One of the great comedies of the silent era, this Hal Roach production, codirected by Fred C. Newmeyer and Sam Taylor, will forever be associated with the scene in which its bespectacled star Harold Lloyd dangles from a building, high above the street, holding on only to the hand of a giant clock.
Viva Villa! (1934)
Wallace Beery plays Pancho Villa in this loosely-based-on-facts biopic, which was penned by Ben Hecht and directed by Jack Conway, with uncredited direction by Howard Hawks and William Wellman. Leo Carrillo, Fay Wray and Joseph Schildkraut also star. The film -- the exteriors of which were shot in Mexico -- was nominated for the best picture Oscar, and it also inspired another film with an exclamation-mark, Viva Zapata! (1952).
In Elia Kazan's film-noir classic, the premise of which was ripped from the headlines, a district attorney with a bright future in politics (Dana Andrews) elicits the ire of those around him when he spontaneously tells a judge that he believes the man he has been tasked with prosecuting for murder (Arthur Kennedy) is, in fact, not guilty, and then works to prove as much. Lee J. Cobb, Karl Malden and Jane Wyatt also appear in the film, which played at the Cannes Film Festival and went on to score a best original screenplay Oscar nomination.
Viva Zapata! (1952)
A year after making A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), EliaKazan and Marlon Brandoreteamed for this biopic about EmilianoZapata, the revolutionary who challenged the corrupt Mexican dictator Porfirio Diaz in the early 20th century. Brando's performance as the title character brought him his second of four consecutive best actor Oscar nominations, and Anthony Quinn's was awarded the best supporting actor Oscar.
Gordon Douglas directed this sci-fi/horror classic, which stars James Whitmore, Edmund Gwenn, Joan Weldon and James Arness. It focuses on a community struck with mysterious disappearances and deaths, which are eventually attributed to -- wait for it -- ants that have morphed into giants as a result of exposure to radiation from early tests of the Atomic bomb. Like Jaws (1975) years later, it heightened its suspense by waiting until well into the film to actually show the scary creatures (which were created with special effects that went on to receive an Oscar nomination).
This RKO musical, the first feature film shot using the Todd-AO 70mm widescreen process, was adapted from the 1943 Rodgers and Hammerstein play of the same title and was one of the most well-received of the era's many "filmed stage productions" that were distributed to the public as a "roadshow attraction." Directed by Fred Zinnemann, it stars newcomer Shirley Jones and Gordon MacRae, as well as Rod Steiger, Gloria Grahame, James Whitmore and Eddie Albert. (MacRae and Jones would reteam the following year in an adaptation of another Rodgers-Hammerstein musical, Carousel.)
I Want to Live! (1958)
Susan Hayward won a best actress Oscar for her performance as a woman who has a criminal past but winds up on death row for a crime she did not commit in this film-noir classic, directed by Robert Wise. The film, which was a critical and commercial success, also bagged a best director Oscar nomination for Wise, the first of three for him in the category. (He won the other two, for musicals you may have heard of: West Side Story and The Sound of Music!)
Girls! Girls! Girls! (1962)
This musical-comedy was one of several Hollywood vehicles for Elvis Presley in the sixties. Under the direction of veteran helmer Norman Taurog, Presley plays a penniless but happy Hawaiian fisherman who finds himself at a crossroads when he learns that his boss will be retiring -- and when he attracts the affections of two very different women (Stella Stevens and Laurel Goodwin). The film's soundtrack includes the Presley song "Return to Sender," which hit #2 on the Billboard pop charts. The film itself was nominated for the best picture (musical or comedy) Golden Globe Award.
Andrew McLaglen directed John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara -- two frequent costars of his father, Victor McLaglen -- in this dramedy about a man juggling family and business problems. Inspired by William Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, it is famous -- or perhaps infamous -- for the scene in which Wayne spanks O'Hara.
Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964)
This second installment of writer-director Herschell Gordon Lewis' "The Blood Trilogy" was loosely inspired by the musical Brigadoon, was shot in just 14 days and has been described by some as a "splatter film" thanks to the copious amounts of blood that are spilt during its 87 minutes. It chronicles the horrors imposed by Southern rednecks upon six Yankee tourists after they are lured into a town in the Deep South for a celebration commemorating the 100th anniversary of the day Union troops destroyed the town during the Civil War. The film stars Connie Mason, a Playboy Playmate from the year prior.
That Darn Cat! (1965)
A year after directing Mary Poppins (1964), Robert Stevenson directed this other Disney film featuring music by the Sherman brothers, a comedic-thriller starring sixties child phenom Hayley Mills. Drawn from a script by Bill Walsh and the husband-wife team of Mildred Gordon and -- wait for it-- Gordon Gordon, it centers around a wandering Siamese cat who brings to the attention of his owners, two young girls whose parents are out-of-town (Mills and Dorothy Provine), evidence that may trace back to a kidnapping victim. They reach out to the FBI, which dispatches an agent (Dean Jones) who happens to be allergic to cats, and the search is on.
Die, Monster, Die! (1965)
This horror flick, directed by veteran production designer Daniel Haller, was released by American International Pictures as the first feature on a double bill. It revolves around an American scientist (Nick Adams) who goes to meet the family of his fiancee, only to discover that his future father-in-law (the legendary Boris Karloff) has been up to some experiments of his own, with horrifying consequences.
Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965)
This campy exploitation flick, which has become a cult classic, was co-written and directed by the legendary shlockmeister Russ Meyer. It is packed to the gills with gratuitous sex and violence, revolving around three thrill-seeking strippers (Lori Williams, Haji and Tura Satana) who kidnap and terrorize a young couple and then scheme against an old man, who turns out to be harboring a few mischievous plans of his own.
Joan Crawford's second-to-last big screen appearance came in this melodramatic British thriller, directed by Jim O'Connolly. Shot in glorious Technicolor, it recounts the story of a traveling circus -- owned and run by Crawford's character -- the employees of which begin turning up dead, begging the question, "Whodunnit?!"
On the heels of three collaborations of widely-varying degrees of success -- Cleopatra (1963), The Sandpiper (1965) and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) -- Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, now a married couple, shared the screen again in this Joseph Losey-directed British thriller derived from a Tennessee Williams play. Taylor plays a rich, dying woman who is visited in her mansion by a mysterious man, played by Burton, who may, in fact, be "the Angel of Death." The film received abysmal reviews.
This British flick -- which was inspired by Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist, was directed by Carol Reed and stars Ron Moody, Mark Lester, Oliver Reed, Jack Wild and Hugh Griffith, among others -- was the last musical to win the best picture Oscar until Chicago (2002) claimed the top prize 24 years later.
In GilloPontecorvo's Italian-language period-piece film, which was shot in Italy, a blonde and bearded Marlon Brando plays a 19th century upper-class Englishman who visits an island colony of Great Britain and interacts with the population. (Brando once asserted that it was his best performance ever.) The film explores the question: Are they better off as an independent country but relying on the British for trade, or as a colony of Portugal? With an EnnioMorricone score to boot, it's fun to find out.
Hello, Dolly! (1969)
Gene Kelly directed Barbra Streisand in Fox's big-budget adaptation of the 1969 Tony Award-winning Broadway musical of the same title. Set around the turn of the 20th century, it focuses on a well-known matchmaker (Streisand) who visits Yonkers, New York to try to find a match for a crotchety rich man (Walter Matthau). The film received a controversial best picture Oscar nomination, and won the Oscars for art direction-set direction, score (original or adapted) and sound.
Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970)
Michael Bay was barely out of diapers when Richard Fleischer and Kinji Fukasaku co-directed this controversial American-Japanese collaboration, which dramatizes the days leading up to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the attack itself. Despite an impressive cast (including Martin Balsam, Joseph Cotten, E.G. Marshall, James Whitmore and Jason Robards, plus several fine Japanese actors) and impressive visual effects (for which it would win an Oscar), the film was a box-office disappointment in America -- but a smash-hit in Japan.
Oh! Calcutta! (1972)
Jacques Levy's 1969 theatrical production, which became Broadway's longest-running revue, was filmed and released in select theaters in 1972. Featuring a series of musical numbers about sex and sexual mores, along with plenty of nudity and/or sexual simulation, it was banned by many cities and localities.
O Lucky Man! (1973)
This second installment in the "Mick Travis" trilogy of British films -- all of which were directed by Lindsay Anderson and star Malcolm McDowell -- is a surrealist romantic dramedy with a 178-minute runtime. An allegorical look at the pitfalls of capitalism, it tracks a young coffee salesman as he makes his way across Europe and encounters all sorts of colorful characters and experiences. Long before Cloud Atlas (2012), this film featured numerous actors -- including Ralph Richardson and Rachel Roberts -- playing multiple roles. It played in-competition at the Cannes Film Festival.
Oh, God! (1977)
Talk about an odd couple: octogenarian George Burns and country singer John Denver star in this Larry Gelbart-scribed/Carl Reiner-directed laugher as God and the supermarket manager chosen to spread his message, respectively. Teri Garr, Donald Pleasence, Paul Sorvino, Dinah Shore, Jeff Corey, Carl Reiner and Ralph Bellamy also appear in the film. (Burns later reprised his part in two sequels.)
Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! (1978)
This low-budget flick, a horror-comedy hybrid co-written, directed, edited and scored by John DeBello and starring David Miller, is a spoof of B-movies. Accordingly, its premise is utterly ridiculous: tomatoes become sentient and turn against mankind. And, wouldn't you know it, it spawned three sequels.
Oscar winner Milos Forman directed this adaptation of the 1968 Broadway musical-dramedy about a Vietnam war draftee from the heartland (John Savage) who travels to New York and is befriended by a group of hippies -- led by Treat Williams and including the beautiful Beverly D'Angelo, among others -- en route to the army induction center. Featuring plenty of singing and dancing, the film was nominated for the best picture (musical or comedy) and Williams was nominated for the best newcomer (male) Golden Globe awards.
Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker's hilarious comedy parodies the disaster-film genre that was so popular in the seventies. Its cast included young up-and-comers Robert Hays and Julie Hagerty, as well as a host of Golden Age stars who were willing to mock their screen personas: Robert Stack, Peter Graves, Lloyd Bridges and, of course, Leslie Nielsen. ("Surely you can't be serious!" "I am serious -- and don't call me Shirley.") It was named the 10th funniest film of all-time by the American Film Institute in 2000.
¡Three Amigos! (1986)
This Jon Landis adventure-comedy, which was co-written by Steve Martin and Lorne Michaels (and obviously inspired by the classic films The Seven Samurai and The Magnificent Seven), stars Martin, Chevy Chase and Martin Short as three silent movie actors who played fearless defenders of justice on the big screen, but lose their jobs and accept a gig in Mexico, where they are drawn into a village controversy that demands that they play defenders of justice in real-life, as well.
Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1990)
This Spanish romantic-dramedy was written and directed by Pedro Almodovar 23 years before he reprised the exclamation mark-title for I'm So Excited. It features Antonio Banderas as a just-released psychiatric patient who kidnaps a porno star with whom he once had sex (Victoria Abril), believing they are destined to be marry and have children together. Controversy over the MPAA's decision to give it an X-rating, which was usually reserved for porno films, led to the creation of the NC-17 rating, which is attached to risque films to this day.
Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot (1992)
Roger Spottiswoode directed this forgettable action-comedy, which stars arguably the oddest movie pairing of all-time, Estelle Getty and Sylvester Stallone, as mother and son. The film revolves around a hard-nosed detective (Stallone) whose seemingly frail mother (Getty) comes to live with him and quickly becomes a meddlesome bother, trying to clean up not only his home but also his life -- but, when he is threatened, proves to be capable of much more than nagging. It was awarded Razzies for worst actor (Stallone), worst supporting actress (Getty) and worst screenplay.
To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar (1995)
Beeban Kidron's absurdist comedy stars John Leguizamo, Wesley Snipes and Patrick Swayze as three drag queens from New York who hop in a car -- along with a photo bearing the title inscription -- and embark on a road trip to Los Angeles, only to have it break down in the middle of nowhere, leaving them stranded. There, they transform the town and seem to find happiness -- until a homophobic sheriff (Chris Penn) enters the picture. Swayze and Leguizamo received Golden Globe noms for best actor (musical or comedy) and best supporting actor, respectively.
That Thing You Do! (1996)
This musical-comedy, written and directed by Tom Hanks, follows a fictitious sixties band, composed of teenagers from Erie, Pennsylvania, which churns out a catchy single that thrusts them to the top of the charts and into the national spotlight -- and which then struggles to stay there. Ironically, the song featured in the film, "That Thing You Do," did, in fact, become a hit song! Also, Playtone, the name of the fictional record company in the film, became the name of Hanks' real production company.
Moulin Rouge! (2001)
This first pairing of Aussies Baz Luhrmann and Nicole Kidman (who would reunite on the ill-fated Australia), along with Ewan McGregor, was a critical, commercial and awards success (Kidman was nominated for best actress), and it helped to revive the long-dormant musical genre, which completed its comeback the following year when Chicago won the best picture Oscar.
Good Bye Lenin! (2003)
This German romantic-dramedy, directed by Wolfgang Becker from an adaptation of a book that he also authored, is about the extreme efforts of a young man (Daniel Bruhl) to protect his mother (Katrin Sass), a loyal socialist, from the shock of learning that the Berlin Wall had fallen after she awakens from eight months in a coma. The lengths to which he and the others in her life go to recreate a bygone world in order to preserve an illusion makes for great amusement. It was nominated for the best foreign language film BAFTA and Golden Globe awards.
Win a Date with Tad Hamilton! (2004)
In Robert Luketic's big studio romantic-comedy, the title character, a Hollywood bad-boy (Josh Duhamel), is pined after by a small-town check-out girl (Kate Bosworth), who wins a contest to go on a date with him -- and it goes so well that he decides to give up the high-life to come and live with her. Meanwhile, her best friend and coworker (Topher Grace), who has long secretly loved her, decides to profess his feelings, presenting her with a major decision. Nathan Lane, Sean Hayes, Gary Cole, Ginnifer Goodwin and Octavia Spencer also star.
Goal! The Dream Begins (2005)
Danny Cannon directed this FIFA-approved first installment of the Goal! trilogy about an asthmatic youngster from in a poor section of Los Angeles (played as a kid by Leonardo Guerra and at a slightly older age by Kuno Becker) -- the child of poor illegal immigrants from Mexico -- who is a promising regional club soccer player, but dreams of becoming a professional. One day, he gets a chance to try out for the Newcastle United.
Mamma Mia! (2008)
Phyllida Lloyd directed an all-star cast -- including Meryl Streep,Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard, Julie Walters, Dominic Cooper, Amanda Seyfried and Christine Baranski -- in this adaptation of Catherine Johnson's hit West End and Broadway musical production of the same title. Structured around the songs of the 1970s pop group ABBA, the film focuses on the effort of a young bride-to-be (Seyfried), who was raised by a single mother (Streep), to identify which of three men (Brosnan, Firth or Skarsgard) is her father.
The Informant! (2009)
Writer-director Steven Soderbergh and actor Matt Damon -- frequent collaborators -- reunited for this outlandish crime dramedy that was inspired by the real life story of Mark Whitacre (Damon), a promising employee at Archer Daniels Midland who, at the urging of his wife, tips off the FBI about the company's price-fixing tactics -- even though in doing so he also implicates himself in criminal activity that might otherwise have escaped notice.
I'm So Excited! (2013)
The premise of Spanish iconoclast Pedro Almodovar's latest film is as dark as any on his distinguished filmography -- a commercial airplane might not be able to land properly, threatening the lives of all of its passengers and crew -- but he elected to approach this one as an absurdist comedy, complete with flamboyantly gay stewards, horny passengers and sex in the cabin. It's no Airplane!, to cite another mile-high comedy with an exclamation mark, but it was good enough to get the opening slot at the 2013 Los Angeles Film Festival.
Domestic box office is down 20 percent in the U.S. as "Sex Tape" goes limp and, for the first time since 2001, no film crosses $300 million. Laments one studio executive, “I wish I worked at Netflix.” Read More
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