Updated: 04/10/2012

Film, Radio and TV - 8



Movie Milestones


>>Looking at the notable Movie Milestones reveals much about the history of film.

The films below were selected because they represent one of the following elements: a historic first, the start of a film genre, a noteworthy producer or director, or the first in a series of films on a notable theme during a particular era. (Technical milestones are listed here.)

The Cabbage Fairy

1896 - (French) One-minute film by Alice Blache about a fairy that produces children in a cabbage patch.

A Trip to the Moon

1902 - (French) Georges Méliès, a magician-turned-filmmaker, who introduced innovative special effects in the first science fiction film. (14 minutes)

The Great Train Robbery

1903 - (U.S.) Edwin S. Porter, the first time multiple camera positions and acceleration editing were used for a dramatic story. Introduced the Western genre and film as an art form.  (10 minutes)Western Genre Starts





The Western genre would become "the backbone of U.S. filmmaking." Starting with their classic film Stagecoach, director John Ford and star John Wayne would expand on the genre for decades and establish the "myth of the American West" for the world to see (and often believe).

Claws of the Hun, The Kaiser's Finish

1914 - 1918 - Hollywood helped World War I effort by producing propaganda films aimed at promoting patriotism.

Birth of a Nation

1915 - D.W. Griffith's three-hour film about the Civil War introduced history and period pieces as a film genre. It was the most extravagant film up to that time, but highly controversial because of its racist theme.

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Waxworks, Nosferatu, Destiny

1920's (German) Producers in Germany introduced a new level of horror and technical sophistication as they reflected the German people's desolate state following the European Conflict. These surreal, depressed and horrific films had a subsequent impact on U.S. filmmakers.

The Sheik

1921 - The first of numerous exotic and erotic (at least for the day) romance films designed to stimulate box office success. Starred Rudolph Valentino who became the cinema love of many women.

Nanook of the North

1922 - With this film the feature-lengthNanook of the North documentary film and TV genre was born. It documented the hardships of an Eskimo family. Tragically, the father of the family died of starvation on the ice just as the film was being released.

Battleship Potemkin

1925 (Russia) Classic Russian film by Sergei Eisenstein depicts a crew mutiny on a battleship during the Russo-Japanese War. The five parts of the film are skillfully edited into a central theme of unity against political dictatorship.

The Gold Rush

Chaplin1925 - Regarded as Charlie Chaplin's best film. Chaplin, who subtly brought social issues to public attention, was undisputed genius of silent film comedy.

The Jazz Singer

1927 - Recognized as the first "talkie," even though the sound consisted mostly of music with only a couple hundred spoken words. Starred Al Jolson, whose amiable style is credited with speeding the acceptance of soundThe Jazz Singer.

Steamboat Willie

1928 - Walt Disney's first animated cartoon. Scores of classic animated features would follow, including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which put Disney "on the map." Fantasia is considered his greatest work.

For many years, Disney, Warner Brothers, and Bugs Bunny Walter Lance cartoons were regularly presented before the main feature at theaters.

The Gold Diggers

1933 - This Busby Berkeley production launched dance and musical extravaganzas with creative camera angles and innovative staging.

Becky Sharp

1935 - First feature-length Technicolor film. However, Disney had produced a short animated color film, Flowers and Trees in 1932.

In Happened One Night

1934 - The First of the romantic comedies that marked the It Happened One Nightdecade.  As noted in Module 7, this film destroyed the undershirt industry in the U.S.

Gone With the Wind

1939 - Civil War epic in color starring Clark Gable and Vivian Leigh that eclipsed all previous box office records. Re-released in 1989; TV rights later sold to CBS for $25 million. The film, which earned more than 200-million dollars, was initially rejected by many studios.

I Was A Communist for the FBI, I Led Three Lives, Red Menace

1940s - Hollywood fans the fires of the Communist scare with these films. High Noon, released in 1952, allegorically challenged the morality of the era's paranoia.

Citizen Kane

1941 - Controversial film genius Orson Welles wrote, produced, directed, and starred in what is considered (all in all) the most noteworthy film ever done in the United States. In part because it was ahead of its time, it was a box office flop. However, Casablanca (see below) is considered the greatest film of all time.



Wake Island

1942 Casablanca is considered the most beloved film ever made. You can find more information here.

1942 - Hollywood comes to the aid of the war effort. The first of numerous films to take up the U.S. cause of World War II.

 House of Wax, Creature From the Black Lagoon, The French Line

 1950s - Hollywood attempts to blunt the appeal of TV by introducing 3-D, which3-D Glasses required special glasses. Knives, spears and even Jane Russell's bust were thrust at audiences. When 3-D bombed, various types of wide-screen approaches were introduced with considerably more success.

From Here to Eternity

1953 - To compete with TV, a series of films was launched that included such taboo topics such as adultery and homosexuality, topics that were  previously were "off limits." From Here to Eternity was the first of numerous provocative films in this genre.

Quo Vadis

1959 - One of the more expensive of numerous film spectacles designed to counter the threat of television. One scene required a cast of 5,500 extras. Ben Hur, also made during this era, won 12 academy awards.

Barbarella, Midnight Cowboy, Carnal Knowledge

1960's - In an effort to compete with television, sex starred in many films during this era. Midnight Cowboy was the only X-rated film (later changed to R) to win an Academy Award for best picture.

Blow Up, 8½, La Dolce Vita, Juliet of the Spirits

1960's - Italian directors Michelangelo Antonioni (Blow Up) and Federico Fellini (note the other films listed) brought the search for inner reality through symbolic meaning to the screen, often through highly emotional subject matter.

Bonnie and Clyde

1967 - Aimed at youth culture, this film with its outlaw heroes launched many antiestablishment films that glamorized individuality and even violence over traditional social values. Later, Easy Rider would become famous in this category.

Godfather II

1970's - This film launched numerous sequel films.  A few, like The Godfather II, were even better than the original.

Jaws, Airport, Earthquake, The Towering Inferno, The Poseidon Adventure

1970s Big-budget, big star, disaster films tended to dominate the box office, along with such violent films as The Wild Bunch, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and Friday the 13th. Hollywood tried new levels of violence to lure younger audiences away from TV.

The Star Wars episodes start, introducing a new era of special effects.

1977 -1999 - George Lucas has produced more than 50 films, the most popular of which have been the Star Wars episodes. Just as notable, the various Lucas special effects facilities Star Wars have pioneered the development of numerous computer and film-based visual and audio effects.

Do the Right Thing, She's Got to Have It, Clockers, Mo' Better Blues, Malcom X, Boyz 'N the Hood

1980's - African-American filmmakers such as Spike Lee and John Singleton were "mainstreamed" in the Hollywood scene with these films.

Look Who's Talking, Yentl, Home for the Holidays, The Piano

1980's - Women producers and directors, such as Jodie Foster (below), Penny Marshall, Barbara Streisand, Amy Heckerling, and Jane Compion are "mainstreamed" into an industry previously dominated by males.Jodie Foster

The English Patient,
             L.A. Confidential

1990s - Although most filmgoers are between the ages of 12 and 25, with these films Hollywood tried to interest a somewhat older audience, in part to bolster video and foreign sales.

Roger Rabbit

1990s - By using computer techniques, actors were ingeniously combined with cartoon animation to create films with content appealing to both children and adults. Today, most feature films rely on some form of computer enhancement.Roger Rabbit.

Jurassic Park sets box office record; total receipts $1 Billion.

1990s - Steven Spielberg is one of the most acclaimed and financially successful directors of this century. Not only has he produced numerous fantasy, action, and light entertainment films, but with films like The Color Purple, Schlinder's List, Saving Private Ryan, and American Beauty, he dramatically presented thought-provoking and at times disturbing messages. Spielberg work has garnered a shelf full of Oscars. Lost Ark

Welcome to Sarajevo 

Welcome to Sarajevo1997 -Welcome to Sarajevo seamlessly weaves TV news footage into a dramatic film to bring audiences a sense of the insanity surrounding events that took place in Sarajevo. As with Schlinder's List, Under Fire and The Killing Fields, this film demonstrates that film is the most powerful of the media in dramatically capturing the substance of actual events and bringing them home to audiences.

Pretty Woman, My Best Friend's Wedding, Notting Hill. Steel Magnolias, Erin Brockovich

2000 - After four successive hit films that totaled over Erin Brockovich$1 billion in revenue, Julia Roberts became the first female actress to join Hollywood's elite $20 million-a-movie  club previously, reserved for a few male stars.

Avatar 2010 - It wasn't until the highly successful James Cameron film, Avatar, came along that general audiences warmed up to the idea of 3-D in films. This film was not only in 3-D, but, world-wide, it was the Avatarmost financially successful film of all time. More information on 3-D can be found here.


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