriously, Martin Scorsese's film Taxi Driver (1976) was linked to and
may have triggered the political assassination (copy-cat) attempt by the
inconspicuous John Hinckley, illuminating his dangerous fixation on young actress
Jodie Foster who had hoped that his "historical deed" would impress her and gain
her "respect and love". Ultimately, it resulted in the assassin's infamous media-hero
status - he was tried and found not guilty for reasons of insanity in 1982 and
thereafter was confined to a Washington DC mental hospital.
President Ronald Reagan supported government spending on abstinence education
to prevent teen pregnancy (by promoting chastity and self-discipline), with the
1981 passage of the Adolescent Family Life Act (AFLA). The prevalence of permissive
attitudes, and of sex in films (the 80s was the age of the teenage sex comedy), TV,
and in music helped to spur this movement ("Just say no").
1982 Jim Clark founded Silicon Graphics, a cutting-edge company that contributed to the
growth of computer imaging and animation in films.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan just beat Tron (1982) into release, to attain the
honor of being the first film to use computer-generated images (CGI) to any extent.
In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, the "Genesis Effect" sequence was cinema's first
1982 entirely computer-generated (CG) sequence. This visual effect, a brief fully
computer-generated sequence lasting about one minute, marked the first use of a
fractal-generated landscape in a film (created by the Lucasfilm division of Pixar at
ILM), and a particle-rendering system (for the fire effect).
Walt Disney Studios' Tron was released as both a feature film (with more state-of-
the-art computer-generated animation than any other film) and an arcade video
game. This film was heralded as the first live action film with over 20 minutes of
full 3D graphics and computer animation (extensive use of 3-D CGI in the famed
'light cycle' sequence). However, the film's failure at the box-office held up greater
development of computer animation.
Director Steven Spielberg's ET: The Extra-Terrestrial was released -- another all-
1982 time champion blockbuster. Special effects were produced by George Lucas'
Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) Company.
During the making of Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), two child actors (my-ca
Dinh Le and Renee Chen) and Vic Morrow (the father of Jennifer Jason Leigh) were
killed in a freak helicopter crash. As a result, greater precautions would be taken on
Hollywood sets through the passage of reformed US child labor laws and safety
regulations. Almost a decade later, director John Landis and four others were found
not guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
Princess Grace of Monaco, formerly actress Grace Kelly, died at age 52 of injuries
from a car crash when she suffered a heart attack. During her brief six-year film
1982 career, she rose to prominence in High Noon (1952) opposite Gary Cooper, appeared
with James Stewart in Hitchcock's Rear Window (1954), and won a Best Actress
Oscar for The Country Girl (1954) before retiring in 1956.
The first feature-length free-form 'music video' film was Alan Parker's Pink Floyd
The Wall, based on the 1979 Pink Floyd album The Wall.
The biggest home-video seller from 1983-1985 was Jane Fonda's exercise video
titled Workout (aka Jane Fonda's Workout), first released in 1982. The trend
continued in 1986 (the top seller was Jane Fonda's New Workout) and in 1987 (Jane
Fonda's Low-Impact Aerobic Workout). The videotape revolutionized the video
industry, with numerous celebrities imitating Fonda with their own fitness and diet
The soft-drink giant Coca Cola Company bought Columbia Pictures in a $750
million transaction. In 1982, a Columbia movie, Gandhi, won the Academy Award
1982 for Best Picture, and the Company secured its first Oscar. The newly-organized
studio Tri-Star Pictures was formed by CBS Television, HBO (Home Box Office)
and Columbia Pictures.
After a contractual dispute, film critics Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel left the PBS-
TV show Sneak Previews in 1982 to start At the Movies, owned by the Tribune
Company's multimedia subsidiary Tribune Entertainment, which also owned Siskel's
review newspaper. The name of the show was taken from their show's sign-off
1982 phrase: "We'll see you at the movies." They developed the "thumbs up-thumbs
down" rating system as a permanent trademarked feature of the show.
Siskel and Ebert remained on the nationally-syndicated show until 1986, when they
had another dispute (with Tribune Entertainment), and left to create a new Disney-
produced show (Buena Vista Television), titled Siskel & Ebert & the Movies. [When
they left in 1982, Sneak Previews continued until 1996, first with New York film
critic Jeffrey Lyons and Detroit Free Press critic Neal Gabler, until Gabler left in
1985 and was replaced with Michael Medved.]
George Lucas' THX sound system technology was developed with the main goal of
recreating film sound in film theaters exactly as the filmmakers had intended. The
first movie to be shown in a THX-certified auditorium was Return of the Jedi
The science-fiction film Brainstorm (1983) was not entirely completed when 43
year-old Natalie Wood died of drowning in late November 1981. The film was
finished by changing its ending and using a stand-in, and then released
posthumously - dedicated to her memory.
The ground-breaking hit arcade game Dragon's Lair, introduced by ex-Disney
animator Don Bluth and Rick Dyer, was the world's first coin-operated laserdisc
arcade video game. The fully-animated, interactive cartoon challenged players to
time their movements through the cartoon or otherwise face death.
Never Say Never Again (a remake of the earlier Bond film Thunderball (1965)),
starred Sean Connery as James Bond - the star's first appearance as agent 007 for the
first time since Diamonds Are Forever (1971). The film's title was a clever joke
referring to Connery's reneged promise twelve years before that he would "never"
star as Bond again. That summer, there was a so-called 'dueling' of Bonds -
Connery's film competed with Octopussy, an "official" James Bond film starring
Roger Moore, with both films in theaters at the same time. [A similar occurrence
happened when the "unofficial" Bond film Casino Royale, starring David Niven,
was released the same year as You Only Live Twice (1967), but these two films were
not in theaters at the same time.]
HBO (Home Box Office) became a leader in developing and creating programming
content, with revolutionary shows such as: Not Necessarily the News (1983-1990) -
its first original series, and the sports biopic The Terry Fox Story (1983) - the first
Only one actress in film history, Amy Irving, was nominated for two opposing
1983 awards in the same year, an Oscar and Razzie, for her supporting role in Yentl
(1983). This feat was duplicated by Sandra Bullock in 2009, who won both awards!
1980s - Part 2
Year Event and Significance
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that home videotaping or recording (for home use)
did not violate copyright laws.
Splash, a romantic comedy with Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah, was Disney's first
1984 film released under its new film label "Touchstone Pictures (or Films) " - its first
entry into more mature themes (and content) in films.
The PG-13 film rating was introduced, in response to parental protest about the
sexualized torture scene (a beating heart was ripped from a victim's chest) in
influential producer/director Steven Spielberg's PG-rated Indiana Jones and the
1984 Temple of Doom (his follow-up film to Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)), and also for
violence in Gremlins. The PG category was split into two by the Motion Picture
Association of America: PG and PG-13 (for a film having a higher level of
intensity). Children under the age of 17 could be admitted, but with parental
guidance strongly suggested.
The first movie to be released in the US with a PG-13 rating was John Milius' Red
Tri-Star Pictures, formed in 1982 as a joint venture by CBS Television, HBO (Home
Box Office) and Columbia Pictures, released its first film in May, The Natural.
The Voyager Company debuted its Criterion Collection line of special-edition video
laserdiscs, with additional revolutionary features such as language options, original
aspect ratio widescreen and letterboxed formats (rather than pan-and-scan),
supplementary materials, commentaries by directors on audio tracks, interviews,
making-of documentaries, photo galleries (stills, posters, artwork, storyboards,
shooting scripts), state-of-the-art mastering, and other extras. Their contributions
solidified the laserdisc as the choice of cinephiles for over 15 years. These features
later became commonplace on releases of DVDs.
The soundtrack of cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth's and director Jonathan
Demme's Stop Making Sense (1984), featuring the rock band Talking Heads, was
recorded on a 24-track Sony digital recorder. It was notable for being the first all-
digital film sound in history. Its documentation of the singing group during three
nights in December, 1983 at Hollywood's Pantages Theater has often been
considered to be the best rock concert film of all-time.
Director John Hughes, the future master of comedic, "teen"-oriented coming-of-age
or 'rites of passage' films directed toward a youth audience, released his debut film
Sixteen Candles, starring his oft-used star Molly Ringwald, one of the Brat Packers
of the time.
Rob Reiner's This is Spinal Tap set the standard for a mockumentary in its depiction
of a fictional heavy-metal rock band named Spinal Tap on tour in the US during the
fall of 1982. Its most memorable scene was the one in which a band member
described how the amplifier had an "11" on its dial: "These go to eleven"..
Robert Redford‟s Sundance Institute (established in 1980) took over the Utah/US
Film Festival by 1986. It was named after Redford's character in Butch Cassidy and
the Sundance Kid (1969). Later in 1991, it was renamed the Sundance Film Festival
(held annually since 1981 in January in Park City, Utah and expanded in length) -
"dedicated to the support and development of emerging screenwriters and directors
of vision, and to the national and international exhibition of new, independent
dramatic and documentary films." The first Grand Jury Prize went to the Coen
Brothers noirish debut film Blood Simple (1984).
1985 The first Blockbuster Video store opened in Dallas, Texas.
John Hughes' coming-of-age teen film The Breakfast Club was extremely influential
in its depiction of five stereotypical teen characters (populars, jocks, druggies,
brains, and loner groups), all portrayed by Brat Packers. They were attendees at a
Saturday school detention while experiencing teen angst - struggling with issues of
conformity and parental values. In the end, they all wrote one letter to Mr. Vernon,
signed "The Breakfast Club," to describe their group as a whole: "...we think you are
crazy for making us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as
you want to see us, in the most simplest term, in the most convenient definitions. But
what we found out, is that each one of us is a brain, and an athlete, and a basket case,
a princess, and a criminal. Does that answer your question?"
The low-quality Blood Cult about devil worship, shot entirely on videotape, was the
1985 first horror film designed explicitly for the video market. It signaled the start of
features made specifically for the home-video market (also the destination for sub-
standard feature films unworthy of release), now that VCRs were abundant.
75 year-old Japanese director Akira Kurosawa's historical samurai epic Ran, a re-
1985 interpretation of Shakespeare's King Lear, was released. It was the last of his great
Hunk film star Rock Hudson, a closet homosexual, died at his home in Beverly
Hills, California, at age 59 after a battle with AIDS. He was the first celebrity to
1985 announce publically that he had AIDS. As a result of the disclosure, the Reagan
Administration finally responded to and acknowledged the burgeoning AIDS
The comedy Topper (1937) was the very first B/W feature film to be released to the
1985 home video market in 1985 in a 'colorized' version, using computer technology - a
controversial modernizing technique at the timee.
When the classic Miracle on 34th Street (1947), converted by Color Systems
1985 Technology (CST) for 20th Century Fox to a colorized version, aired in 1985, it
became the highest rated non-network movie in syndication.
Disney's PG-rated film The Black Cauldron (their 25th full-length animated film)
was the first animated feature film to contain 3-D CGI elements (digital fire and a
boat), and the first Disney animated feature to use 3-D computer graphics
technology. In fact, it was the studio's first PG-rated animated theatrical feature film.
The fourth film in the popular Rocky series, Rocky IV (1985) became the most
financially successful sports film of all-time. It had a production budget of $31
million, and box-office gross receipts of $128 million (domestic) and $300 million
Clue, the first film based on a board game, came from the popular Parker Brothers
mystery board game. Three separate endings were shot and screened in different
theatres. Each ending had a different solution for the various murders. Some
1985 newspaper print ads specified the ending (Ending A, B, or C), although in most
cases, viewers were frustrated by the arbitrary nature of the solution and the
ambiguous clues that led up to the ending. The first two endings were "What If?"
endings, and the third ending was the actual ending.
British character actress Marianne Stone was noted as having the most screen credits
for a living actress - a record-breaking 159 films, from 1943-1985. Her most notable
roles were in the UK's series Carry On, and in Kubrick's Lolita (1962) as Vivian
Darkbloom. She died at the age of 87 in late 2009.
Pixar Animation Studios, originally part of Lucasfilm (and Industrial Light and
Magic (ILM)) specialized in developing animation created exclusively on
computers. It was purchased by Apple Computer's Steve Jobs and made an
independent company in 1986. The first fully 3-D digital (or CGI)-animated
character in a full-length feature film, known as the 'stained-glass knight', was
created for the Spielberg-produced Young Sherlock Holmes (1985) by Pixar, when
Pixar was still part of Lucasfilm (and Industrial Light and Magic). It brought them a
Best Visual Effects nomination.
Computer-created Luxo, Jr. was Pixar Studio's first film (or short) -- and the first
1986 fully computer-generated, computer-animated film which was nominated for an
Disney's The Great Mouse Detective marked the first major use of computer
1986 animation in an animated film -- in the scene of the gears of London's famed bell
tower Big Ben.
The comedy Down and Out in Beverly Hills was Disney's first R-rated feature (with
light adult themes such as adultery, homosexuality, brief partial nudity, etc.), causing
the studio to release the film under its newly-formed adult-oriented film division
The Academy Award-winning, drawing-room adaptation A Room With a View,
starring Helena Bonham Carter, was the quintessential Merchant Ivory film
production, with lush and glossy scenery visuals, gorgeous costuming, an emotional
1986 soundtrack, an engaging romance and a sense of period history -- it was the first of
three adaptations of E.M. Forster novels, followed by Maurice (1987) and Howards
End (1991). The team at Merchant Ivory Productions consisted of director James
Ivory, producer Ismail Merchant and screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala.
In Ridley Scott's Alien (1979) and James Cameron's Aliens, Sigourney Weaver as Lt.
Ellen Ripley solidified her place as filmdom's greatest action heroine, with closely-
cropped hair, no makeup, and a fight-to-the-death maternal instinct. She paved the
way for other action heroines to follow, such as Angelina Jolie in The Tomb Raider
franchise and others (Linda Hamilton, Carrie-Ann Moss, Michelle Yeoh). However,
most female action heroine films were flops.
Ted Turner, the Atlanta media mogul, took over MGM by purchase, but then sold
off major parts of the studio. He retained the vast MGM (and United Artists) film
library of more than 3,650 titles for $1.2 billion (2,200 MGM, 75 pre-1948 Warner
Bros., including Casablanca (1942), and 700 RKO), intended for broadcast by his
1986 cable television stations. He then started the controversial fad of colorizing classic
films (computer-altering black and white films) to make them appear as color films -
- threatening initially to change John Huston's The Maltese Falcon (1941). He did
colorize King Kong (1933), It's a Wonderful Life (1946), and Miracle on 34th Street
(1947), among others.
In President Ronald Reagan's State of the Union Address delivered on February 4,
1986, he referred to the future of America with a quote from the film Back to the
1986 Future (1985): "Never has there been a more exciting time to be alive -- a time of
rousing wonder and heroic achievement. As they said in the film, Back to the
Future: 'Where we are going, we don't need roads.'"
Film reviewers and critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert remained on the nationally-
syndicated show At the Movies until 1986, when they had another dispute (with
Tribune Entertainment), and left to create a new Disney-produced show (Buena
Vista Television), titled Siskel & Ebert & the Movies, later shortened in 1989 to
Siskel & Ebert. Their popular and influential show, nominated for numerous Emmy
1986 Awards, lasted until 1999, when Siskel died from a brain tumor in 1999, and the
show was renamed Roger Ebert & the Movies for one year.
[Tribune attempted to keep At the Movies alive in 1986 with critics Bill Harris and
Rex Reed, and then Dixie Whatley, but the show was eventually cancelled in 1990.]
Dolby SR ("Spectral Recording") was introduced as a system used both when a
1986 soundtrack was recorded and when it was played back. The system permitted the
capturing of louder sounds with wider frequency response and lower distortion.
David Lynch's surrealistic, psychosexual Blue Velvet (1986) was a throwback to art
films, 50s B-movies and teenage romances, film noir, and the mystery-suspense
genre. It was an original look at sex, violence, crime and power under the peaceful
exterior of small-town Americana in the mid-80s. Beneath the familiar, peaceful,
'American-dream' cleanliness of the daytime scenes lurked sleaziness, prostitution,
unrestrained violence, and perversity - powerful and potentially-dangerous sexual
forces that could be unleashed if not contained.
Woody Allen's richly nuanced film Hannah and Her Sisters, his biggest box-office
success up to the time (without adjusting for inflation), was a thoughtful treatise on
1986 marriage, relationships, life, the existence of God and love, seen through the eyes of
three sisters: Hannah (Mia Farrow), Lee (Barbara Hershey) and Holly (Dianne
Influential African-American film-maker Spike Lee independently produced the
low-budget comedy She's Gotta Have It, his breakthrough film. It won the Prix de
Jeunesse award at Cannes, and helped to usher in the American independent film
movement in the mid-1980s.
The Best Actor Oscar award was won by Paul Newman for his role as older pool
hustler 'Fast Eddie' Felson - now manager of his pool-heir apparent (Tom Cruise) in
1986 director Martin Scorsese's sequel The Color of Money - a reprise/remake of his
earlier role in The Hustler (1961). It was his seventh nomination and first win. He
became the only actor, to date, to win an Oscar for reprising a role in a sequel.
The HBO network's first Oscar winner (Best Documentary Feature) was Down and
1986 Out in America (1986). It was the first cable program, an HBO production, to win an
The first major Hollywood studio film produced (or shot) in the People's Republic of
China (PRC), in Shanghai, was director Steven Spielberg's Empire of the Sun.
The first Disney tie-in with fast food vendor McDonald's was its Happy Meal toys
based on its animated cartoon TV-series DuckTales (i.e., Magic Motion Maps with
1987 magnifying glass, Scrooge McDuck in car, Webby on Tricycle, Huey Dewy and
Louie on Surf Ski, etc.) - Disney Studio's first daily, half-hour animated series for
Director Adrian Lyne's blockbuster Fatal Attraction was a cautionary horror tale and
milestone thriller film which garnered six Oscar nominations (including Best
Picture); it told about a conflicted married man (Michael Douglas) who cheated with
1987 a career woman (Glenn Close) who turned into a murderous psycho when scorned
and who subsequently threatened his family. Its explicit sexuality, besieged white
male protagonist, and popcorn-slasher/horror elements were perfect for the AIDS
The longest film ever made, the bizarrely-experimental The Cure for Insomnia,
1987 lasted 87 hours (5,220 minutes). It consisted mostly of poet L.D. Groban reading his
own poem of over 4,000 pages.
The comedy film Three Men and a Baby was the first Disney film (distributed by
Touchstone Pictures) to break the $100 million mark. It eventually became the
biggest box office hit of the year (at $167 million), beating Fatal Attraction (at $156
Who Framed Roger Rabbit was released -- a coordinated effort produced by Disney,
live-action directed by Robert Zemeckis, and animated by Richard Williams. It
broke new technological ground with its remarkable blending of animated imagery
and live-action human characters.
Tom Cruise starred in Best Picture-winning Rain Man (1988) and also in Razzie's
Worst Picture of the same year, Cocktail (1988).
The first of The Naked Gun films premiered -- it was based on TV's Police Squad!,
created by Jim Abrahams and brothers Jerry Zucker and David Zucker --the team
that was also responsible for the popular disaster movie spoof Airplane! (1980).
Bruce Willis' career was catapulted with the release of the action-thriller Die Hard -
the first of a series of films (Die Harder (1990), Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995),
and Live Free or Die Hard (2007)), and rated as one of the best action films of all
time. He starred as a terrorist-fighting action hero named John McClane, fighting the
archetypal villain Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman), and was noted for his infamous
line: "Yippee-kai-yay, motherf--ker."
This was the year of one of the longest work stoppage in Hollywood history at the
time -- the WGA (Writer's Guild of America) strike of US film and television writers
against producers and networks that lasted 22 weeks (from March-August). The
costly and crippling strike delayed the start of the fall television schedule.
The landmark Film Preservation Act implemented a plan to allow the federal
government to designate 25 films each year as "culturally, historically or
aesthetically significant films." In 1989, the National Film Preservation Board began
selecting 25 films for entry to a national list of film treasures. The National Film
Registry of the Library of Congress was designated as the registry for films that
were selected as leading examples of American cinematic art.
Director Martin Scorsese's controversial movie The Last Temptation of Christ
1988 opened in nine cities despite objections by some Christians who felt the film was
Pixar's 5-minute Tin Toy, the inspiration for Toy Story (1995), was the first computer
1988 animation to win an Academy Award. Billy, the baby character in the short film,
marked the first time that a CG character had realistic human qualities.
Digital morphing (the seamless change from one character or image to another) of
1988 several animals was first introduced by ILM and debuted in the live-action film
The popular comedy Big brought director Penny Marshall recognition as the first
female director of a movie that grossed over $100 million. And after directing
another $100 million plus film, A League of Their Own (1992), she became the first
female director of two movies attaining that milestone.
Two of the biggest stars of the 1990s decade got their start in the late 80s. Tom
Hanks earned his first Oscar nomination for the film Big - it also marked Hanks' first
$100 million blockbuster film, with a salary allegedly at $2 million. In the same
year, another future star Julia Roberts appeared in the romantic comedy Mystic Pizza
1988 (1988) -- it gave Roberts her first Best Actress nomination (in the Independent Spirit
Awards), with a salary reported to be $50,000. After being noticed, Roberts starred
one year later as the health-declining Shelby in the tearjerker Steel Magnolias (1989)
in which she earned her first Oscar nomination; the next year after that, she starred
in Pretty Woman (1990).
Kevin Costner starred back-to-back in two classic baseball-themed films: as "Crash"
Davis in Ron Shelton's minor-league baseball romantic comedy, Bull Durham
1988 and (1988), and then as farmer Ray Kinsella in the Best Picture-nominated mystical
after baseball fantasy, Field of Dreams (1989). In the next few years, the actor/director
played the lead role in two other Best Picture nominees - Dances With Wolves
(1990) (which won), and JFK (1991).
The Sony Corporation of America purchased Columbia Pictures Entertainment, Inc.
1989 and Tri-Star Pictures from Coca-Cola for $3.4 billion, naming itself Sony Pictures
Warner Communications merged with Time, Inc. to become the largest media
company in the world.
After African-American film-maker Spike Lee's second feature School Daze (1988)
- his major studio debut film, his third film Do the Right Thing (1989) brought him
an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay and launched the
director to the forefront of the filmmaking community. His film told of incendiary
1989 urban-racial violence and ethnic tensions on one hot summer day in the Brooklyn
neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant. Lee and a new generation of other African-
American film-makers and actors (John Singleton, Denzel Washington) were
becoming 'mainstreamed' and more commonplace in the Hollywood film
26 year-old writer and first-time feature film director Steven Soderbergh's
voyeuristic sex, lies and videotape, written in 8 days and filmed over five weeks on a
budget of $1.2 million, was screened at the Sundance Film Festival where it became
a huge hit - eventually grossing $50 million in worldwide box-office ($24.7 million
in the US). This landmark 'independent film' won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film
Festival. After being aggressively marketed by Miramax - which subsequently
became known as the leading supplier of indie films - the independent (non-
Hollywood) film movement gained strength during the 1990s.
A new generation of expensive computer-generated imagery (CGI) and graphics in
1989 the 1990s was heralded by the slinky, translucent water creature in James Cameron's
big-budget The Abyss.
The highest grossing movie of the year was director Tim Burton's neo-gothic and
dark Batman (1989), an adult version of a comic-book thriller. It was released in
mid-summer as a major 'event' film, and was hyped (with a large marketing budget)
long before its release - a new trend, with various product tie-ins (i.e., Bat
merchandise, such as Batmobiles, Batman miniskirts, etc.). It was then available as a
video shortly after its theatrical release to add to its box-office take - influencing
how future films would be marketed. Its dark vision of the caped crusader would
signficantly shape the characters of other cinematic superheroes from now on.
Disney's The Little Mermaid earned $74 million and revived animated films
(contributing to the animation renaissance), especially for Disney Studios after the
limited success of The Fox and the Hound (1981), The Black Cauldron (1985), The
Great Mouse Detective (1986), and Oliver & Company (1988).
Madonna's controversial Like a Prayer music video (with prominent burning crosses
before which she danced) prompted Pepsi to drop her $5 million dollar two-minute
commercial (titled "Make a Wish") and their sponsorship of her Blonde Ambition
tour, due in part to protests from Catholic groups and other religious groups who
threatened to boycott. Subsequently, Madonna won the Viewer's Choice Award at
the MTV Music Awards show for her video.
The old-fashioned romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally... with Meg Ryan and
Billy Crystal, similar in theme to Woody Allen's Annie Hall (1977), re-established
the fact that rom-coms (and 'chick-flicks') could be profitable ventures - a trend that
continued into the 1990s decade with Pretty Woman (1990). It also asked the
important late-1980s question of sexual politics: "Can two friends sleep together and
1989 still love each other in the morning?" Its timely film script by Nora Ephron
popularized the notion of "high-maintenance and low-maintenance" women, and a
"Harry-and-Sally relationship," and the film's conclusion presented marriage in a
favorable light. During the 1990s, Meg Ryan followed up with a series of romantic
leading roles in numerous films, including being paired opposite Tom Hanks in three
films: Joe Versus the Volcano (1990), Sleepless in Seattle (1993), and You've Got
Director Robert Zemeckis' sequel Back to the Future, Part II was the first film to
accomplish interaction between the same actor on the screen as more than one
character. Computer-controlled camera work, called VistaGlide, allowed three
characters (all performed by one actor, Michael J. Fox) to match up and interact
seamlessly in the same scene (the "instant pizza" dinner scene), through impressive
Bruce Willis was paid $10 million - the highest reported fee at the time for only a
1989 voice-over role (as wisecracking Baby Mikey), in the sleeper hit Look Who's Talking
1990s - Part 1
Year Event and Significance
Director Pedro Almodóvar's offbeat black comedy Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! was
1990 the last film to receive the MPAA's X-rating - however, it was released unrated, due
to its depiction of forced bondage and rape.
Universal Pictures' and director Philip Kaufman's adult-oriented film Henry & June
prompted a change in the ratings system. It was the first film given an NC-17 rating
instead of an X-rating. The name of the 'X' category was changed to a new name or
ratings category - NC-17. The MPAA introduced the NC-17 (not for children 17 or
under) rating to differentiate MPAA-rated 'adult-oriented' films from hard-core
pornographic movies rated X. The effort basically failed because many newspapers
and TV still refused the ads for NC-17 rated films and theatres wouldn't show the
films. In financial terms, an NC-17 rating amounted to an implicit kiss of death.
Film critic Roger Ebert criticized the new ratings - he viewed them as meaningless
standards, and felt that they denigrated the artistic integrity of many films - and
forced film-makers to adjust to the ratings standard. Many film producers were
forced to self-release their films as unrated (to bypass the stigma), and self-promote
using flyers and alternative publications. Other film-makers were forced to add PG
content to basically G-rated films, in order to secure larger audiences.
Garry Marshall's (and Disney's - Buena Vista/Touchstone) modern-day, unlikely
fairy-tale romance Pretty Woman was an unexpected blockbuster (eventually
earning $450 million worldwide). It starred rising actress Julia Roberts as a
Hollywood streetwalker with a heart-of-gold turned Cinderella. This was the film
that made Julia Roberts a mega-star, and signaled her rise as Hollywood's leading,
most powerful (and well-paid) actress.
Johnny Depp's breakout hit film was Tim Burton's fantasy romance Edward
1990 Scissorhands, co-starring then-girlfriend Winona Ryder, and featuring the final film
appearance of Vincent Price as his Inventor/father.
Actor Kevin Costner's directing debut of the revisionist western, Dances with
Wolves was an unexpectedly huge success -- it won seven Oscars (Best Picture, Best
1990 Director, Best Writing, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Music, and
Best Sound) from its twelve nominations. It was the first Best Picture-winning
western since Cimarron (1930) -- sixty years earlier.
Time Warner's New Line Cinema founded a specialty art house division named Fine
Line Features. It would go on to produce or distribute movies such as Gus Van
1990 Sant's My Own Private Idaho (1991), The Rapture (1991), Robert Altman's The
Player (1992), Roman Polanski's Bitter Moon (1992), Hoop Dreams (1994), and
David Cronenberg's Crash (1996).
Rob Reiner's Misery, derived from horror meister Stephen King's 1974 novel, won
an Academy Award for its lead actress Kathy Bates, the first acting Oscar awarded
to a horror film since the Best Actor award given to Fredric March for Dr. Jekyll and
Mr. Hyde (1931/32).
Director/actor Warren Beatty's big-budget Dick Tracy, derived from Chester Gould's
original comic strip and lots of 1940s B-movies, was noted as being the first 35 mm
1990 feature film made with a digital soundtrack. For authenticity, it also restricted itself
to the six main printing colors from the original newspaper strip: red, blue, yellow,
green, orange, and purple, plus black and white.
Martin Scorsese's mob crime classic GoodFellas, was a grittier take on Coppola's
1990 The Godfather films, and the precursor to the popular 1999 cable TV series The
The Japanese electronics corporation Matsushita purchased MCA Universal for $6.1
The first interactive entertainment on CD-ROM for adults was the game Virtual
1990 Valerie, first released by Reactor, Inc. (a Chicago-based company founded by comic
artist Mike Saenz) in 1989.
In between his two Terminator films (in 1984 and 1991), action star Arnold
Schwarzenegger was featured in director Paul Verhoeven's excessive science-fiction
1990 film, where he solidified his persona as a muscle-bound, heavily-accented quipster
(i.e.,"Consider this a divorce"). By 2003, Arnie would become California's
Disney's The Rescuers Down Under, the studio's very first, theatrically-released
animated sequel, was a noteworthy animated feature film for two other milestones. It
was the first 100% completely-digital feature film ever produced and released - it
included impressive flight-aerial action sequences using rotoscoping and multi-plane
1990 cameras -- especially in the scene of Cody (voice of (Adam Ryen) setting free and
riding the magnificent golden eagle Marahute. It was also the first animated feature
fully using CAPS (Computer Animation Production System) - the first digital (or
computerized) ink-and-paint system (developed by Disney and Pixar), to color the
film with computerized ink and paint (not using acetate cels or traditional paint).
Disney's Beauty and the Beast was the first animated film to be nominated for Best
Picture by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.
24 year-old USC film graduate John Singleton received an Oscar nomination as Best
Director (the first time in this category for an African-American) for his debut film
Boyz 'N the Hood. He was also nominated for Best Original Screenplay. It was the
first mainstream movie to deal with gang violence in America's urban ghettos.
Jonathan Demme's Best Picture and Director win for the horror film The Silence of
the Lambs was unexpected - it was the third film to win the top five awards since
two other films had accomplished the same feat: One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
(1975) and It Happened One Night (1934). It was a five-time major Academy-
Award winner, sweeping Best Picture, Best Actor (Anthony Hopkins), Best Actress
(Jodie Foster), Best Director (Jonathan Demme), and Best Adapted Screenplay (Ted
Tally). The film contained a classic representation of evil personified - the notorious,
cobra-like, intelligent psychiatrist turned psychopath Hannibal Lecter (portrayed
masterfully by British actor Anthony Hopkins), playing opposite dedicated,
fledgling, vulnerable and rising female FBI agent-trainee/investigator Clarice
Starling (Jodie Foster). Foster's strong, yet restrained, vulnerable female lead role in
the much talked-about film was intensified by public knowledge of her real-life
associations as a victim with assassin John Hinckley and her role as child-prostitute
Iris opposite Robert De Niro's portrayal of a crazed killer in Martin Scorsese's Taxi
Pixar and Disney agreed to co-produce the first fully computer-generated feature
film, Toy Story, released four years later.
The first truly believable, naturally-moving computer-generated character was the
morphing, liquid molten metal, T-1000 cyborg in James Cameron's Terminator 2:
Judgment Day. It was the first instance of a computer generated main character.
Over 300 special effects shots made up 16 minutes of the film's running time.
The first film in history to cost $100 million to produce was the sequel Terminator
2: Judgment Day. The film's trailer alone cost $150,000.
First time writer/director Julie Dash's historical epic drama Daughters of the Dust
was the first independent film produced, written and directed by an African
1991 American woman to be distributed in the US to a wide and general audience. It was
added to the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress in 2004 - the first
film made by an African American woman to be placed inside the registry.
Americans spent $12 billion to buy or rent video tapes, compared to just $4.9 billion
on box office ticket sales. 76 percent of all US homes had VCRs.
The first film released in Dolby Stereo Digital sound was Tim Burton's sequel to the
original 1989 film, Batman Returns.
The mediocre film The Bodyguard was significant for its superstar Whitney Houston
(in her first major acting role) and the soundtrack -including her rendition of the
1992 1974 Dolly Parton hit song: "I Will Always Love You"; the song sold 17 million
copies and became the #1 all time Grammy-winning film soundtrack (replacing
Saturday Night Fever).
Writer/director Leslie Harris' authentic, low-budget independent film, an emotional
coming-of-age drama titled Just Another Girl on the I.R.T., was shot in only a few
1992 weeks. It was one of the first honest portraits of urban black female teenagers - it
was also about sexual ignorance and unplanned pregnancy; the film won first-time
director Leslie Harris a Special Jury Prize at the 1993 Sundance Film Festival.
The Lawnmower Man, a breakthrough film with eight minutes of ground-breaking
special effects, introduced Virtual Reality to films. It was one of the first films to
1992 record a human actor's movements in a sensor-covered body suit - a technique called
Body Motion Capture. [The technique was later perfected in The Lord of the Rings:
The Two Towers (2002), for the CGI character of Gollum.]
12 year-old Macaulay Culkin was paid $8 million to star in Home Alone 2: Lost in
New York, the largest paycheck for a child star.
Miramax began an unbroken, eleven-year streak lasting from 1992 until 2002, of
Best Picture-nominated films each year, beginning with The Crying Game (1992). It
was the longest streak for any company since the Academy limited the Best Picture
nominees to five films in 1944.
Actor Sylvester Stallone received a record number of consecutive nominations and
wins for the Worst Actor Golden Raspberry (Razzie) Award, from 1984 to 1992. He
was nominated nine consecutive times for Worst Actor, winning four times (for
Rhinestone (1984), Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985), Rambo III (1988), and Stop!
Or My Mom Will Shoot (1992)). In 1990, he was honored as the Worst Actor of the
Decade, for Cobra (1986), Lock Up (1989), Over the Top (1987), Rambo: First
Blood Part II (1985), Rambo III (1988), Rocky IV (1985), Rhinestone (1984) and
Tango & Cash (1989).
Steven Spielberg's influential Jurassic Park was released, and noted for its full-
motion, computer-generated (CGI) dinosaurs created at George Lucas' ILM facility.
The dinosaurs were very realistically-rendered and seamlessly integrated within live-
action sequences. There were 14 minutes of dinosaur footage in the movie, with only
four of those minutes generated by computers. DTS Digital Sound also made its
theatrical debut in the film.
Steven Spielberg's black and white Holocaust drama Schindler's List became a Best
Picture winner in 1994 (with a total of seven Oscars from its twelve nominations),
1993 and it brought Spielberg his first long-sought-after Best Director Oscar award. Its
dramatic recreation of the events of the Nazi Holocaust demonstrated the power of
the medium to influence audiences and capture the reality of past history.
The ground-breaking, historically-significant film Philadelphia from Jonathan
Demme, starring straight actors Tom Hanks (who won his first Best Actor Oscar)
and Antonio Banderas as gay lovers, was the first major studio (big-budget) film to
1993 confront the AIDS issue from a societal, medical, and political point of view. Hanks'
character was an AIDS-afflicted lawyer who contracted the disease and was forced
to sue his law firm over job discrimination - he was ably defended by a black lawyer
28 year-old actor Brandon Lee, son of Bruce Lee, was killed during the filming of
Alex Proyas' The Crow (1994) in Wilmington, N.C., by a prop gun that fired part of
a dummy bullet instead of a blank. The film was completed by rewriting the plot,
using a body double, and by 'digitally-painting' Lee's face onto another actor.
Walt Disney Studio Entertainment bought Miramax Films for about $80 million -
now considered a bargain-basement price. Miramax soon acquired a reputation for
releasing underdog, independent, adult-oriented films that won an astonishing
1993 number of Academy Awards (and nominations). Miramax's (under the Weinsteins)
first Best Picture Oscar was for The English Patient (1996), soon followed by
another one for Shakespeare in Love (1998), and a third for the financially-
successful Chicago (2002).
Director Martha Coolidge's Lost in Yonkers was the first feature film entirely edited
on an Avid Media (or Film) Composer system. This was the first non-linear editing
1993 system to allow viewing at a film's required "real-time"-viewing rate of 24 frames
per second. By converting film into digital bits, film could now be electronically
edited on a computer.
To create the special effects for his own films, James Cameron launched an
innovative, state of the art, visual effects digital production studio, called Digital
Domain, with partners IBM, character creator Stan Winston, and former ILM chief
Unknown 23 year-old director Robert Rodriguez filmed the low-budget, Spanish-
language action thriller El Mariachi for only $7,000 in about two weeks. The
independent film, released by Columbia Pictures in Spanish with subtitles, became
1993 an unexpected hit at the Sundance Film Festival, went on to gross $2 million, and
led to two sequels (Desperado (1995) and Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003)) and
other low-budget efforts by other directors (i.e., Clerks (1994)). It was one of the
cheapest films ever released by a studio.
Beverly Hills madam Heidi Fleiss, responsible for arranging high-class hookers for
Hollywood celebrities (i.e., Charlie Sheen, among others), was arraigned for
narcotics possession (cocaine), and pandering. She served time in prison for tax
evasion, money laundering, and attempted pandering. In 1996, a BBC documentary
titled Hollywood Madam was released, and in January of 2003, Heidi Fleiss sold her
life story to Paramount Pictures.
Considered one of the major box-office flops of the 90s (and of all time) with an
eventual budget of almost $100 million and box-office of only $10 million,
Cutthroat Island was also apparently the first Hollywood film to combine two
different anamorphic widescreen film processes: Technovision for the earlier Malta
sequences (doubling as 1600s Jamaica), and Panavision for the latter sequences
filmed in Thailand (the setting of Cutthroat Island itself).
Actress Kim Basinger was sued by the producers of Boxing Helena (1993) for $8.92
million dollars for breach of contract and for acting in bad faith brought by the
movie's producer, Carl Mazzocone, president of Main Line Pictures, although the
case was "reversed in full" in 1994 following an appeal.
Turner Broadcasting merged with New Line Cinema and soon was successful with
two blockbusters starring popular comedian Jim Carrey: The Mask (1994) and the
slapstick Dumb and Dumber (1994). Superstar Carrey had an earlier third popular
hit in the same calendar year: Warners' Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994).
Turner Classic Movies (TCM), a 24-hour commercial-free network for programming
1994 classic films (mostly from the combined Turner and Warner Bros. library of film
greats), was launched.
Writer/director James Cameron's True Lies (1994), starring Arnold Schwarzenegger
as a Bond-like secret agent, was a spy-adventure packed with special effects, thrills,
1994 co-star Jamie Lee Curtis, and an exciting jet and car chase over the Florida Keys. It
was the first movie with a budget to exceed $100 million, although it eventually
grossed $365 million.
Three of the most powerful, influential and successful individuals in modern
Hollywood -- director/producer Steven Spielberg, the recently-departed Disney
1994 executive Jeffrey Katzenberg, and film and music industry mogul David Geffen --
formed the film studio DreamWorks SKG. (The SKG stood for the first letter of
their last names.) It was the first new major studio in more than 50 years.
The almost three-hour documentary Hoop Dreams followed the aspirations of two
African-American high school students (from Chicago, Illinois) who dreamed to be
professional basketball players. Because the exceptional film was not nominated in
the category of Best Documentary Feature by the Academy, changes were made in
the nominating procedure for future years. It was also the all-time top-grossing
documentary film (until Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine (2002)).
Disney's first Broadway musical was Beauty and the Beast, based on its film version
of Beauty and the Beast (1991).
Disney became the first studio to gross more than $1 billion at the box office
domestically in a single year, mostly due to the release of The Lion King, although
Pulp Fiction (1994) and November's The Santa Clause (1994) were also hits. The
Lion King was the highest-grossing traditionally (hand-drawn) animated feature film
in the US at the time - and in history. It was later surpassed at the box-office by
Disney/Pixar's computer-animated Finding Nemo (2003). The Lion King was
Disney's first film based upon an in-house original story, rather than upon a well-
known children's narrative. Its Hamlet-like story was beautifully animated, enhanced
by a Hans Zimmer score, and contained songs by composer Elton John and lyricist
Disney's successful animated The Lion King was among the first feature animations
featuring many major stars' voices for its characters. (Previously, there was only one
big voice-name, such as Robin Williams as the Genie in Aladdin (1992), or there
1994 were unknowns who lent their voices to the characters.) With box-office receipts of
over $312 million, this film spurred a boom in animation production and
merchandising, and other animation production studios besides Disney entered the
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) had eight theatrical re-releases (1944,
1952, 1958, 1967, 1975, 1983, 1987, and 1993), and then in late 1994, it was finally
released on VHS home video (and laser disc) and sold 10 million copies in its first
week of sale. After three weeks of availability, it sold over 17 million copies, and
would soon surpass the all-time champ, Disney's Aladdin (with 24 million copies
sold since its late-1993 release). It eventually sold 50 million copies worldwide, the
best-selling cassette of all time. It was the last of the early Disney animated films
released for home video, following Pinocchio (1940), Sleeping Beauty (1959), and
Cinderella (1950). [Snow White was later released for the first time on DVD, in late
1990s - Part 2
Year Event and Significance
Best Picture winner Forrest Gump used revolutionary digital photo tricks to insert
the film's main character into archival historical footage with past Presidents (John
F. Kennedy and LBJ) and other situations. It would encourage the trend of
physically inserting actors into old existing footage, making it appear like the
characters were interacting with each other. Shortly afterwards, this technique -
which expanded to advertising commercials - controversially presented dead stars
hawking products (i.e., James Cagney and Louis Armstrong appeared in Diet Coke
ads, and John Wayne was in a Coors Light commercial).
Tom Hanks won two consecutive Best Actor awards (presented in ceremonies in
1994 and 1995) for Philadelphia (1993) and for Forrest Gump (1994). He became
the fifth performer to win back-to-back acting Oscars, and the second performer to
win a consecutive Best Actor Oscar (the first was Spencer Tracy in 1937-1938).
Director Oliver Stone's controversial work on the media's exploitative
precoccupation with violence by following the path of two serial killers on a murder
spree, Natural Born Killers, came under critical fire for its own graphic, on-screen
The cost of obtaining the rights to the soundtrack for director Kevin Smith's low-
1994 budget comedy Clerks was greater than the production costs for the entire film - a
first in modern cinematic history.
Writer/director and B-movie fanatic Quentin Tarantino delivered the non-formulaic
and inventive hit Pulp Fiction - an 'independent' film distributed by Miramax, that
featured guns, femmes fatales, deadly hit-men, and drugs; it brought new fame to
star John Travolta (in an ensemble cast) and a revolutionary script structure with its
three interwoven (and fragmented) stories told in non-linear order. The
unpredictably shuffled, post-modern film, winner of Cannes' prestigious Palme d'Or,
shocked with its hip combination of violence, sex, drugs, and profanity (including
A Harvard School of Public Health study showed that violence occurred just as
1994 frequently in PG, PG-13, and R-rated films. The study was repeated a decade later,
illustrating the existence of "ratings-creep", meaning that more risqué and violent
scenes were being allowed in films rated G, PG, PG-13 and R than in the past. For
example, The Santa Clause (1994) was rated PG, yet it had less sex and nudity,
violence, gore and profanity than The Santa Clause 2 (2002), which was rated G.
The theatrical run of Il Postino in New York City stretched for almost two years -- it
was still in theaters after the video release and its premium cable run.
SDDS (Sony Dynamic Digital Sound), a digital sound-on-film format in which the
digital information was optically printed in two continuous strips along both edges
1994 of the 35 mm. film, was introduced. The revolutionary system avoided the need for
separate CD-ROM soundtracks and synchronization codes. SDDS supported
increased surround-sound options by offering eight channels of sound.
The TV series Insektors (1994) was the first completely computer-animated cartoon
series to be broadcast on television. It told about two warring anthropomorphic
tribes of insects (the Joyces vs. the Yuks). It first aired in France, and was then
dubbed into English for US and UK television. Its appearance was only a few
months before another completely-CG animated cartoon series was aired - the full-
length Canadian action-adventure series called ReBoot.
The R-rated biopic-documentary Crumb sympathetically portrayed counter-cultural,
sex-obsessed cartoonist R. Crumb, known for 1960s-era underground comic books,
the character of Mr. Natural, the phrase: "Keep on Truckin'", Fritz the Cat, and the
cover art for Janis Joplin's best-selling record Cheap Thrills.
The ILM spin-off company named Pixar, owned by Apple CEO Steve Jobs, was
formed as an independent company in 1986. Pixar Studios (and director John
1995 Lasseter) and Disney (with their first collaboration) entered into a 1991 deal worth
$26 million, to jointly develop, produce, and distribute up to three feature-length
The cutting-edge Toy Story was the first totally-digital (or computer-generated)
feature-length animated film. It was noted as being Pixar's first feature to be released
in theaters. The visuals were entirely generated from computers, creating a
wonderfully-realistic 3-D world with lighting, shading, and textures, that included
real toys in supporting roles (Etch-A-Sketch, Slinky Dog, the plastic toy soldiers,
Mr. Potato Head, etc.).
IMAX 3-D was introduced with the 40-minute movie Wings of Courage, which cost
1995 $15 million to make. It was viewed through high-tech goggles with liquid crystal
Miramax announced the creation of the short-lived Rolling Thunder Pictures, a
"specialty label" headed by Quentin Tarantino, to bring rare and independent films
1995 into theaters. Its first acquisition was from Hong Kong cinema: Chunking Express
by director Wong Kar Wai. The company closed in 1998 when Miramax pulled
support due to poor sales.
Warner Bros. created the WB Network, a TV broadcast outlet for its TV properties.
(Some of the new network's earliest shows were Buffy The Vampire Slayer, 7th
Heaven, and Dawson's Creek -- curiously none of which were produced by
The 17th official Bond film, GoldenEye, was the the first of four films starring
Pierce Brosnan as the new Bond after a six-year hiatus. It was the first Bond film to
be released after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. It
was the most successful and well-received Bond film to date.
1995 Danish director Lars von Trier announced the manifesto of the Dogme 95 collective
and movement, a return to simplicity in film-making. Ten goals or principles of the
collective's 'Vow of Chastity' included on-location shoots, use of hand-held cameras
and use of digital-video (DV), an uncredited director, no special effects or fixes in
post-production, and no major enhancement of sound or light even on set. This type
of low-cost, non-genre film-making stood in sharp contrast to Hollywood's big-
Two weeks prior to the release of his comedy Nine Months, British actor Hugh
Grant was arrested in Los Angeles (in a car on Hollywood's Sunset Boulevard) when
found engaging in "lewd conduct" (oral sex) with prostitute Divine Brown. Although
1995 fined $1,180 and placed on two years probation, Grant was able to resurrect his
career by confessing on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno ("I did a bad thing").
Surprisingly, Nine Months surpassed his previous hit Four Weddings and a Funeral
(1994) (at $52.7 million) with $69.7 million box-office business.
The first feature film with a digitally-created, CG character that took a leading role
1995 (almost 40 minutes of film time) was Casper, derived from the Harvey Comics
Planet Hollywood, a restaurant chain (noted for its collection of movie & TV
memorabilia) with backing and celebrity investments by movie stars (including Sly
1996 Stallone, Bruce Willis, Demi Moore and Arnold Schwarzenegger), went public. Its
stock skyrocketed initially, but in just two years, it lost its appeal and many of the
restaurants would be closed by the turn of the century.
Kenneth Branagh's excellent, opulent Hamlet (set in 19th century England) was the
first unabridged, 'full-length' cinematic version in film history of William
Shakespeare's penultimate work. It was also the first British film to be shot in 70-
1996 mm. in over 25 years (and the first 70-mm. film since director Ron Howard's Far
and Away (1992); also as of the winter of 2005 the last film to have been shot
entirely with 70-mm. film), and one of the few films in history to exceed a four hour
running time (with an intermission at the 2:40 mark.)
The Coen Brothers' Fargo, an off-beat, absurdist morality tale from the creative and
original producing/writing/directing collaborative team of Joel and Ethan Coen, was
very unlike many of their previous films, with a straight-forward, realistic narrative
devoid of their typically quirky and bizarre sequences. From its seven Academy
Awards nominations (including Best Picture), it won for Best Original Screenplay
(Joel and Ethan Coen), and Best Actress (Frances McDormand, Joel Coen's real-life
wife). Frances McDormand became the first actress to win the Best Actress Oscar in
a film directed by her nominated husband.
The infamous and satirical black comedy, The Cable Guy, which starred comic Jim
Carrey as the malevolent and pathological cable installer (an atypical character for
him), was directed by comic Ben Stiller. The film was universally criticized, under-
appreciated by audiences, and did poor box-office at the time of its release, but it
was significant because it was the first film to break the $20 million salary barrier
for an actor.
Director Cameron Crowe's most quotable script was for Jerry Maguire, a romantic
comedy and sports-related film known for its catchphrases: "Show me the money!"
"You complete me" and "You had me at hello!" The film was a breakout film for
Renee Zellweger, won Best Supporting Actor honors for Cuba Gooding, Jr., and
received nominations for Best Actor (Tom Cruise), Best Screenplay, and Best
The genre of teen slasher and horror films was revitalized by the tongue-in-cheek,
self-reverential horror film Scream from famed horror director Wes Craven. The
half-parody and half-tribute film (with nods to Hitchcock's films, Friday the 13th
(1980) and Halloween (1978), among others) gave rise to two sequels (1997 and
2000) and other copycat films (i.e., I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) and
The Faculty (1999)), including the silly Scary Movie franchise.
In the US, Jan de Bont's disaster thriller about tornados, Twister was rated PG-13 for
1996 "intense depiction of very bad weather." Twister was also the first Hollywood
feature film to be commercially released on DVD.
Another technological advancement, still currently being developed and tweaked,
was the introduction of HDTV - the first public HDTV broadcast in the United
States occurred in 1996. HDTV resulted in higher resolution (an increase in the
1996 number of horizontal lines on a video screen), and improved the sharpness and detail
of the image. Now, feature films projected at home on HDTV screens, with theatre-
quality audio as well, have come closer to the image and sound found in projected
widescreen films in commercial theatres.
CARIcature software was first used by Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) for the state-
of-the-art digital animation in the 10th century fantasy fable Dragonheart (1996). It
was used to create the very complex CGI or digital film character of a talking dragon
named Draco (with realistic facial animation and expressions, and voice provided by
Sean Connery) - an 18 ft. tall, 43 foot long creature. The highly-realistic aliens in
Tim Burton's science-fiction comedy Mars Attacks! (1996) were all-digital, CGI
animated creations, rather than stop-motion puppets - also created with CARI
software by ILM.
Marvin the Martian in the Third Dimension, a 12-minute Warner Bros film, was the
first computer-animated CG film that was to be viewed with 3-D glasses. It
1997 combined the experience of watching a fully CGI film with polarized/anaglyphic
glasses, and was a feature of the Warner Bros.' theme park "Movie World" in
James Cameron's Titanic, the most expensive film of all time at the time of its
release, also soon became the highest grossing and most successful film of all-time
in Hollywood history (at $600.8 million domestic gross box-office receipts, and $1.8
billion total worldwide gross). It was the first film with a budget of $200 million,
and it was the first movie to gross $1 billion. Delays during production and a budget
of $200 million threatened to 'sink' the film, but didn't affect its overall success.
Repeated theatrical viewings by young teens (enthralled by the romance between
1997 Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet) were partly responsible for the film's high
returns. The bulk of the state-of-the-art visual effects (CGI and miniature models)
were provided by Cameron's own company, Digital Domain. And the film was
backed or co-produced by two studios in order to foot the bill -- Fox and Paramount.
The blockbuster film had a record-tying fourteen nominations and won a record-
tying eleven Academy Awards, including those for Best Picture and Best Director.
When adjusted for inflation, however, Cleopatra (1963) had the highest budget of
any film, and Gone with the Wind (1939) remained the highest grossing.
The 18th official Bond film, Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) was the first film in
cinematic history to have the largest product placement deal ever, covering its entire
production budget of $110 million. Sponsoring companies included BMW, Ericsson
cellphones, Bollinger champagne, Omega watches, Dunhill, Brioni clothing, Avis
rental cars, Golden Wonder potato chips, L'Oréal cosmetics, and Heineken beer.
Some joked that the Bond films had now become the "Licence to Sell."
The first time product placement appeared in an animated picture was Chanel
perfume in Anastasia (1997).
Due to its opening against James Cameron's blockbuster Titanic (1997), Tomorrow
1997 Never Dies (1997) was the first (and only) Pierce Brosnan Bond film to not open as
the #1 film at the box-office.
Slim DVDs (Digital Versatile Discs), the new generation of optical disc storage
technology, began to be sold to consumers. By 2003, there were over 250 million
1997 DVD playback devices worldwide, one of the most successful consumer electronics
products of all time. It was destined to replace the laser disc, videotape (bulky VHS),
and videogame cartridges. In mid-2003, DVD rentals first topped those of VHS.
Writer/director Paul Thomas' Boogie Nights was a significant film for authentically
portraying the Southern California pornography industry in the late 1970s and early
1980s, through the character of Eddie Adams (Mark Wahlberg) - based upon the life
of porn actor John C. Holmes, who became well-endowed porn star Dirk Diggler.
Hong Kong film director Wong Kar-Wai's haunting and melancholy film Happy
Together (aka Cheun Gwong Tsa Sit, HK) about a gay couple, was released. It was
controversial for its portrayal of Chinese male homosexuality, and was banned in
Singapore, among other places.
George Lucas released re-vamped Special Editions of the Star Wars Trilogy.
Episodes IV, V, and VI were remastered and re-released for theatrical showings.
Most of the changes were cosmetic - various scenes or images were cleaned up or
1997 restored, but some changes were made to the films as well. For example, in Star
Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977), there was a new CGI version of Jabba the
Hutt (originally a latex puppet), and a modified "Cantina Scene" in which Greedo
Star Wars (1977) was the first film to earn more than $400 million domestically. It
1997 reached this mark in February 1997 after the re-release or re-issue of its 20th
Founded in 1994, DreamWorks SKG's first feature film release was The
1997 Peacemaker, starring George Clooney and Nicole Kidman. A year later, they
released their first animated film Antz (1998).
The American Film Institute (AFI) announced its list of the Top 100 American Films
of All Time, with Orson Welles' classic Citizen Kane (1941) ranked # 1.
Steven Spielberg's war epic of D-Day, Saving Private Ryan, gave its director his
second Best Director Oscar. The film was noted for its half-hour, spectacularly-
bloody, realistically-filmed opening of the Omaha Beach landing. It also inspired
dialogue between generations regarding the events of World War II.
After the FCC approved the digital television standard in late 1996, the first HDTV
1998 receivers were introduced to consumers, and HDTV broadcasts began to regularly
appear in the US.
Consumers modified their movie-watching practices when Netflix, a revolutionary
online DVD movie rental service established in 1997, first began to offer postal
shipping of rented DVDs on its website to subscribers in 1998. Netflix was the first
subscription service to also offer online video downloading/streaming of rental
movies directly onto one's computer screen. Early on, Netflix experienced
1998 competition (and market-share business) from brick-and-mortar video rental stores
Blockbuster and Wal-Mart, and then from cheap $1 DVD-rental kiosks or automated
vending machines in grocery and discount stores. A changing landscape of digital
movie delivery forced Netflix to also team up with consumer electronic companies
to provide a range of devices that can instantly stream films, including TV shows, to
Netflix members' TVs and other devices. It faced further competition with other
video on demand (VOD) services available from cable and satellite companies and
from Web giants.
Miramax turned its release Life Is Beautiful, the wildly successful, bittersweet,
comedy-drama Italian Holocaust fable, into the most successful foreign-language
film in US history, up to that time. It was the first foreign language film to receive
seven Academy Awards nominations - the most-honored foreign-language film in
Oscar history up to that time (until surpassed by Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
(2000) with 10 nominations). It had three wins - and was the first film since Z (1969)
to be nominated for both Best Picture and Best Foreign Language Film. Its three
wins were for Best Actor (for Roberto Benigni), Best Foreign Language Film, and
Best Dramatic Score. Miramax backed both Life is Beautiful (as distributor) and
Shakespeare in Love (as producer) with millions of dollars in an expensive publicity
blitz before Oscar time, and their aggressive efforts paid off handsomely - with a
total of 20 nominations between the two films (and 10 wins, including Best Picture).
Bruce Willis became the first prominent actor to act in a Sony PlayStation arcade-
1998 style game when he had his voice and movements digitized for the action-oriented,
shoot-'em-up Apocalypse game published by Activision.
The Farrelly Brothers' audacious, gross-out, and bad-taste R-rated comedy There's
Something About Mary was an unexpected hit (due in part to its widely-advertised
'hair-gel' scene between its two relatively unknown stars: Ben Stiller and Cameron
1998 Diaz), eventually earning $176 million. Comic actor Ben Stiller created a loser-
persona that remains his trademark. The film was the precursor to even cruder teen
films such as the R-rated American Pie films (1999 and 2001), and other non-PC
films such as The 40 Year-Old Virgin (2005).
Wes Anderson's coming-of-age comedy Rushmore told of a love triangle between a
rich, middle aged businessman (Bill Murray), a widowed elementary schoolteacher
1998 (Olivia Williams), and an eccentric Rushmore Academy student (Jason
Schwartzman). The film launched comedian Murray's 'second' career as a serious
actor in independent films.
The Last Broadcast was the first film to be directly broadcast into theatres via
satellite for its premiere screening (to five US theatres) - and shown on digital
cinema projectors. It was also the first "film" to be made entirely digitally (in its
1998 filming, editing, and screening) - without the use of celluloid film. Its theatrical
debut was less than three months before The Blair Witch Project (1999) was shown
at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival - with a similar storyline told in faux
DreamWorks' Antz was the first computer-animated film to receive a PG rating. It
1998 was also the first computer-animated feature film to use computer software to
simulate the properties of water -- hence, digital water.
The first of three prequels (released from 1999-2005), George Lucas' highly-
anticipated Star Wars: Episode I -The Phantom Menace, opened and became the top
grossing film of its year. It made $28.5 million in its first day of showing, and
passed the $100 million level in a record five days. It eventually grossed over $400
1999 million. It was the first film with a Dolby Digital Surround EX soundtrack. This film
undoubtedly contained more computer animation and special effects than any
previous film - over 90%. It also featured a completely CGI-generated (all digital),
fully-articulated main humanoid character named Jar Jar Binks (voice of Ahmed
Best), a widely-derided aspect of the feature film.
The pseudo-documentary, low-budget (budgeted at about $30,000), media-savvy
cult film The Blair Witch Project, grossed $249 million worldwide, making it the
most profitable film in Hollywood history (with a record budget/box office ratio of
1:10,931). Low-cost Internet advertising (suggesting that the story was true) and
video production contributed to its financial success for the small-time distributor
(Artisan Films) - making it the first independent blockbuster. The surprise hit was
mostly shot with Hi-8 camcorders and looked like a home-made film with no-name
This was the debut year of the popular TiVo device, a personal digital video recorder
(PVR or DVR) -- also dubbed a hard-disc recorder (HDR), with the capability of
recording movies and episodes of favorite programs, quickly skipping past the
commercials and even pausing and rewinding live TV. Within a few years, a
broadband-connected TiVo DVR offered a vast library of video-on-demand choices
from a who's-who list of online entertainment partners.
Pokemon: The First Movie (released in Japan in 1998 and in the US in 1999)
became the most successful foreign animated film at the box office in U.S. history.
Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut was threatened with an NC-17 rating for its most
talked-about sequence - an upper-class masked, choreographed orgy function which
began with incantations by a high-priest, a circle of cloaked figures, and many
naturally-endowed, almost-nude, G-stringed, masked females in an inner circle who
were there to ritualistically service the masked men in anonymity and isolation; the
sequence included tracking shots of tuxedoed, caped, and masked doctor Harford
(Tom Cruise) roaming through the ornate mansion's rooms filled with emotionless,
loveless copulating couples (in a 69 sexual position, in a lesbian three-some, and
other mechanical stances of intercourse); these scenes were heavily digitally edited
(or digitally censored, obscured and obstructed in various releases to prevent an NC-
17 rating). In some instances, computer-generated people were placed over explicit
sexual images in order to secure the R-rating.
The writing/directing team of the Wachowski Brothers released the hugely-
successful, profound and influential sci-fi thriller The Matrix with amazing action
and digital effects sequences. Its popularity led to a trilogy of films: The Matrix
Reloaded (2003) and The Matrix Revolutions (2003). The first film in the series
made reference to prototypical elements of the 21st century high-tech culture, such
as hacking and virtual reality, and included bullet-dodging (digital effects dubbed
"flow-mo" and "bullet time" - slowed-down rotating action - were created with
suspending actors on wires, and filming segments with multiple still cameras from
multiple angles), cyber-punk chic, time-freezing, shoot-outs, wall-scaling, virtual
backgrounds, and airborne kung fu. These tremendous visual effects were combined
with Eastern world-denying philosophy, metaphysical Zen statements, Japanese
anime, neo-Cartesian plot twists, film noir, and Lewis Carroll references.
South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, an animated comedy feature film (by
producers Trey Parker and Matt Stone) was filled with political satire (and based on
the hit TV show South Park); it was originally rated NC-17 (for its foul-mouthed
profanity and obscenity), and then reduced to an R-rating after being edited down.
The notorious film was notable for having the most profanity of any animated film
(with 140 F-words).
M. Night Shyamalan's ghost story and psychological thriller The Sixth Sense - with
the catchphrase: "I see dead people" - was his first major film with his trademark
plot-shifting twist revealed by the film's conclusion - and it came to be known as the
The longest Oscars awards ceremony ever held was this year's March 21, 1999
1999 ABC-TV broadcast, at 4 hours and 2 minutes. It was the 71st annual Academy
Awards show, hosted by Whoopi Goldberg. It also marked the first time that the
ceremony was held on a Sunday.
The popular and influential film review TV show Siskel & Ebert lasted until 1999,
when Gene Siskel died from a brain tumor in 1999, and the show was renamed
Roger Ebert & the Movies for one year. After 1999, the show featured a rotating
1999 series of guest critics, including Elvis Mitchell, Kenneth Turan and Janet Maslin. In
the year 2000, after a long try-out period of guest critics, Ebert chose fellow Chicago
Sun-Times columnist Richard Roeper as his permanent co-host, for a show retitled
Ebert & Roeper and the Movies, shortened in 2001 to Ebert & Roeper.
According to Film Facts, the busiest Hollywood actor during the decade of the
Decade 1990s was Samuel L. Jackson with 36 films. Whoopi Goldberg headed the female
list with 29 films.
2000s - Part 1
Year Event and Significance
The emerging cinema of China, beginning in the mid-1980s and after (i.e., Zhang
Yimou's Raise the Red Lantern (1991) and The Story of Qiu Ju (1992), Chen Kaige's
Farewell, My Concubine (1993), and Tian Zhuangzhuang's The Blue Kite (1993)),
began to capture critical attention. This resurgence culminated in the martial arts
film, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, with its tale about a stolen sword, gravity-
2000 defying martial arts combat and star-crossed lovers. It marked the first major
American cross-over success of an Asian action film, and became the highest-
grossing sub-titled film ever released in the US, at $128.1 million. It was the first
foreign-language film to gross more than $100 million in the US. It received a
record 10 Oscar nominations (with four Oscar wins which were presented in 2001,
including Best Foreign Language Film).
The Hollywood studio system was dominated by six global entertainment
2000s companies: Time Warner, Viacom, Fox, Sony, NBC Universal, and Disney. These
decade six companies generally farmed out the production of their films to literally dozens
of other independents and subsidiaries.
Film making studios realized that lucrative profits could be scored by cheaply
remaking, adapting, or 're-treading' classic TV shows or most prominently -- horror
films (i.e., the theatrical re-release of The Exorcist: The Version You Haven't Seen
Before (2000) with additional footage, the remade The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
(2003) and its prequel The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006), the
Nightmare on Elm Street/Friday the 13th hybrid Freddy vs. Jason (2003), Renny
Harlin's prequel Exorcist: The Beginning (2004), Zack Snyder's remake of the
Romero film Dawn of the Dead (2004), the crossover film Alien vs. Predator (2004),
the remake of the 1979 classic The Amityville Horror (2005), the loose remake of
House of Wax (2005), Rob Zombie's reimagined Halloween (2007), My Bloody
Valentine 3D (2009), and a reboot of Friday the 13th (2009)).
Clint Eastwood's directing and acting project, Space Cowboys (2000) used high
definition television (HDTV) technology for the first time in a Hollywood feature.
X-Men, the first in a trilogy of films, was the first major Marvel superhero comic
2000 ever adapted for the screen, and also one of the most profitable film franchises (of
Warner Home Video announced that the DVD of the Oscar-winning The Matrix
(1999) had exceeded the 3 million mark in units sold in the U.S., solidifying its
position as the # 1 best-selling DVD of all-time. This milestone would repeatedly be
surpassed in subsequent years.
After her early hit Pretty Woman (1990), at the end of the 1990s, mega-star Julia
Roberts had four big hit films at the turn of the century - mostly romantic comedies:
My Best Friend's Wedding (1997), Notting Hill (1999), Runaway Bride (1999), and
Erin Brockovich (2000) - which brought the actress her first Best Actress Oscar. She
became the highest-paid actress (and one of the most powerful actresses) in
Hollywood at the time, according to Forbes Magazine and other publications. She
was the first female to crash the $20 million salary barrier for her role in Erin
Writer/director Christopher Nolan's time-shifting, episodic, neo-noir independent
film Memento was a huge success, for its reverse-chronological order, non-linear
2000 innovative structure. The puzzling story told about a man (Guy Pearce) suffering
from short-term amnesia while investigating the rape/murder of his wife. It was up
for two Academy Award nominations in 2001, but didn't receive any awards.
The first feature film to be entirely color-corrected by digital means, giving the film
a sepia-tinted tone, was the Coen Brothers' O Brother, Where Art Thou?
The first major business deal of the 20th century was the America Online (AOL)
purchase of Time Warner, Inc. for an estimated $182 billion - in stock ($163 billion)
and debt ($17 billion). America Online was one of the largest Internet access
subscription service companies and Internet providers in the US. The historic
merger, the largest corporate acquisition and the most expensive buyout on record,
created a global media and entertainment conglomerate, bringing together America
Online and CompuServe on-line services and Netscape's Internet browser with the
Warner Brothers studio, Cable News Network (CNN) and the Time publishing
empire. At the end of the decade (2009), the merger of the decade ended -- Time
Warner announced that it would spin off AOL as a separate independent company.
The audience participation version of Best Picture-winning The Sound of Music
(1965) was first screened in the US in 2000, mimicking the popularity of The Rocky
Horror Picture Show (1975). The film's lyrics were captioned to facilitate singing-
along, and audience members often dressed up in costume, were provided with
2000 'audience response kits' (Fun Paks included sprigs of fake white flowers to wave
during Edelweiss, and party poppers for when the Captain finally kissed Maria) and
coached to react to the screen with appropriate crowd responses (boos for Nazis,
hisses for the Baroness, and cheers-applause for Maria) and other impromptu
There were the first two premieres of a pair of much-anticipated, monumental series
of films: the Harry Potter films and the Lord of the Rings films. The first film to be
2001 adapted from the popular series of young adult books authored by J.K. Rowling was
released, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, on track to be one of the most
successful film franchises of all time by the end of the decade.
The first installment of the J.R.R. Tolkien fantasy books was released by director
Peter Jackson: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Jackson would go
2001 on to complete a nine-hour trilogy in the next few years, with two more films: The
Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002), and The Lord of the Rings: Return of the
A potential strike by the Writers Guild of America (WGA) against the Alliance of
2001 Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) over their contract threatened to
Although the first TiVo digital video recorder (DVR) shipped in early 1999, it
2000s wasn't until the decade of the 2000s, after further technological improvements, that it
became a commonplace media appliance for recording TV programs - allowing for
'time-shifting' of viewing, and for fast-forwarding through commercials. However,
the majority of DVRs in use are now being installed in cable or satellite set-top
boxes, threatening to make stand-alone TiVo machines obsolete.
2001 DVD sales revenues first exceeded VHS videotape sales revenues in 2001.
One of the most prolific and acclaimed film producers/writers/directors died at the
age of 95, Billy Wilder. He won Oscars for Best Director and Best Screenplay for
The Lost Weekend (1945), Best Story/Screenplay for Sunset Boulevard (1950), and
Best Director and Best Story/Screenplay for The Apartment (1960). He was also
noted for directing the classic film noir Double Indemnity (1944), and the hit
comedy Some Like It Hot (1959).
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, the first photo-realistic, fully computer-generated
feature film, was premiered. The most complex CG human character ever created
was Dr. Aki Ross, who was reported to have 60,000 individual strands of hair. The
amount of detail rendered into hair, clothing, skin texture, eyes, and movement was
2001 astounding and impressive. The film was inspired by a best-selling series of video
games by the film's director, Hironobu Sakaguchi. Its production budget was
estimated to be $137 million, with box-office of only $32 million gross income
(domestic) and $53 million (foreign) - $85 million total. The massive losses caused
the bankruptcy and closing of its production studio, Square Pictures.
Director Pitof's dark 19th century crime fantasy Vidocq (2001) was the world's first-
completed theatrical feature film shot entirely on Hi-Def digital video. This first full-
length, all-digital film was shot using a Sony HD-CAM 24P1 (1080p, 24fps) high-
definition digital camera, producing astonishing visuals. It was released a year
before George Lucas' and Hollywood's first big-budget all-digital production of Star
Wars - Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002).
DreamWorks SKG' Shrek was the first film to win an Academy Award Oscar for
Best Animated Feature, a category introduced in 2001. It counteracted the traditional
2001 Disney animation formula for a fairy tale with its main character - an ugly, greenish
ogre (voice of Mike Myers), with a pop music soundtrack (featuring songs by Joan
Jett, Smash Mouth, and others).
MTV star and actor Tom Green's gross-out, teen-oriented film Freddy Got Fingered
2001 (his directorial debut) was rated R -- thereby ironically, possibly preventing some of
its teen-aged audience from attending.
Not Another Teen Movie was released to serve as a parody of Hollywood teen flicks
from the last few decades. It used cliched lines of dialogue and most of its characters
2001 were stereotypical teen portrayals (for example, the Pretty Ugly Girl, the Popular
Jock, the Bitchy Cheerleader, the Token Black Guy, the Dream Girl, the Naked
Foreign Exchange Student).
The delightfully-sweet and quirky French comedy-fantasy Amelie (2001, Fr.),
2001 starring Audrey Tatou, earned an unprecedented $33 million (domestic) - it was the
highest-grossing French-language film ever in the US.
Director Patrice Chéreau's French arthouse film Intimacy, her first English-language
film, was noted for extremely graphic and explicit sex scenes, heretofore unseen. It
portrayed a married woman's (Kerry Fox) engagement in a series of once-weekly,
Wednesday afternoon, emotionally-apathetic, physical encounters with emotionally-
cold and lonely, divorced bar manager Jay (Mark Rylance). This controversial film
exhibited their sexual couplings, with numerous, unflattering and raw, wordless
sexual encounters including uncensored fellatio. It was notable as the first
theatrically-distributed film to depict the act of fellatio.
For the first time, African-Americans won in both the Best Actor and Best Actress
Oscar categories (awarded in 2002): Denzel Washington for Training Day and Halle
Berry for Monster's Ball. Berry's Oscar marked the first time an African-American
woman had ever won the top performance award. (Ironically, in 2000, Halle Berry
won the Emmy and the Golden Globes awards playing the title role in the critically-
acclaimed HBO television movie Introducing Dorothy Dandridge (1999).
Dandridge was the first African-American actress to be nominated for the Oscar, for
Carmen Jones (1954).) Denzel Washington became the first African-American
performer to win multiple acting Oscars - in other words, he became the only black
actor with two Oscars.
Paramount's Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001), starring bust-enhanced Angelina Jolie
to look like the video-game heroine, was the highest-grossing action film with a
female lead, surpassing Charlie's Angels (2000) and Aliens (1986) - with Sigourney
Weaver. The film also became the most successful (top-grossing) movie adapted
from a video game, at $131 million (domestic) and $275 million (worldwide). [Other
attempts at video-games transitioning to the big screen that did fairly well included:
Pokemon: The First Movie (1999), Mortal Kombat (1995), the sequel Lara Croft
Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (2003), and the Resident Evil films (2002-2007);
some of the less successful adaptations included Super Mario Brothers (1993),
Double Dragon (1994), Street Fighter (1994), Wing Commander (1999), and Doom
(2005).] The Lara Croft video game series sold about 21 million units -- the games
and associated merchandise brought in about a half billion dollars.
The cult fantasy sci-fi classic Donnie Darko was about a paranoid, troubled
schizophrenic teenager who survived a jet-engine crashing into his bedroom, and
had visions of a giant bunny (Frank) who predicted Doomsday in 28 days. The
original film was little noticed when originally released, but midnight screenings and
the release of the 2004 "Director's Cut" on DVD helped it to become a major cult
Australian director Baz Luhrmann's dazzling big-screen musical Moulin Rouge!
revolutionized the musical in that its audacious rock-opera soundtrack was
composed of well-known pop songs of the late 20th century ("Like a Virgin", "Your
2001 Song", "One Day I'll Fly Away" and more), although the setting was a legendary
Paris nightclub circa 1900. The film was considered the third of Luhrmann's "Red
Curtain" trilogy, following Strictly Ballroom (1992) and William Shakespeare's
Romeo + Juliet (1996).
Spirited Away became the best-selling Japanese movie of all time, and also was the
first anime feature film to win an Academy Award -- Best Animated Feature
(awarded in 2002).
Disney's costly animated film failure, Treasure Planet, was a landmark film -- it was
2002 the first film to debut in both the conventional and IMAX formats on the same day
Warner Bros.' terrorist-themed action film Collateral Damage (2002), starring
Arnold Schwarzenegger, originally due to be released on October 5, 2001, was
postponed until early February 2002, due to the terrorist bombing of the twin towers
of the World Trade Center on 9/11/01.
One of the trends in the popular genre of horror films was to remake Japanese horror
films, culminating in retreads of successful foreign classics, such as Gore
Verbinski's The Ring (2002). [Other remakes included The Grudge (2004) (with two
sequels in 2006 and 2009), and Dark Water (2005).] These films were low cost to
produce, didn't require much originality, big-name (and salary) actors or extensive
marketing (because of brand-name recognition), and they had ready-made legions of
faithful horror-film devotees. One thing most of the films had in common - they
were not favorites of the film critics.
The independently-produced 'ugly duckling' romantic comedy My Big Fat Greek
Wedding, with an unknown cast and a simple premise, became one of the most
profitable movies of all time (through word-of-mouth advertising), earning $241.4
million at the box office, while costing only about $5 million to make. It became the
very first theatrical film transmitted in high definition by In Demand. It was also the
highest-grossing domestic film that was never #1 at the box-office.
Exiled director Roman Polanski's The Pianist won the Palme D'Or at the Cannes
Film Festival, and the Best Director Oscar (awarded in 2003).
Controversial white rapper Eminem entered the mainstream with the release of his
2002 movie 8 Mile (2002). It was the first film with an Oscar-winning rap/hip-hop song
Chicago became the first musical to win Best Picture since Oliver! (1968) - 34 years
The first in a series of popular Robert Ludlum spy novels adapted for the big screen
2002 was released, starring Matt Damon as Jason Bourne. It was The Bourne Identity,
followed by The Bourne Supremacy (2004) and The Bourne Ultimatum (2007).
George Lucas' second Star Wars pre-quel, Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the
Clones, the fifth film in the hugely successful Star Wars series, was the first big-
2002 budget major Hollywood film shot entirely with digital video cameras (at 24 fps) -
best screened in theaters equipped with digital projectors. In November, it opened on
58 IMAX screens. (See entry above for Vidocq (2001, Fr.)).
The first film to make over $100 million in its opening weekend was Sam Raimi's
comic-book blockbuster Spider-Man.
In May 2002, director/writer/producer/star Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine
was the first documentary to compete in the Cannes Film Festival's main
competition in 46 years, and was the unanimous winner of the festival's 55th
Anniversary Prize. It was also the first documentary film to be nominated and then
win in 2003 the Writers Guild of America (WGA) Award for Best Original
Screenplay. It was also the Best Documentary Feature Academy Award-winner. It
was also the highest-grossing documentary of all time, soon to be surpassed by
Moore's own Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004).
The 96-minute long film Russian Ark (aka Russkiy kovcheg) from director
Aleksandr Sokurov was the longest single-shot feature-length narrative film (with no
cuts) in movie history, as the camera roamed through the halls of the Hermitage in
2002 St. Petersburg during 19th century Russia. Its tagline described: "2000 cast
members, 3 orchestras, 33 rooms, 300 years, ALL IN ONE TAKE." [Note:
Hitchcock's 80 minute-long Rope (1948) was only edited to appear like a single
In the second part of the trilogy, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, CGI-
imagery was combined with "motion capturing" (of the movements and expressions
of actor Andy Serkis, who also served as the voice) to produce the barely-seen,
supporting character of Gollum (originally known as Sméagol) - noted for saying:
"Myyy PRECIOUSSS!" A motion capture suit recorded the actor's movements that
were then applied to the digital character.
The much anticipated online movies-on-demand venture formed by five major
Hollywood studios (Sony Pictures Entertainment, Universal Studios, Paramount
Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Warner Bros.) was launched in 2002 with the
establishment of MovieLink. This marked the first time a large supply of recent,
popular films were available legally on the Internet via a broadband connection.
According to the Guinness Book of Records, World Wrestling Federation's "The
Rock" (Dwayne Johnson) received a record salary for his first-time, leading man,
top-billed performance as the title character Mathayus in the prequel spin-off The
Scorpion King (2002), part of The Mummy franchise series.
Three of the four top-grossing films (domestic) of the year were sequels: Spider-
Man (2002) at $404 million - with its own profitable sequels in 2004 and 2007, The
Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) at $342 million, Star Wars Episode II:
Attack of the Clones (2002) at $311 million, and Harry Potter and the Chamber of
Secrets (2002) at $262 million. In eighth place was the sequel Men in Black II
(2002) at $190 million.
By 2003, film studio revenues from home entertainment (i.e., the video market) were
much more lucrative than from theatrical, box-office returns.
By mid-March of 2003, DVD rentals first topped those of VHS videotape rental
2003 revenues. Many of the studios stopped creating VHS versions of their films, and
major retail stores stopped selling VHS versions or releases.
Sofia Coppola was nominated as Best Director for her Best Picture-nominated Lost
2003 in Translation, becoming the first American woman nominated for Best Director and
only the third woman ever to be nominated for Best Director.
Finding Nemo, produced by Pixar for The Walt Disney Company, bypassed The
Lion King (1994) as the highest-grossing animated film of all time, at $340 million.
It received the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film (awarded in 2004).
2003 As of January 2005, it was the bestselling DVD of all time in the world - with 22
million copies sold. It has remained the highest-grossing (domestic) G-rated film of
all time (the PG-rated Shrek 2 (2004) surpassed it as the highest-grossing animation
of all time in 2004).
Disney announced that it would no longer be producing traditionally-hand-drawn
animated feature films, but switching to the 3-D, full-CGI style originally
2003 popularized by Pixar. It announced that its feature-length theatrical film animation
Brother Bear was to be the studio's last 2-D animated film. However, Disney's last
release in the traditional 2-D animation style was Home on the Range (2004).
Miramax's (and boss Harvey Weinstein's) 11-year run (from 1992-2002) of having at
least one Best Picture contender each year ended this year, when Cold Mountain
lacked a Best Picture nomination. This was the longest streak for any studio since
the Academy limited the number of Best Picture nominees to five in 1944.
The Terminator character (in the same year that Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
2003 was released), Austrian-born actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, was sworn in as
governor of California shortly after a special recall election of Gov. Gray Davis.
The last in The Lord of the Rings trilogy of Tolkein's literary fantasy, The Return of
the King, won Best Picture and Best Director Oscars (awarded in 2004), as well as
nine other awards (it won all eleven of its nominations), for New Line Cinema and
New Zealander Peter Jackson, among others. With its eleven Oscars, it tied with
2003 Ben-Hur (1959) and Titanic (1997) for the most Oscars ever won by a single film. It
also broke the previous record for a sweep (9 wins out of 9 nominations) set by Gigi
(1958) and The Last Emperor (1987). Like them, LOTR: The Return of the King
lacked nominations in the acting categories. It was the first fantasy film to ever win
the top Oscar prize. The film grossed $1 billion in just 9 weeks and 4 days, a new
record. In total, the entire LOTR trilogy won 17 Oscars (out of 30 nominations), a $3
billion box-office gross worldwide (they were among the highest grossing films of
all time), and some new superstars: virtual Gollum (Andy Serkis), Orlando Bloom
and Elijah Wood.
Director Bernardo Bertolucci's explicitly-rated NC-17 film of sexual discovery and
intimacy The Dreamers was the first NC-17 rated film in 6 years, after the release of
the NC-17 rated independent film Orgazmo (1997), Bent (1997, UK) and
Cronenberg's Crash (1997).
At the end of the previous decade (in 2000), actor Sylvester Stallone won the Golden
Raspberry (Razzie) Award as "The Worst Actor of the Century." By the year 2003,
Stallone had compiled a record number of nominations (30) and wins (10) - the actor
with the largest number of Razzie nominations and wins.
One of the worst films ever made and a major box-office flop, Martin Brest's
romantic comedy Gigli (2003) was closely scrutinized due to the coupling of its
celebrity stars during the film's shoot. The big-budget film was quickly removed
after about 3 weeks from circulation in theatres due to its poor reception. It was the
first film in the history of the Golden Raspberry (Razzie) Awards to win in its five
2003 major categories - a "grand slam sweep": Worst Picture, Worst Actor, Worst
Actress, Worst Director, and Worst Screenplay -- and it also won Worst Screen
Couple, for a total of six wins. It was also honored in 2004 as the Worst Comedy in
the first 25 years of the Razzie Awards. Tabloids were addicted to the 'supercouple,'
dubbed by the name-blend "Bennifer" (a combination of Ben Affleck and Jennifer
A new generation of comic male actors, dubbed the 'Frat Pack' or 'Slacker Pack'
(Jack Black, Will Ferrell, Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, and Owen and Luke Wilson)
2003 emerged in the 2000s, and appeared together in many films, including Old School
(2003), actor/director/producer Stiller's own Zoolander (2001), Dodgeball (2004)
and Tropic Thunder (2008).
The New York Times reported that five months after the start of the Iraq War, the
special operations department of the Pentagon held an informational screening in
late August, 2003 of director Gillo Pontecorvo's controversial The Battle of Algiers
(1966) about terrorist insurgency, to acquire strategic insight from French operations
and challenges during the Algerian War (1954-1962). The Pentagon's blurb stated:
"How to win a battle against terrorism and lose the war of ideas. ... Children shoot
soldiers at point blank range. Women plant bombs in cafes. Soon the entire Arab
population builds to a mad fervor. Sound familiar? The French have a plan. It
succeeds tactically, but fails strategically. To understand why, come to a rare
showing of this film."
Most of the films in the early part of the decade that were huge moneymakers were
either comic-book related (i.e., Spider-Man (2002 and 2004)), serials (i.e., the Star
2000- Wars prequels of 1999, 2002 and 2005), animated films (i.e., Finding Nemo (2003)
2005 and Shrek 2 (2004)), based on children's fantasy stories (i.e., Harry Potter... (2001-
2004) and The Lord of the Rings... (2001-2003)), or based on a theme-park ride
(Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)).
Michael Moore's controversial, election-year Fahrenheit 9/11 won the top prize,
Palme D'Or, at the Cannes Film Festival, making it the first US documentary to win
the award. It also broke the record for highest opening-weekend earnings in the US
2004 for a documentary, and established a significant precedent for a political
documentary by being the first ever documentary to cross the $100 million mark in
the US (eventually earning $119 million). Disney's refusal to let Miramax release it
actually contributed to the film's great success. Moore's film set box-office records
as the highest-grossing non-concert, non-IMAX documentary film of all time.
However, the film's diatribe against President Bush wasn't able to prevent his re-
election in 2004.
PG-rated Shrek 2 (2004) topped G-rated Finding Nemo (2003) in two ways: it was
the biggest opening ever for an animated film (at $108 million in July, 2004), and in
2004 a little over three weeks became the highest-grossing animated film of all-time, at
$441 million. Shrek (2001) and its lucrative sequel helped DreamWorks' animation
division to be successfully spun off as its own unit.
The record for a film's opening weekend in 2004 belonged to Shrek 2 (2004) that
earned $108 million during its opening weekend (in May, 2004). Close behind were
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) grossing $94 million during its
opening weekend (in June, 2004), Spider-Man 2 (2004), which grossed almost $88
million during its opening weekend (in June-July, 2004), Gibson's The Passion of
the Christ (2004) (opening weekend in February 2004 at $84 million), and Pixar's
The Incredibles which drew a $70.5 million gross in its opening weekend (in
Hollywood proved that it was more willing to fund sequels, remakes, comic-book
and super-hero related films, and recycled TV shows this year instead of smaller-
scaled, more intimate dramas that were among the industry's Best Picture nominees.
According to box-office attendance figures compared to the last 20 years, the group
of Best Picture nominees this year had an extremely low turn-out for viewing -
demonstrating the never-ending dichotomy of cinematic art vs. industry profits.
Writer/director Ken Jacobs, a Beat Generation avant-garde experimental film-maker,
finally premiered his reworked and reshaped 402-minute "found footage" epic film
Star Spangled to Death (2004), which began production in 1957, at the New York
Film Festival (in late 2003).
Mel Gibson's highly-controversial, blood-soaked and brutal The Passion of the
Christ, a reinterpretation of the last 12 hours in the life of Jesus, was extremely
profitable (a $370-million-grossing (domestic) phenomenon), due to its unique
support by many faithful Christian believers, and the many audiences who wanted to
see the accurately-portrayed vision of the final hours with its visceral horrors of
flagellation, torture and crucifixion. It set a number of records: (1) the highest-
2004 grossing independent film of all time, (2) a record number of pre-ticket sales, more
than any other film in history, (3) the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time, (4)
the highest-grossing (domestic) foreign-language film and/or subtitled film in
history, and (5) the highest-grossing (worldwide and domestic) religious (Christian)
film of all time. Due to intense criticism over its excessively graphic scenes, Gibson
released a second unrated, edited version called The Passion Recut in 2005 - with six
fewer minutes and toned-down scenes of the grisly acts of torture.
In 1994, a Harvard School of Public Health study showed that violence occurred
just as frequently in PG, PG-13, and R-rated films. When this study was repeated in
2004, a decade later, it illustrated the existence of "ratings-creep", meaning that
more risqué and violent scenes were being allowed in films rated G, PG, PG-13 and
R than in the past. It was documented that current films had more sex, violence and
profanity than similarly-rated films did a decade ago. Over the 11-year period, sex
and violence in PG-rated films increased, as did sex, violence and profanity in PG-
13-rated films, and sex and profanity in R-rated films. For example, PG-rated The
Santa Clause (1994) had less sex and nudity, violence, gore and profanity than the
G-rated The Santa Clause 2 (2002). And R-rated A Time to Kill (1996) had less sex
and violence than the PG-13 rated The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
(2003). An additional finding was that more violence appeared in animated G-rated
movies than in non-animated G-rated movies.
Able Edwards was the first publicly-released feature film shot entirely without
physical sets against a green screen. It was produced with entirely computer-
generated sets wholly-created using CGI. Real actors were then shot against the
green screens. Another 2004 film produced in similar fashion at the same time was
2004 the big-budget Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow with very photo-realistic,
all-CGI backgrounds and live actors. Human actors were completely filmed in front
of a green/blue screen with no background sets at all. Everything except the main
characters was computer-generated. Other 'digital backlot' films included Immortel
(Ad Vitam) (2004) and Sin City (2005).
Pixar's character-oriented, super-hero fantasy adventure animation The Incredibles
was a technologically-advanced feature film, their sixth one. It was the first
computer-generated animation to successfully show believable human figures or
characters, instead of the traditional animal, toy, and creature characters of previous
animations. It was also the first Pixar computer-animated feature film to receive a
PG-rating in the US.
Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 2 (2004) equaled the $200 million mark (for production
costs) set by Titanic (1997).
The innovative documentary film Voices of Iraq (2004) was made by distributing
150 inexpensive, lightweight, digital video-cameras to the people throughout Iraq -
2004 the film's subjects and participants. Over 400 hours of film footage was edited down
to less than 80 minutes, and although presumably unbiased, it presented a fairly
positive view of the US.
At the Golden Raspberry (Razzie) Awards for 2004, actor Ben Stiller was nominated
for Worst Actor for a record five titles in one year - for Along Came Polly (2004),
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004), Dodgeball: A True Underdog
Story (2004), Envy (2004) and Starsky & Hutch (2004).
At age 96, actress Fay Wray died, best known for portraying the first archetypal
scream queen or horror-film heroine - a blonde damsel-in-distress named Ann
Darrow, in the classic film King Kong (1933), that saved RKO from bankruptcy. She
began her career during the silent era (in 1923) and appeared in hundreds of films,
most notably in horror films including Doctor X (1932) and The Vampire Bat (1933)
- her last feature Dragstrip Riot (1958).
Ronald Reagan, the former 40th President of the US (1981-1989), the oldest man
ever elected President, and former Hollywood film and TV actor, known for such
films as Knute Rockne, All American (1940), Kings Row (1942) and Bedtime for
Bonzo (1951), died at the age of 93, due to complications from Alzheimer's disease.
Semi-offensive R-rated comedies, including retooled romantic comedies and
'bromances' (guy-meets-guy romances) containing generous portions of profanity,
sex and nudity, and debauchery, were shown to be popular - and appealing to male
audiences. Two hit comedies in 2005 proved that pushing the boundaries of good
taste were profitable: Wedding Crashers (2005) and Judd Apatow's breakthrough
film The 40 Year-Old Virgin (2005). Apatow also directed Knocked Up (2007) and
Funny People (2009) and served as producer for the successful Anchorman (2004),
Talladega Nights (2006), the genitalia-obsessed Superbad (2007), Forgetting Sarah
Marshall (2008) and the slapstick buddy-comedy Step Brothers (2008). He helped to
foster the burgeoning careers of Steve Carell, Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen.
The action sequel Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle (2003), the first Sony Pictures
film, was also the first feature film to be released on Blu-Ray Disc, a next
generation, high-definition optical disc format pioneered by Sony, providing
increased storage capacity and advanced HD video and audio. Its higher capacity
and performance were expected to sufficiently meet the future demands and
expectations of high definition (HD) movie distribution and personal video
The Family Entertainment and Copyright Act of 2005 was introduced to Congress,
designed to make technology available (legal filtering devices, such as DVD players
provided by the ClearPlay company) to parents that will help shield children from
unwanted violence, sex and profanity in movies. This bill made it legal to alter (or
sanitize) a motion picture to edit out audio and video content that may not suit
minors (i.e., CleanFlicks rents out edited DVDs). In addition, file sharing and movie
piracy (i.e., camcordering films in theaters, pre-releasing pirated copies of
copyrighted films, etc.) would be penalized. The Family Movie Act provision,
championed by US Representative Lamar Smith (Rep., Texas), Chairman of the
House Judiciary Subcommittee's Internet and Intellectual Property Subcommittee,
provided an exemption from copyright and trademark law for skipping and muting
content in a motion picture at the direction of a viewer, or the use of technology to
accomplish the same result. The debate over censorship vs. artistic freedom
intensified. The Hollywood film industry, film studios, and the Directors Guild want
piracy protection, but say that "private content filtering" -- editing out foul language
and objectionable scenes -- is unabashed censorship.
The popularity of the new DVD format (and the start of a new optical disc format
called Blu-Ray) doomed the once-ubiquitous VHS videotape cassette format. By the
end of 2005, DVD sales were more than $22 billion and VHS was slumping badly
but still able to pull in $1.5 billion. At the same time, JVC, the company that
2005 introduced the Video Home System (VHS) format to the US in 1977, announced that
it would no longer make stand-alone videocassette recorders, further making it a
"dead technology." In early 2006, the last major Hollywood motion picture to be
released in the once-ubiquitous VHS videotape cassette format was David
Cronenberg's A History of Violence (2005).
The last feature-length Star Wars film in the franchise, Star Wars: Episode III
Revenge of the Sith, was released, and eventually made approximately $380 million.
Its four-day opening take was a record $158.4 million. It was the first of the films to
receive a PG-13 rating, and was considered too grim, dark, and intense for young
fans. Filmmaker George Lucas was criticized for merchandising toys and other
related products to younger consumers, while denying them the ability to see the
film. The first five Star Wars films made a staggering $9 billion in merchandise
sales -- triple the franchise's box-office sales (of $3.4 billion). Regarding Episodes I-
III, critics denounced the Jar Jar Binks digital character and the poor acting, but the
films were universally praised for their digital film-making and special effects.
Summer box-office was grim for Hollywood - the lowest since 2001, and overall
ticket sales (the average ticket price was estimated to be $6.40) and attendance totals
were both down from the previous year. Many factors were blamed: the rise in home
theater sales, better interactive video games, increasing gas-pump prices, a greater
decrease in time between a film's theatrical release and the sale of the DVD version,
the increase in bootleg DVDs and illegally-downloaded copies, greater competition
from other forms of leisure entertainment, etc. It was suggested that the industry
make better films, provide discounted tickets, make cheaper films (i.e., The March
of the Penguins (2005) cost $8 million to make and earned almost $78 million - the
highest-grossing nature documentary, the second-highest gross for a non-IMAX
documentary), and eliminate various annoyances in movie theatres (i.e.,
commercials, use of cellphones, sticky environments, etc.).
Michael Eisner's 21-year reign as Disney's CEO came to an end, as he was replaced
by company president Robert Iger. Part of the reason for his step-down was due to
2005 controversy over his mis-steps in the last few years, including public feuds with
other Disney executives or board members, low ratings for ABC-TV, bad decision
making, poor box-office results, and other theme park-related failings.
More evidence surfaced that Hollywood and the computer/video games industry
were moving closer together. Steven Spielberg, a gamer himself, agreed to develop
(and executive produce) three original games for Electronic Arts (Los Angeles
2005 branch). Computer games already were showing comparable income to the movie
industry, i.e., the game Halo 2 for the XBox console system sold 2.4 million units in
its first 24 hours of sales and made $125 million in gross receipts - in addition,
Microsoft was in negotiations with Universal and Fox to turn the game into a movie.
DreamWorks' and Rob Marshall's Memoirs of a Geisha (adapted from a novel by
Arthur Golden), a film set in 1930s and 1940s Japan, was the first big-budget
Hollywood film with Asian actors in every leading role. However, the film-makers
2005 received criticism regarding the casting decisions, since three of the major actresses
were not Japanese but Chinese (and Malaysian). The producers and director argued
in response that the casting took into account star power, acting ability, and physical
traits - and the ability to speak English.
Viacom's Paramount Pictures acquired the 11-year-old DreamWorks studio (founded
in 1994 by Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and David Geffen) for
approximately $1.6 billion. The stand-alone studio's demise marked the end of a
2005 Hollywood era, although it had reached a creative peak in 1998-2001 when its most
popular and critically-successful films were released, including Saving Private Ryan
(1998), American Beauty (1999), Gladiator (2000), A Beautiful Mind (2001) - and
Shrek (2001) - there were three consecutive Best Picture winners beginning in 1999.
The year ended with studio executives worried about the overall slump in the
industry, despite some bright spots throughout the year -- every Hollywood studio
could claim at least one $100 million picture. Revenues were down over 5% from
the previous year (the largest year-to-year decline since 1985), and attendance
dropped more than 7% (the lowest figure since 1997). And it was the first year in
almost a decade in which only 17 films made over $100 million. Weekend box-
office gross results beginning in late February slid for a record 19 weeks in a row,
when compared to the corresponding period in 2004.
Wedding Crashers, which earned over $209 million, surpassed There's Something
About Mary (1998) as the top R-rated comedy in two decades. However, 2005 was
predominantly characterized by PG-13 films, which placed 14 of their type in the top
25 moneymakers. PG-13 films accounted for 85% of movie theatre attendance in
2005. There were only two G-rated films and three R-rated films in the top 25 of
2005. The number of PG-13 films has outnumbered the number of PG films ever
since the mid-1990s. Many of these PG-13 films would have been rated R in as little
as five years earlier, due to what has been termed 'ratings creep'.
Peter Jackson's King Kong (2005), costing $207 million in production costs,
2005 surpassed the $200 million mark (not adjusted for inflation) set by Titanic (1997),
and also reached by Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 2 (2004).
The remake of the classic and tragic beauty-and-the-beast love story of the 1933
King Kong film featured a computer-generated Kong. It was remarkable for having
the largest number of special/visual effects shots in a single film, surpassing the
previous records set by Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005), and
Jackson's own trilogy of The Lord of the Rings films. The more than 3,200 final
shots in the film were culled from 3 million feet of live-action footage and 2,510
visual effects shots.
In the fall, there were three mega-blockbusters that rescued Hollywood from a
2005 dismal financial year: they were Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire ($290 million),
The Chronicles of Narnia ($292 million), and King Kong ($218 million).
There was a significant commercial trend in the film industry to release 'unrated'
versions of R-rated and PG 13-rated films on DVD and videocassette, often with
additional racy content that would have undoubtedly changed the original MPAA
ratings of these films.
Director/actor George Clooney's Good Night, and Good Luck, was released. It was a
B/W biopic about legendary radio and CBS television news reporter Edward R.
Murrow, focusing on his challenging attack in the mid 50s on red-baiting Senator
Joseph R. McCarthy and McCarthyism.
Independent films made outside the Hollywood system faced an uphill battle this
2005 year. This was the first year since 1995 that every $100 million hit came from a
Movie mogul brothers Harvey and Bob Weinstein ceased being co-chief executives
at the Disney-owned film production company Miramax, in September of 2005. [In
1993, Disney acquired Miramax for about $80 million - a studio known for creative
and independent film making and production. Miramax was responsible for some of
the most successful films after the merger, including Chicago (2002), Pulp Fiction
2005 (1994), Shakespeare in Love (1998), Good Will Hunting (1998), The English Patient
(1996) and Cold Mountain (2003).] The two Weinsteins, who founded the hugely
successful firm 25 years earlier in 1979, would remain as co-chairmen of Miramax
and continue to make films for Disney through their new film production company,
The Weinstein Co. The Miramax name remained with the film studio owned by
The trend of developing a name-blend for a celebrity super-couple continued with
the prominent media and tabloid obsession over Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie,
dubbed "Brangelina." Their secret real-life pairing was rumored when they co-
starred together in the action film Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005), leading afterwards to
Pitt's separation and divorce from Jennifer Aniston in 2005 after five years of
The world record for the longest on-screen kiss, with an uninterrupted kiss, was
surpassed in the film Kids in America. At the beginning of the end credits, film-
obsessed student Holden Donovan (Gregory Smith) told his girlfriend Charlotte Pratt
(Stephanie Sherrin) that he wanted to recreate the 3-minute and 5-second screen kiss
2005 from the film You're in the Army Now (1941) between Jane Wyman and Regis
Toomey, the previous record-holder. Charlotte responded positively to meet his
"challenge" and "rewrite a little bit of film history" - she removed Holden's glasses
and began the 6-minute kiss with the command: "ACTION," to the tune of Brother
Tyler Perry's Diary of a Mad Black Woman (2005) was his first theatrical piece
adapted for the big screen. His enormously-successful African-American gospel
stage plays had toured regularly (from 2000-2004), playing to the interests and
concerns of his largely black, grass-roots middle-class audiences, by mixing
2005 Christian values into crowd-pleasing, mass-appeal comedies. Typical of his filmed
works, it schizophrenically showcased incongruous genres in haphazard, zany
fashion -- including slapstick comedy, cheap sit-com-like soap opera, serious drama,
mean-spirited farce, sappy romance, God-talk, violence, and more. In this film,
Perry served as its writer, producer, composer, and triple-role actor -- most notably
as Madea, a gun-toting, tough-talking Southern granny-matriarch (Perry in drag in a
house-dress, padded fat suit with balloon-breasts, and cheap gray-haired wig). The
popular and brash character resurfaced in the next year's Madea's Family Reunion
(2006) and other future films.
Horror films became one of the most lucrative genre franchises, due to the fact that
they could be cheaply made, and were capable of attracting large audiences. For
example, Saw (2004), Hostel (2005), and Saw II (2005) did tremendous box-office
business, compared to their budget costs. A so-called "torture-porn" trend was
inaugurated by these films and others, including Wolf Creek (2005, Aust.), The
Devil's Rejects (2005), and Turistas (2006). Horror franchises of this kind could be
extended almost indefinitely, i.e., six Saw films (from 2004-2009), two Hostel films
(2005 and 2007), four Scary Movie spoofs (from 2000-2006), etc.
2000s - Part 2
Year Event and Significance
The first 9/11 related feature film from Hollywood, on the 5th year anniversary, was
released in April. It was Paul Greengrass' and Universal's real-time drama United 93.
It was one of filmdom's quickest responses to a disaster, compared to the 7-year gap
between the start of the Vietnam War and the release of The Green Berets (1968),
the 7 to 9-year gap between the first reported AIDS death and the release of the
comedy Casual Sex? (1988) - the first studio film mentioning the risks of AIDS
(from having casual sex) and Longtime Companion (1990), the 8-year gap between
2006 the first Persian Gulf War and the release of Three Kings (1999), the 9-year gap
between Princess Diana's tragic death in 1997 and the controversy surrounding it
regarding the British royal family in The Queen (2006), and the 10-year gap between
the beginning of Rwandan intertribal genocide and the release of Hotel Rwanda
(2004). Another 9/11 related film was Paramount's and Oliver Stone's World Trade
Center that opened in late summer, and told the story of two Port Authority cops
(Nicolas Cage and Michael Pena) who were among the last rescue workers to be
pulled from the rubble.
The Walt Disney Co. bought longtime partner Pixar Animation Studios Inc. for $7.4
billion in stock, after a twelve year relationship in which Disney co-financed and
distributed Pixar's animated films and split the profits (their previous deal would
expire in June 2006 after Pixar delivered Cars (2006)).
Maverick film-maker Robert Altman died at the age of 81 in late 2006, with films
stretching from the early 1950s to the mid-2000s. His works were trademarked by
large ensemble casts and overlapping, inter-weaving sequences and dialogue, as
evidenced in Nashville (1975) and The Player (1992). Other notable films included
M*A*S*H (1970), McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971), Short Cuts (1993), and Gosford
Park (2001). Although he received five Oscar nominations for Best Director (from
1970 to 2001), and one for Best Picture (Gosford Park (2001)), he never won an
Suffering from thyroid cancer, influential film-critic and reviewer Roger Ebert made
his final appearance in the summer of 2006 on his Disney-produced weekly show
Ebert & Roeper, co-hosted with another Chicago-based reviewer Richard Roeper
since 2000. [Roeper had permanently joined Ebert on the show in 2000 after original
co-host Gene Siskel died in 1999.] After Ebert dropped out due to health issues, the
show was again renamed At the Movies With Ebert & Roeper in 2007. Roeper co-
hosted with a series of celebrity guest hosts, including Jay Leno, Kevin Smith and
John Mellencamp. Eventually, Chicago Tribune film critic Michael Phillips became
the permanent fill-in for Ebert. The show continued until late summer 2008, when
another contract dispute occurred, and Roeper and Ebert became no longer
associated with the show. At the Movies was relaunched by Disney in the fall of
2008, featuring Ben Lyons (son of film critic Jeffrey Lyons) and Ben Mankiewicz as
the new hosts.
During the awards season leading up to the Oscars in early March of 2006, director
Ang Lee's western cowboy love story Brokeback Mountain (2005) became the most
honored movie in cinematic history, noted for its oft-quoted line: "I wish I knew
how to quit you" - referred to its gay-themed content. After an intense publicity
campaign, it was regarded as a groundbreaking 'gay' love story of two cowboys that
was reaching mainstream audiences and changing the way Hollywood would forever
portray gay characters - it also raised consciousness about gay rights. Before the
Oscar awards, it also had more Best Picture and Director wins than previous Oscar
winners Schindler's List (1993) and Titanic (1997) combined. Just to name a few,
2006 the heavily-favored Brokeback won various awards at the Golden Globes, the British
Academy (BAFTA), the Producers, Directors and Screen Actors Guilds, the Writers
Guild of America, the NY Film Critic's Circle, the LA Film Critics Association, the
National Board of Review, and the Independent Spirit Awards. Its eight Academy
Award nominations resulted in three Oscar wins: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best
Original Score, and Best Director. In a major upset, it lost the Best Picture race to
the racial drama underdog Crash. It was theorized that Academy voters (mostly
older and urban-dwelling) were uncomfortable with its gay themes, and didn't match
the film's demographics (Crash's multi-charactered story was set in Los Angeles
during a 36-hour period).
Al Gore's film about global warming titled An Inconvenient Truth grossed $24.1
million - setting a record as the third-highest grossing non-IMAX/concert political
2006 documentary ever made. It was nominated for two Oscars and won both: Best
Original Song ("I Need to Wake Up" by Melissa Etheridge), and Best Documentary
Director Irwin Winkler's R-rated war drama Home of the Brave, a story of four
American soldiers (Samuel L. Jackson, Jessica Biel, Brian Presley, and 50 Cent) on
their last mission in Iraq when they were ambushed. Subsequently, they suffered
both physical and emotional trauma upon readjustment to civilian life in Spokane,
Washington. It was the first major Hollywood feature film to depict returning
soldiers from the war in Iraq. Made on a budget of $12 million, the film was a
serious flop, earning only about $500,000 (worldwide), and only $52,000
domestically. It recouped some of its losses from the sale of DVDs, at $4.7 million.
Electronic Arts released The Godfather: The Game, a licensed, mature-rated
action/adventure video game inspired by the all-time classic Francis Ford Coppola
cinematic masterpiece The Godfather (1972), in which the game-player takes the
role of a young man just entering the Corleone family who must work his way to the
top, in the world of 1940s New York City. Much of the character likenesses and
dialogue from the film were transferred to the game, so all of the lead characters
were "voiced" by the actors from the film (except for Al Pacino's voice as Michael
Corleone), including a now-deceased Marlon Brando in the role of Don Vito
Corleone. Electronic Arts obtained the video game rights to The Godfather from
Paramount, which owned the rights to the film property. The game received positive
reviews, despite director Coppola's disdain for the game on principle upon its
announcement before production in early 2005.
The traditional model of theatrical movie distribution was being challenged with a
triple-release strategy -- normally, the progression went from theatres, to hotels, to
2006 in-flight showings, to DVD a few months later. Director Steven Soderbergh's
experimental, independent, R-rated, 73 minute film Bubble (2005), shot on hi-
definition video, was the first motion picture released in theatres, while
simultaneously available on pay-per-view cable channel HDNet and on DVD (four
days later). Likewise, the dramatic comedy 10 Items or Less (2006), the first feature
film released by actor/producer Morgan Freeman's joint-venture broadband
entertainment service called ClickStar, was the first film in film history to debut in
theatres and then become legally and simultaneously available via broadband within
two weeks of national theatrical release.
Sony's new James Bond star -- 37-year old British actor Daniel Craig was appointed
to succeed Pierce Brosnan in 2005 as the 6th James Bond. He appeared in the
franchise's highly-successful 21st film (directed by Martin Campbell), a $100-
million-plus caper titled Casino Royale -- the title of the first Bond book that Ian
Fleming wrote. He was the first blonde Bond. Craig's appearance marked a
resurgence or rebirth for the long-running franchise, as a rugged anti-hero. Another
new star, Brandon Routh, a 'new' Superman character, starred in Bryan Singer's
Superman Returns (2006).
Director Bryan Singer's and Warners' Superman Returns (2006) became the world's
first live-action Hollywood feature with selected sequences (about 20 minutes)
converted from 2D to IMAX 3D. With a rumored $270M budget (and only $200M
2006 in domestic returns), it became one of the biggest budgeted flops despite positive
reviews and audience reaction. Part of the blockbuster's massive budget was because
of the many red-lighted Superman Returns projects with many different scripts,
directors and stars (Kevin Smith, Nicolas Cage), etc.
70% of teens said that they get their information about sex from the media - mostly
The Disney Channel's TV movie High School Musical was their most successful
original movie ever produced. The film's soundtrack was the best-selling album in
the United States for the year. The plot combined elements of Grease and Romeo
2006 and Juliet in its tale of two high school junior sweethearts (portrayed by Zac Efron
and Vanessa Hudgens) who first met during vacation. They were brought together
again when they both won lead parts in the high school musical, but trouble brewed
since they were from rival cliques.
John Cameron Mitchell's Shortbus was screened both at the Cannes Film Festival,
and at the Toronto International Film Festival - where it was the "most explicit" or
2006 sexually-graphic film ever screened; it also had the widest release of any film
showing unsimulated sex. It was screened in theaters nationwide, including
mainstream cinemas and multiplexes in malls.
The first YouTube video was uploaded in late April of 2005 -- entitled Me at the Zoo
-- but the site didn't officially launch until November 2005. By mid-2006 (in its first
full year of service), over 100 million videos were viewed daily on YouTube.com,
and it became the most prominent and popular participatory site for uploading,
viewing, and sharing self-produced video clips. Anyone could produce and distribute
2006 their own video-media. However, many of them were short clips from copyrighted
movies despite their being officially banned by YouTube's terms of service. In late
2006, YouTube was acquired by Google for $1.65 billion (stock). More and more,
consumers were viewing video content from online sources, such as YouTube, and
relative newcomers Hulu.com, Amazon.com and Apple's iTunes - all examples of
new-media revenue streams.
These years promised to offer more franchise film sequels (some still being titled) -
a lucrative part of a studio's business (when coupled with theatrical revenues, DVD
sales, and cross-promotions), such as Mission: Impossible III (2006) (the third film
in the series since 1996), X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) (originally titled X3, the
third film in the series since 2000), The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)
(the third film in the series since 2001), Batman Begins (2005) (the fifth non-
animated feature film since 1989), and Superman Returns (2006) (the fifth film in
the series since 1978).
2007 franchise releases included: Spider-Man 3 (2007) (the third film in the series
since 2002), Shrek 3 (2007) (the third film in the series since 2001), The Pirates of
the Caribbean 3: At World's End (2007) (the third film in the series since 2003),
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007) (the fifth film in the series since
2001), the third film in the 'Bourne' trilogy - The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) (the first
two were released in 2002 and 2004), The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
(2007) (the second in the 7-part Narnia series that began in 2005), Ocean's Thirteen
The third film in the series, Mission: Impossible III failed to be the action-thriller
blockbuster that it was destined to be - it had a $47.7 million opening weekend at
U.S. theaters, below the $65 million to $70 million that had been projected by some
box office trackers. Speculation arose that this was, in part, due to cocky mega-star
Tom Cruise's erratic behavior and off-screen public relations disasters, evidenced on
NBC's Today Show with Matt Lauer, and the couch-jumping incident on the Oprah
Winfrey Show. His strident Scientology advocacy and his denouncements in May
2005 against Brooke Shields regarding her use of anti-depressants for post-partum
depression were also the focus of criticisms. At one time, 44 year-old Cruise was the
industry's most successful and best-paid actor, but in August was dropped by parent
company Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone and by his film studio, Paramount
Pictures for his "unacceptable conduct" - after a 14 year production pact.
In response to strong demand, LucasFilms finally released the long-awaited release
2006 of the unedited, uncut, and original theatrical versions of the original Star Wars
trilogy on DVD (sold for the first-time as stand-alone films).
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006) broke many records with new
benchmarks - it had the largest opening weekend (of three days) ever at $135.6M,
surpassing the previous all-time record holders: Spider-Man (2002) which took in
$114.8 million in its first weekend, and Spider-Man 2 (2004) which took in $115.8
million in its opening weekend. Dead Man's Chest also took in $55.8 million on its
first day (Friday) to beat the previous single-day record of $50 million, set the
2006 previous year by Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith (2005). With $44.7
million on its second day (Saturday), Dead Man's Chest also became the first movie
to top $100 million in just two days. It also reached $200M and $300M in grosses
faster than any film in history (8 and 16 days respectively). And on August 20, it
became the seventh film ever to cross $400M at the domestic box office.
Spectacularly, it was only the third movie in history to hit the billion dollar mark
worldwide (at $1,065,300,000).
The biggest box-office films of the years were in several basic categories: CGI
animations (Cars, Ice Age: The Meltdown, Over the Hedge, and Happy Feet -
another penguin film), comedy films often featuring marquee comedians (Borat:
Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, The
Break-Up, Talladega Nights, The Devil Wears Prada, and Click), films based on
international franchises (Casino Royale, The Da Vinci Code), and a few remarkable
sequels (X-Men: The Last Stand, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, and
Superman Returns). By the end of the year, Hollywood grossed $9.1 billion
domestically (up 3% over the previous year), and $14.6 billion worldwide (up 11%
over the previous year).
Signaling a future trend, both Apple and Amazon began offering full-length, on-
demand movies on their websites.
The first of two controversial yet strangely popular mockumentary comedies was
released by Sacha Baron Cohen: Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make
Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006) - about a fictitious anti-Semitic, sexist
and racist Kazakh reporter, who traveled through the US and interacted with
Americans in unscripted situations. His follow-up film was Bruno (2009) - about a
flamboyantly gay Austrian fashion journalist.
It was announced that actress Reese Witherspoon would attain the highest salary for
a female for one film, becoming the highest paid actress of all time, for her $29
2006 million deal to star/produce the horror thriller Our Family Trouble (2011). Her
salary beat the previous record of $25 million held by Julia Roberts for Mona Lisa
The first pirated HD (high-definition) DVD download of a movie, available from the
BitTorrent network as a 19.6 GB .evo file, was director Joss Whedon's debut feature
film Serenity (2005), a space western. It was Universal's first film to be released on
HD-DVD (High Definition DVD), available in mid-April 2006, and one of the first
films to be released in this format. This marked the beginning of widespread HD-
Hollywood experienced its first-ever $4 billion (North American box-office)
summer -- six of the top 10 releases in the summer were sequels: Spider-Man 3,
Shrek the Third, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, Harry Potter and the
Order of the Phoenix, The Bourne Ultimatum and Live Free or Die Hard.
Director Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 3 set the record for the biggest domestic opening
weekend in box-office history, at $151.1 million. The film also had the biggest or
highest opening-day, 24-hour gross of all time, at $59.8 million, on May 4, 2007.
The film went on to top the year's domestic box-office at $336.5 million.
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End opened at 4,362 theaters on its opening
weekend - an all-time record. The film also set the record as the most expensive film
ever made (not adjusted for inflation), setting a new bar at $300 million budgeted for
Beowulf, a Robert Zemeckis-directed film that was an adaptation of the Old English
epic poem, used advanced motion-capture technology to transform live action into
digital animation. This technique was first used in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the
Rings: The Two Towers (2002) for the character of Gollum, and in Zemeckis' own
The Polar Express (2004). The film, made with a mega-budget of $150 million, was
released simultaneously in standard 2-D and non-Imax 3D versions -- with the
biggest 3-D rollout of any film in history. It opened on almost 1,000 digital 3-D
screens and in 90 IMAX theaters.
From Russia With Love (1963, UK) became the first James Bond film to be
broadcast on BBC-TV.
At the Golden Raspberry (Razzie) Awards in 2007, Eddie Murphy received a single-
year record five nominations for one film: Norbit (2007): three acting nominations
(one for each character he played: Norbit, Mr. Wong, and Rasputia), one for Worst
Couple (for his multiple characters again) and one for Worst Screenplay. He won
three Razzies - for his acting roles (Worst Actor, Worst Supporting Actor, Worst
The low-budget teen comedy Superbad topped the US box-office charts with a $33
2007 million opening weekend take, and went on to become the highest domestic grossing
high school comedy of all time.
2007 Director Adam Rifkin's fictional feature film titled Look, with interweaving story-
lines, was the first U.S. mainstream movie to depict events solely through the "eyes"
and point-of-view of surveillance devices and video cameras (including ATM
cameras and robot security cameras) found in shopping malls, dressing rooms,
school parking lots, ATM machines, grocery stores, police cars, elevators, offices,
storage rooms and on cell phones.
In late February of 2007, Netflix (a subscription service launched in September
1999) announced the delivery of its billionth DVD. It took the DVD rental company
2007 about seven and a half years to reach that milestone. Netflix claimed it was less time
than it took McDonald's to sell one billion hamburgers. In April of 2009, only a little
over two years later, it again announced its 2 billionth DVD delivery.
The MPAA, formed in 1922, had long warred with filmmakers and studios over the
content of films and its voluntary ratings system. Everything came to head with
director/producer Kirby Dick's documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated (2006),
which demonstrated how difficult it was to learn who served on the MPAA board
and how it made ratings decisions. A film's rating could often seriously impact a
film's success, and often dictated that a filmmaker's vision had to be edited or
revised in order to avoid an NC-17 rating. The MPAA met with independent
filmmakers and studio executives at the Sundance Film Festival, and discussed
changes and revisions that the organization intended to make - for example, make
ratings rules and regulations public, describe the standards for each rating and the
appeals process, reveal more about the board's members, and allow a filmmaker to
cite scenes in another film when appealing a harsh rating.
The highest-grossing movie series of all-time was the Harry Potter films, five films
from 2001 to 2007, grossing $4.69 billion (worldwide). Next closest were the 21
Bond films, beginning with Dr. No (1962) through Casino Royale (2006), grossing
$4.355 billion (worldwide).
Director/writer Charles Burnett's Killer of Sheep (1977), a low-budget film (a UCLA
thesis project) shot on location in the ghetto Watts area of Los Angeles in the mid-
1970s, finally received an official international and theatrical release after being
restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive. Shown only sporadically, it
received the Critics' Award at the 1981 Berlin International Film Festival, and was
named to the Library of Congress' National Film Registry in 1990.
At the 2008 Golden Raspberry (Razzie) Awards, the laughably gory horror film I
Know Who Killed Me (2007), starring Lindsay Lohan, had a record 9 Razzie
nominations - with 8 wins, including Worst Picture - a new record! It surpassed the
previous two record-holders for the most Razzie Award "wins" by one film in a
single year -- Showgirls (1995) with 7 wins (out of 13 nominations), and Battlefield
2007 Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000 (2000) with 7 wins (out of 8 nominations). It was
honored as Worst Picture, Worst Actress (two wins for Lindsay Lohan as look-alikes
Aubrey Fleming and Dakota Moss), Worst Director (Chris Sivertson), Worst Excuse
for a Horror Movie, Worst Remake or Rip-Off, Worst Screen Couple (Lindsay
Lohan again twice), and Worst Screenplay. Only one nomination failed to win:
Worst Supporting Actress (Julia Ormond).
The first broadband movie ever distributed by a major studio was Paramount's
prankster sequel Jackass 2.5, which was available for online viewing to U.S.
2007 residents in late December of 2007 (for two weeks) before the DVD was released,
through a teaming up of Blockbuster and Viacom. It marked a new age of online-
first movie distribution.
Two influential, inspiring art-house filmmakers, whose careers spanned at least four
2007 decades, both died on the same day, July 30, 2007. They were Swedish director
Ingmar Bergman, a director with over 50 feature films, including landmark classics
such as The Seventh Seal (1957), Wild Strawberries (1957), Persona (1966), Cries
and Whispers (1972), and Fanny and Alexander (1982). The second was Italian
Michelangelo Antonioni, who was credited with masterpieces such as L'Avventura
(1960), La Notte (1961), L'Eclisse (1962), Blow-Up (1966), and The Passenger
The film magazine Premiere, which first began publishing in the US in the pre-
Internet world of 1987, issued its final print publication with its April 2007 issue.
In 2007, pioneering comedian Will Ferrell created a streaming video comedy
website, www.FunnyOrDie.com, in which he provided for the uploading of short
films by professionals and other users, beginning with its first video, The Landlord.
2007 ("Funny or Die" referred to the interactive voting feature of the site -- users would
vote a video as either "funny" or not.) The site announced a partnership with HBO in
mid-2008, specifying that the site would develop at least 10 half-hour episodes for
HBO for viewing.
The powerful Romanian film 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007) by writer-
director Cristian Mungiu won the Palme d'Or at the 60th Cannes Film Festival in
2007 (it beat No Country for Old Men and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly), and
2007 was nominated for a Golden Globe Award as Best Foreign Language Film. It was
better known as the Romanian Abortion Film - its title referred to the length of the
unwanted pregnancy of the roommate of Otilia (Anamaria Marinca), who helped her
clueless friend Gabita (Laura Vasiliu) obtain an illegal, black-market abortion.
Forbes reported that 23 year-old actress Keira Knightley became the second highest-
paid Hollywood actress with earnings of $32 million in 2007 for her roles in Pirates
of the Caribbean: At World's End and Atonement, behind Cameron Diaz with
2008 earnings of $50 million for her roles in Shrek and What Happens in Vegas. Will
Smith was the highest-paid Hollywood actor earning $80 million, while second
place went to Johnny Depp with earnings of $72 million. Will Smith was the first
actor to have eight straight movies take in more than $100 million at the box office.
The Writer's Guild of America (WGA) went on strike in early November after a
stalemate in negotiations occurred with the Alliance of Motion Picture and
Television Producers (AMPTP). Issues included increased compensation for the film
2007- and TV writers for DVD residuals and compensation for "new media" distribution
2008 (content distributed through emerging digital technologies, such as the Internet,
including downloads, streaming, smart phones, and video on demand, etc.). When
the 3-month strike ended in mid-February 2008, it was estimated that it resulted in a
total loss of $2.5 billion show-business.
As a result of the Disney's Channel wildly popular and wholesome telepic High
School Musical (2006) that was popular with a new demographic of 'tweens' or
2008 'tweenagers' (early teens between childhood and pubescence), a spinoff was released
titled High School Musical 3: Senior Year - the first 'High School Musical' to open
Actor Will Smith scored his eighth straight $100 million hit movie (his fifth for a
2008 July 4th release), with the release of Hancock. He became the only actor in history to
have eight consecutive films gross over $100 million in the domestic box office.
Jada Pinkett-Smith had the most consecutive $100 million gross movies for an
actress: 4 films. Her seven $100+ million films included: The Nutty Professor
2008 (1996), Scream 2 (1997), The Matrix Reloaded (2003), The Matrix Revolutions
(2003), Collateral (2004), Madagascar (2005), and Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa
Established film-maker, writer/director Joss Whedon's independent short film Dr.
Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, a supervillain musical, was released exclusively for
online viewing, in three 14-minute episodes or segments. The inexpensive short
online film was conceived and produced during the writer's strike. After debuting in
2008 July of 2008, it became a cult hit -- and the series reached # 1 on the iTunes' video
chart, with 2.2 million downloads a week. When it was successful, an iTunes
soundtrack (of 14 songs), CD and DVD were also created and made available. This
development was the next evolutionary step from Will Ferrell's pioneering "Funny
or Die".com site established the previous year.
28 year-old Heath Ledger, found dead of a drug overdose in late January 2008, was
2008 the second performer to win a posthumous acting Oscar, for his Best Supporting role
as The Joker in The Dark Knight.
The Dark Knight made box office records in its first weekend, making it the biggest
three-day opening weekend of all time with $158 million, beating the previous year's
Spider-Man 3 (2007) at $151 million. The movie set a new record for the biggest
opening day gross at the box office with $66.4 million. It also had the biggest
number of opening theaters when it appeared on 4,336 screens, as well as setting a
new mark for money earned from midnight showings when it grossed $18.5 million.
2008 Eventually, The Dark Knight succeeded in attaining worldwide grosses of just over
$1 billion. Most impressively, The Dark Knight became only the second movie in
history to break the $500 million barrier in domestic box-office (at $533 million),
the first being James Cameron's Titanic (1997) with a domestic gross of $601
million. And the latest 'Batman' film hit the $500 million mark in just over 6 weeks
(45 days) -- less than half the time it took Titanic to reach the same milestone (at 98
days). The Dark Knight became the decade's top-grossing film (domestic),
supplanting Shrek 2 (2004) at $441 million.
According to the top 100 Celebrity List on Forbes, film producer Jerry
Bruckheimer's earnings of $145 million for the year put him in 4th place, one step
2008 ahead of Steven Spielberg (at $130 million). The prolific producer's ranking was
partially due to Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007), the third and final
installment in the series that was the top-grossing movie in 2007.
With the recessionary decline of revenue by newspapers and magazines, full-time
professional film reviewers and columnists (at Time, Newsweek, The LA Times,
Newsday, and The Village Voice, plus others) lost their positions, as the activity of
2008 film criticism moved from print form to online. In all, almost 30 reviewers left, were
bought out, contracted, or fired during a two year period. That meant the ascendancy
and explosion of online film criticism (and personal opinion) on blogs, Amazon,
Metacritic, Rotten Tomatoes, and other sites.
Summer of 2008 (defined as the first Friday in May through Labor Day Weekend)
was a record-setting, box-office season, with $4.2 billion in US box-office. Super-
heroes contributed about 30% of the $4.2 billion gross. The top five films of the
entire year, with plots about comic-book and other super-heroes or other-worldly
2008 figures, were all released in the summer. They included: The Dark Knight (at $533.3
million) (opening in July, 2008), Iron Man (at $318.4 million) (opening in May,
2008), Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (at $317.1 million)
(opening in May, 2008), Hancock (at $228 million) (opening in July, 2008), and
WALL*E (at $224 million) (opening in June, 2008).
Director Spike Lee's Miracle at St. Anna was the first Hollywood feature film about
2008 African-American soldiers (portrayed by four black actors) who fought during
World War II in the US Army (the all-black 92nd Infantry Division of Buffalo
Soldiers) in the European theater.
The romantic comedy Sex and the City (2008), based upon HBO's 1998-2004 cable
2008 TV series, was the biggest 'chick flick' on record at $153 million (domestic) and
$415 million (worldwide).
High School Musical 3: Senior Year (2008) broke the U.S. record for the highest-
2008 scoring musical opening (at $42 million domestic), due mostly to its 75% female
The gory series of Saw films, including Saw (2004), Saw II (2005), Saw III (2006),
Saw IV (2007), and Saw V (2008), surpassed the Friday the 13th series of 11 films
2008 (with a total domestic gross of $315.6 million), as the highest-grossing horror series
in film history, at $342.5 million (domestic). This would change, however, in the
next year, with the release of Friday the 13th (2009).
Female director Catherine Hardwicke's vampire romance Twilight (2008) earned
$70.6 million in its opening weekend box-office, breaking the record for the biggest
opening for a female director, previously held by Mimi Leder for Deep Impact
(1998) at $41.1 million. At the time, it was the highest-grossing film by a female
director, at $193 million (domestic) and $385 million (worldwide), soon to be
suprassed by its own sequel The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009), with $143
million in its opening weekend, and grossing $293 million (domestic) and $703
million (worldwide). The success of the Twilight films was attributable to the vastly
female audiences that attended the showings. Catherine Hardwicke became the only
female director to launch a successful franchise - so far. Demographically, 75
percent of the movie‟s audience were female - and half were under 25, indicating
that box-office success was due to this new fan-girl contingent of young "tweens".
The 22nd official Bond film Quantum of Solace (2008) reached the $100 million
mark faster than any other film in the 47 year-old 007 franchise - in only 9 days.
(Die Another Day (2002) took 10 days to reach $100 million.) With its opening
2008 weekend of $67.5 million (domestic), it also shattered the previous best opening in
the Bond franchise held by Die Another Day (2002) at $47.1 million. Quantum of
Solace became the highest-grossing (domestic) Bond film ever at $168.3 million,
besting Casino Royale (2006) at $167.4 million.
Waltz with Bashir (2008, Israel) was the first animated film to be nominated in the
Best Foreign Film Oscar category. Functioning partially as an oral-history
documentary, the introspective, dream-like anti-war polemic was a confessional
account of director Ari Folman's devastating and traumatic experience as a young
2008 Israeli soldier during his country's 1982 invasion of Lebanon, and its massacre of
Palestinian refugees. It took two years to animate, and was completed by a team of
artists who based their drawings on staged and videotaped interviews. The results
were thick-lined, near-monochromatic animated images frequently seen in strange
20th Century Fox announced that it would produce a sequel to its hit film Wall
Street (1987), with both Oliver Stone back as director and Best Actor-winning
Michael Douglas reprising his role as greedy Gordon Gekko. It was speculated it
2008 would be titled Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps (2010). The announcement
occurred in October of 2008 during the country's major financial crisis, a week after
the Dow suffered its worst weekly drop ever - a five-day 1,874-point decline (or
18% of its value), ending at a new five-year low of 8,451.19.
From 1986 to 2008, actor Tom Cruise appeared in the most $100 million dollar-
2008 grossing films (15 blockbusters), making him the most 'over-paid' actor in big-
budget movies. [Top Gun (1986), Rain Main (1988), A Few Good Men (1992), The
Firm (1993), Interview with the Vampire (1994), Mission Impossible (1996), Jerry
Maguire (1996), Mission: Impossible II (2000), Vanilla Sky (2001), Minority Report
(2002), The Last Samurai (2003), Collateral (2004), War of the Worlds (2005),
Mission: Impossible III (2006), and Valkyrie (2008).]
DreamWorks, which had been acquired by Viacom's Paramount in 2005, ended its
troubled 2 1/2 year partnership with the studio in late 2008. A few months later in
2008- early 2009, DreamWorks realized its intentions to reinvent itself as an independent
2009 company. It signed a long-term, 30-picture distribution deal with the Disney
Company for five-years. Future films would be released by Disney's Touchstone
The DreamWorks sci-fi spoof of 50s monster movies, Monsters vs. Aliens was the
first computer-animated feature film to be shot directly in stereoscopic 3-D --
dubbed the Ultimate 3-D. Previously, 3-D CGI films were made in a non 3-D
2009 version and then dimensionalized. Other 3-D computer animated films would also
debut in the new format: 20th Century Fox's and James Cameron's Avatar (2009),
Fox's Ice Age 3 (2009), Disney's motion-capture A Christmas Carol (2009), and
Pixar's Toy Story 3 (2010).
Director Patrick Lussier's 100% live-action film My Bloody Valentine 3-D was the
2009 first R-rated film to be projected in Real D technology. It was a remake of the 1981
slasher film of the same name.
The reimagined or rebooted Friday the 13th, a remake of the original 1980 film of
the same name, became the slasher/horror film with the largest weekend debut on
record, at about $41 million, besting the previous record holder The Grudge (2004)
with $39 million and Freddy vs. Jason (2003) at $36.4 million.
The surprise hit comedy The Hangover (2009), was the fastest R-rated youth
comedy to reach the $200 million mark (it took 30 days). Bucking the trend of big-
2009 name stars ensuring success, it featured a trio of unknowns (Zach Galifianakis, Ed
Helms and Bradley Cooper). It became the top-grossing (domestic) R-rated youth
comedy, earning $277 million.
The Friday the 13th series of horror films regained its prominence as the highest-
grossing horror film series, with the release of Friday the 13th (2009), surpassing the
Saw franchise of 6 films, the previous record holder. The latest Saw film (Saw VI
2009 (2009)) took in $27.7 million, giving the Saw franchise a grand total of $370.2
million by the year 2009. The total domestic gross for the 12 Friday the 13th films
was $380.6 million, boosted by the $65 million box-office gross for Friday the 13th
The latest movie gimmick was the D-Box, a vibrating movie theater chair, invented
by a Montreal-based company. The first major theatrical release to use the system
was Universal's Fast & Furious, with the Motion-Code technology written into it.
Chairs were installed in LA's Grauman's Chinese Theatre, and in a theater in
Surprise, Arizona, and the enhanced seating was available for a $5 surcharge. The
chair would vibrate, move, lean, and shake based upon action on the screen.
Disney's and Robert Zemeckis' 3-D A Christmas Carol (2009) was an adaptation of
Dickens' 1843 classic story that was told using "performance capture," in which Jim
Carrey played multiple roles, including old miser Scrooge (at different stages of his
life) and the three Christmas ghosts; it was released in both Disney Digital 3-D and
in IMAX 3-D (it was the first Disney animated film released in this format).
Performance capture-advocate Robert Zemeckis had previously experimented with
the technology in his own The Polar Express (2004) and Beowulf (2007), and
extensively used the technique in this film. It was Zemeckis' first film with Disney
since Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988).
Hollywood studios realized that they could leverage the popularity of social
networking sites (such as Facebook and Twitter) to market films, encourage positive
word-of-mouth, raise awareness and stimulate ticket sales. Warner Bros. and
director Spike Jonze's Where the Wild Things Are (2009), adapted from Maurice
Sendak's classic children's tale, had more than 1.5 million devotees on its Facebook
2009 page as it was first debuting in theatres. The movie's website also offered an iPhone
app. Millions of Facebook fans also signed on to be followers of the Twilight sequel,
The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009), and an official Twitter page was also
established for the film. The first screening of director Quentin Tarantino's
Inglourious Basterds (2009) from Universal Pictures at the annual Comicon
convention in San Diego was packed by people who won admission via Twitter.
The breakout independent horror film hit of the year, Paranormal Activity was
budgeted at only $15,000 and filmed in 2007 in only ten days. It was first shown in
limited release, in college towns at midnight shows. The studio launched a campaign
using the Eventful feature developed by a San Diego company known for promoting
concerts. With the Internet feature called "Demand It," Paramount asked fans and
would-be watchers to help determine the film's fate and see if it warranted a
potential wide-release. When one million frenzied fans demanded to see it, the film
2009 was expanded to 160 screens, and grossed $7.9 million in box-office revenue,
breaking the record for highest grossing weekend ever for a film playing in less than
200 theaters. It eventually made estimated earnings of $107.9 million (to date), an
almost 720K% return on investment. [In comparison, ten years earlier, The Blair
Witch Project (1999) was budgeted at $65,000, and made earnings of $140 million,
only 215K% return on investment.] Part of the reason for the film's financial success
was a grassroots Internet campaign that included a "Tweet Your Scream" promotion
using social-networking site Twitter.
100+ year-old Portuguese auteur director Manoel de Oliveira released his 15th
feature of the 21st century - a doomed romance entitled Eccentricities of a Blonde-
2009 haired Girl (2009). Reportedly, since the decade's start in 2001, Oliveira was the
oldest movie director still making films. This was undoubtedly the first film made by
a hundred year-old director.
In director Zack Snyder's Watchmen (2009), a filmed adaptation of Alan Moore's
graphic novel (a 12-issue publication by DC Comics between 1986 and 1987), the
photo-realistic, all-CGI character of the all-powerful, blue-glowing "atomized"
scientist Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup) was created with the process of motion
capture. Dr. Manhattan's character appeared in approximately 38 minutes of the
entire film. Crudup wore a specially-designed motion capture suit covered with
pattern markers and face markers - he was filmed with two to four HD "witness"
cameras (in addition to the film's master camera) to capture his overall full-body
movements and facial expressions. All the cameras were synced so animators could
then triangulate Crudup's performance in-frame. The number of black facial markers
on the suit was a record 165 spot points, allowing the animators to track his
expressions through video and then use that data as a jumping-off point to hand-
animate Manhattan's face. Crudup's suit was also equipped with 2500 LEDs to create
Manhattan's diffuse blue glow.
The Twilight Saga: New Moon, the werewolves/vampire romance sequel following
Twilight (2008) and based upon Stephanie Meyer's teenage vampire books, claimed
the North American box-office record for the biggest single-day and opening-day
grosses at almost $72.7 million, besting the previous title holder, the Batman sequel
The Dark Knight (2008) with about $67 million. It also became the third-biggest
opening weekend on record in Hollywood history at $142.8 million, behind the The
Dark Knight (2008) at $158.4 million, and Spider-Man 3 (2007) at $151.1 million,
ousting Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006) from the third spot with
$135.6 million. It also scored the biggest opening two-day gross ever (at $115.9
million for Friday-Saturday), edging The Dark Knight's $114.8 million start, and the
biggest midnight showing ever (at $26.3 million). Most accounts attributed the
record-breaking hit to its 80 percent female audience.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the highest grossing actress of
the 2000s decade was Emma Watson, for her six live-action Harry Potter films
(2001-2009), which earned $1.7 billion (domestic), or $5.4 billion (worldwide) - or
roughly $900 million per film (worldwide). Likewise, her lead co-star Daniel
Radcliffe was the highest average-grossing box-office star in a leading role in the
decade, averaging about $285 million (domestic) per film.
The decade of the 2000s saw advancements in 3D and an explosion of releases of
both 3-D films and IMAX films. And with many more theatres converted to the 3D
format, that meant increased demand and bookings (and ticket prices) for 3D films.
Older films like The Nightmare Before Christmas 3D (2006, original 1993), Toy
Decade Story in 3D (2009, original 1995), Toy Story 2 in 3D (2009, original 1999), and
Night of the Living Dead 3D (2009, original 1968) were re-released in 3-D, and there
were indications that the next phase of the 3-D Renaissance would be more 3D re-
releases of classic blockbusters, such as Star Wars (1977), The Lord of the Rings
(2001-2003), The Matrix (1999), Top Gun (1986), and Titanic (1997).
At the end of 2009, the domestic yearly box-office gross topped the $10.6 billion
mark, based upon US and Canadian ticket sales - it was a milestone year, besting the
2008 total of $9.63 billion. During the hard economic times of the recession, it once
2009 again illustrated that film-going could be a tonic for economic worries and concerns,
especially with such crowd-pleasing films as Paramount's Transformers: Revenge of
the Fallen (2009), Warners' Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009), 20th
Century Fox's Avatar (2009) and Disney's/Pixar's Up (2009).
For the first time since 2002, domestic movie ticket sales surpassed revenue from the
purchase of DVDs. The recessionary economy and the current transitionary stage
from DVDs to Blue-Ray and to video-on-demand digital downloads through
Internet-enabled televisions, were partially accountable for the reversal.
According to www.the-numbers.com, the most popular (top-grossing) film genres
from 1995 to 2009 were Comedy (24%), Adventure (20%), Drama (19%), Action
(17%), Thriller/Suspense (7%), Romantic Comedy (6%), Horror (5%), Documentary
(1%), Musical (1%).
The merge of the decade, between AOL and Time Warner, instituted in 2000, ended
2009 -- at the end of 2009, Time Warner announced that it would spin off AOL as a
separate independent company.
After celebrity Michael Jackson's unexpected and untimely death at age 50 on June
25, 2009, a documentary called This Is It was hastily constructed from 120 hours of
2009 upcoming London concert rehearsal footage (including interviews and backstage)
filmed over a recent period of a few months - a fitting tribute and eulogy for the
"King of Pop."
In late August of 2009, Walt Disney Co. announced that it had agreed to purchase
comic book and action hero company Marvel Entertainment for about $4 billion.
Marvel was the comic-book company behind X-Men and Spider-Man. Disney's
Pixar animation unit was expectant over the opportunities that the Marvel
acquisition would generate. Marvel had launched a large number of action-hero
films over the past decade, including Spider-Man (2002, 2004, 2007), X-Men (2000,
2003, 2006), and Fantastic Four (2005, 2007). Iron Man (2008) was Marvel
Studios' first self-financed and self-produced movie, followed by The Incredible
The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) decided to return to
featuring an expanded field of nominees for Best Picture. From now on, there would
be ten films nominated for Best Picture - the last time this happened was 1943 (66
years ago). The Academy was hoping for a possible increase in TV ratings for the
awards ceremony (held two weeks later than the previous year), and a broader range
2009 of films. As hoped, the fact that Avatar was a nominee and the biggest blockbuster
of all time did boost the ratings. Preliminary indications were that the TV ratings
were up to 41.3 million viewers, much better than the previous year's 36.3 million (a
14% jump). It was the most watched show in five years -- a definite improvement
over 2007's all-time low of 32 million viewers, the year the Best Picture win went,
predictably, to No Country for Old Men (2007).
Visionary director James Cameron's monumental work Avatar (2009), his first
feature film since Titanic (1997), was a futuristic, epic 3-D live-action film, with
ground-breaking special effects, and an estimated budget of $300 million (much of it
spent on CGI). It became only the fifth film in movie history to exceed $1 billion in
worldwide grosses, and did so in less than 3 weeks, and soon surpassed The Dark
Knight (2008) to become the top grossing (domestic) film of the entire decade.
Shortly later, it became the highest-grossing film of all-time (worldwide and
The Best Picture-nominated sports-film The Blind Side (2009), a heart-warming
drama starring Sandra Bullock, was Bullock's highest-grossing film ever, and the all-
time top-earning film driven by a female star. It was also the highest-grossing
2009 football (sports-related) film of all time. Bullock won her first Oscar, Best Actress,
for her role as a Southern belle foster mom. She also became the first (and only)
performer to win both a Best Actress Oscar and a Worst Actress Razzie Award (for
All About Steve (2009)) in the same year.
Disney's animated The Princess and the Frog (2009), a modern day retelling of the
classic story The Frog Prince, was the studio's first traditional 2-D animated film in
2009 5 years, since Home on the Range (2004). It also featured the studio's first-ever black
female protagonist, an African-American princess named Tiana (voice of Anika
The British political satire In the Loop (with one nomination, Best Adapted
2009 Screenplay) - marked the first instance that a film that premiered on VOD (video-on-
demand) concurrent with its theatrical release was nominated for a major Oscar.
Precious Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire (2009) was the first-ever Best
Picture nominee to be directed by an African-American filmmaker, Lee Daniels,
who received his first Best Director nomination for the film. Best Adapted
Screenplay Oscar-winner Geoffrey Fletcher was the first African-American to win
the award. Black actress and talk show host Mo'Nique also won the Best Supporting
Actress Oscar for her role as an abusive mother.
Director Kathryn Bigelow's tense, nail-biting war film The Hurt Locker (2009) took
top Oscar honors. Its six wins included Best Picture, defeating ex-husband director
James Cameron's Avatar (2009), and Best Director. The latter win marked a
milestone win for a female director (and American director), the first ever. It was the
fifth consecutive R-rated Best Picture winner, and also notable as the lowest-
grossing winner of all time, with a domestic box office of $14.7 million (8th place
among the ten Best Picture nominees). Since the R-rated film was released in June
of 2009, it was long since removed from theatres, and available on DVD since
January 12, 2010 (with currently over 700,000 sold). Because of its Oscar
nomination, it was re-released to almost 300 theatres, and increased its take by about
$2 million, about 14% of its total revenue. However, compared to the top three
nominated moneymakers of 2009, Avatar ($720 million), Up ($293 million), and
The Blind Side ($250 million), its earnings were insignificant.
Disney's/Pixar's animated film Up, the second animated film ever nominated for
Best Picture (following Beauty and the Beast (1991)), won two Oscar awards: Best
Animated Feature Film and Best Original Score, and was one of the top
moneymakers of the year (at $293 million to date). It was the first CG-animated Best
Picture nominee, and the first to receive a Best Picture nomination since animated
films received their own category in 2001. It was the third consecutive Oscar in this
category for Disney/Pixar, following Ratatouille (2007) and Wall-E (2008), with the
studios now winning 5/9 awards since the new category was established in 2001.
Betty Thomas became the most successful female director, measured by the
domestic box-office take for her Christmas hit Alvin and the Chipmunks: The
Squeakquel (2009). It was the first female-directed picture to gross more than $200
million (at $218 million in mid-March of 2010).
Although women remained in the minority in terms of film-making (as directors,
writers, and producers), 2009 was a watershed year, in addition to Kathryn
Bigelow's Best Director win for The Hurt Locker (2009), and Betty Thomas'
milestone as the most successful woman director ever at the box office (domestic)
for Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel (2009): (1) director Anne Fletcher's
The Proposal (2009) (starring Sandra Bullock) was a tremendous hit, scoring $164
2009 million (domestic) at the box-office, (2) It's Complicated (2009), directed and
written by Nancy Meyers and starring Meryl Streep, made $112 million (domestic)
at the box-office, (3) Best Actress Oscar-winning Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side
(2009) and veteran actress Meryl Streep outperformed their male counterparts fairly
consistently. Streep competed against Bullock and was Oscar-nominated for her lead
role in writer/director Nora Ephron's Julie & Julia (2009), which made $94 million
(domestic) at the box-office.
Director Tim Burton's meandering 3-D version of Alice in Wonderland (2009),
starring Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, surpassed previous opening weekend
records for both the first and second quarter of the year, at $116 million (domestic).
2010 It beat Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ (2004) record of $83 million for the
biggest opening of a film in the first quarter (winter) of the year, and the record of
Fast and Furious (2009) as the biggest opening of a film in the spring quarter at $71