Hello, people of 2017! There are a lot of movies ahead of us this year. All the big studios are gearing up their tentpole films. Marvel and Star Wars will dazzle, wild cards like Valerian or Ghost In The Shell, shine with potential, and lurking in the shadows are films no one is paying attention to, some of which will undoubtedly make waves in the cinematic universe of our lives. But before we get caught up in the hype train of 2017, let’s celebrate the 20th birthdays of 10 pics from 1997 that are growing old gracefully.
A movie about the porn film industry circa cocaine-fueled 1970s directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. Yes, please! Boogie Nights is a feel-good movie about addiction, fame, and failure starring Mark Wahlberg and an all-star cast that includes Julianne Moore, Burt Reynolds, and pre-War Machine Don Cheadle. The Boogie Nights soundtrack is a brief but vibrant tour of the 70s to early 80s rock and disco.
The Fifth Element
If French Director, Luc Besson has one thing it’s a clear sense of attitude in all his films. From The Professional to Angel-A to Lucy, there is no doubt you’re watching a Besson project. The Fifth Element is Besson’s 1997 science fiction, cyberpunk-y, action epic with Bruce Willis and Mila Jovovich. The movie is quirky and weird, and follows the beat of its own drum keeping it a fun watch year after year.
In the midst of a biopunk future where genetic optimization is the norm, Ethan Hawke is born the old-school way and isn’t allowed to become an astronaut. Written and directed by Andrew Niccol, Gattaca was a box-office bomb back in ’97 but quickly rose through the cult ranks for being stylish and smart. Twenty years on and the noir-ish vibe, performances, and subtle visuals are just as captivating.
Aladdin, Lion King, and Beauty and the Beast get a lot of the love when it comes to 90s animated Disney features. But the House of Mouse churns out movies like a sausage factory does sausage and in 1997, one such sausage was Hercules. A slight departure from Disney’s usual style at the time, Hercules encountered a mixed reception. But the film’s signature art style and funk-tastic soundtrack worth of a revisit.
Legendary anime director Hayao Miyazaki began work on his “princess living in the woods with a beast” epic way back in the late-70s. It existed mostly as a pet project until about 1994 when things got going. By 1997, Prince Mononoke was a lushly animated story about a princess at the center of a struggle between gods, man, and nature. Studio Ghibli went a touch darker than usual, and the payoff was the second-highest grossing film of 1997 in Japan.
Men In Black
Before comic book movies were all the rage in Hollywood, Columbia Pictures produced Men In Black. Tommy Lee Jones starred with Will Smith who was in the midst of rising to power as the go-to blockbuster actor. Men In Black spawned two sequels, an animated series, and Will Smith’s awful song. But the CG holds up nicely while talking dogs, chain-smoking extraterrestrials, and the villain, a pre-Kingpin Vincent D’Onofrio, are still fun to watch.
Curtis Hanson’s neo-noir cop thriller doesn’t get talked about much. But the film is just as slick, stylish, and entertaining today as it was when released in 1997. Russel Crowe and Guy Pearce, relative unknowns back then, star alongside Kevin Spacey, Kim Basinger, and Danny DeVito in a film about corruption and celebrity that is just as poignant today.
Paul Verhoeven was an acclaimed director for nearly two decades before helming RoboCop put him on the pop-culture map. Verhoeven followed that hit with Total Recall, Basic Instinct, and Showgirls. To close out a spectacular decade, Verhoeven made Starship Troopers, a sci-fi action flick loosely based on the classic Robert A. Heinlen novel. Troopers is quintessential Verhoeven satire mixed with WWII-era inspired military films, great use of CG, and plenty of action. The dumb charm of the story and its characters borders on timelessness.
In the 90s, during the rise of indie filmmakers, the world was introduced to Kevin Smith via Clerks. Smith’s guerilla-style of filmmaking was fun, but the real highlight was the writer-director’s gift for dialogue. The success of Clerks paved the way for Smith to make Mallrats and later Chasing Amy. In Chasing Amy, all of Smith’s pop-culture referencing lingo blended perfectly into a rare kind of romantic comedy with love, laughs, and attitude.
As Quentin Tarantino’s third film, Jackie Brown had big shoes to fill. Coming on the heels of Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown received something of a shrug by filmgoers possibly expecting too much. But Tarantino showed us that his mastery of the kind of films he wants to make was complete. Jackie Brown is every bit a Tarantino movie with his signature style, attitude, and unabashed love for 70s cinema.
HONORABLE MENTION: Titanic
Say what you will, Titanic is a film masterpiece in almost every way possible for a flick. From a technical point of view, the direction, set design, costumes, and lighting is as good as it gets. The story gets the job done much in the same simplistic, but effective, way as James Cameron’s Avatar. Titanic is the modern-day equivalent to something like Gone With The Wind, a classic to exist on television reruns for essentially all-time.