Hollywood history from the year you were born

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December 2, 2020
Twentieth Century Fox

Hollywood history from the year you were born

As the past 100 years have shown, Hollywood is constantly evolving to produce entertaining, thought-provoking, and gut-busting films. Cinema is one of America’s greatest pop culture exports, and the center of the moviemaking world is in Hollywood.

Even if you’ve never flown over the famous Hollywood sign or strolled along the Walk of Fame, you can likely relate in some form with this list of Hollywood history from the year you were born. Stacker compiled a list of 100 facts and tidbits from American cinema history, using film databases and primary news sources. It made sure to include a diverse list of events and moments that have come out of Hollywood over the years. Film debuts, studio and other industry news, box office records, milestones, major celebrity moments, controversies, and award-winning performances were considered.

Do you know the name of the first 3D movie? Or the year the Venice Film Festival was first held, or the festivals in New York, Berlin, and Cannes? What about the year when buddy cop films reached their apex? There’s all of that info and more in the following story, plus interesting tidbits about favorite actors and actresses, the cultural impact of Hollywood over the years, and how technology has changed in the film industry over the past century.

Pop some popcorn and read on to see if you’re a master cinephile. When you’re done taking this excursion through movie history—from the era of silent films, to the advent of talkies, and the rise of the Marvel Cinematic Universe—be sure to check out other Stacker stories that offer trips through time, like "NHL history from the year you were born." Now, are you ready to test your movie knowledge? Lights, camera, action.

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Charles Chaplin Productions

1921: The kid behind the camera

Charlie Chaplin directed his first full-length film, “The Kid.” Chaplin also starred in the film, raising an orphan played by Jackie Coogan.

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Haworth Pictures Corporation

1922: 3D debut

“The Power of Love” was released and considered the first 3D movie. However, the original 3D version is presumed lost.

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Underwood Archives // Getty Images

1923: The Hollywood(land) sign

The famous Hollywood sign was erected, and originally read “Hollywoodland.” With each letter standing 50-feet high, the sign was originally only supposed to be up for about a year and then dismantled. It became “Hollywood” in 1949.

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Frank Lloyd Productions // Getty Images

1924: Sills, the sea hawk

“The Sea Hawk,” a silent film about a pirate king, was one of the year’s biggest hits. The film starred Milton Sills, a singer and actor who performed in 86 films.

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Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

1925: A King’s parade

“The Big Parade” is considered the first “realistic war drama.” The film was MGM Studios’ first success and was directed by King Vidor.

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Topical Press Agency // Getty Images

1926: Mobs mourn Valentino

When Rudolph Valentino died, reportedly more than 100,000 people gathered in the streets to mourn. “Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ,” released nationwide this year, became a groundbreaking flick for its use of multiple cameras to film the intense action scenes.

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Warner Bros.

1927: Talking the talk

“The Jazz Singer” was regularly credited as a pioneering film for “talkies,” even though earlier films had synchronized music scores. Also, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre—now known as TCL Chinese Theatre—opened in Hollywood.

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Walt Disney Animation Studios

1928: Introducing Mickey Mouse

Mickey Mouse is believed to have made his first appearance in the animated short “Steamboat Willie.” The cartoon also featured synchronized sound and was a hit with audiences at New York City’s Colony Theater.

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Bettmann // Getty Images

1929: The first Oscars

The first Academy Awards presentation was held in the Blossom Room of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. “Wings” won best picture, and Janet Gaynor took home the award for best actress.

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Fox Film Corporation

1930: The Duke appears

The Hollywood Reporter delivered its first batch of “Today’s Film News Today.” John Wayne received his first major screen time in “The Big Trail.”

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Lusha Nelson // Getty Images

1931: A directing milestone

Lewis Milestone won the best director Oscar for his work on “All Quiet on the Western Front.” Milestone previously won the award for “Two Arabian Knights” and became the first two-time winner of the best director award.

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Horace Abrahams // Getty Images

1932: All eyes on Venice

The first Venice Film Festival was held, but didn’t become an annual event until 1935. “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” was one of the features of the festival.

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ullstein bild // Getty Images

1933: At the drive-in

The first drive-in theater opened in Camden, New Jersey. Car operators paid 25 cents to see “Wives Beware,” a British film about a man faking amnesia to pursue affairs.

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Bettmann // Getty Images

1934: The era of DeMille

Cecil B. DeMille directed the epic “Cleopatra,” which became a box office and critical success. DeMille had previously directed scores of silent films, but reached new levels of fame in 1934.

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Imagno // Getty Images

1935: An Oscars sweep


“It Happened One Night,” starring Clark Gable, was the big winner at the Academy Awards. Fox merged with 20th Century Pictures to create 20th Century Fox.

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Gene Lester // Getty Images

1936: MGMs major year

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer cranked out the hits, with “The Great Ziegfeld,” “San Francisco,” “After the Thin Man,” and “Rose Marie” being among the top-grossing films of the year. The studio, founded in 1924, is still going strong, producing blockbuster movies like installments of the “007” series and “Creed II.”

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Walt Disney Productions

1937: Snow White’s success

Disney released “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” the first full-length animated feature. The film was a commercial success, and became a pillar for Disney to build upon as they became a major force in the film industry.

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Bettmann // Getty Images

1938: Tracy’s twosome

Spencer Tracy won the first of two consecutive Oscars for best actor. He acted until his death in 1967, starring in classics like “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” and “Inherit the Wind.”

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Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

1939: Two of the best

Two of the most renowned films in American cinema were released, as “Gone with the Wind” and “The Wizard of Oz” wow moviegoers. Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh starred in the tale of Scarlett O’Hara, while Judy Garland, a former child actor, appeared to take a star-making turn as she went off to see the wizard. Sadly, Garland’s remaining career was full of ups and downs, exposing a darker side of Hollywood fame.

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Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

1940: Introducing Tom and Jerry

Tom and Jerry first appeared in “Puss Gets the Boot.” In the nine-minute short, Tom was actually then known as Jasper, and although unsaid on screen, Jerry’s name in the film script was Jinx. Over the next eight decades, Tom and Jerry became one of America’s famous feline and mouse duos.

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Hulton Archive // Getty Images

1941: 'Citizen Kane' and 'The Maltese Falcon'

Two of American film’s most critically acclaimed works—”Citizen Kane” and “The Maltese Falcon”—were released this year. “Citizen Kane” became known for its one-liners, dramatic shots, and Orson Welles’ scene-stealing performance. “The Maltese Falcon” was credited with revolutionizing film noir.

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Popperfoto // Getty Images

1942: 'Casablanca'

On Nov. 26, “Casablanca” premiered at New York City’s Hollywood Theatre. Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart were universally praised for their acting performances, but the Hollywood Reporter wrote that the film—possibly because of its war theme—was better received by men.

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Bettmann // Getty Images

1943: Damn Yankees

James Cagney and Gary Cooper had a showdown in the best actor category at the Oscars. Cagney, who starred in “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” took home the golden statue, edging out Cooper’s performance in “The Pride of the Yankees.”

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Bettmann // Getty Images

1944: Golden Globes

The first Golden Globes were held in Los Angeles. The night’s big winners included “The Song of Bernadette” and “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”

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Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

1945: Elizabeth Taylor’s unveiling

Elizabeth Taylor picked up a role in “National Velvet” and immediately became a star. The film tells the story of a 12-year-old girl in England who yearned to become a steeplechase rider. Training proved difficult, as Taylor fell off the horse during filming.

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Liberty Films

1946: A wonderful holiday film

“It’s a Wonderful Life” debuted days before Christmas and became a timeless holiday classic. In France, the first Cannes film festival was held.

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chrisdorney // Shutterstock

1947: British film buffs

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts, better known as BAFTA, was founded. In the years to come, the BAFTA Awards became one of the marquee events of movie award season. Also of note in the United Kingdom, the first Edinburgh International Film Festival was held in 1947.

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Archive Photos // Getty Images)

1948: An Oscar first

James Baskett was awarded an honorary Oscar for his often criticized work in “Song of the South.” Baskett, the first African American male actor to win an Academy Award, died four months later.

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Bettmann // Getty Images

1949: Paramount Pictures goes to court

Paramount Pictures received a devastating blow when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the government in the antitrust case United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc. For decades, the Paramount Consent Decrees controlled how films were distributed to theaters, but the ruling against Paramount led to more creative freedom for moviemakers, and the rise of independent theaters.

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Walt Disney Productions

1950: A Cinderella story

In 1950, Disney was in deep financial trouble. The company still released “Cinderella,” which became a massive success and essentially saved Disney. In previous years, Disney stayed afloat with films drawing inspiration from Latin America.

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ullstein bild // Getty Images

1951: Film festival fun

The first Berlin Film Festival was held, known locally as Berlinale. “Rashomon” won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, catapulting the film and the work of director Akira Kurosawa to a new level of popularity.

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Paramount Pictures

1952: Showbiz extravaganzas

“The Greatest Show on Earth” provided an in-depth look at the lives of circus workers and delighted audiences. “Singin’ in the Rain” became Gene Kelly’s masterpiece, as a silent-screen star adjusted to the coming of sound.

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Bettmann // Getty Images

1953: Booth’s boasts

Shirley Booth won an Oscar for her starring role in “Come Back, Little Sheba.” Booth, who lived to be 94, also won Emmy and Tony awards during her illustrious career.

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Toho Film (Eiga) Co. Ltd.

1954: 'Godzilla' unleashed

Ishiro Honda unleashed a monster of a film in Japanese cinemas with 1954’s “Godzilla.” Honda’s version was often considered superior to later American remakes, with its messaging about the dangers of nuclear power.

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Sunset Boulevard // Getty Images

1955: From musical to movies—and Marilyn Monroe

“Oklahoma!” and “Guys and Dolls” were two popular musicals transformed into movies. Marilyn Monroe shot her famous scene standing over a subway grating in “The Seven Year Itch.” Hollywood mourned when James Dean died in a car crash.

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Motion Picture Associates

1956: The legacy of 'The Ten Commandments'

With an all-star cast, “The Ten Commandments” etched its way into Hollywood history as a feat of filmmaking. Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner portrayed Moses and Ramses, in this epic tale that is still shown on TV almost every year near Easter or Passover. Also this year, Elvis Presley made his silver screen debut in “Love Me Tender.”

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Michael Ochs Archives // Getty Images

1957: Brenner beat out a packed class

Yul Brenner won an Oscar, but not for his work in “The Ten Commandments.” Brenner also starred in “The King and I,” and he beat out a star-studded class including Kirk Douglas, James Dean, Rock Hudson, and Sir Laurence Olivier for his performance as the king. “The Bridge on the River Kwai” was among the year’s major blockbusters.

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Silver Screen Collection // Getty Images

1958: Woodward’s win

“South Pacific,” “Gigi,” and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” were among the top performers at the box office. Joanne Woodward won the best actress Oscar for her role in “The Three Faces of Eve.” As of late 2020, Woodward is believed to be one of the oldest living Oscar winners.

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Bettmann // Getty Images

1959: Another Heston epic

“Ben Hur” became the most-expensive film ever made at the time, as Charlton Heston stars in another epic. “The 400 Blows” ushered in the French New Wave.

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Mondadori // Getty Images

1960: A star-making year

“Spartacus” and “Psycho” captivated moviegoers with their thrilling scenes. The Hollywood Walk of Fame was created, with Joanne Woodward among the first recipients to receive a star.

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George Rinhart // Getty Images

1961: A major west side story

“West Side Story” was one of the year’s biggest releases, as an adaptation of the 1957 musical. The following year, the film won a record-breaking 10 Oscars. In 1997, it was added to the National Film Registry.

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Ernst Haas // Getty Images

1962: A Hollywood starlet is gone

Marilyn Monroe was found dead in her Los Angeles home. At the time of Monroe’s death, she was 36, and many obituaries mentioned an overdose of pills as a likely cause of her demise. “Dr. No” was the first of many James Bond movies.

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Robert R. McElroy // Getty Images

1963: A mad, mad, mad, mad year for movies

The New York Film Festival launched with a screening of “The Exterminating Angel.” “Cleopatra,” “Bye Bye Birdie,” and “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” are among the notable nationwide releases.

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Archive Photos // Getty Images

1964: Music of the moment

Sidney Poitier, star of “Lilies of the Field,” won the Oscar for best actor. “Mary Poppins” and “My Fair Lady” sing their way to the top of the box office charts. The Beatles released “A Hard Day’s Night.”

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Bettmann // Getty Images

1965: The von Trapp phenomenon

“The Sound of Music” was a bit of an unexpected hit, and few predicted it would top “Gone With the Wind” as the top box office draw of all-time. Robert Wise, who previously had success producing “West Side Story,” added much of the same formula to the story of the von Trapp family. “Doctor Zhivago” capped the year with another powerful set of box office numbers.

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Bettmann // Getty Images

1966: The curious case of Walt Disney’s death

Walt Disney died on Dec. 15, and soon rumors began flying about what would be done with the animation legend’s body. Many believe that Disney’s body was cryogenically frozen; however, that has never been confirmed.

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Lawrence Truman Productions

1967: Dustin Hoffman graduates to movie star status

“The Graduate,” with its mix of Simon & Garfunkel tunes and strong debut of actor Dustin Hoffman, became a blockbuster. With its quotable lines, “The Graduate” sucked in audiences and in some ways changed Hollywood.

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Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

1968: Out of this world movies

“2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Planet of the Apes” became two of the first movies to find success with plots based around exploration of other planets. “Rosemary’s Baby” frightened audiences, as Mia Farrow was brilliant in the Roman Polanski horror thriller.

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Silver Screen Collection // Getty Images

1969: Streisand shines

In a story that gripped and scared Hollywood, actress Sharon Tate was murdered by followers of Charles Manson. “Cowboys” had a rebirth as “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” and “Midnight Cowboy” drew in audiences en masse. Barbra Streisand won the best actress Oscar for her performance in “Funny Girl.”

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KIM JIHYUN // Shutterstock

1970: Introducing IMAX

“Tiger Child,” the first IMAX film, was shown at Expo ’70 in Osaka, Japan. The revolutionizing film company is still going strong today: Upcoming releases include animated and action films. 

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United Archives // Getty Images

1971: Leading men

Clint Eastwood gave a career-defining performance in “Dirty Harry.” Another standout actor in his own right, Orson Welles, received an honorary Oscar at the 43rd Academy Awards.

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Fotos International // Getty Images

1972: The godfather of mafia films

Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather” set the standard for gangster movies, while “Deep Throat” became a landmark film in the realm of adult movies. Home Box Office, better known as HBO, launched.

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Bettmann // Getty Images

1973: 'American Graffiti' and 'The Exorcist' thrill audiences

“The Exorcist” became a box office smash and a seminal film in the horror genre. “American Graffiti” spoke to a generation of rock ’n’ roll-loving, coming-of-age young adults with its ensemble cast. “Cabaret” captured a slew of awards at the 45th annual Oscars.

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United Archives // Getty Images

1974: Brooks and Wilder reign supreme

In a great year for comedies, Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder delivered the goods twice. The director/actor combo spoofed the Wild West in “Blazing Saddles,” which also had a standout performance from Cleavon Little, and then went black-and-white to bring the laughs in “Young Frankenstein.”

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Zanuck/Brown Productions

1975: 'Jaws' births a new kind of thriller

Many beachgoers never looked at the water the same way after “Jaws” chomped its way to the top of the box office. “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” altered the moviegoing experience, and gave birth to a new kind of immersive fan interaction in theaters.

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Chartoff-Winkler Productions

1976: 'Rocky' scores a KO


Sylvester Stallone, an underdog screenwriter at the time, scored a knockout with the ultimate underdog film, “Rocky.” While filming the movie, Stallone was near broke, but soon became one of Hollywood’s biggest stars. The movie channel Showtime also hit the airwaves in 1976.

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Chutima Chaochaiya // Shutterstock

1977: Videotapes turn a corner

The VHS tape came to America and the first video rental store opened. “Star Wars” was a massive hit and “Rocky” won best picture at the Oscars.

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Universal Pictures

1978: 'Superman' and Bluto

“Superman” flew to the top of the box office, while “Animal House” headed to the top of the class of college movies. Directed by John Landis, “Animal House” included choice music cuts, and is still idolized in frat houses throughout the country.

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Sunset Boulevard // Getty Images

1979: Apocalypse, wow

Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now” brought together an ensemble cast that impressed at the box office and during award season. Displaying the complexities of war, the film is still recognized as an all-time great. “Alien” and Steve Martin’s “The Jerk” were other notable releases in 1979.

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Paramount Pictures

1980: Shirley, you can’t be serious

“The Empire Strikes Back” had viewers once again imagining what battle was like in a galaxy far, far away, while “Airplane!” had audiences rolling with its parody comedy about air travel in a much closer galaxy. “The Blues Brothers” infused jazz, comedy, and action like few movies before it.

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Sunset Boulevard // Getty Images

1981: Breaking new ground

Indiana Jones became a household name after “Raiders of the Lost Ark” hit screens in 1981. “An American Werewolf in London” was considered a masterpiece for how visual effects and makeup could be used in movies.

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Universal // Getty Images

1982: Phoning home

“E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” set box office records, eventually landed in the National Film Registry, and is considered one of the greatest films of all-time. “Tron” was a groundbreaking film for computer animation, and Sylvester Stallone introduced the world to Rambo in “First Blood.”

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Lucasfilm

1983: An intergalactic triumph

“Return of the Jedi” was 1983’s highest-grossing film, almost doubling the receipts of the second-place film, “Tootsie.” The latest Star Wars film was hailed as a triumph, with the New York Daily News saying a ticker tape parade should be held for director George Lucas.

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Warner Bros.

1984: Supernatural superlatives

Exploring the supernatural was a constant theme in 1984, as “Gremlins,” “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” and “Ghostbusters” were all top-grossing films. However, it was “Amadeus,” an ode to classical music geniuses, that was the award season darling. “This is Spinal Tap” revolutionized the genre of mockumentaries.

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Universal Pictures

1985: Going back to the future

Michael J. Fox landed an iconic role playing Marty McFly in 1985’s “Back to the Future.” His time traveling teen character is still revered today, with special sneaker drops and numerous shoutouts on hip-hop songs. Also this year, “The Goonies” equally impacted a generation of adventure-seeking teens.

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Paramount Pictures

1986: Danger zones

Tom Cruise entered the danger zone as a pilot in “Top Gun,” but he wasn’t the only thrill-seeking actor of 1986. An ensemble cast retold the perils of war in “Platoon,” Sigourney Weaver took on “Aliens,” and Ralph Macchio fought for his sensei’s honor in “The Karate Kid Part II.” Some characters just wanted to chill and have fun, as Matthew Broderick did in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” although he did have to evade Mr. Rooney.

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Warner Bros.

1987: Popular police

Buddy cop duos were all the rage in 1987, as “Lethal Weapon,” “Stakeout,” and “Beverly Hills Cop II” were all box office smashes. The year also saw the release of “Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol,” which continued to chronicle the escapades of a ragtag crew of cops, only this time featuring cameos by a young David Spade and Tony Hawk.

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Paramount Pictures

1988: Just for laughs

A number of comedies with international characters made a lasting impact in 1988, headlined by Eddie Murphy playing an African prince in “Coming to America.” “Crocodile Dundee II” and its Australian protagonist remained a big ticket draw, while Arnold Schwarzenegger stepped away from machine guns and fights—and a salary—for a comedic role alongside Danny DeVito in “Twins.” However, the year’s most memorable scene might have come courtesy of Tom Hanks, whose piano feet in “Big” endeared him once again to audiences.

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Warner Bros.

1989: We want action

A slew of action heroes were the stars of 1989, as “Batman,” “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” and “Ghostbusters II” were box office hits. John Travolta, who became an action star in the 1990s, experienced the beginning of a career revival in “Look Who’s Talking,” which featured the voice of Bruce Willis, another action star.

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Paramount Pictures

1990: A ghost and a pretty woman

Romance was in the air in 1990, as Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze built chemistry around ceramics in “Ghost,” and Julia Roberts won the heart of Richard Gere in “Pretty Woman.” The famous pottery scene in “Ghost” was set to the song “Unchained Melody” and spawned numerous spinoffs and spoofs.

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Carolco Pictures

1991: Iconic characters hit the screen

The Terminator, Robin Hood, and Captain Hook saw renewed interest in their characters, thanks to the release of “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves,” and “Hook.” Kevin Costner filmed infamous scenes in “JFK,” and Anthony Hopkins had numerous quotables in “Silence of the Lambs.”

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Walt Disney Pictures

1992: Friend like me

The Disney animated hit “Aladdin” topped the 1992 box office, highlighted by the crooning of Robin Williams. Friendly films were a big hit this year, with “Wayne’s World” and “White Men Can’t Jump” other notable releases. Whitney Houston mesmerized on the screen and with her voice in “The Bodyguard.”

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Universal Pictures

1993: Amazing altered appearances

“Jurassic Park” became an iconic film for its use of special effects, while “Mrs. Doubtfire” charmed audiences with its use of old-school makeup to transform Robin Williams into a hip, lovable grandma. In addition, Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks delivered career-defining works with “Schindler’s List” and “Philadelphia.”

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Paramount Pictures

1994: Run Forrest, run

Tom Hanks continued to deliver memorable performances, acing his role as Forrest Gump. “Speed” revolutionized the action film genre, while the first SXSW Film Festival was held, and Magic Johnson entered the film industry with his chain of movie theaters.

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Walt Disney Pictures

1995: 'Toy Story' has its time

“Toy Story” is the first release from Pixar, and completely changed the animated film industry— with an assist from, you guessed it, Tom Hanks. Digital versatile discs, or DVDs, were introduced and soon became all the rage; however, Kevin Costner’s “Waterworld” flopped.

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Twentieth Century Fox

1996: A barrage of blockbusters

In one of the biggest years for summer blockbusters, “Independence Day,” “Twister,” and “Mission Impossible” reeled in more than $1 billion. Eddie Murphy experienced a career resurgence with “The Nutty Professor,” and America’s favorite dim-witted slackers went from TV to the silver screen in “Beavis and Butt-Head Do America.”

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Twentieth Century Fox

1997: The arrival of movie giants

Netflix was founded in 1997, and Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks Pictures released its first films. Meanwhile, “Titanic” grossed almost $2 billion worldwide, making Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet two of the most sought after actors over the next two decades. Two Boston kids also emerge on the scene, winning an Oscar for writing “Good Will Hunting.”

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Universal Pictures

1998: Big battles reign supreme

Movie stars took on Godzilla, asteroids, and the Germans in the year’s biggest films. However, it was “Shakespeare in Love” that took home the top prize at the Oscars, elevating Gwyneth Paltrow into megastar status.

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Warner Bros.

1999: Red pill or blue pill

“The Matrix” bended audiences’ minds with its futuristic thriller script, while “The Blair Witch Project” used a novel plot to literally shake up the horror genre. Similarly, “The Sixth Sense” and “Fight Club” added new meanings to the term plot twist.

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Dreamworks Pictures

2000: A late surge

“Gladiator” nearly swept the major awards, but 2000 saw a surge of quality movies released at the end of the year. “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” “Cast Away,” and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” all had December releases and remain influential works today.

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Warner Bros.

2001: Franchise players

“Harry Potter,” “Shrek,” “The Lord of the Rings,” and the “Fast & Furious” franchises all released their first films in 2001. Cameron Crowe, writer of cult classic “Almost Famous,” won the Oscar for best original screenplay.

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Columbia Pictures

2002: The amazing 'Spider-Man'

“Spider-Man” swung its way to success, bringing in a reported $114 million in its opening weekend. The superhero flick, starring Tobey Maguire, became the first movie to cross the $100 million mark in its opening weekend. In some ways, the success of “Spider-Man” opened the way for superhero movies to take over the next decade.

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Bob Riha Jr // Getty Images

2003: Moore vs. Bush


Michael Moore won the Oscar for best documentary feature at the 75th Academy Awards. In accepting the award for his documentary criticizing the gun industry, Moore began a scathing speech directed toward President George W. Bush. Moore was greeted with a mix of applause and loud boos in one of the more-memorable Oscar speeches of modern times.

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Icon Productions

2004: Controversy reigns

Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” became a big box office hit, despite the controversy surrounding the movie’s religious themes. Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11” documentary took aim at President George W. Bush and associates—his targets at the 2003 Oscars.

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Walt Disney Pictures

2005: Children’s adaptations win big

“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” an adaptation of a classic C.S. Lewis novel, and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” an adaptation of the Roald Dahl story of the same name, were two of the year’s biggest successes. Daniel Craig is announced as the next actor to play James Bond in the famed “007” series.

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ROBYN BECK // Getty Images

2006: Blu-ray or HD-DVD?

Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou—the latter having rose to prominence in 2001’s “Amelie”—star in the film adaptation of Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code.” Sasha Baron Cohen scored a hit with his Borat character, and Blu-ray battles HD-DVD to become the next big thing in home entertainment.

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Twentieth Century Fox

2007: The Simpsons move to movies

After ruling the TV airwaves for almost two decades, “The Simpsons” arrived on the big screen. Streaming service Hulu was founded, and Forest Whitaker won a best actor Oscar for his work in “The Last King of Scotland.”

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Paramount Pictures

2008: Big comics and a writer’s strike

Due to the ongoing Writers Guild of America strike, the Golden Globes were altered to a more intimate show, similar to a press conference. The Marvel Cinematic Universe was launched with “Iron Man” and “The Incredible Hulk.” In other comic-inspired films, “The Dark Knight” set box office records.

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Twentieth Century Fox

2009: An avatar and honoring a Joker

“Avatar” and its 3D technology was all the rage, as James Cameron’s film raked in more than $2 billion worldwide. Heath Ledger won a posthumous Oscar for his portrayal of The Joker in “The Dark Knight.” Ledger died in January 2008 of an accidental overdose.

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Kevin Winter // Getty Images

2010: Bigelow’s big day

Kathryn Bigelow won an Oscar for best directing, and her film, “The Hurt Locker,” also earned best picture honors. Longtime movie rental giant Blockbuster Video filed for bankruptcy. “Toy Story 3” tugged at the emotions of viewers of all ages.

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Jason Merritt // Getty Images

2011: A black swan and big bucks

Natalie Portman won the best actress Oscar for her demanding role in “Black Swan.” The “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise eclipsed the $1 billion mark with the release of “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.” “Twilight,” “Mission Impossible,” and “The Hangover” are other series that notably made a box office impact in 2011.

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Warner Bros.

2012: The Dark Knight’s legacy

“The Artist,” an ode to black-and-white films, collects a host of Oscars. The first of the “Hunger Games” series hits theaters, while “The Dark Knight Rises” closes out Christopher Nolan’s trilogy of Batman films—tragically, there is a shooting at a theater in Colorado during an early showing of the movie.

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Walt Disney Animation Studios

2013: Moments frozen in time

“Frozen” became a phenomenon and another source of seemingly endless cash for Disney. “Argo” was somewhat of a surprise winner of the best picture Oscar. Paul Walker, star of the “Fast and Furious” franchise, died in a car accident.

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Kevin Winter // Getty Images

2014: A streaming stamp of approval

Netflix picked up its first Oscar nomination, and Matthew McConaughey took home his first Academy Award for his acting in “Dallas Buyers Club.” “Guardians of the Galaxy” strengthened the power of comic book films at the box office.

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Lucasfilm

2015: #Oscarssowhite starts a movement

The #oscarssowhite hashtag called out the lack of diversity in nominations for the Academy Awards. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” served as the follow-up to “Return of the Jedi” and topped the year’s box office numbers. “Minions” is one of five 2015 films—and the only animated feature—to surpass $1 billion.

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Marvel Studios

2016: Comics and cartoons continue to reign

Films based on comic books like “Captain America: Civil War,” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” continued to dominate ticket sales. “Sausage Party” became one of the most successful R-rated animated films ever, and Leonardo DiCaprio won his first best actor Oscar for “The Revenant.”

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Kevin Winter // Getty Images

2017: Can’t fight the moonlight

In one of the biggest Oscar flubs ever, “La La Land” was announced as the best picture winner, when in actuality the award was supposed to go to “Moonlight.” Earlier in the night, Mahershala Ali won the best supporting actor Oscar for his portrayal of an empathetic drug dealer in “Moonlight.”

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Marvel Studios

2018: A banner year for Black actors

The casting of “Black Panther” and subsequent box office success had a deep cultural impact on America. Jordan Peele also had a history-making win at the Oscars, taking home the best original screenplay award.

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Dia Dipasupil // Getty Images

2019: Lady Gaga and Bong Joon-ho’s time to shine

Lady Gaga won an Oscar for best original song at the 91st Academy Awards, and also performed a stirring rendition of the hit “Shallow” with Bradley Cooper. Apple TV+ launched, adding to the ever-growing streaming landscape. Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite” became the first South Korean film to win the Palme d’Or at Cannes.

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Hulton Archive // Getty Images

2020: The alternate history of 'Hollywood'

Hollywood was featured in a Netflix miniseries by the same name, that faced criticism for portraying “alternate history” as it explored the “idea of lost potential” faced by people of color and the LGBTQ+ community. Characters in the series broke barriers still decidedly in place.

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Rodin Eckenroth / Stringer // Getty Images

2021: Oscar nominations shatter records

Numerous records were shattered in the 2021 Oscar award nominations, where the industry recognized more than one woman in the Best Director category, and those considered for the Best Actor award included Muslim and Asian American artists. 

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