Top 12 Movies in History That Were Ahead of Their Time
by Alex Billington
February 14, 2007
In honor of the upcoming movie 300, which is poised to show you another example of a movie vastly ahead of its time, FS.net has put together a list of the top 12 movies in history that were ahead of their time. It's no mistake that most of these are big budget action and/or science fiction films, and that's because those are the kind that take a step above and beyond with visual effects and more. But of course there are some classics that also have to be mentioned as groundbreakers in their respective genres.
These movies are judged as being ahead of their time primarily because of their technical and visual effects achievements. Most of these became the staple for referencing great visual effects after they came out. It's not necessarily that their subject matter or content was not accepted until years later (like Napoleon Dynamite).
I'm sure there were a couple I missed (it was tough not putting Blade Runner) that can still be recognized. I invite any readers who would like to voice their opinion to do so in the comments below, but I'll stand firmly by these 12 as the greatest examples of movies ahead of their time when they were released.
There are LOTS of great additions and suggestions for other movies that were ahead of their time in the comments. I know I forgot some, but read the comments below for all of the great suggestions - like Blade Runner and The Wizard of Oz!
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
This film set the standard for every horror thriller to come after 1960. It defined the genre and has since become an unforgettable horror classic. It shocked people with its chocolate blood and still scares the living daylights out of many today.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
You can't forget that 2001 was even before Star Wars. After Metropolis it was one of the biggest science fiction films up until Star Wars. I still wonder even now how the heck they achieved weightlessness and those incredible set pieces all back in the late 60's.
Directed by Steven Spielberg
A giant mechanical shark and one of the first films to really become a blockbuster in Hollywood history. Although when you think about this nowadays, it's not that amazing, but back in 1975, you'd be so scared that you wouldn't even go swimming. That's the power of a good movie that's so ahead of its time it becomes real to everyone who watches it.
Star Wars (1977)
Directed by George Lucas
No one ever imagined anything like that was capable back in 1977. I'm sure everyone has seen the many making of featurettes showing their use of miniatures and other incredible gimmicks. I mean, this was 1977, and the technical achievements they pulled off are even amazing today. It's frickin' Star Wars!
Directed by Steven Lisberger
It's been constantly referred to as the first CGI film that set the standards for all future CGI to come. For 1982 what they were able to do and the funky 80's graphical backgrounds were an incredible visual achievement. If you're a geek by any means this movie is a staple in your collection guaranteed.
Directed by John Badham
The first "hacker" movie of sorts that even played with a global thermonuclear war back in the early 80's. A geek classic even today that fits into the "ahead of its time" category via unconventional methods, as there really are no major visual effects.
Terminator 2 (1991)
Directed by James Cameron
Timeless visual effects that stand up to even today's visual effects and CGI. For being able to not only make a completely smooth shape-shifting metallic robot (that kicks some serious ass) as well as having everyone believe Arnold really was the Terminator, they did a hell of job of setting the visual effects standards for many years to come.
Jurassic Park (1993)
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Who would've thought you could've created dinosaurs that looked that lifelike back in 1993. Even using the animatronics system that they did, this was a far step ahead of anything at the time. Then the stories surrounding how horrifically real the dinosaurs were fueled its popularity even more. And the best part is that they look better in this movie than any more recent CGI creations.
The Fifth Element (1997)
Directed by Luc Besson
Sure many may argue against this (calling it cheap) but I'll stand by my belief that it's very futuristic visual effects were seamless and much more advanced than anything otherwise seen in any other movie in 1997 (except Starship Troopers). Nothing has ever topped that taxi cab chase sequence throughout the future city - it looked flawless then and looks flawless now.
Starship Troopers (1997)
Directed by Paul Verhoeven
Like Terminator 2, the "bugs" in this movie are even better looking than plenty of current day films. Ten years later and the visual effects in Starship Troopers are still some of the best around in comparison. 1997 was a great year for a very few films that had outstanding visual effects that have rivaled every film thereafter.
Office Space (1999)
Directed by Mike Judge
A tough one to argue, it's the fact that this bombed completely and didn't hit mainstream to far after its theatrical release that makes this way ahead of its time. It shows that the acceptance of a film can come after its planned theatrical release and earn a place in movie history by being comically ahead of its time when it first came out.
The Matrix (1999)
Directed by The Wachowski Brothers
Groundbreaking and revolutionary. I don't think I need to mention how much this film changed the cinematic world after its release - as everyone knows that story by heart. I'm sure this one will still be referred to as visually better than most films even years down the road, too.
The Baker's Dozen Special Unforgettable Addition:
Directed by Fritz Lang
This film has become the reference for nearly every science fiction film ever made. Despite being silent and set to music, you can pick up and watch this movie at any time and still be amazed by it. Metropolis was many, many years ahead of its time, and coincidentally is set many, many years ahead of its time.
Outlook on the Future
What films will be referred to as ahead of their time years down the road? An outlook on some of the few that I believe we'll all be talking about in 2010+ that were ahead of their time when they came out fairly recently.
Monsters, Inc. (2001), Sin City (2005), A Scanner Darkly (2006), The Fountain (2006), Children of Men (2006), 300 (2007)
(Yes, I've seen 300 and I'm already putting it here. Be ready to be blown away on March 9th.)
Leave a comment below with any more suggestions or ideas you have on movies that should be recognized as ahead of their time (past or present).