I’ve been on a kick lately, and I can’t seem to get this concept out of my head — this concept of the “low-hanging fruit.” Why go somewhere so many other people have gone when you can do just about anything else? Why try to mimic what everybody else is doing when you have the opportunity and ability to create something new?
Innovation is exciting. New products, new businesses, new ideas — they’re what makes the world go ’round. Stagnancy is horrifying, and we all know most ideas get stale rather quickly. So, I’ve compiled a list of twenty-five of the most revolutionary films I’ve seen to honor those writers, directors, and actors who dared to try something that had never been done before. Here is my list of 25 groundbreaking movies that flipped the script on me (in no particular order), proving that taking a shot and creating something can go a long way. [WARNING: Some spoilers ahead…]
1. Toy Story
Memorable quote: “Reach for the sky!”
Why it’s noteworthy: Toy Story was Pixar’s first feature length film, so “reaching for the sky” is exactly what these animators and filmmakers were doing leading up to its 1995 release. This film pioneered the Pixar movement, paving the way for movies like Up and WALL-E, the two best Pixar films. (I will argue to the death about this assertion.)
2. the Wizard of Oz
Memorable quote: “I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
Why it’s noteworthy: Released in 1939, The Wizard of Oz was not the first movie to be made in color (though, it is commonly mistaken as being such). However, this film is groundbreaking in the way it had basically everything: music, and color, and midgets — oh my!
Memorable quote: “We all go a little mad sometimes.”
Why it’s noteworthy: With Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock revolutionized the horror genre. Usually, the suspense in a movie comes before a woman removes her clothes, but Hitchcock found a way to generate suspense after a female character was already naked. Talk about groundbreaking! Also, he kills off an important character like twenty minutes into the film, which was unheard of at the time.
4. Before Sunrise
Memorable quote: “Isn’t everything we do in life a way to be loved a little more?”
Why it’s noteworthy: Everything Richard Linklater does makes me love him more. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy deliver phenomenal performances as the lead characters, and the best part about the super-long shots and heavy dialogue is that it makes the movie feel real. Plus, the entire trilogy is fucking delightful, especially Before Sunset, the second installment, which I personally enjoyed the most.
Memorable quote: “You don’t want the bumpers. Life doesn’t give you bumpers.”
Why it’s noteworthy: Linklater did it again with Boyhood, a movie that was literally shot with the same cast over the course of twelve years. “Normal” people don’t do that. And that’s why being “normal” is overrated.
6. Hocus Pocus
Memorable quote: “It’s a full moon tonight. That’s when all the weirdos are out.”
Why it’s noteworthy: Aside from this being the only Halloween movie I at least make an attempt to watch every year (because of nostalgia and stuff), Hocus Pocusremains the only film in which I’m kind-of-sort-of-maybe attracted to Sarah Jessica Parker.
7. the Original Star Wars Trilogy
Memorable quote: “The Force is strong with this one.”
Why it’s noteworthy: Chances are, if somebody hasn’t actually seen any of the Star Wars films, s/he has heard of them. George Lucas’ baby is widely considered the first film franchise to extend beyond the boundaries of the movie industry. The reason everybody has heard of Star Wars is because of all of the licensed merchandise and games and whatnot that stemmed from the books/films. Also, Han Solo and incest.
8. the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Memorable quote: “Hold still. I’ve never done this before, and there will be blood.”
Why it’s noteworthy: To my knowledge, this is the only film in which you are actually rooting for a character as she is literally raping another character.
Memorable quote: “I see you.”
Why it’s noteworthy: Blue people sex(?).
10. American Pie
Memorable quote: “I don’t want any of you boys thinking that you’re gonna score. You don’t score until you *score*!”
Why it’s noteworthy: American Pie is one of the most important movies of the 80s and 90s because it’s the only one about a bunch of high school kids trying to have sex. Also, Jason Biggs bangs a pie.
11. Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2
Memorable quote: “Ladies and gentlemen, that there is a naked woman!”
Why it’s noteworthy: The first Blair Witch is often recognized as an innovative film because of the way it employed “found footage” and earned its way to an unprecedented budget/box office ratio. I believe the second Blair Witch is just as important because it was the first time I saw a boob in theaters. (I have a really cool aunt who takes ten year olds to see R-rated horror movies.)
12. Reservoir Dogs
Memorable quote: “Shit… You shoot me in a dream, you better wake up and apologize.”
Why it’s noteworthy: Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs is the only heist movie I can think of that doesn’t actually show the heist.
13. the Happening
Memorable quote: “It makes you kill yourself. Just when you thought there couldn’t be any more evil that can be invented.”
Why it’s noteworthy: I’ve seen this movie in its entirety and still have no idea what it’s about. I can’t say that about any other movies. Also, M. Night Shyamalan plot twist: it’s awful.
14. Just Go With It
Memorable quote: “Just go with it.”
Why it’s noteworthy: Every character just goes with it. This film has the most just-going-with-it I’ve ever seen in one movie.
Memorable quote: “THIS IS SPARTA!”
Why it’s noteworthy: Without 300, it wouldn’t be cool to kick somebody into a giant hole while yelling something. So, there’s that.
16. 8 Mile
Memorable quote: “Yo, that ‘Leave it to Beaver’ line almost killed me.”
Why it’s noteworthy: It’s just nice to see a Caucasian from a poor area succeed and go on to make as much money as his African American counterpart for once.
Memorable quote: [something about a watch, probably]
Why it’s noteworthy: I don’t know if this movie is “groundbreaking,” per se, but I’ve never seen Jesse Bradford on a bicycle while time is slowed down in any other films.
18. Marley & Me
Memorable quote: “Sometimes life has a better idea.”
Why it’s noteworthy: Marley & Me is the only film guaranteed to make me cry every time I watch it. The sad part is, I don’t even cry when Marley gets put down — I cry happy tears when they move to Pennsylvania and see snow for the first time and play outside as a family. Groundbreaking filmmaking right there.
19. the Usual Suspects
Memorable quote: “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”
Why it’s noteworthy: Aside from being one of my all-time favorite films, my first reaction to this movie was, “WHAAAAAATTTTTTT???”
Memorable quote: “I have this condition.”
Why it’s noteworthy: I give credit to the Nolan brothers for the nonlinear storytelling technique used in Memento. It’s a rather simple plot that’s made all the more intriguing by the main character’s “condition” and the reverse order of the scenes in the one storyline.
Memorable quote: “Eeeee… va?”
Why it’s noteworthy: As aforementioned, I believe WALL-E is the best Pixar film. Simply put, it’s an animated futuristic robot love story that ends up being more charming than a heavy majority of the Notebook-type movies out there. I went to see it with a group of 4th graders as a summer camp field trip, and the kids were much more excited than I was going into the film. However, on the bus ride back, the kids were disappointed and saying things like, “That movie sucked,” and I was defensively responding, “You shut your whore mouth about WALL-E!”
22. Saving Private Ryan
Memorable quote: “I just know that every man I kill, the farther away from home I feel.”
Why it’s noteworthy: Saving Private Ryan‘s opening scene is more than enough reason to put it on this list.
23. 2001: A Space Odyssey
Memorable quote: “I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.”
Why it’s noteworthy: If this Kubrick flick was released today, it would be considered strange. Imagine how weird it was back in 1968.
24. the Tree of Life
Memorable quote: “Tell us a story from before we can remember.”
Why it’s noteworthy: Speaking of weird, The Tree of Life takes the cake for experimental filmmaking.
Memorable quote: “The chair is not gay, obviously.”
Why it’s noteworthy: Beginners is the best movie ever made — hands down, no doubt about it, all arguments against it are irrelevant. The end.