10 Years Ago (2002)
Another trilogy also began with Matt Damon in The Bourne Identity.
The year is also notable for seeing the last feature film appearance by Paul Newman in Road to Perdition.
Top grossing film for the year: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or winner: The Pianist
Academy Awards Best Picture winner*: A Beautiful Mind
Notable deaths: directors Billy Wilder and John Frankenheimer; actors Richard Harris and James Coburn
The great L.A. Confidential, directed by Curtis Hanson
Hollywood Golden Boys Matt Damon and Ben Affleck wrote and starred in Good Will Hunting which would garner them Oscars for Original Screenplay the following year.
The Star Wars Special Editions were released, ushering in an era in which George Lucas would commit serial revisionist history, continuing to tinker with and alter a beloved trilogy.
Top grossing film of the year: Titanic
Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or winner: Taste of Cherry and The Eel
Academy Awards Best Picture winner*: The English Patient
film debuts: Orlando Bloom; Paul Bettany; Samantha Morton; Eric Bana
notable deaths: actors Robert Mitchum and James Stewart (one day after the other)
20 Years Ago (1992)
Two indie star directors had debut films. Quentin Tarantino (Reservoir Dogs) and Robert Rodriguez (El Mariachi) were part of the film geek movement in the early 90s. They became good friends and continue to collaborate to this day.
Two aging legends had great films. Robert Altman returned to the quality of his greatness in the 1970s with The Player and Clint Eastwood made what I consider to be his best film and one of the greatest westerns ever made, Unforgiven.
Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or winner: The Best Intentions
Academy Awards Best Picture winner*: Silence of the Lambs
film debuts of four future Oscar winners: Penélope Cruz (Jamón Jamón); Jamie Foxx (Toys); Hilary Swank (Buffy the Vampire Slayer); Heath Ledger (Clowning Around - uncredited); plus Ralph Fiennes and Laura Linney, who maybe should have won already.
directorial debuts of David Fincher (Alien 3); Ang Lee (Pushing Hands - Berlin Film Festival); Baz Luhrmann (Strictly Ballroom)
25 Years Ago (1987)
John Huston's final film, the starkly beautiful The Dead, starring his daughter Anjelica, based on the final story in James Joyce's Dubliners.
Top grossing film of the year: Three Men and a Baby
Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or winner: Under the Sun of Satan
Academy Awards Best Picture winner*: Platoon
film debuts: Sandra Bullock; Ben Stiller; Patricia Clarkson; Alec Baldwin; Courtney Cox, George Clooney, Chris Rock, Kenneth Branagh, Brad Pitt
directorial debuts: Chris Columbus (Adventures in Babysitting); Peter Jackson (Bad Taste); David Mamet (House of Games)
notable deaths: Fred Astaire; John Huston; Lee Marvin
30 Years Ago (1982)
Sam Raimi, who went on to direct all three of the Spider Man movies noted above, had his feature directorial debut with The Evil Dead, also the first in a trilogy that continued with The Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness.
Ridley Scott's inspired, visionary and bleak Blade Runner was released.
The THX sound system was introduced to American movie theaters.
Top grossing film of the year: E.T. the Extra Terrestrial
Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or winner: Missing and Yol
Academy Awards Best Picture winner*: Chariots of Fire
notable deaths: German New Wave director Rainer Werner Fassbinder at age 37. In the span of 16 years he directed 23 feature films, 4 shorts, 2 documentaries, 14 TV movies, and 2 TV mini-series. Also John Belushi, Grace Kelly, Ingrid Bergman and Henry Fonda.
film debuts of four future Oscar winners: Angelina Jolie (Lookin' to Get Out); Geena Davis (Tootsie); Kevin Kline (Sophie's Choice); Forest Whitaker (Tag: The Assassination Game); plus Glenn Close and Gary Oldman (who could both become Oscar winners this year); and Eddie Murphy; Hugh Grant; Antonio Banderas; Michael Keaton
directorial debuts: Amy Heckerling (Fast Times at Ridgmont High); Barry Levinson (Diner); Neil Jordan (Angel)
40 Years Ago (1972)
Oh yeah, also The Godfather
Top grossing film of the year: The Godfather
Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or winner: The Working Class Goes to Heaven and The Mattei Affair
Academy Awards Best Picture winner*: The French Connection
film debuts: future Oscar winners Jodie Foster (Napoleon and Samantha); Sissy Spacek (Prime Cut); future Oscar nominees Ned Beatty (Deliverance); Madeline Kahn (What's Up, Doc?); James Woods (The Visitors)
directorial debut of Wes Craven (Last House on the Left)
50 Years Ago (1962)
The wonderful Gregory Peck in the wonderful To Kill a Mockingbird
Top grossing film of the year: Lawrence of Arabia
Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or winner: Keeper of Promises
Academy Awards Best Picture winner*: West Side Story
film debuts: Jackie Chan, Sydney Pollack (acting); Robert Duvall; John Hurt
directorial debuts: Bernardo Bertolucci (The Grim Reaper); Roman Polanski (Knife in the Water)
notable deaths: Charles Laughton and Marilyn Monroe
75 Years Ago (1937)
Jean Renoir's brilliant WWI drama Grand Illusion.
Top grossing film of the year: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Academy Awards Best Picture winner*: Mutiny on the Bounty
The first gangster film, The Musketeers of Pig Alley, was produced.
Mack Sennett forms Keystone Studios which would become famous for giving Charlie Chaplin his start and for producing the renowned Keystone Cops comedy shorts.
Lillian Gish has her film debut. Her career would span 75 years until 1987's The Whales of August.