13
May
08

Under the Cinematic Influence: 15 Contemporary Films That Swayed Society

Most of us have heard the tales about how people stopped showering after watching, “Psycho,” or that “Jaws,” gave a reason for not going near the water. In the spirit of films influencing people and pop culture, here is my list of contemporary films that have done just that.

 

Scarface (1983) – This Brian DePalma film was popular but stayed on the undercurrent… until the late Nineties when gangsta rappers cited it as their main movie influence. Now you can’t go anywhere without seeing a Tony Montoya t-shirt, hat, poster, or used DVD.

 

Roger & Me (1989) – In the late Eighties, nobody knew who Michael Moore was (aside from the residents of Flynt, Michigan). Spending $25,000 and filming over the course of 3 years, Moore took on the task of trying to confront then GM CEO Roger Smith in order to find out why GM pulled out of their hometown. The film made $25 million and Moore has since gone on to cover topics such as healthcare, guns, and the war in Iraq, as well as becoming a target for Right Wing Conservatives. His “documentary” filmmaking approach has changed how we view the information we receive, as well as how documentaries are done. Note: So has Ken Burns.

 

Boyz in the Hood (1991) – The first film from director John Singleton has influenced many directors and became a staple for film. A story of childhood friends growing up in the L.A. ghetto, it went on to be nominated for 2 Oscars and has won several awards.

 

JFK (1991) – Oliver Stone’s paranoid take on the Kennedy assassination. Before the “X-Files” tapped on the pulse of culture’s distrust of government, “JFK” delivered the “back and to the left” Zapruder film. So much was stirred-up over what the government did and did not know about the event that it led to the Freedom of Information Act. Now if we can only get the truth on Roswell.

 

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) – “I need your clothes, your boots, and your motorcycle.” Arnie returned in 1991 as the Terminator, but this time he was protecting John Connor. I’m mentioning this one for its groundbreaking special effects; notably “morphing,” which continued on for a few years. Also gave us: “Hasta la vista, baby.”

 

The Lawnmower Man (1992) – Aside from inspiring a sequel, this movie was the first to delve into the idea of “virtual reality.” This led to other movies and even a TV series called, “VR5.” While the need for VR goggles has passed, it was a cornerstone of the history of the 1990’s.

 

Forrest Gump (1994) – The film that oozed pop culture. The title character was played by Tom Hanks and we observed as the village idiot wove through time from the 1950’s to the late 1980’s, supported by one of the largest soundtracks in film history. Spawned Gump restaurants and the saying, “Life is like a box of chocolates,” and began the career of Haley Joel Osment. I also mention this movie because it began the technical achievement of blending current actors within older footage (per se, Forrest meeting Kennedy).

 

Scream (1996) – Wes Craven, the creator of Freddy Kruger, made a satire horror film. It caught on and spawned sequels and even the “Scary Movie” franchise. Also, the “scream” killer face is now part of Halloween culture. Useless trivia: “Scary Movie” was the title that “Scream” was shot under.

 

The Big Lebowski (1998) – The crowning movie for underachievers everywhere, the Coen Brothers’ follow-up film after “Fargo” was about The Dude (Jeff Bridges), a man who had his rug peed on and is caught-up in a case of mistaken identity with a millionaire with the same name. Years later two guys in Louisville (give it up for my hometown) created Lebowski Fest, a celebration of all things Lebowski with bowling tournaments, white Russians, taglines, and trivia contests. I can get you a toe.

 

Saving Private Ryan (1998) – this has become the DEFINITIVE war movie; move over, “Platoon,” and “Apocalypse Now.” Spielberg’s epic about a group of soldiers sent to find the only living sibling of three brothers after the storming of Normandy Beach is known for its gritty reality of war, along with a lot of shaky-cam. This changed how war movies were made and ushered in the “breath” of documentary-feel when we watch them.

 

American Pie (1999) – If you didn’t have a “girl next door,” you had a friend whose mom was a MILF. And that’s what “American Pie” gave us –an idea we all had but never gave a term, much less an acronym, for. Now a generation of kids can say it without thinking and a billion porn pages advertise it. And if you don’t know what it means, it stands for Mother I’d Like To…

 

The Blair Witch Project (1999) – Just mention this title alone and you’ll hear a collective “groan” among people, much like saying the title, “Waterworld.” Two guys going to FSU’s final film project (I heard it got a ‘C’) sold it to execs, then the actors were put into hiding, and the marketing campaign led us to believe the film was real. That’s all I got to say about that…

 

Fight Club (1999) – I’m gonna forego the first two rules and discuss this one. David Fincher’s movie following “The Game” (which is underrated in my opinion) had Ed Norton and Brad Pitt getting down to the core of what doesn’t make a man: consumerism. To quell that problem, one needs to make a secret organization where guys can beat the crap out of each other. Problem solved. Unfortunately, Hollywood even has a “fight club.”

 

The Matrix (1999) – The Wachowski Brothers, fresh from their indie lesbian-heist flick, “Bound,” gave us the story of an office guy who finds out that his entire world is a computer program and that humanity is nothing but Duracell batteries for giant machines. Oh yeah, and he just might be the savior of us all. Improving upon the technology used in “Lost In Space,” and liberally swiping ideas from “Dark City,” and “Desperado,” this movie has made its mark on science fiction, as well as helping to usher in DVD players and sales; remember when people were saying, “This is the movie MADE for DVD!”

 

Silence of the Lambs (1991) – While Michael Mann’s “Manhunter” may have fallen through the cracks, the initial author’s next offering, “Silence of the Lambs,” became a hit for Jonathan Demme, Jodie Foster, and Anthony Hopkins, who played the infamous Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Spawning a sequel and a prequel, “Silence of the Lambs” has never been equaled. Lecter’s popularity overshadows John Doe of “Seven.” Would you care for some fava beans and a nice chianti? Useless trivia: Anthony Hopkins never blinked during his scenes. Ever.
 

There ya have it. Feel free to agree or disagree, and/or comment.

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1 Response to “Under the Cinematic Influence: 15 Contemporary Films That Swayed Society”


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