In the year 2021, I will be honoring the history of film by posting a monthly Reel Anarchy article detailing up to four films from the past that are celebrating an anniversary. I try to pick films that are at least 10-years old, but the emphasis is on films that are at least 20-years old. You might see some high-profile classics show up, but you might see some more obscure picks as well.
This year’s films celebrating an anniversary in the month of May . . .
This 1971 western might not be John Wayne’s most memorable film, but it was definitely an underrated one.
Big Jake was written by Dirty Harry writers, Harry Julian Fink and R.M. Fink, and directed by George Sherman, who worked with Wayne on the hit Western 10-years prior, The Comancheros. This film would be the final film directed by Sherman, with help from Wayne himself when Sherman was in poor health. Big Jake starred John Wayne in the title role alongside Richard Boone and Maureen O’Hara. Two of Wayne’s sons, Patrick Wayne and Ethan Wayne, have supporting roles in the film.
It would also be a film filled with a lot of lasts. John Wayne and co-star, Christopher Mitchum (son of popular actor, Robert Mitchum), never worked again due to Mitchum’s disagreements with Wayne’s conservative views. It was the final film featuring John Wayne and his son, Patrick Wayne, as well as longtime friend of John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara. Besides Big Jake being Sherman’s last film, it would also be the last time John Wayne would be #1 at the box office.
The plot synopsis on IMDB states: “In 1909, when John Fain’s gang kidnaps Jacob McCandles’ grandson and holds him for ransom, Big Jake sets out to rescue the boy.”
Tom Cruise’s career flew to new heights after the debut of Top Gun in 1986. The film responsible for popularizing bomber jackets, ray-ban aviators, and driving up Navy recruiting by 500% was directed by Tony Scott and written by Jim Cash and Jack Epps Jr. The rest of the cast featured Kelly McGillis, Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards, and Tom Skerritt. Plus, the film also featured Meg Ryan and Michael Ironside in supporting roles.
The film wound up making $353.8 million worldwide off an estimated production budget of $15 million. The film’s soundtrack soared to the top of Billboard Hot 200 albums for five different weeks during the summer of 1986. One of the main songs, “Take My Breath Away” performed by Berlin, won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. Top Gun would be nominated for two more Academy Awards as well, leading to its selection for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.
A sequel, Top Gun: Maverick, hits theatres in November.
This Spielberg-produced disaster action-adventure thriller celebrates 25 years of existence this month. Jan de Bont directed Twister featuring Helen Hunt, Bill Paxton, Cary Elwes, and Jami Gertz in leading roles. Van Halen helmed the theme song for the film, “Humans Being” while Mark Mancina composed the musical score. Here is the IMDB plot synopsis: “Bill and Jo Harding, advanced storm chasers on the brink of divorce, must join together to create an advanced weather alert system by putting themselves in the cross-hairs of extremely violent tornadoes.”
While the film received a mixed critical reception – and numerous production safety issues – the box office numbers for Twister were spectacular. Made on an estimated $92 million budget, the film grossed just under $500 million worldwide. It was the second-highest-grossing film of 1996. It was also nominated for two Academy Awards (Best Visual Effects and Best Sound). Fun fact: Twister was the first film in the U.S. to be released on DVD.
Twister has also been, quite easily, the most popular and recognizable film about tornadoes to date. It has been referenced in numerous works afterwards, including a direct reference in the 1999 Mike Myers film, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. Nothing can top the real-life news story, though, of a tornado destroying a drive-in movie theatre screen in Ontario (where the movie was filmed) in May 1996 that was scheduled to show Twister. What a twist!
I cannot believe Shrek turns 20 years old this month. From Steven Spielberg’s early 1990s scrapped/altered version featuring Bill Murray and Steve Martin, to Nicolas Cage’s rejection and Chris Farley’s nearly finished recorded dialogue before his untimely and tragic death, this Mike Myers-led comedy proved to be a massively successful film franchise for Dreamworks Animation / Dreamworks Pictures. Like most sequels and reboots, though, nothing quite lives up to the original.
Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson shared directing duties, Ted Elliot, Terry Rossio, Joe Stillman, Roger S.H. Schulman penned the screenplay, while Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, John Lithgow, and Cameron Diaz starred in the film. Shrek was loosely based on the book by William Steig. The IMDB plot synopsis states: “A mean lord exiles fairytale creatures to the swamp of a grumpy ogre, who must go on a quest and rescue a princess for the lord in order to get his land back.”
Shrek wound up being the first winner of the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, and even premiered at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival and competed for the Palme d’Or (festival’s highest award), marking it as the first time an animated film did so since Peter Pan in 1953. The film made $484.4 million worldwide against a budget of only $60 million. The movie was also selected by the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, notably the first time an animated film not associated with Disney was given such an honor.
May proved to be quite a month in history in terms of films celebrating an anniversary this year. Narrowing down options to Big Jake, Top Gun, Twister, and Shrek was more difficult than I expected. It will not get any easier from here, though. Next month and on will be on another level.
What did you think of my list? Have you seen any of these films? Are there any I should have included instead? Make sure to let us know. Thanks for reading!
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