Thursday, February 15, 2007

Top 12 Movies in History That Were Ahead of Their Time

I got home late tonight so I'm bit short on time to put up a new post. So like usual, I'll steal one. Here's a list of 12 films that First Showing says were ahead of their time. Tell me if you agree.


Stewart Sternberg said...

First, I don't agree with this list at all. I think the concept itself is absurd. A film ahead of its time? What the hell does that even mean? According to the article, these are groundbreaking films. Well, fine. Then call them avante garde. Call them defining films. Say that they set standards. Ahead of their time? No. The author of this article is more a film enthusiast than an educated film critic. His views reflect a naivety and lack of understand of the history of cinema.

A film ahead of its time probably isn't one which is going to be in the mainstream. And it will be a film which will be seen that way mostly in retrospect.

You want to talk ahead of its time? Thunderball. Why? Because even though Cold War paranoia ripped through us all in that era, this film dealt with the idea of nuclear blackmail. The idea of such hadn't been considered before. At the time of its making, the idea was wild. No one believed any organization like Spectre could ever be taken seriously. A country might resort to using its nukes to pressure someone or as some form of blackmail, but not some wildeyed organization. Today we can look back at Specter as a terrorist organization, and nuclear blackmail as a contemporary fear, something we are concerned about each time a ship comes into harbor.

Want another "film ahead of its time"? HELP. Les Baxter's film about a "day" in the life of the Beatles. Why ahead of its time? It was a foreshadowing of the seventies and eighties music videos. At the time of its release people thought it fun. It helped humanize the Beatles and provided a forum for some of their music. A few years later, The Monkees would continue the idea of focusing on the "human" elements of a rock band, and again the songs would be showcased through video imagry.

Neither Thunderball or Help were examples of trend setting film. They may have been popular, but neither really became iconic such as the films mentioned in that rather inept article by Alex Billington. Rather, these two films foreshadowed major trends or obsessions that would come much later in time.

Stewart Sternberg said...

Correction to the above. Help was directed by Richard Lester.

Angela/SciFiChick said...

As Stewart said.. Ground-breaking? Yes.
Ahead of their time? No.

SQT said...


I see what you mean. I pulled the article off of the sci-fi signal website and only skimmed it briefly and threw it up.

The guy who wrote it wasn't even looking at the movies effects socially or ever whether or not it was important in some way. He just kind of says cool special effects and thinks that covers it.

Maybe I should put up a post where you guys tell me what groundbreaking means and what fits that category (like Thunderball).

Stewart Sternberg said...

Sci Fi Chick, you're right. But whoever this author was...wrote for an audience that doesn't know film or won't engage in critical thiinking.

If I was going to look at groundbreaking films, for different reasons...

North By Northwest. In my opinion this film paved the way for the modern action films. It gave us modern action sequences and pacing. The use of scoring by Bernard Herrmann to set up the action sequences. Consider the scene where Cary Grant has been given alcohol and sent careening toward a cliff. The music is amazing. The cuts, the camera perspective, all give the audience a sense of urgency.

Another groundbreaker which would have been on my list was 2001: A Space Odyssey. WOEFULLY absent from the list I'm lambasting. You may not like Kubrick, but here we have science fiction tackling large philosophical question. Gone is the space opera of the fifties and the Bug Eyed Monsters. Gone the phallic shaped spaceships. Here, with astonishing special effects by Doug Trumbull (and I assure you Lucas would be the first to pay tribute) was a functional and believable voyage into the space. Whatever you think this film, what it strove to accomplish was visually brilliant and cinematically important.

And finally, let me step back and also salute another groundbreaker, this one in the field of horror: "The Exorcist". This film, in my opinion gave permission for horror to say "BOO" to adults. This took horror from the drive ins and the double features of the sixties and delivered it back into the hand of the serious filmmakers. I know I know..there was The Haunting in the sixties, and also The Innocents (probably one of the finest horror films ever made)...but The Exorcist was big box office, it was crossover audiences. The great mistake made by film makers following Friedkin's success was to focus on the shock value of the film and not the underlying elements that made it an indelible landmark in horror.

Finally...Lord of the Rings. Pan Labyrinth would never have been made without first Lord of the Rings to show that fantasy could be not just adult but epic. I argue that before we judge Lord of the Rings, as I have judged the films above, we should probably wait another five to ten years and then review the effects of the film and how it has held up to the test in time.

However, Lord of the Rings was a strong work. Narnia never reached its level of intensity or scope, mostly because Narnia was at its heart a childrens' tale. Maybe, so it the bible. But Lord of the Rings was at its heart a tale for the children within all of us.

SQT said...


I think this is your list to make.

Skittles said...

I don't think they were ahead of their time at all. In fact most of them are "timeless" as they are almost as popular today as there were when they debuted.

Alex said...

Feed the guy a valium or five before he posts his list, though. He's gonna pop another vein in his eyeball!