If you look at today’s movie releases, it feels like everything’s been done before and the original ideas are all, but spent. We’re getting hit with remakes, sequels, soft reboots, remakes of sequels, reimaginings, spin-offs, … you name it. An original idea is too much of a risk for most production companies so they’d rather just make an umpteenth the Fast and the Furious movie instead of taking a chance.
Thankfully, in the past there was room for experimentation and risk-taking, and it’s led to an array of movies that have changed, launched or reinvented entire movie genres. Let’s take a look.
James Bond (1960s)
Sure, spy movies weren’t exactly new back when Sean Connery first took up the mantle of James Bond, but there’s a deeper meaning behind the movie’s plot that did change how spy movies were made. This was the first movie where they actually made the plot a reflection of real-life political tensions at the time and had 007 take on the Russians during the Cold War.
Frankenstein paved the way for movies about monsters being created against their will and rebelling against their creator. There’s a whole bunch of movies that could be linked to that concept, ranging from Blade Runner (1982) to RoboCop (1987) and even Edward Scissorhands (1990). It’s become a fairly popular theme in movies and it’s all thanks to Frankenstein.
Peeping Tom (1960)
While most people associate the birth of the slasher horror movie with Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, Peeping Tom fits the bill far more accurately. In fact, this movie had so many of the near-voyeuristic slasher horror tropes that at the time, it ruined the directing career of Michael Powell. The movie intimately showed the expression of the victims dying, and audiences weren’t ready for that just yet. A few decades later, they couldn’t get enough of it.
Enter the Dragon (1973)
This iconic Bruce Lee movie wasn’t the first in its genre, but it was the first where they actually had acting, a plot and a charismatic lead actor. It still wasn’t exactly Oscar material, but at least now the world realized that you need more than some martial arts moves to keep audiences interested for an hour and a half.
Snow White (1934)
You probably wouldn’t tell, but Snow White was one of the biggest commercial risks that Walt Disney ever took with his movies. An 80-minute animated movie had never been done before and nobody really believed it would be successful. The movie went grossly over budget and despite everyone thinking it would fall flat on its face, it launched the Disney empire and more importantly the interest in the Disney princess.
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
The successes of this movie were twofold. Not only did this George A. Romero movie introduce the genre of zombie horror, it was also the first independent movie to really be successful. So we shouldn’t just thank him for all the zombie horror movies we’ve seen since them, but pretty much every indie film – and especially indie horror films – since then.
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
Seen now as the penultimate example of “film noir”, The Maltese Falcon had everything we’ve now come to expect from the genre: cynicism, questionable morals, a dark atmosphere, witty and snappy dialogue, … This was also the first film noir to actually be a detective story, which is what we’ve come to associate with the genre over the years.