12 years ago today, Peter Jackson’s Return of the King arrived in theaters: eventually winning 11 Oscars, cementing our current franchise-heavy cinematic culture and finally validating fantasy movies as an undeniable art form. It’s actually an auspicious date for fantasy movies: Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal came out on the same day in 1982, moving the celebrated puppeteer beyond the cuddly Muppets he was known for and constituting a strange and beautiful high point to his legendary career.
Other major cinematic milestones that share this release date include Michael Cacoyannis’s exuberant Zorba the Greek in 1964 . Less notable cinematic milestones released today include Stanley Kramer’s apocalyptic On the Beach, released in 1959; Sean Connery’s inauspicious return to James Bond in Diamonds Are Forever in 1971; and Dino De Laurentiis’s disastrous King Kong remake in 1976.
And we’re going to save a little bit at the end here for TRON Legacy, released today in 2010. It underperformed and is not widely loved, but we’re awfully fond of it.