Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Top 25 Movies With Real Impact

In 1982, Gandhi won the Oscar and E.T. phoned home. Since then, Hollywood continued to entertain while embracing change.

With picks by USA TODAY's movie staff, Susan Wloszczyna recounts the 25 top milestones.

New Line Productions

1 The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-03)

New Line Cinema risked it all by entrusting low-profile New Zealander Peter Jackson with the audacious task of spinning Tolkien’s dense literary fantasy into cinema gold. The result: 17 Oscars, a box-office gross of $3 billion worldwide and the birth of two superstars — one virtual (Gollum) and one pointy-eared (Orlando Bloom).

Walt Disney Pictures

2 Toy Story (1995)

Pixar pioneers Buzz and Woody took the feature-animation genre that Disney created with 1937’sSnow White and the Seven Dwarfs and blasted it into the digital future with a cutting-edge combo of heartfelt wit and computerized wonder. Now, nearly every studio does 3-D cartoons. Just not as well.

Miramax Films

3 Pulp Fiction (1994)

B-movie fanatic Quentin Tarantino crammed guns, drugs, molls and a killer John Travolta into a post-mod Molotov cocktail of a plot while slicing the action into shuffled fragments. And writers are still ripping off his narrative.

Universal City Studios

4 Do the Right Thing (1989)

Spike Lee earned the title of America’s most influential black filmmaker when he did the controversial thing, focusing on urban violence born of simmering racial tensions.The film was feared to be incendiary enough to ignite a real riot; instead it inspired a new generation of black directors.

Paramount Pictures

5 Titanic (1997)

It loomed as a titanic disaster, with delays and a budget that bloated to $200 million. Luckily, audiences were enraptured by the steamy romance between Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio, whose presence led to repeat viewings by teens.It remains king of domestic box-office grosses at $600.8 million.

Paramount Pictures

6 Fatal Attraction (1987)

A date movie for the AIDS era. A cautionary tale of a woman scorned turned psycho hit home by mixing frank sexuality and nightmarish horror, as Michael Douglas’ fling with Glenn Close endangers his family. The rare popcorn thriller deemed Oscar worthy (six nominations).

Twentieth Century Fox

7 There’s Something About Mary (1998)

The PC police surrendered when those comic barons of bubbling crude, the Farrelly brothers, launched their assault on good taste. The public gladly giggled and gagged along, while Ben Stiller cemented his loser persona and the world was made safe for R-rated movies like American Pie and 40-Year-Old Virgin.

Tristar Pictures

8 Philadelphia (1993)

Before that rendezvous on Brokeback Mountain, straight stars Tom Hanks and Antonio Banderas were gay lovers in this groundbreaker about an AIDS-afflicted lawyer who sues over job discrimination. Hard to believe that this was the first major studio movie to deal with the disease.


9 Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

E.T.’s glowing heart? Good. A beating heart ripped from a man’s chest? Not so much. Parents protested the intense violence found in Steven Spielberg’s PG-rated follow-up to 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark. In response, the Motion Picture Association of America established the PG-13 rating.

Warner Bros. Pictures

10 Batman (1989)

Superman came first in 1978. But director Tim Burton’s neo-gothic caped crusader was a distinctly adult version of a comic-book thriller.Batman’s brooding cool made it safe for a Joker like Jack Nicholson to cavort in a costume caper, and the film’s dark vision has influenced nearly every cinematic superhero since.


11 The Cable Guy (1996)

Audiences rejected it. Critics jeered it. But Jim Carrey’s nasty black comedy became infamous as the film to break the $20 million salary barrier. You’d think studios would have reconsidered the value of star power. But the bucks didn’t stop there. Tom Hanks is supposed to get $35 million for a Da Vinci Code prequel.

Icon Productions

12 The Passion of the Christ (2004)

Mel Gibson’s controversial and highly profitable interpretation of the last days of Jesus didn’t just reveal the movie idol’s devotion to religion and bloodletting. It also showed there is a profit to be made from preaching to the faithful, a community that BC (before Christ) was rarely served by Hollywood.

Touchstone Pictures

13 Pretty Woman (1990)

Disney’s only fairy tale about a street walker solidified Julia Roberts’ big-hair, huge-smile mystique and began her run as the industry’s most powerful actress.Roberts, who turns 40 this year, continues to be the incandescent standard against which each new ingĂ©nue is measured.

Paramount Pictures

14 Mission: Impossible III (2006)

Jumping the couch is the new jumping the shark, thanks to Tom Cruise’s not-quite blockbuster that inadvertently turned into a case study of the harm that erratic behavior can do to a star’s appeal.

Dimension Films

15 Scream (1996)

Endless rehashings of teen slashings had sucked the genre dry. But a transfusion of self-referential irony injected hipness into a tired premise.The twist: Scream was stocked with stalked high-schoolers well versed in lame horror conventions. Two sequels and many copycats followed, including the dumbed-down Scary Movie franchise.

Lions Gate Films

16 Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)

Michael Moore’s Bush attack couldn’t halt the president’s re-election. But his diatribe grossed almost $120 million, a record for documentaries, and made the genre safe for mass consumption.

Tri-Star Pictures

17 Total Recall (1990)

Most would look to the first twoTerminators as the sci-fi outings that molded Arnold Schwarzenegger’s multiplex muscle. But in this stylish exercise in violent excess directed by ever-canny Paul Verhoeven, Arnie exhibited real acting skill in a dual role.

By Jim Cooper, AP

18 El Mariachi (1993)

The catalyst for an el cheapo revolution. Robert Rodriguez spent just $7,000 to shoot this Spanish-language action thriller.The Sundance hit grossed $2 million, spawned two sequels and led to such low-budget landmarks as Clerks.

Sony Picture Classics

19 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

Who’s afraid of subtitles? Not fans of this poignant Chinese fable about a stolen sword, which mixed star-crossed lovers with gravity-defying martial artistry. The most successful foreign-language film ever, grossing $128.1 million, and the most Oscar-nominated (10).

Warner Bros.

20 The Matrix (1999)

The first sci-fi thriller that felt like a portal into a 21st-century mind-set. The Wachowski brothers melded new (hacker culture, time-freezing action moves) with old (Buddhism, Lewis Carroll) for a cool high-tech aesthetic.

Warner Brothers

21 Goodfellas (1990)

The Departed? Fuggedaboutit. Martin Scorsese deserved an Oscar for this Mob classic, subbing the grandeur of The Godfather with the grubbiness of lowly sociopaths. The Sopranos would have been in the dark without it.

DreamWorks and Paramount Pictures

22 Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Not only did Steven Spielberg’s D-Day epic open a dialogue between generations about the harrowing events of World War II, but few sequences have depicted the horror and chaos of combat as authentically as the landings at Omaha Beach.


23 Star Wars: Episodes I-III (1999-2005)

The reptilian embarrassment of Jar Jar Binks and oak-like emoting by Hayden Christensen as headstrong Jedi warrior Anakin Skywalker detracted from what was an achievement in effects (Yoda unbound!), digital filmmaking and pure iconography.Not up to the thrills of the original trilogy, especially without Harrison Ford as Han Solo. But time might prove kinder than critics.

By Bob Marshak, USA Films

24 Sex, Lies, and Videotape (1989)

The fallout from this voyeuristic study of tangled relationships in camcorder-saturated times went beyond being one of the first breakouts of the Sundance Film Festival. The $1.2 million drama that grossed $25 million gave birth to a mightier Miramax, Steven Soderbergh and the indie gold rush.

Warner Bros.

25 The Bodyguard (1992)

What set this formulaic showbiz opera apart was its knockout soundtrack topped by Whitney Houston’s soaring I Will Always Love You. It sold 17 million copies, bumped Saturday Night Fever as the No. 1 all-time film soundtrack and showed how to squeeze big money from a so-so movie.