41 Movies For 41 Years: 1997

1997 is a tricky year because I saw so many things. Almost every movie that came out I watched in the theater because I was working at one and I no longer had to pay to see anything. The few that I didn’t see on the big screen I caught later on video. So, going back now and looking at all the stuff that I’ve seen from that year it’s really hard to pick out what was my favorite.

There were films that stunned me on the big screen that I still think are great like Titanic. There were things that I found amazing at the time that I’ve grown to have disdain for as I’ve grown older like The Lost World: Jurassic Park. But this isn’t about what my favorite move in 1997 was. This is about what I NOW consider to be my favorite movie from that year.

And just to address the elephant in the room…Yes, The Star Wars Special Editions came out that year. Yes, I did consider allowing them to be eligible because I feel like there were enough changes to them to consider them new films. Ultimately I chose not to include them on the list because I felt it would be unfair to some of the rest of the things that I could pick from.

So, in a year that brought us Men In Black, Air Force One, and My Best Friend’s Wedding…what did I pick?

As my list gets further into my adulthood it becomes harder because I watch so much. So, I have to pick based on rewatchability. What movie from 1997 have I rewatched more often?

Boogie Nights.

Paul Thomas Anderson directed this film that starred Mark Wahlberg, Julian Moore, Heather Graham, Burt Reynolds, William H. Macy, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and John C. Reilly. It takes place in the 1970s and it’s about a dishwasher that gets recruited into the porn industry. The bible belt tightened when this hit theaters because here in the south when you say a movie is “about” porn it is automatically assumed to “be” porn. This movie is not porn. It’s not even really dirty. I mean, there are some sexual situations but this is more about the story of this one character.

Wahlberg plays Eddie Adams, a high school dropout that gets noticed by a pornographic filmmaker and recruited into making a few films for him. He eventually becomes a big star. The thing about this movie is that it’s essentially the same plot that you’ve seen a thousand times in stories about the music and film industry. Someone is pulled from obscurity and turned into a big star and then they have a fall from grace. The way Anderson wove us into this world was fantastic. It’s Eddie’s story, but that’s not the only character we follow. We get to know so many other characters.

We meet Rollergirl (Graham) who has become a film star out of her need for a family. Jack Horner (Reynolds), the famous film director who finds himself having to reinvent himself because of a changing industry. Maggie (Moore) who is clinging on to her fame because her actual life is in shambles. I could list every character one by one, and no matter how small the role was there was something there for us to care about. And Anderson picked the perfect people to play those parts. Every actor in the film gives an amazing performance, especially Burn Reynolds who won an Academy Award that year.

Wahlberg cemented his place in Hollywood with this film. Until then he'd been known mainly for strutting on stage in his tighty-whities as the lead singer of Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. He'd done a couple of film before this. Most notably was the thriller Fear from the year before. But he gave such a great performance in this film, showcasing his ability to play anything from a bashful kid that doesn't know much about the world to a coked out mega star. It leaves little wonder why he's one of Hollywood's A-List actors two decades later.

So, yeah…a lot of stuff came out in 1997. Some of it was good like Air Force One. Some it was…Batman and Robin. But if I forget about the stuff that I just had a good time watching 21 years ago and actually think about what films had I carried with me as my life has moved on then I would definitely have to add Boogie Nights to that list.

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