Iconic, pioneering and ahead of the curve. Take a look at the curated list of 10 films from the 21st century, which changed cinema forever.
The great minds of cinema are scattered all over the world. And it’s easy to lose track of the great ones in the masses of produced content. Quite often, these true gems are overlooked during the major festivals and remain unknown until a few eager souls retrieve these diamonds.
Hence, to help you with the COVID-19 quarantine, I present to you the list of 10 (9 actually, with the 10th being a surprise) unique, one-of-a-kind movies from this terrible century.
#1 The Room (2003)
Dir. Tommy Wiseau
Directed with a truly avant-garde soul, Tommy Wiseau’s unforgettable The Room (2003) marked one of the intrepid, incredible debuts of our century. Mr. Wiseau directed, produced, wrote and – on top of it all – starred in this touching drama about Johnny who was torn apart by Lisa. Their turbulent love story is just a playground for Wiseau, who embraces his own (yes, it’s partly autobiographical) mistakes and reforges them into his own film.
The film has every right to be an all-time classic. Its timeless theme of love comes with a heavy punch thanks to an incredible cast. Wiseau and Juliette Danielle are an electrifying couple, and they were probably one tuxedo and one facial expression far from Oscar noms.
It’s also the confined setting, which adds to the story’s hermetic, stuffy vibe. Wiseau keeps the set designs simple, and by making them soulless, he also speaks volumes about the characters we follow.
How The Room (2003) changed cinema forever?
Numerous filmmakers drew inspiration from Tommy Wiseau’s The Room (2003). From Ari Aster, who ripped off an iconic piece of the dialogue in Midsommar (2019) (Hi Danny! / Hi Mark!), to Noah Baumbach and his own take on the arguing lovers in Marriage Story (2019). I also believe that David Fincher’s Gone Girl (2014) – its dark vibe – had traces of Wiseau’s influence. And let’s not forget about The Disaster Artist (2017) – a film which recreated the making of The Room (2003). Even The Godfather (1972) didn’t get such treatment…
#2 Transformers Saga (2007-2017)
Dir. Michael Bay
When it comes to blockbusters, nobody delivers them better than Michael Bay. The king of Hollywood’s special effects has a tremendous understanding of world-building, and that’s precisely what makes all of his Transformers movies so entertaining.
Whenever its Megan Fox, who is intentionally turned into a symbol of sex (an obvious middle finger to the disgusting part of Hollywood), or proving that robots can have feelings too (take that, Pixar!), Bay finds ways to imbue his saga with a bit more creativity and depth than his fellow authors.
At the same time, Michael Bay proves that despite the rising popularity of superheroes, robots are still a pleasant view, and are not passe just yet.
How Transformers Saga (2007-2017) changed cinema forever?
It has proven that even the biggest turd of a film can be turned brilliant with just enough special effects. Thanks to this brilliant research, conducted by Michael Bay, cinema was blessed in many phenomenal examples of special effects which covered up senseless scripts.
#3 Havana Darkness (2018)
Dir. Guillermo Ivan
If you haven’t heard about this horror film, you shouldn’t consider yourself an ardent fan of cinema.
Embarking on a journey to Cuba with Havana Darkness (2018) won’t have a happy ending. This blood-soaked thriller documents three friends and their trip to Havana. They dance, they have fun and even plan weddings, but it’s soon all in vain. Because once they come across a deadly game, they will not have an easy way out.
Havana Darkness (2018) made history as the first ever (sic!) English-language film directed in Cuba. While this is already an achievement, it’s also the first collaboration of America and Bulgaria on the film grounds!
Trivia aside, Havana Darkness (2018) draws inspiration from numerous classics of gore and sadistic horrors, and by turning down the volume on gore and scares, it finds the perfect balance between Cuban salsa and a slasher movie. When it comes to its own genre, there’s nothing quite like that.
How Havana Darkness (2018) changed cinema forever?
A first-time ever collaboration between Bulgaria and America, which is filmed – for the first time in English – on location in Cuba. Double virginity lost.
#4 The Happening (2008)
Dir. M. Night Shyamalan
M. Night Shyamalan’s career is filled with ups and downs, however it’s definitely The Happening (2008) that changed it forever.
In this frightening sci-fi thriller, Shyamalan reveals an alternative end of the world. One, in which blooming plants emit strange substances that turn people into mindless zombies. After dozens of boring films about various visions of the apocalypse, M. Night Shyamalan has finally devised a scheme far more complex and unusual than anybody else.
Leading the film’s cast is Mark Wahlberg, who plays the role of a teacher who likes quizzes. However, there’s no time for quizzes when the world is on fire. Wahlberg balances out a regular bloke and a fearsome leader, in a career-defining performance.
Apart from the jaw-dropping uniqueness of the story, The Happening (2008) marks as done some classic M. Night Shyamalan moments too. We get to see the director himself in a cameo, as well as a twist after twist – an all-entertaining thrill ride, which is just unforgettable.
How The Happening (2008) changed cinema forever?
M. Night Shyamalan took the most harmless thing in existence and turned it into a killer machine – the wind. That’s one of the boldest moves in the history of cinema! It was also him, who opened the Pandora’s box – who inspired Rubber (2010), huh?
#5 Mute (2018)
Dir. Duncan Jones
None of the modern filmmakers, who create in the field of science fiction, have reached the level of intelligence and depth as Duncan Jones did in Mute (2018), a Netflix Original.
Mute (2018) follows a bartender, who can’t speak. It’s an unusual premise, simply because bartenders were always the chitty-chatty characters in the history of cinema. This is just one cinematic formality that Jones breaks in Mute (2018). Jones plays with the idea of a crime drama, and a revenge thriller too, and serves it all in most stylish, delightfully steampunk world, all in the vibe of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982). The tech-y visuals are all but copied though, and the Berlin setting adds an even more interesting layer to the film, as it shows what can happen to the German capital city in the future.
On top of this genre powerhouse, comes the ridiculously entertaining cast. The unexpected turns from Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux complete the silent, likable lead played by Alexander Skarsgard.
How Mute (2018) changed cinema forever?
Mute (2018) has reinvented the steampunk sci-fi in many ways. While warning against the dangerous technologies that flood our world, it has also been the first sci-fi movie ever to have a mute lead.
#6 Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)
Dir. Sam Taylor-Johnson
Critics bashed it, people made fun of it, but no matter which calamity tested its foundation, Fifty Shades of Grey (2015) prevailed. And to paraphrase Starship’s greatest hit, nothing’s gonna stop this movie now from becoming an all-time popcorn classic.
It’s basically a film that defined this century’s perspective on love stories. Modern cinema has left the old classics on a shelf – such as Gone With The Wind (1939) or Casablanca (1942) – and moved onto finding its own talk about feelings, attachment and lust. This is how Sam Taylor-Johnson’s big-budget harlequin came to life.
In Fifty Shades of Grey (2015), we peak into the secret desires of an average girl, who meets an eccentric, sex addict. It might sound spicy, but Taylor-Johnson imbues the story with a classy blend of not-showing, barely-seeing and finally-that-was-a-piece-of-lingerie. It’s also anchored by a fit duo – Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson – whose chemistry bursts out of seams and lights the fire in the audience too. And if that wasn’t enough, the soundtrack of Fifty Shades of Grey (2015) is also an instant classic. What else is there to want?
How Fifty Shades of Grey (2015) changed cinema forever?
It was a box office hit, despite the critics who tried to bomb the movie and its success. Nobody cares about critics, and that film has proven it. It’s a century-defining love story, and its popularity secured a sequel too. Bad movies don’t get sequels, duh.
#7 Emoji The Movie (2017)
Dir. Tony Leondis
Colorful, and meaningful – those two words define a great animated film. And when on top of that comes the film topic’s recency, you get yourself a masterpiece.
That’s the case of Emoji The Movie (2017), an all-bright animation about one emoji’s exciting journey into finding its meaning (apart form its programming, of course). The film taps into a great market, because all the kids, and the adults too, use and know emojis on there phones on a daily basis.
The characters are lovable, the visuals jaw-dropping, and the story that cements it all – engaging. I was quite overwhelmed by the film, so I divided the fun into three parts. And I gotta say – absorbing this film in three separate pieces allowed me to have a nuanced experience.
How Emoji The Movie (2017) changed cinema forever?
Who could possibly think that there’s life inside a phone? Literally, no-one. Emoji The Movie (2017) told a beautiful story of being meaningful in the modern society, and it did so with light, approachable humor and delightful imagery. It has proven that even such a bland, non-existing topic like emojis can get a great movie. Therefore, any idiotic topic can hope for a phenomenal film.
#8 The Singing Forest (2003)
Dir. Jorge Ameer
Way before LGBT cinema would emerge, and grow exponentially, director Jorge Ameer was definitely ahead of the curve in The Singing Forest (2003).
The Singing Forest (2003) is a touching story of two gay men, murdered during the Holocaust. Years after, one of them reincarnates and has a daughter. And if that wasn’t enough, that daughter finds herself a boyfriend, who is – you guessed it – a reincarnation of her dad’s past lover.
There’s power to that story and its unique setting too. Jorge Ameer, who also wrote the film, elaborates on a how love can survive the test of time (given the existence of reincarnation, of course). Amidst the terrifying horrors of the Holocaust, Ameer finds intimacy and the topic that was ahead of the time (and still is, in 2020).
How The Singing Forest (2003) changed cinema forever?
Jorge Ameer deconstructed the taboo of homosexual love, and pushed the boundary even further by choosing the controversial setting during war. It’s also very likely that his film inspired Ang Lee’s The Brokeback Mountain (2005).
#9 Love 3D (2015)
Dir. Gaspar Noe
Adult films can often be found elsewhere – on the Internet, for example – but who could expect one of these to reach global-wide distribution and even Cannes?
Right from the start, in which the two main characters of the film are doing the 69, Love 3D (2015) surprises with its in-depth analysis of sexual desires and fantasies. Many tried to understand the complexity of the sexual sphere, and many have failed – just think of Last Tango in Paris (1972), Shame (2011) or Venus in Furs (1969). It was, however, Noe who stripped the actors and stripped the film too of any coating and let the bare nakedness of the story do the work.
How Love 3D (2015) changed cinema forever?
Love 3D (2015) has revealed to the masses the great mystery of soft-core pornography. Doing it in style, with phenomenal acting and a story that took only seven pages of script? That’s class right there.
#10 Your own choice!
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