Ten blockbusters that changed Hollywood
As the world celebrates 40 years since Jaws birthed the movie "blockbuster", James Croot selects 10 other films that changed the face of big budget Hollywood movies.
Jurassic Park (1993)
Thanks to nascent CGI technology and serial dreammaker (who incredibly was basically making Schindler's List at the same time) Steven Spielberg, the world finally had realistic-looking dinosaurs on screen. Credit actors like Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum and our own Sam Neill for making it all look seamless. Most importantly it made anything seem possible.
A movie that proved that musicals could still put bums on seats, showed how singing stars could draw an audience regardless of their acting talents and displayed how soundtracks inspired by a movie could be shifted in record numbers. While not everything subsequently worked (Xanadu anyone?), Hollywood eventually found a way to pepper films with pop music without anyone actually having to break into song (aka Flashdance, Dirty Dancing and Pretty Woman).
Airplane! aka Flying High (1980)
Still regarded by some as the funniest movie ever made (and certainly the one with the most gags-to-running-time ratio), this disaster movie spoof proved comedy could be for all audiences and helped give dramatic actor Leslie Nielsen a second career.
The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
While 1977's Star Wars arguably had a larger cultural impact, this is the entry in the saga everyone aspires to. A rollercoaster ride from go to whoa, it proved that sequels didn't have to be inferior, audiences could handle dark tales that didn't necessarily result in a happy ending or even resolution and that a big plot twist goes a long way. Two years later, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan bore that out.
Die Hard (1988)
Not only did John McTiernan's skyscraper hostage drama bring the action movie back to the real world, it also gave it back its everyman hero in the form of a shambolic Bruce Willis. As well as countless resettings (Speed is Die Hard on a bus, Air Force One is Die Hard on a plane), it also led to the 1990s craze of British-accented villains.
Tim Burton's first stab at bringing The Dark Knight to life finally proved that superhero movies could make money. Eschewing the campness of the much-loved 1960s TV show, the director also established the template for casting big names in villainous roles by asking Jack Nicholson to play The Joker. While the franchise was later ruined by Joel Schumacher and friends, Christopher Nolan helped restore Gotham pride in the noughties.
Sure Beauty and the Beast had been nominated for an Oscar and The Lion King had better songs, but this was the movie that proved animation had a future if you mixed in pop culture references and more than a sprinkling of comedy. Set the trend for using big name stars (mostly comedians) for vocal work and Robin Williams' performance has hardly been bettered.
Toy Story (1995)
A film that finally delivered a real animated alternative to Disney and showcased the massive potential of computer-generated animation. Sure it had a solid cast of stars (Tim Allen, Tom Hanks), but it's a characterisation, visuals and emotional storytelling that stay in the memory. Pixar have been one of the most reliable moviemakers ever since (although naturally Disney bought out their competition).
Independence Day (1996)
It's trailer had already stunned audiences and whet appetites, but when Roland Emmerich's sci-fi action spectacular finally opened on July 4 weekend it delivered destruction on a scale and gleefulness rarely seen before. Planet of the Apes might have had a beached Statue of Liberty, but this dared to blow the White House to smithereens.
Iron Man (2008)
While the Spider-Man trilogy had been successful and Christopher Nolan's Darker Knight in Batman Begins was greeted with approval, something was massing from the burgeoning superhero genre - fun. Enter Robert Downey Jnr, Jon Favreau and Marvel, who took an unheralded franchise, spun cinematic gold and then had the audacity to embark on a whole slate of interconnected films. A modern Marvel that's still impacting on our viewing today.