They say that a people's culture is what defines them, and since the 1920's, it's pretty clear that movies are the cultural representation of this age in humanity. Every decade since the dawn of cinema has its defining classics. The 40's has Citizen Kane, It's A Wonderful Life, and others. The 70's brought us Alien and anything in Burt Reynolds' prominent filmography. The 90's... well, The Matrix, obviously. But I've started to wonder recently what films are going to go on to define my generation, the millenials. What will our movies be? Well, I've compiled a list of my own. Now, without further ado and in no particular order...
DISCLAIMER: CERTAIN FILMS ON THIS LIST DOES NOT MEAN THAT I PERSONALLY HOLD THEM IN HIGH ESTEEM. THESE ARE MOVIES THAT HAVE HAD A SUBSTANTIAL ENOUGH IMPACT ON OUR CULTURE TO EARN STATUS AS BEING MOST INFLUENTIAL.
I hold this film responsible for the incredible amount of superhero movies being produced today. One could make an argument for Bryan Singer's X-Men, but in my opinion, what with its box-office destroying sales and its method of re-imagining superheroes for the big screen, Sam Raimi's 2002 masterpiece began the studio craze of pumping out at least four superhero films every year. The sequel paved the way for powerhouse franchises and reboots that don't show any sign of going away anytime soon.
The Harry Potter Series (2001-2011)
I'm going out on a limb to say that no property has had the impact on our culture that Harry Potter has. The books are the best-selling novels ever second only to scripture, and the movies brought people to theaters like no series since the original Star Wars trilogy. We're talking sales figures in the double digit billions, when you accommodate merchandising of course. Point is, just about everyone has seen the Harry Potter movies, and they changed the face of modern fantasy forever.
The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005)
Go ahead and argue for American Pie. But in the opinion of this writer, Judd Apatow's offensive, uncomfortable laugh-riot is responsible for bringing the raucous, no-holds-barred style of sex comedy to the 21st century. And the reason I say this is because, while all of the American Pie sequels and imitators have slowly died off, The 40-Year-Old Virgin has spawned such a wide collection of imitators, from Knocked Up to Forgetting Sarah Marshall to films as recent as This is the End, its improvisational, anything-goes-style touch will no doubt be felt resonating for years to come.
Since Toy Story Pixar has held the crown of animation standard. But in 2001, Dreamworks emerged from out of nowhere to become a serious contender with a grown-up comedy disguised as a kids' fairy tale, starring a Scottish-brogued Ogre with a heart of gold, a chatty annoying donkey and a midget Lord who's clearly compensating for something. Besides all of the in-jokes and catch phrases that it started, the Shrek franchise seriously upped the ante for animation and witty writing (at least in writing for its first two installments), proving a serious contender with almost anything Pixar could put out. And Puss in Boots was in the second one, how could you not love that?
The Dark Knight (2008)
This is the film that changed everything. Not only is it responsible for the Best Picture category being changed from five nominees to ten (people were so outraged that the film didn't get nominated that the Academy changed the provision), but this film ushered in the era for dark and gritty superhero cinema, launched the DC Cinematic Universe into the stratosphere, and elevated Heath Ledger's brilliant career with one last Oscar-winning role. All of this, wrapped up in the packaging of a white-knuckling thriller worthy of the best of Hitchcock or Michael Mann, Christopher Nolan's magnum opus exemplified all of our post-9/11 fears to perfection. It seemed as if Nolan had suitably left his mark, until...
No movie-- Let me repeat, NO MOVIE-- in the last decade and a half has sparked more debate over the internet and in social circles than Inception. Christopher Nolan's post- Dark Knight masterpiece reeled audiences in by the millions, holding their attention with its riveting plot and ideas, before blind-siding them with an ending so intentionally ambiguous that it was absolutely impossible the theater without debating the big question: "Was it a dream, or not?" Whether you believe you have the ending figured out or not, Nolan has kept his mouth shut so that the truth of it will always be a mystery.
The Lord of the Rings series (2001-2003)
Possibly the most consistently outstanding trilogy in history, Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings series is widely regarded as a collective masterwork, totally raising the bar for cinematic epics. Before these movies, no one had ever seen filmmaking on a scale like this, and let's face it, we haven't since. We've seen so many films try to mimic the colossal, majestic style of Jackson's trilogy, with little-to-no success on almost all counts (lookin' at you, Alice in Wonderland). It's an absolute landmark in cinema, and will no doubt be the inspiration for filmmaking for decades to come.
The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
This Matt Damon-led trilogy, adapted from Robert Ludlum's novels, was met with mostly great responses in all three parts (I think we can all agree that, of the Damon installments, Supremacy was the weakest). But praise was never higher than with The Bourne Ultimatum, an espionage thriller so slick and energetic that it almost made its nausea-inducing camerawork (Which has somehow become the industry standard) acceptable. Its sheer excitement factor and razor-sharp writing raised the bar for action filmmaking, resulting in an action film that was all at once a total adrenaline rush and a cerebral experience. What a movie.
The Twilight Saga (2008-2012)
Of all the films on this list, these movies are the ones I regret putting on here most. These movies, as well as the books upon which they are based, are almost single-handedly responsible for a new generation of girls thinking that behavior such as stalking, extreme possessiveness, emotional addiction, and reckless self-endangerment are not only okay, but are the standard for modern relationships. I don't understand for the life of me why this series got so popular. Bella Swan is such a mentally ill character, and Kristen Stewart plays her to a tee, that it makes me scared for the future of so-called romance.
Paranormal Activity (2007)
While found-footage has kind of simmered back down recently (due to bad sequels from this very movie), it's not hard to remember the hype surrounding this film when it came out, setting new standards in horror and found-footage filmmaking, proving that just because Blair Witch was in the past, that didn't mean that found-footage was a dead genre. This film paved the way for more like it, both good and bad. Trollhunter, Chronicle, Cloverfield, and even Youtube series like Marble Hornets owe their various successes to the fact that Paranormal Activity revitalized the genre for them.
Iron Man (2008)
I saw this one opening day and was completely blown away. To this day, it is on-par with The Avengers as my personal favorite film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It also is the reason the whole MCU is what it is today. Were it not for Jon Favreau's transcendent superhero flick, and its gonzo lead performance by Robert Downey, Jr., we wouldn't have any Captain America, Thor, Incredible Hulk, Avengers or anything else. Iron Man was the jumping off point for something much larger, but since then it's still possibly the straight-up coolest film out of all of them.
It's hard to sum up Pixar's entire body of work in just one masterpiece, there are just too many outstanding movies. But if I had to pick just one, I would say that Pete Docter's Up best represents Pixar Animation Studios at their finest. The script is brilliant, the animation is pristine, the characters are unique and memorable, but most of all, the opening montage of this movie managed to make more people cry more than all of Titanic, The Notebook and Beaches combined, without using any dialogue at all. It's also the first Pixar movie ever to be nominated for Best Picture and Best Animated Feature (winning the latter, of course). If somehow you haven't seen Up, you are missing out on a wholly remarkable experience.
You knew this one was coming. Come on, when this was released, everyone went to go see it. It's true, the writing wasn't anything special, the dialogue was just awful and the storyline was a direct rip-off of Dances with Wolves, but none of those things were the reason you went to go see Avatar. You went to see James Cameron's box office powerhouse because it was freaking beautiful to look at. The visual effects were completely out of this world, with breathtaking realism that made you believe you could step right into the screen and interact with the beautiful world of James Cameron. This movie is the reason that people say, "You've got to see it in 3D," taking 3D from a gimmick to a serious art form, opening the door for films like Gravity. With the highest box office gross in history, and the 14th highest when adjusted for inflation, there is no doubt that, like it or not, Avatar is this generation's most impactful film. The question I have is, can the sequels live up?
So those are my thoughts for now. Tell me you guys' thoughts. What do you think are the most influential movies of the past decade? Am I missing a few, or giving a few too much credit? Who knows? Maybe if there's enough debate, I'll release a part II. Until then, thanks for reading!