A few weeks ago, everyone was talking about the 20th anniversary of Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, which got me thinking: What other films came out in 1997 that still leave their marks on our collective memory? And by “our” I mean mine - this is, after all, a highly subjective list. And in retrospect, 1997 turned out to be a pretty pivotal year for Hollywood, with indie dramas rubbing shoulders with action, sci-fi, and thrillers on an almost level playing field. Good, bad or weird, movies were fun in a way we have rarely seen since. It was still a time when VHS rentals reigned supreme, and without user ratings we made most of our decisions based on box art and word of mouth. Am I getting misty eyed? Maybe. Am I getting old? Definitely. Just roll with me on this.
Without further ado, here are the most memorable (for good or for ill) movies turning 20 this year:
Nicolas Cage impersonates John Travolta! John Travolta impersonates Nic Cage! Faces get rubbed! Doves fly! And talk about real science - face transplant surgery is now a reality! Basically, this movie is everything. In the words of Castor Troy, “If I were to let you suck my tongue, would you be grateful?” I mean, when you put it THAT way…
Maybe you remember an all-star cast, the star-making turn from Mark Wahlberg, or the epic renaissance of Burt Reynolds. Maybe you remember the music, or the drugs, or maybe it’s just that really long, arty porn flick to you. One thing is for sure: nobody has forgotten that monster prosthetic wang.
Let’s just get this one out of the way. I’ll be honest - I was a contrarian teen when this movie hit, and I didn’t care about it. When I finally watched it at a sleepover, it felt like a whole lot of build up just to watch a boat sink. Because of course it sinks, IT’S THE TITANIC. The only bright spot for me was Billy Zane, because I have an irrational fascination with Billy Zane. It is what it is. Also, fun fact: Leonardo DiCaprio chose to do Titanic over Boogie Nights, so now we’re left to imagine the DiCaprio prosthesis that never was.
THE FIFTH ELEMENT
Ah yes, the movie that spawned a thousand Leeloo cosplays! Check out Lord Castleton’s in-depth look at this fantastic, weird gem of a flick here. All I have to add is that my undying devotion to Gary Oldman probably started with this movie. Or that time he played Dracula. Either/or.
GOOD WILL HUNTING
Without this movie, who knows if we’d ever have gotten the Jason Bourne and the Batman we know today. How do you like them apples?
THE DEVIL’S ADVOCATE
Al Pacino manages to make great movies, and make terrible movies great. You decide which category this falls under.
That’s right, TWO Nic Cage movies make the list! That alone is proof that 1997 was the actual best. His flowing locks would be enough, but the movie gave us so much more than that. Steve Buscemi as a serial killer. Dave Chappelle’s dead body used as a human message board. John Cusack’s sandals. “Put the bunny back in the box.” Forget 20 years old - this movie is TIMELESS. Fun Fact: Con Air director Simon West is the man who Rickrolled us all (he directed the infamous Rick Astley music video for “Never Gonna Give You Up”).
Hell is scary. Space is scary. But spaceships that go through space, end up in Hell, and then come back? THE SCARIEST. Just ask Sam Neill.
These are just a narrow selection, but there are so, so many memorable movies that are turning 20 this year. Chasing Amy, Jackie Brown, Men In Black, Donnie Brasco, Lost Highway, Cube, G.I. Jane, Starship Troopers, Life Is Beautiful, L.A. Confidential, and of course… Batman & Robin. Let us never forget the year that gave us the gift of George Clooney’s Bat-nipples.