By 1997, the multiplexes were beginning to overflow. Granted, what was considered “overflowing” back then would pale against today’s endless gauntlet of mega-budget, A-list franchise movies. But the tentpole movie was already taking over the industry, and ’97 saw Hollywood roll out the full spectrum of blockbuster movies, from the record-shattering hits (Titanic) to the stuff of trash legend (Batman & Robin). Sixteen movies crossed the $100 million mark, back when that was a much bigger deal, and another eight broke $70 million.
As has been true since at least the 1960s, 1997 wasn’t just a year for the best and worst of the major studios’ best bets, though; the continued boom period for arthouse fare offered its own share of true gems. When the CoS film staff came together to discuss what the best films of that year were, each writer’s list revealed that same dichotomy between blockbusters and minor classics. It also turns out that “classic” is a relative term, and you’ll either be pleased or chagrined to learn that Con Air just barely missed our final cut.
What we did find was a spread where Takeshi Kitano can rub elbows with Mike Myers and the once-highest-grossing film of all time was able to exist in the same Oscar categories as a small production about Boston written by two ambitious buddies. The industry would only get bigger from there, but 1997 built on the momentum of the ‘90s on the strength of (mostly) unique and original material. Even if some of that unique material involved a T-Rex sprinting through San Diego.
So let’s go diving back once again, when the mall multiplexes weren’t all owned by the same three companies and you could rent Face/Off for two nights from your local Blockbuster.