Today in Movie History: August 13

When you talk about movies that change the way movies were made, the list is very short. But it inevitably includes Bonnie and Clyde, Arthur Penn’s wild version of the infamous Depression-Era outlaws that became a symbol of the 60s counter-culture. Its avant-garde filmmaking techniques stood in stark contrast to Hollywood’s active creative stagnation at the time, and its tale of doomed rebellion resonated deeply with a generation on the cusp of unprecedented upheaval. It opened today in 1967, and truly, the movies have never been quite the same.

Like a surprising number of Walt Disney’s early films, Bambi didn’t initially do well. World War II limited its exposure to foreign markets, and a nation hungry to escape reality in the movies wasn’t ready for a stark and occasionally brutal look at the life of a young deer. But multiple re-releases revealed its charms to new generations of audiences, and today it’s regarded as one of the very best in the Disney canon. Bambi opened today in 1942.

On an entirely different level, we find Fast Times at Ridgemont High, an early entry into 80s coming-of-age comedies that hung in there to become a minor classic. Director Amy Heckerling and screenwriter Cameron Crowe announced their status as some of the bright lights in the genre, but the film is mostly known for its broad cast of up-and-comers, including Anthony Edwards, Nicolas Cage,  Phoebe Cates, Judge Reinhold, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Forest Whitaker, Eric Stoltz… and Sean Penn’s star-making turn as Jeff Spicoli. Fast Times at Ridgemont High opened today in 1982.

We’ll close with Tropic Thunder, Ben Stiller’s spot-on skewering of Hollywood that turns 10 today. The story of a war epic going disastrously, hysterically wrong includes a bevvy of choice performances, including Stiller himself as a former superstar on his way down. But the two scene stealers are Robert Downey, Jr., whose way-too-into-his-part character earned him an Oscar nomination… and Tom Cruise, in the midst of a steep carer slide that he halted in its tracks with his brilliant turn as a heartless mogul who knows how to get down. The film opened a decade ago today in 2008.


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