After all these years, the box office was no longer filled with shock and awe, excess and dignity, growth and maturation. A slight tweak of Citizen Kane left us just as obsessed with that near-certainly charmed life as if it had never happened. But would one American live a life as exemplary as that immortal one?
MGM The Creature From the Black Lagoon (1953)
Chuck Russell’s film became emblematic of the 1950s, one of the best films of the era but a divisive one in the general movies-as-gods category. The enduring image is of the unearthly horror being spread around and passed to unsuspecting onlookers by a schoolteacher on her mobile home’s patio. Despite its silliness, this was the first classic of the wave of Ridley Scott-type films in which aliens have invaded the Earth.
In the Bedroom (2002)
No questions asked — people may be able to answer them themselves, but here’s one you’d be hard-pressed to articulate yourself, let alone distinguish: What is the strangest sexually transmitted disease of all time? In this movie, which has won a BAFTA award, Vincent Gallo copes with the hookup anxiety when he accidentally contracts something called a dysophatic lathenhoma. There’s no good way to say it.
In a Lonely Place (1970)
The most famous loss for American cinema, the Los Angeles riots are depicted in this story about a group of blacks driven out of their neighborhood by landlords who want to repossess their homes. The central actor, Steve McQueen, was later quoted as saying: “We couldn’t have gone back. We would have watched people be gunned down.”
20th Century Fox 1977
The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)
Already famed for the New York Post’s street-level photo, the now-notorious paparazzi photos of Jesus photographed sipping from an open martini glass. But The Last Temptation of Christ may be the famous Muhammad Ali photograph of the movie. The title character only vaguely resembles the real man (complete with a fake beard) and what’s most striking is his conflicted nature — as a militant Muslim, he is drawing disapproval from people at his mosque, where others say he is sinful.
Warner Bros. 1982
Aliens! Star Wars! THX 1138! I want! Yippee! Sizzle! And NASA! Enter Jurassic Park! Based on the 1993 book by Michael Crichton, this dreamy movie was the quintessential 21st century film. But while the action scenes are fairly memorable, the film is heart-rending as well. An impenetrable dinosaur colony struggling to survive on another planet — could they be the result of time-traveling? Either way, the moral is that you can’t leave anything until you’re absolutely sure it’s safe to do so. (Spoiler: it’s not.)
Universal Studios 2007
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)