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Movie History – The Five Biggest Movie Trends of the New Millennium

Any grouping of movies during a decade reflects the interests, mind-set, and concerns of moviemakers and their times. Sensationalized celebrity deaths, global terrorism, the growth of broadband Internet access, the advent of YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, and the rise of reality TV were just some of the entertainment-media highlights of this first decade of the 21st century. The movies had their fair share of developments as well. As we look ahead to the new decade, here’s a quick look back at what happened at the movies over the last ten years…

1. Hit Movies That Wouldn’t Normally Appeal to American Audiences
A movie didn’t have to be in English to appeal. Surprise-hit movies in this vein included director Ang Lee’s martial arts epic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), the first major American cross-over success of an Asian action movie, and the highest grossing foreign-language movie released in U.S.; the delightfully-sweet French flick Amelie (2001), the stunning City of God (2002), the German historical drama Downfall (2004), the emotional character study of a secret police surveillance agent in The Lives of Others (2006), and the French stroke victim biography The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007). In addition, four documentaries made a major impact: Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine (2002) and Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004), the poignant March of the Penguins (2005), and Al Gore’s climate-change expose An Inconvenient Truth (2006).

2. Cheaply-Made Horror Movie Retreads and the Growth of Torture-Porn
Horror movies became one of the most lucrative genre franchises this
decade, due to the fact that they could be made inexpensively, didn’t
require much originality or big name stars, and were capable of
attracting large audiences. Studios realized they could reap big
profits by cheaply remaking, adapting, or “re-treading” popular horror
movies. This lightbulb yielded the theatrical re-release of The Exorcist: The Version You Haven’t Seen Before (2000) with additional footage; the remake The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) and its prequel The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006); the Nightmare on Elm Street/Friday the 13th hybrid Freddy vs. Jason (2003); Renny Harlin’s prequel Exorcist: The Beginning (2004); Zack Snyder’s adaptation of the Romero movie Dawn of the Dead (2004) and Romero’s own reboots: Land of the Dead (2005), Diary of the Dead (2007) and Survival of the Dead (2009); the remake of the 1979 classic The Amityville Horror (2005); the loose remake House of Wax (2005); Rob Zombie’s reimagined Halloween (2007); My Bloody Valentine 3D (2009) and a reboot of Friday the 13th (2009).

A so-called “torture-porn” trend (of sadism, body mutilation, torture, and excessive gore) was exhibited with Saw (2004), Hostel (2005), The Devil’s Rejects (2005), Wolf Creek
(2005), and Turistas (2006) — all of which did tremendous box-office
business compared to their production budgets. By 2008, the Saw movies surpassed the Friday the 13th series as the highest-grossing horror series in movie history.

3. A Steady Stream of Franchise Blockbusters
The decade spawned many new hit series, often featuring comic book
superheroes, fantastical tales, or action-thrillers. The era began with
the X-Men series (2000-2006) — plus X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) — and forged ahead with Peter Jackson’s entire The Lord of the Rings trilogy epic (2001-2003), all six of the Harry Potter movies to date (2001-2009), four Fast and Furious actioners (2001-2009), the three-part Spider-Man franchise (2002-2007), three Pirates of the Caribbean flicks (2003-2007), all three Shrek movies (2001-2007), the Bourne Trilogy (2002-2007), and the growing Chronicles of Narnia trilogy (2005-2010).

Joining them were: The last entry in the Star Trek (Next Generation) movies in 2002, plus the relaunched Star Trek (2009), the fourth and last Indiana Jones installment in 2008, Episodes II and III of the original Star Wars saga, two more Batman movies — Batman Begins (2005) and The Dark Knight (2008), the last two movies in the Matrix trilogy (both in 2003), two more Terminator movies (in 2003 and 2009), the continuation of three “Hannibal” movies (2001-2007), and to top it off — three more Friday the 13th movies (2002-2009) and Halloween movies (2002-2009), and two Michael Bay-directed Transformers pics (2007 and 2009).

4. Animated Movies With Wide Appeal
Many of the best animated movies of the decade featured incredible
technological advances in CGI, and a number of them were geared toward
both children and adults. The most exceptional animated movies
included: Writer/director Hayao Miyazaki’s Japanese anime Spirited Away (2001), Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001), the first photo-realistic, fully computer-generated feature movie, Richard Linklater’s stunningly-rotoscoped Waking Life (2001), the three Shrek movies (2001, 2004, and 2007), the Ice Age movies (2002, 2006, and 2009), and the Iranian coming-of-age pic Persepolis (2007). DreamWorks SKG’s Shrek (2001)
was the first movie to win an Academy Award Oscar for Best Animated
Feature, a category introduced in 2001. And of the ten
highly-acclaimed, award-winning CGI movies released by Pixar since
1995, seven were released in the past decade: Monsters, Inc. (2001), Finding Nemo (2003), The Incredibles (2004), Cars (2006), Ratatouille (2007), Wall-E (2008), and Up (2009).

5. The Successful Return of Adult-Oriented, R-Rated Comedies
Although PG and PG-13-rated movies have generally proven to be the
biggest moneymakers, the decade proved that semi-offensive R-rated
comedies, including retooled romantic comedies and “bromances” that
contain generous portions of profanity, sex, nudity, and debauchery,
could also be popular — and could appeal to male audiences. Two
mockumentary comedies by Sacha Baron Cohen: Borat (2006) — about a fictitious sexist and racist Kazakh reporter, and Baron Cohen’s follow-up movie Bruno (2009)
— about a flamboyantly gay Austrian fashion journalist, were among the
most popular (and controversial) comedies of the decade. Two other hit
comedies in 2005 proved that pushing the boundaries of good taste were
profitable: Wedding Crashers (2005) and Judd Apatow’s breakthrough movie The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005). Apatow also directed Knocked Up (2007) and Funny People (2009), and served as producer for Anchorman (2004), Talladega Nights (2006), the genitalia-obsessed Superbad (2007), Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008) and the slapstick buddy-comedy Step Brothers (2008).
He helped to foster the burgeoning careers of Steve Carell, Jason
Siegel and Seth Rogen. A new generation of comic male actors, dubbed
the “Frat Pack” or “Slacker Pack” (Jack Black, Will Ferrell, Ben
Stiller, Vince Vaughn, and Owen and Luke Wilson) emerged in the 2000s,
and appeared together in many movies, including Old School (2003), actor/director/producer Stiller’s own Zoolander (2001), Dodgeball (2004) and Tropic Thunder (2008).

Tim Dirks is Senior Editor and Film Historian at AMC, an educator and film buff who created the landmark, award-winning Filmsite.org in the mid-’90s and continues to write original reviews and features spanning all the years of cinematic history.

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