There seems to be a watershed movie every decade, something that’s so innovative and creative that the rest of cinema hops on the trend for the next ten years. But what are these movies, and what’s yet to come?
Here’s a list of each decade’s blockbuster that changed everything from the 1920’s-1970s (80s-20s coming soon!)
Over 100 years ago Charlie Chaplin came out with his first ever film, 1914’s Making a Living. However it wouldn’t be until the 20s that he practically took over cinema. Pushing filmmaking to its limits, Chaplin drove audiences to the theaters in droves creating an obsession with cinematic slapstick that would later pave the way for The Three Stooges, Looney Tunes, and visual comedy as we know it.
Sound! After nearly 20 years of silent movies technology advanced enough to record sound to picture and it changed movies forever.
All of a sudden anything was possible and genres like adventure and westerns took off like never before with stars like Errol Flynn and John Wayne, but neither held a candle to Clark Gable who starred in countless pictures.
And then in 1939, the epic was born. With movies like Gone With the Wind and Wizard of Oz colour was introduced to cinema, inspiring studios to invest in elaborate sets and costumes at a level that has never been replicated. Frankly, my dear, the 30s didn’t give a damn.
A world at war! While the 30s were a means of escapism from the great depression, the 40s were a reflection of a world wrestling with morality and cynicism. Less than 20 years after the “War to End All Wars” the world found itself in an even bigger war.
Noir reflected this bleak world with shades of grey protagonists and dark tragedies. Starting the decade off with Citizen Kane a film about the loss of innocence and what twists great men into cruel and the greedy nature of humanity.
However, it was the noir mystery films like Maltese Falcon and Double Indemnity, that defined this decade’s movies.
It wasn’t all bleak though, almost a reaction to the darker movies coming out, It’s A Wonderful Life reminded audiences that even in life’s darkest moments, there is hope and happiness for the future that’s worth living for.
When the 50s came along Noir was still popular, right out of the gate we start with Sunset Boulevard, but something interesting happened here. Sunset Boulevard wasn’t your average noir film, it served as a metacommentary that said goodbye to the previous 30 years of Hollywood. Set in Los Angeles the movie is all about aging film stars and dying genres of filmmaking.
The 50s were paving the way for something new.
As the 50s went on we saw our first look at the world of independent filmmaking, filmmakers dedicated to a greater sense of realism. Gone were the days of Trans-Atlantic accents, replaced by the new acting style of Marlon Brando and the haunting films of Alfred Hitchcock.
While T.V. in the 50s was a tame leave-it-to-beaver world of family-friendly values, the cinematic landscape was pumping out intense and visceral films like On the Waterfront, Rear Window, and the scandalous Marilyn Monroe picture Some Like it Hot.
The 50s also saw the death of the golden age epic, Ben Hur is really the last movie of its kind, ending the genre on an unbelievable high.
Horror, sex, violence, and a fear of the future. The 60s in many ways were the launching pad of modern cinema, completely detached from the golden age of Hollywood, filmmakers were exploring once taboo topics on film.
Hitchcock’s first movie of the decade Psycho was even stylized like a cheap exploitation film.
While the Vietnam war was raging on, the U.S. started wondering if they were actually the good guys or not, and it showed in their cinema.
While dramas and thrillers were exploring themes of morality and sexuality, science-fiction and horror films like Planet of the Apes, and Rosemary’s Baby were exploring existential fears of nuclear war and woman’s rights.
But soon horror and sci-fi would change forever.
Vietnam really messes with the American psyche, continuing on what came before the anti-hero is more popular than ever.
The Godfather changes everything you knew about cinematography, crime movies, and the tragedy of a good man’s fall from grace.
Scorcese takes a look at what a broken society can do to a man in his thriller Taxi Driver, creating the psychopath subgenre.
Kubrick states there’s no hope for change with his disturbing A Clockwork Orange … and just when the movies are getting bleak, you hear about this shark movie …
THE BLOCKBUSTER IS BORN! Forget everything you thought you knew about going to the movies, instead of an evening out, they’re an event, an attraction you have to go see. There’s this movie Jaws that just came out and all of a sudden movies are fun again!
Right after Jaws the creation of the blockbuster is cemented with George Lucas’ Star Wars, no shades of grey, or examination of the flawed human psyche, just good vs evil and fun escapism.
After Star Wars we get the first superhero movie with Richard Donner’s Superman.
Special effects are forever changed, and there’s no going back … but is it a good thing? Find out in the continuation of this article, coming soon! What was your favourite innovative movie from these decades, did we miss any?