In Derek’s review of the 1931 release Dracula, he makes a good point: it’s not fair to make a straight up comparison between brand new blockbusters and classic’s of old. I will now ignore that statement and go straight to my analysis of the best decade for movies. To keep it relevant I’ll start with the 1950’s. After all, if you’re old enough to remember the movies you watched in the 1940’s, you’re likely still trying to figure out what a ‘blog’ is or why your great-great-grandson won’t stop talking about his twitter.
This decade and prior owns the acclaimed title of the “golden era” in film. Back when you couldn’t make-up for a poor story or shallow characters with some good explosions and lots of cursing. This decade passes down to us such greats as 12 Angry Men, North By Northwest and Singin’ in the Rain. Household names like Cary Grant, Gene Kelly, Rita Hayworth, Burt Lancaster, Frank Sinatra and Grace Kelly cut their chops in the 50’s (and prior). Overall, the 50’s is likely better known for it’s legendary celebrities than it’s monumental films. So, the 50’s can be easily coined the “decade of legends”.
It’s impossible for me to think of the 1960’s and not think of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood. Westerns played a huge role in the 1960’s and appealed to the “tough, hard-nosed, gritty” man of that age, an image reinforced by many of our fathers and grandfathers . You also started to see the sci-fi/horror genre take off a bit, especially concerning vampires. Elvis Presley even gave the big-screen a try, starring or co-starring in 27 films in the 60’s alone! This decade was really all over the place. Studios were beginning to really push the limits of what can, or should, be shown on the big screen. Audiences were enjoying the latter years of some of the stars I mentioned in the 50’s, while also figuring out who the next group of young stars would be. I’d personally label this decade as “Hollywood in transition”.
The greatest impact out of the 1970’s on the big screen can be summed up in two words: Star Wars. I’m personally a bigger fan of 1977’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind (I know I know… stop throwing things at your monitor). While somewhat overshadowed by Star Wars and its ensuing legacy, the rest of the decade still delivered some greats. You had big-time films like Patton, The Exorcist, The Sting and Apocalypse Now. There were some huge series that began in the 70’s as well: The first two installments of The Godfather, the first three Jaws movies, the first two Rocky’s and the first of the big-screen appearances of Superman. Epic comedies also appeared in the 70’s like Blazing Saddles, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Animal House, Young Frankenstein and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. For some perspective, in 1977 alone the movie industry grossed about $1.5 Billion… just in the States! It’s not hard to see why I call the 1970’s the “beginning of blockbusters.”
I’ll be wrapping up my analysis of each decade next week with the 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s (the ought’s?) and weighing in on which decade is best. Until then, what do you think of these three decades? See Part 2 here.