Today in Movie History: December 18

Mumble, mumble… something, something…  highest grossing movie of all time that somehow turned into a pop culture afterthought… Avatar… freaking Avatar opened today six years ago in 2009.

A far less well-known (and as underrated as Avatar is overrated) movie shares the same release date: Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon. Long viewed as a runt in the master’s litter, it remains something of a forgotten masterpiece today, and for those in a meditative mind, it proves quite a handsome treat.

And continuing our Lord of the Rings motif from yesterday, The Two Towers hit theaters in 2002. Among its copious assets is a sterling performance from Andy Serkis as Gollum, which ushered in an entirely new way of portraying fantasy figures onscreen.

Other notable releases today include George Lazenby’s sole outing as James Bond, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in 1969; Steven Spielberg’s first ballyhooed effort at “serious” filmmaking The Color Purple in 1985 (and happy birthday Mr. Spielberg, BTW); and Bernardo Bertolucci’s sumptuous Best Picture winner The Last Emperor in 1987.