First, let’s all be thankful for movies themselves. Enjoying a movie is a subjective experience. What one person thinks is awful, the next person considers great. Case in point, the Marvel movies. Some people love them, others, like me, believe that they’re a plague unto film. However, it’s possible to wear two hats. For as much as the Marvel films do nothing for me, I give credit to the craftsmanship and detail that goes into each one, and I appreciate that superhero movies have revitalized the science fiction genre. For without Marvel introducing us to space through Thor and Guardians of the Galaxy, we’d likely not have Arrival or next year’s Valerian.
Without further rambling from me, here are seven movies to be thankful for this Thanksgiving …
Star Wars – 1977
Haters can hate, and I should know because I’m a hater. Star Wars WAS a series of great films that has since become a ruthlessly beaten dead horse. However, be thankful, because without the original Star Wars, science fiction doesn’t reach the levels of greatness we get today. And it’s not so much that Star Wars was a huge box office success, but that the technical achievements in special effects catapulted movies into a whole new realm.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit – 1988
The 1980s weren’t that great a time for animated feature films. But Roger Rabbit revitalized interest in animation and breathed new life into Disney leading to The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and beyond. Roger Rabbit was a classic, screwball sort of comedy which blended live-action and animation in technically precise ways. Bob Hoskins and the rest of the Rabbit world get every nuanced detail right when interacting with animated co-stars.
Toy Story – 1995
Pixar’s first feature-length movie was also entirely computer generated. The technical achievements of Pixar’s CG alone make Toy Story a legendary film. But Pixar’s storytelling mastery makes Toy Story a complete movie. Pixar was a nail in the coffin of traditional hand animation but has since given rise to 20+ years of computer animated brilliance.
The Blair Witch Project – 1999
Here’s a perfect example of me living in two worlds. I think The Blair Witch Project is one of the worst movies ever made. It’s not good at being a horror movie or drama. But, it put the found footage style story on the map, seemingly for good. While Cannibal Holocaust in 1980 is one of the first movies to use “found footage,” Blair Witch wowed audiences and has since spawned a robust genre that includes Grave Encounters, Paranormal Activity, and a whole lot more.
X-Men – 2000
I already hear the grumbling of people saying Blade is the start of the modern superhero movie. But Blade was a modest hit that most people saw as an action movie and had no idea was a comic. Also, Blade is a terrible movie that’s almost unwatchable today. Not to mention, The Crow and Batman (1989) came before it anyway. Bryan Singer took the sleek style of Blade and added good effects, writing, acting, cinematography, plus a non-cookie cutter, TEAM oriented story with a bit of a message.
Harry Potter – 2001
At its least influential, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books seem to breathe new life into young adult readers. I was blown away by the number of young, former non-readers who lined up at bookstores like it was opening night for a new movie blockbuster. As a film franchise, without Potter, Marvel doesn’t exist. Why? Because before Potter, long franchises didn’t typically go past three movies. Potter went to eight without losing any quality along the way.
Star Wars Prequels And Lord Of The Rings Trilogy
Like any good movie, I’ve thrown in a surprise, twist ending here. There’s an interesting connection between these two trilogies. The Prequels, while much hated on (for many good reasons), did pioneer CG blended worlds. As horrific a character as Jar Jar is, there’d likely be no Gollum so soon after. Everything the Prequels pioneered, from digital armies to CG-enriched vistas, Lord of the Rings did better. Regardless, the techniques used in both trilogies have since become industry standards, including Lord of the Rings’ cost-effective method of shooting multiple parts at once.
Birth Of A Nation
The first truly epic film. It’s racist as all hell, but the camera work and storytelling achievements are second to none. Let’s be thankful this was just a movie too … or is it?!
The Jazz Singer
The first film with sound. This “talkie” made movies a lot more interesting by combining sight with sound.
Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs
A groundbreaking animated feature. It took Disney to a whole new level and made animated features a viable, commercial way to tell stories.
The granddaddy of modern cinema storytelling. Kane pioneered a host of techniques, including non-linear narratives and slick cinematography.
2001: A Space Odyssey
A technically astounding and intellectually challenging science fiction film. Without 2001 in 1968, half of Lucas’ effects team for Star Wars doesn’t exist.