All year we’ve been tracking which big sci-fi, fantasy, and horror films are celebrating milestone anniversaries over the course of 2021 and now we’ve come to the end of our journey. In the winter, it was movies like Highlander and Attack the Block. During the spring, it was Willy Wonka and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Over the summer, we celebrated Aliens and Captain America. Which films have major anniversaries before the year closes out? Find out below and maybe add a few titles to your watch or re-watch list.
Babes in Toyland (December 14) - Starring Annette Funicello, this Walt Disney-produced musical probably haunted, and delighted, kids at the time of its release. There’s death, haunted forests, but also lots and lots of toys and singing. You can only imagine those memories continue to fester 60 years later.
Thunderbirds Are Go (December 12) - Who doesn’t love a good puppet sci-fi adventure? Well, in 1966... most people. Thunderbirds Are Go wasn’t a big success. In the decades since, the film—and more so the franchise—has gone on to achieve some cult status making this title increasingly notable.
Bedknobs and Broomsticks (December 13) - This trippy Disney classic deserves much more than a few sentences. So here’s a full article.
A Clockwork Orange (December 19) - Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece adaptation of the equally masterful book by Anthony Burgess tells of a future where crime runs rampant. There, one man is forced into being good. But is being a good person more important than the act of free will? Fifty years later, the questions and visuals still spark heated debate.
Diamonds Are Forever (December 30) - As fans finally get to see the final Daniel Craig James Bond movie, we remember it was 50 years ago when Sean Connery played Bond for the final time in this action-adventure.
Carrie (November 3) - Directed by Brian DePalma and starring Sissy Spacek, Carrie on its own is a very good movie. Scary, infuriating, provocative. But even more noteworthy is that its release marked the first time one of Stephen King’s stories was ever adapted for the screen. Which is just a huge deal.
Alice in Wonderland (December 10) - Down the rabbit hole we go with another Disney animated classic. This one, in particular, has had a psychedelic influence beyond its years.
Freaky Friday (December 17) - The 1980s were a very fruitful time for body-swap comedies, but from the decade prior, one of the first—and best—is this Disney-produced film about a mother (Barbara Harris) and daughter (eventual Oscar winner Jodie Foster) who switch bodies. It’s since been remade a few times, most notably in 2003 with Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan.
King Kong (December 17) - Certainly not the first, or best, King Kong film, but for many people, this version that starred Jeff Bridges, Jessica Lange, and the late Charles Gordon may have been the first time they traveled up the Empire State Building.
The Evil Dead (October 15) - When Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell teamed up for this, the first Evil Dead film, they couldn’t have known what would happen: sequels, spinoffs, TV shows, remakes. Their unique blend of gore, fear, and comedy helped created one of horror’s most recognizable franchises.
Halloween II (October 30) - At the end of the first Halloween, Michael Myers disappeared. Where did he go? Halloween II answered that question. He followed Laurie to the hospital where she and Dr. Loomis finally “defeated” the evil killer. Until, of course, he came back a few years later.
Time Bandits (November 6) - Terry Gilliam’s time travel adventure comedy co-starring Sean Connery was every kid’s fantasy come true. Traveling across history, having adventures, blowing up stuff. The only downside is 40 years later we still have yet to see more stories in this wonderful world.
An American Tail (November 21) - Growing up, this story of an immigrant mouse who got lost in America was one of my favorite movies. These days though, for some reason or another, it feels like a film lost to time. Surprisingly, it also got a few sequels.
The Wraith (November 21) - Remember that movie where Charlie Sheen pretends to be a murdered kid and drives a killer alien car? Odds are you might not. But it’s a movie that existed and we wrote about it here.
Little Shop of Horrors (December 19) - A giant, man-eating plant is at the center of this kooky, star-studded musical adaptation that has stood the test of time as a cult classic that’s probably just a classic. Directed by Frank Oz (and based on the Broadway musical and the 1960 Roger Corman film), it stars Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene, Vincent Gardenia, Steve Martin, and Levi Stubbs as the voice of Audrey II.
Also: Solarbabies (November 26), Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (November 26), King Kong Lives (December 19)
The Addams Family (November 22) - Though The Addams Family first came to screens in the 1960s, when it got rebooted on the big screen in 1991, a whole generation was meeting them for the first time. And the result was not just a box office smash, but a pop culture phenomenon.
Beauty and the Beast (November 22) - The first animated feature to ever be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards is not just considered to be one of the best Disney films of all time, it might be one of the best animated films of all-time, period.
Hook (December 11) - Twenty years after starting his career, Steven Spielberg made this imaginative Peter Pan sequel that’s still a notable reference in pop culture today. Love it or hate it, everyone knows Hook. Read much more about it here.
Also: Suburban Commando (October 4), Highlander II: The Quickening (November 1), The People Under the Stairs (November 1), An American Tail: Fievel Goes West (November 22), Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (December 6)
Space Jam (November 15) - If I’d written this entry a few months ago it would’ve been different. On the one hand, the quality of the long-awaited sequel to Space Jam makes this more innocent, simple original look much better by comparison.
Mars Attacks (December 13) - Tim Burton’s offbeat sci-fi horror-comedy feels like a movie that almost shouldn’t exist, what with its incredible cast, extensive digital effects, and very specific tone of black humor and parody with melodrama and homages. Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Annette Bening, Pierce Brosnan, Danny DeVito, Martin Short, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michael J. Fox, Pam Grier, Natalie Portman, Jim Brown, and Jack Black are just some of its many stars in very odd roles. It’s just risky as hell and even though it doesn’t always work, it’s such a big swing it’ll always be a film fans talk about.
Scream (December 20) - On the eve of a fifth film in the franchise, it’s wild to think 25 years have passed since Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson gave the slasher genre such a swift kick in the backside. Their mix of self-reference with legit scares was spot on and instantly made this film an all-timer.
Also: Bound (October 4), The Long Kiss Goodnight (October 11), Thinner (October 25), Romeo + Juliet (November 1), Daylight (December 6), Star Trek First Contact (November 22), 101 Dalmatians (November 27), Beavis and Butthead Do America (December 20).
Waking Life (October 19) - Modern Hollywood would never allow Waking Life to be released on any significant number of screens. The cast is impressive, yes, but it’s just them talking in a series of mostly unrelated vignettes which are then breathtakingly animated over and changed visually. The end product is both visually and mentally stimulating, which should be enough—and in the case of this movie, it is. But outside of regular rotoscoped projects, we can’t imagine Hollywood making anything remotely like Waking Life these days.
Donnie Darko (October 26) - If you made a list of the quintessential sci-fi films of the past two decades, Richard Kelly’s time-traveling mind-fuck starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Drew Barrymore, and more would be right on it. Hugely entertaining, endlessly fascinating, and infused with true independent passion, Donnie Darko simply rules.
Amelie (November 2) - Few movies capture the magical feeling of having a crush and falling in love quite like this fantastical romance from Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Audrey Tautou stars as a shy woman who creates an intricate game and mystery to show a man how she feels. How you feel after you watch it is as happy as any movie is likely to make you.
Monsters, Inc. (November 2) - This Pixar animated film was so successful, earlier this year Disney was still cashing in with an ongoing animated series. It’s just such a funny, smart concept, made with incredible skill. To this day, still one of Pixar’s best.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (November 16) - If you were to rank all the Harry Potter movies, Sorcerer’s Stone is certainly not the best. Or the worst. But it was the first and that means without it the franchise wouldn’t have gone on to become the behemoth it has—and the actors who have gone on to do some great work might never have hit it big otherwise. It’s a landmark film.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (December 19) - Speaking of landmarks, Peter Jackson’s first of three Lord of the Rings films is just a stunner. So epic, so beautifully crafted and acted. A perfect story on its own that makes you beyond excited to see the rest. Somehow, it feels like it came out yesterday, not 20 years ago.
Also: Joy Ride (October 5), Mulholland Drive (October 12), From Hell (October 19), The One (November 2), Frailty (November 7), Vanilla Sky (December 14), Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius (December 21).
The Prestige (October 20) - By 2006, it was pretty obvious Christopher Nolan was something special. And with the release of The Prestige, a movie about rival magicians played by Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale, that respect just got deeper. It’s an entertaining, dark, thriller with great twists and turns.
Casino Royale (November 17) - Daniel Craig’s first foray as agent 007 celebrates 15 years just one month after the release of his final film in the franchise. This movie really set the tone for Craig’s version of Bond and is still one of the best films in the entire series.
The Fountain (November 22) - A love story told across time is the lynchpin of this ethereal, gorgeous genre film from director Darren Aronofsky. It wasn’t a big hit upon release but those who saw it were instantly changed by it. Over the years, adoration has only grown.
Children of Men (December 25) - When Alfonso Cuarón won his Oscars for Best Director (for Gravity and Roma), anyone who saw this 2006 film starring Clive Owen said “of course he did.” Children of Men is an incredibly powerful post-apocalyptic story told by a filmmaker who was quickly becoming a legend.
Also: Saw 3 (October 2), Borat (November 3), Happy Feet (November 17), Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny (November 22), Eragon (December 15), Night at the Museum (December 22).
Hugo (October 10) - When you think Martin Scorsese you think gangsters, New York, black and white. You don’t think whimsy, 3D or robots. But Scorcese went against type and threw all that together in this lovely little adventure film starring the then-very young Asa Butterfield and Chloë Grace Moretz. And while it’s no Goodfellas, it’s a notable film on the director’s resume.
The Muppets (November 4) - Sometimes when a person who was a fan of a franchise grows up to make a movie in that very franchise, it can be really special. That’s what happened with co-writer and star Jason Siegel, who helped craft this incredibly Muppet movie that won an Oscar for its music and told a story that was perfectly modern, but also totally Muppets.
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (December 7) - Better known to a normal person as “the one with the giant skyscraper,” this fourth Mission Impossible film, directed by Brad Bird, took the entire franchise to another level and set a standard for action in the series.
The Adventures of Tintin (December 21) - Forty years after starting his film career, and 20 years after his Peter Pan movie Hook, Spielberg teamed up with producer Peter Jackson to bring the classic comic Tintin to life using impressive performance capture technology. Adverse reactions to that technology has, for the most part, made the film falter in historical terms—but on story alone, it’s pure Spielberg. Frolicking and a hell of a lot of fun.
Also: The Thing (October 10), Paranormal Activity 3 (October 13), Puss in Boots (October 23), The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 (October 30), Immortals (November 11), Happy Feet Two (November 18), The Darkest Hour (December 22).
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