Today in Movie History: August 16

Film lovers often talk about the joy of being surprised: walking into a movie expecting nothing more than a couple of hours’ worth of entertainment, and delighted to discover a masterpiece in its place. So it was with The Usual Suspects, a seemingly by-the-numbers crime thriller than morphed into something extraordinary. Two Oscars later (one for Kevin Spacey and one for screenwriter Chris McQuarrie), it now stands as a modern classic, as well as launching the career of director Bryan Singer. The Usual Suspects opened today in 1995.

If you love zombie apocalypse  movies — and who doesn’t these days? — you should definitely hunt down Return of the Living Dead, a very tongue-in-cheek approach to the genre from the late, great Dan O’Bannon. It involves a group of 80s-era punks squaring off against the ubiquitous zombie hordes, and manages to evoke the more playful side of George A. Romero’s formula without stepping on the master’s toes. (Return isn’t a part of Romero’s Dead cycle, merely inspired by it.) It opened today in 1985.

And since we sometimes list really, really bad movies as well as really, really good ones, there’s The Adventures of Pluto Nash , a late-inning Eddie Murphy disasters that pretty much killed Murphy’s status as a dependable leading man. Or, as Jay Mohr said, “I turned it off after 20 minutes… and I’m in it!!!” Pluto Nash opened today in 2002.


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