The History Behind The Movies

Video highlights from The Movies

What are the most pivotal moments in film that have stirred the imagination and influenced our culture?

From Emmy® Award-winning executive producers Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman in association with HBO and Emmy® Award-winning producer Mark Herzog, CNN Original Series The Movies explores American cinema through the decades and the cultural, societal and political shifts that framed its evolution.

Combining archival footage and interviews with leading actors, actresses, directors, producers, critics and historians, this series showcases the most pivotal moments in film that have stirred the imagination and influenced our culture.

The Movies features interviews with Paul Thomas Anderson, Alec Baldwin, Ellen Burstyn, Tim Burton, Cameron Crowe, Billy Crystal, Robert De Niro, Jon Favreau, Antoine Fuqua, Morgan Freeman, Bill Hader, Tom Hanks, Amy Heckerling, Ron Howard, Holly Hunter, Anjelica Huston, Baz Luhrmann, Julianne Moore, Ed Norton, Rob Reiner, Molly Ringwald, Maya Rudolph, Ridley Scott, John Singleton, Sharon Stone, Robert Zemeckis, Julia Roberts, Steven Spielberg and many more.



The Eighties (Part One):

Premieres Tuesday January 14 at 8.30pm AEDT/NZDT

The 1980s begin with big names starring in landmark movies: Robert De Niro in Raging Bull, Jack Nicholson in The Shining, and Robert Redford directing a stellar cast in Ordinary People. The Empire Strikes Back becomes the biggest movie of the year and sets the tone for the rest of the decade, where filmmakers like George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis set box-office records with spectacular crowd-pleasers. Directors like Martin Scorsese, Mike Nichols and Woody Allen make some of their best films and new voices emerge to speak to a new generation.

The Eighties (Part Two):

Premieres Tuesday January 21 at 8.30pm AEDT/NZDT

In the 1980s new voices emerge: Tim Burton, Rob Reiner, Nora Ephron, George Miller, Amy Heckerling and the Coen Brothers.  Meryl Streep and Tom Cruise catapult to superstardom while Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis put a new spin on action movies. Teenagers find relatable stories in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Say Anything and The Breakfast Club. At the end of the decade, Sex, Lies and Videotape moves indie filmmaking into the mainstream, Tim Burton revitalizes the superhero genre with Batman, and Spike Lee sets the cinema ablaze with his controversial masterpiece, Do the Right Thing.

The Nineties (Part One);

Premieres Tuesday January 28 at 8.30pm AEDT/NZDT

The 1990s begin with controversial characters who dominate the cultural conversation: Hannibal Lecter of The Silence of the Lambs, the mafiosos of Goodfellas, and the ladies of Thelma and Louise. Steven Spielberg focuses America’s attention on evil in Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan. Romantic comedies become popular, helmed by Nora Ephron, Amy Heckerling and Cameron Crowe, starring Meg Ryan, Sandra Bullock, and Julia Roberts. Will Smith emerges as one of the biggest stars in America with sci-fi smashes like Men In Black and Independence Day. Boyz N The Hood helps usher in a black film movement starring and directed by African-Americans. Independent filmmakers like Paul Thomas Anderson with Boogie Nights, Wes Anderson with Rushmore and Richard Linklater with Dazed and Confused make the jump from film festivals to multiplexes.


Premieres Tuesday February 4 at 8.30pm AEDT/NZDT

Advancements in digital effects lead to blockbusters such as Terminator 2, Jurassic Park, The Matrix and Titanic. Comedies such as Groundhog Day and There’s Something About Mary attract wide audiences, while new comedy stars such as Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler start their film careers. Quentin Tarantino becomes a household name with Pulp Fiction. The decade ends on a high note, with critically-lauded films such as Magnolia, Fight Club, Boys Don’t Cry, The Insider and Being John Malkovich making 1999 one of the best years in the history of American movies.


Premieres Tuesday February 11 at 8.30pm AEDT/NZDT

As the century turns, Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings bring epic sagas to the screen. Musicals have a comeback, started by Moulin Rouge and Chicago. Pixar draws adults and kids alike to animated films like Monsters, Inc. and Up. The previous generation’s indie directors such as Paul Thomas Anderson, Quentin Tarantino and Sofia Coppola continue to make artistic leaps forward with There Will Be Blood, Inglourious Basterds, and Lost In Translation. Judd Apatow’s unique brand of comedy has Americans laughing out loud, and Will Ferrell leaps from SNL to big-screen stardom.


Premieres Tuesday February 18 at 8.30pm AEDT/NZDT

James Cameron once again directs the biggest film of all time, Avatar, the same year that his ex-wife, Kathryn Bigelow, becomes the first female director to take home the Oscar for The Hurt Locker.  The superhero movie emerges as America’s favorite genre, as Christopher Nolan completely reinvents the Batman mythology and the Marvel Cinematic Universe takes form. Brokeback Mountain breaks barriers and taboos, and Moonlight, Lady Bird and Get Out diversify the landscape of film and show that the future of filmmaking is as bright as ever.


Premieres Tuesday February 25 at 8.30pm AEDT/NZDT

The 1970s are considered a second Golden Age for American movies. The Godfather, The French Connection and The Exorcist are all massive critical and commercial successes, paving the way for a New Hollywood where the director is given greater control. Robert Altman, Sidney Lumet and Martin Scorsese all develop unique personal styles that help define the decade. Liza Minnelli stars in Cabaret, while John Travolta earns fame in Saturday Night Fever and Grease. A new generation of female actors emerge: Ellen Burstyn in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, Gena Rowlands in A Woman Under the Influence, Pam Grier in Foxy Brown and Diane Keaton in Annie Hall.


Premieres Tuesday March 3 at 8.30pm AEDT/NZDT

Jack Nicholson shows his range in Oscar-nominated parts in Chinatown and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Paranoid thrillers like The Conversation, The Parallax View, Three Days of the Condor and All The President’s Men draw parallels to political times. By the end of the decade, blockbusters begin to overtake the New Hollywood, as Jaws, Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind capture the audience’s imagination and set the course for future filmmaking.


Premieres Tuesday March 10 at 8.30pm AEDT/NZDT

The 1960s begin with West Side Story and David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia. Stanley Kubrick spans the decade with Spartacus, Dr. Strangelove and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Psychologically taut stories like The Apartment, Psycho and The Manchurian Candidate show that Hollywood can also work on a smaller scale. Jerry Lewis, Doris Day and Mel Brooks create popular comedies. Elizabeth Taylor stars with Richard Burton in Cleopatra – a flop that almost took down a movie studio.


Premieres Tuesday March 17 at 8.30pm AEDT/NZDT

In the 1960s, James Bond makes his screen debut. Clint Eastwood steals the show in The Man with No Name and actors like Paul Newman in Hud and Butch Cassidy, Steve McQueen in The Great Escape, and Sidney Poitier in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner rule the box office. By the end of the decade, daring films like Bonnie and Clyde and The Graduate change the direction of American cinema. The decade closes with John Wayne winning his only Oscar for True Grit and a movie with an X rating, Midnight Cowboy, winning Best Picture.


Premieres Tuesday March 24 at 8.30pm AEDT/NZDT

The Jazz Singer becomes the first film with sound and movies like King Kong and Dracula, help buoy Americans during the Depression. Walt Disney creates the first cartoon feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Audiences fall in love with comedies like It Happened One Night, Bringing Up Baby, and Westerns starring John Wayne and Gary Cooper.  Arguably the greatest year in film history, 1939, is highlighted by The Wizard of Oz, and Gone With the Wind. In the decade to follow, beloved titles such as Casablanca, Citizen Kane, and It’s a Wonderful Life are released.


Premieres Tuesday March 24 at 8.30pm AEDT/NZDT

The 1950s showcase iconic performances from Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard and Bette Davis in All About Eve. A new style of screen acting begins to emerge from performances by Marlon Brando, James Dean and Eva Marie Saint. Legendary musicals are released, including Singin’ in the Rain, Meet Me in St. Louis and A Star is Born. Hollywood’s golden era comes to a close with directors working at the height of their careers: Billy Wilder makes Some Like it Hot, Hitchcock creates Vertigo and North By Northwest, and John Ford casts John Wayne in perhaps his deepest role in The Searchers.

Don't miss 'The Movies' starts Tuesdays 7.30pm AEDT/NZDT from 14 January on National Geographic. 

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