Words By Dr. Hip HopJust like people and rap albums, films also have anniversaries. And in 2014 there are a ton of groundbreaking and memorable films that are celebrating some pretty important anniversaries of their initial theatrical release.
Some of those films are still teenagers, kicking at 15 and still pretty fresh in our collective consciousness. Others are either entering or half way done with their twenties, but still feel as fresh as ever. And then there are those that, like myself, are entering the real grown up years of their lives. But unlike me, these film classics still got a lot of life left in them.
So let’s take a trip down memory lane and look at ten films, released over the course of 30 years, that will be celebrating a birthday this year. In the words of the great Kanye West, “I’d like to propose a toast. I said toast mutha******s!”
Released: May 28, 2004 (10 Years)
Alright, something positive to say… Well the movie was Kevin Hart’s first major starring role. So without this film movie fans would probably not see him currently dominating the cineplex with the “interesting” (read: mediocre) Ride Along. Take that how you will.
Released: June 23, 2004 (10 Years)
I’m sure somebody out there likes this film 2004 vehicle for Shawn and Marlon Wayans to live out all the “best” white woman stereotypes. And so for them I show love for this decade old film. The gender-bender showed us all the power of Vanessa Carlton and made Terry Crews look incredibly creepy. Incidentally, the film also seemed to mark the end of Shawn Wayans’ career (I mean has he been in anything big after that? And don’t you dare say Little Man!).
Released: March 31, 1999 (15 Years)
It revolutionized the action film genre for the new millennium and gave dance choreographers a new move to expand their repertoire. To say The Matrix wasn’t a groundbreaking film is akin to suggesting that Rakim didn’t change the rap game. There were “smart” action films before The Matrix, but none of them became as popular within the zeitgeist as this Warner Bros./Wachowski Bros. smash.
The Iron Giant
Released: July 31, 1999 (15 Years)
You probably know the director of this animated film, Brad Bird, as the guy behind Pixar’s The Incredibles (AWESOME) and 2011’s Mission Impossible-Ghost Protocol (ALSO AWESOME). In 1999 he helped bring to life this sleeper animated hit that was as heart-wrenching as any live action drama and fun as any of Disney’s best. Hell, I’ll admit it: a young thug shed a few tears at the climax. Don’t judge.
Released: Oct. 15, 1999 (15 Years)
Fight Club featured Brad Pitt and Edward Norton in rare form, David Fincher at his directing best, and in many ways the culmination of the ‘90s postmodern world. It was a film with many interpretations, but I think one broad understanding is that it documented the maturation of Generation X.
Ed. Note: Also a phenomenal book by Chuck Palahniuk, as deranged an author as modern literature has today.
The Best Man
Released: Oct. 22, 1999 (15 Years)
Yes, we got a pretty good sequel to the film last year, but it’s always important to show appreciation to the original. The cast was a who’s who of popular African American actors and actresses at the time (and a few who would blow up even more) and the story of friendship, love, and betrayal was as universal as a Shakespeare play. Even after 15 years, the movie still stands as a great.
Released: May 13, 1994 (20 Years)
There are a lot of great Spike Lee joints, but none of them have as much heart as the family drama/coming-of-age film Crooklyn. Sort of based on Lee’s life, the film balanced humor with heartfelt drama. It told a specific story that still spoke to the African-American condition, and for that we’ll always be grateful.
Released: June 10, 1994 (20 Years)
Before he helmed one of the biggest films of all time, Joss Whedon wrote a script for a film that featured “The One” (a.k.a. Keanu Reeves) going against a beautifully insane Dennis Hopper. Speed was a top-notch action film and left a mark on pop culture (who hasn’t reenacted the bus speeding scene at least once while driving?). Bonus: it featured a spunky and kind of-cute Sandra Bullock before she blew up.
The Lion King
Released: June 15, 1994 (20 Years)
The Lion King’s impact on the lives of children (and adults) of the ‘90s is indelible. A kid’s version of a Shakespearean play, this box office-smashing animated film helped propel Disney into the stratosphere and explained to the world what the hell a meerkat was.
Released: July 6, 1994 (20 Years)
“Life is like a box of chocolates.” Very few lines in modern cinema are as famous as those uttered by Tom Hanks as the title character in this 1994 critical darling and blockbuster smash. Hanks’ performance endeared millions to Mr. Gump and touched all our hearts in the process.
Released: Sept. 23, 1994 (20 Years)
1994 was a year full of groundbreaking films and Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction might have led the pack. A film as irreverent as humanly possible, Pulp Fiction revived careers, made stars of newcomers, and encapsulated the post-modern film stylings of the ‘90s.
Released: Oct. 14, 1994 (20 Years)
While we could argue about the greater social and political activist side of NBA players today, flimmakers showcased the sport of basketball in several ’90s films. One of them that created a lasting impact is the critically acclaimed documentary centered in Chicago, Hoop Dreams. What it lacked in all-star soundtrack and energy (see: 1994’s Above the Rim), it made up in honesty, soul, and zero pulled punches. We probably wouldn’t have the great ESPN 30 for 30 series without this film.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Released: May 24, 1989 (25 Years)
Yes, the original is a classic. Yes, the first sequel is questionable (and racist!). But the third installment in the franchise Spielberg and Lucas built is still my personal favorite and a box office smash. The film teamed Sean Connery (James Bond) with Harrison Ford (Han Solo) against Nazis. That alone makes the film worthy of praise.
Released: June 23, 1989 (25 Years)
Before Nolan made Batman films cerebral–and before Clooney’s rubber nipples mortified a generation–Tim Burton, Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, and a VERY hot Kim Basinger brought the caped crusader back to the mainstream after a decade of being dormant. It was the perfect marriage of Burton’s trademark aesthetic and the mythology of Gotham’s favorite son.
Do the Right Thing
Released: June 30, 1989 (25 Years)
I’m sure we could argue all day about which is the best Spike Lee film, but I hope we can agree that the 1989’s Do the Right Thing is probably his more poignant, stylized, and “fresh.” Later Lee films would either be too in-your-face or lacking in execution, but Do the Right Thing was tempered and paced perfectly. If there was ever a film to prove that Spike Lee is a genius, this is it.
Released: April 5, 1974 (30 Years)
Pam Grier. That’s all that needs said.
Gremlins (30 Years)
Released: June 7, 1984 (30 Years)
If you look up the words “cult classic,” then you will definitely see this ‘80s classic that Steven Spielberg executive produced. Gremlins scared the hell out of a generation of kids whose parents were hoodwinked by a marketing campaign that painted the silly-scarer as a family film.
Released: June 7, 1984 (30 Years)
Many moons ago, before there was Will Farrell and his band of merry man-children, guys like Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd were kings of comedy cinema. And in 1984 they starred in a blockbuster comedy-horror-action hybrid that was penned by Aykroyd and Harold Ramis (R.I.P.). Anyone of a certain age can attest to the cultural impact of this film and how its subsequent cartoon series had all of us reciting the famous phrase “I Ain’t Afraid of No Ghost.”
Released: Oct. 26, 1984 (30 Years)
Sometimes I think people don’t give the original in the famous franchise enough credit as a standalone film. Seamlessly mixing elements of the horror and action genres, Terminator showed how legitimately GOOD an action film could be and not just “action movie good.” As James Cameron’s career-launching movie, the originator of the 30-year-old franchise (with a new film coming next year) still holds up as a genuinely good movie all these years later.
Nightmare on Elm Street
Released: Nov. 9, 1984 (30 Years)
The film franchise might be a joke today, but back in 1984 Nightmare on Elm Street scared the shit out of a whole generation of teenagers and adults. Introducing the world to the striped sweater malcontent Freddy Krueger, this film terrified you because it put forth the idea that even in your sleep you aren’t safe. And while you can try and be macho about it, that’s still some scary sh*t.