The Six Most Unfortunate Influential Films
Earlier this week, Turner Movie Classics came out with a list of the 15 most influential films of all time, which mostly amounted to classics that influenced the way movies were made or marketed. Styles and techniques from those films have been used ever since, and in the case of a few of those movies, they practically invented entire genres.
But what about films that have had a negative influence on cinema? Superior films, in most cases, that were so wildly popular that they inspired a series of copycats and pale imitators, in addition to the occasionally good film that built on the original’s success, instead of completely copying it?
To that end, here are the six most unfortunate influential films of all time:
6. Freaky Friday: I doubt that the original 1976 Freaky Friday was the first body-transfer movie ever, but it was the first big hit. And what other body transference movies do we have to thank Freaky Friday for? The good: Big and, perhaps, the Freaky Friday remake, Heaven Can Wait and 13 Going on 30. The awful: Like Father, Like Son, Vice Versa, It’s a Boy Girl Thing, 18 Again, Dream a Little Dream and this weekend’s 17 Again. And if it’s successful, you can probably count on remakes of most of the above films. Awesome.
5. The Matrix: A great action flick (one of the best of the last 25 years). But it’s innovation was not in its narrative, but in the Wachowski Brothers’ use of bullet-time photography combined with wire work in Eastern kung-fu movies and computer effects. Unfortunately, in addition to inspiring two much lesser sequels, the Wachowski’s also inspired the visual effects in damn near every action movie since. The worst of these stylistic rip-ofs were movies like Charlie’s Angels, The One, Eagle Eye, Equilibrium, Underworld, Ultraviolet, Resident Evil and Alien vs. Predator, just to name a few. Of course, the Wachowskis were also a huge influence on Timur Bekmambatov, who gave us the Night Watch trilogy and the entertaining, but full-on Matrix rip-off, Wanted.
4. Pulp Fiction Quentin Tarantino’s biggest influence was in his use of nonlinear storylines and the extensive use of pop-culture references, which has become — for good or bad — part of the scriptwriting process today. It inspired a slew of copycats, good (Go, Lock Stock, and Two Barrels), bad (Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead, Two Days in the Valley, Suicide Kings) and mediocre (Get Shorty, Smokin’ Aces, the rest of Guy Ritchie’s oeuvre.
3. Toy Story 2: Toy Story 2 essentially did for computer-animated movies what Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs did for 2D animation. By grossing nearly $500 million worldwide, Toy Story 2 suggested that computer-animated movies were extremely commercially viable and pretty much made 2D animation extinct. And while that’s been good in many ways (everything Pixar has made, since), it’s not been so good in other ways (nearly every other computer animated film since, the most heinous of these including Kung Fu Panda, Shark Tale, Happy Feet, Madagascar, Ice Age and the Shrek sequels.)
2. Saw: The original Saw had some modest entertainment value, mostly for its ability — at the time — to make you wriggle in disgust. But I dare say, nothing good has come from Saw, and way too much has come from it. I speak of the entire torture porn genre, which thankfully (but for the Saw series) has mostly flamed out. But before it did, we were introduced to entirely too much sadistic horror. Eli Roth has, so far, built a career out of it. And we also have Saw to thank for Captivity, I Know Who Killed Me, Turistas, Rob Zombie’s films, and even The Passion of the Christ. So, thanks for that, James Wan.
1. Airplane: As much as I loved Airplane and it’s most immediate successors, Top Secret and Naked Gun, I would gladly give them all back to the cinematic Gods if it meant none of their successors were ever made. Airplane basically invented the genre spoof, and it’s been unrelentingly downhill since the original Naked Gun. What do we have to thank Airplane for? For starters, the awful Naked Gun sequels. Also, Scary Movie and it’s succession of sequels. But worst of all? The careers of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, who have given us: Meet the Spartans, Disaster Movie, Epic Movie and Spy Hard. And what do we get next? Keenan Ivory Wayan’s upcoming Dance Flick.