I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at the state of Hollywood. One minute, they’re looking for new ideas and the next they’re trying to squeeze a sequel out of a franchise they haven’t updated in years. In some ways, it’s awesome because we have more choices than ever before. In other ways, it’s sad because so many of them are cynical cash grabs, shamelessly ripping off other stories and creatively bankrupt ideas.
I’m sure we’ll see more reboots and sequels in the coming months. Especially since the box office is back in stock after a years-long drought. But for now, let’s take a moment to appreciate what Hollywood did right. Despite all these sequels and reboots, Hollywood somehow found new ways to reinvent itself and inspire other industries.
Recently, I counted down the Hollywood’s 25 greatest achievements from the past century. From talking pictures and sound trucks to camcorders and the golden age of television. While many of these achievements would never have been possible without the technology of the past few decades, the truth is that Hollywood has been a trailblazer in many ways.
One of the first and most significant achievements in the history of Hollywood happened in 1914. That’s when one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, Edwin S. Porter came up with the idea of a talking picture. Up until then, movies had existed in black and white. But with the invention of color film, people started saying more things and the need for audio grew as well. So Porter proposed a way to have silent films narrated by actors! That’s right – for the very first time ever, Hollywood used the technique of dubbing to help tell stories.
One hundred years later, Hollywood is still putting out movies that inspired the future. Case in point – Toy Story. Released in 1995, Toy Story is one of the greatest pieces of filmmaking ever made. It’s funny, warm and loaded with creative ideas that have inspired other directors and filmmakers. But what makes it so remarkable is that it’s not your typical Hollywood movie. Usually, when you think of Toy Story, you think of Disney. But in truth, Pixar – the company that gave us Toy Story and many other unforgettable movies – was initially owned by Disney. However, when Disney found out what Pixar was doing, they tried to shut them down. Luckily, someone at Pixar had the bright idea to release Toy Story as a commercial failure. It was a gamble, but it paid off. Thanks to that one singularly brilliant idea, they were able to avoid the Hollywood stereotype and continue inspiring generations to come.
Wondering what else made the cut? Hit the next page or click here to continue reading the list.
25. The Golden Age Of Television
If you thought the golden era of Hollywood was over in the 1950s, you thought wrong. Back then, Hollywood produced a whopping 139 silent films. But in the ‘70s, that number plummeted to just 21. Then you had the introduction of camcorders and you started to see a resurgence in interest from fans. That’s when things really started changing. Not only were fans becoming more active participants, but technology was advancing and people were learning how to use new software like Final Cut Pro and Avid. As a result, indie films like Tim and Eric’s Superstar and Kevin Smith’s Clerks became popular, challenging Hollywood’s status quo and forcing them to adapt.
In the ‘80s, you had the rise of action films and gore. But it was in the ‘90s that things truly changed. You had the invention of the VCR and the birth of the home video market. Suddenly, smaller production companies could find an audience and could gain popularity. You also had the rise of fan communities like the internet. People could find forums and chat rooms where they could share ideas and connect with other Hollywood fans. This led to a Golden Age of Television
24. Talking Pictures
In the ‘20s, Hollywood adapted many of their silent films for early sound films. However, the advent of talkies was a challenge. Many studios couldn’t keep up with the demand for talking films, so they turned to novelisations or dramatisations. It wasn’t until the invention of the talkie camera that things started looking up for Hollywood. That’s when people realized that they could actually record sound while filming as well. So in the early days of talkies, you had character voices, narrations and music playing in the background. All things that were unheard of in silent films. Things continued to evolve in the ‘30s. You had musicals, comedy films, blockbusters and even an animated series! Unfortunately, during most of the ‘30s, Hollywood was on the wrong end of the depression. People didn’t have money to go to the movies and studios were loosing money. But things changed in the ‘40s. World War II broke out and brought in a lot of cash. Hollywood started making more money again and invested in new technology. As a result, you started to see a new wave of creativity emerge.
23. The Dawn Of The Modern Age
Throughout the 1950s, you had the rise of the celebrity cinema. You had stars like Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson who became household names and movie icons. Hudson’s “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” became an iconic line. But it was in the ‘60s that true mass marketing in the form of television commercials emerged. For the first time in history, people started seeing movies on the small screen and on the big screen too. So in the ‘70s, you had a mix of old and new. You had classics like King Kong and 2001: A Space Odyssey and you had new adventures like Jaws and Star Wars.
Then in the ‘80s, you had the video game industry. It was around this time that Hollywood started making action movies and experimenting with different genres. You also saw the explosion of the independent film scene. Throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s, you had many small, independent films that challenged Hollywood’s status quo. However, at the same time, you saw many creative, innovative ideas from within Hollywood too. Most notably, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982) and Steven Spielberg’s 1941 (1941). Blade Runner was an innovative classic that introduced a new way of looking at film. And 1941, for all its historical significance, was a creative experiment that pushed the limits of what film could be. Not only was it an experiment in filmmaking, but it was also an experiment in casting and design. It was a new way of thinking and this is what made it so significant.
So in the past hundred years, you had the birth of a new industry. With the invention of the moving picture, you saw a new way of storytelling emerge. However, it wasn’t just about adapting silent films and novelisations. You saw the creative geniuses of today’s Hollywood reinvent the way we look at film and television. And for that, we should all be grateful. Because without their vision and creativity, none of this would have been possible.
22. The A-List
Even before the Golden Age of Television, Hollywood was an industry that valued social status. Not only did movie stars live in glamorous lifestyles and have access to various perks, but they also inspired fashions and trends. In the ‘20s and ‘30s, you had many fashion-related films. From Cecil B. DeMille’s lavish costumes in The King of Kings (1927) to the big-budget musical comedies of the ‘30s. Most notably, the advent of the talkie era and the resulting ‘golden’ girl. In the ‘40s and ‘50s, you had many costume dramas. However, in the ‘60s, the swinging ‘60s and the ‘70s, you had many fashion-related films. Marjorie Merriweather Post’s 1966 Cleopatra saw the trend-setting style maven meet the powerful Roman Emperor. It was the year of the hippie in Hollywood and the ‘70s were definitely a decade of experimentation when it came to style. Perhaps this is why many of Hollywood’s greatest and most iconic films are often associated with fashion. However, what really set the ‘70s apart from previous decades was that it was the first time that many people in the film industry were comfortable with speaking their minds. Specifically, in terms of lyrics in songs. This began with the emergence of new musical groups like the Grateful Dead and Grand Funk Railroad. Along with their music, these groups were also known for their satirical songs that critiqued the culture and industry of late ‘70s Hollywood. It was exactly what the industry needed and the result was a complete 180 turn in the way people thought about film music. From that point on, it was all about making a statement.