Timeline of Greatest Film
Milestones and Turning Points
in Film History


The Year 1986

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The Year 1986
Year
Event and Significance
1986
The computer graphics division of Lucasfilm, Ltd. launched in 1979 was purchased by Apple Computer's co-founder Steve Jobs for $10 million on February 3, 1986. He established it as an independent company named Pixar, also called Pixar Animated Studios.
1986
Computer-created Luxo, Jr. (1986) was Pixar Studio's first film (or short) -- and the first fully computer-generated (CGI), computer-animated film which was nominated for an Academy Award, in the category of Best Animated Short Film.
1986
Disney's The Great Mouse Detective (1986) marked the first major use of computer animation in an animated film -- in the scene of the gears of London's famed bell tower Big Ben.
1986
The comedy Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986) was Disney's first R-rated feature (with light adult themes such as adultery, homosexuality, brief partial nudity, etc.), causing the studio to release the film under its newly-formed adult-oriented film division Touchstone.
1986
The black comedy Ruthless People (1986) was the second smash hit of 1986 for its star Bette Midler (her other big film was Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986)).
1986
The romance twenty-something film About Last Night... (1986) was able to just barely outgross (at $38.7 million) the major 'Brat Pack' film from the previous year, St. Elmo's Fire (1985) (at $37.8 million), also starring Rob Lowe and Demi Moore.
1986
The Academy Award-winning, drawing-room adaptation A Room With a View (1986, UK), starring Helena Bonham Carter, was the quintessential Merchant Ivory film production, with lush and glossy scenery visuals, gorgeous costuming, an emotional soundtrack, an engaging romance and a sense of period history -- it was the first of three adaptations of E.M. Forster novels, followed by Maurice (1987) and Howards End (1991). The team at Merchant Ivory Productions consisted of director James Ivory, producer Ismail Merchant and screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala.
1986
Writer/director James Cameron's sci-fi sequel Aliens (1986) outgrossed the 1979 original film, Ridley Scott's Alien (1979), at $85.1 million (vs. 78.9 million). It earned seven Oscar nominations, including the first Best Actress nod for Sigourney Weaver. As the character of Lt. Ellen Ripley, she solidified her place as filmdom's greatest action heroine, with closely-cropped hair, no makeup, and a fight-to-the-death maternal instinct. She paved the way for other action heroines to follow, such as Angelina Jolie in The Tomb Raider franchise and others (Linda Hamilton, Carrie-Ann Moss, Michelle Yeoh). However, most female action heroine films were flops.
1986
Director Tony Scott's loud buddy film Top Gun (1986) was the highest-grossing (domestic) film of the year, at $176.7 million, partially due to its spectacular action-based aerial dogfight sequences. The action flick starred 23 year-old Tom Cruise as swaggering fly-boy Maverick, soon to become the biggest star of the decade. [Inflation adjusted, the film remains Cruise's biggest hit of his entire career.] Its sole Oscar win (from four nominations) was for Best Original Song, recorded by Berlin: "Take My Breath Away." Kenny Loggins' "Danger Zone" was also a popular song on the soundtrack. Potential recruits signing up for US Naval and Air Force duty increased as a result of the film. The film's producers Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson ushered in an era of big-budget blockbusters with MTV-styled rapid edits, Top-40 soundtracks, and other summer movie phenomenons. Comedy take-offs were derived from the film, beginning with Hot Shots! (1991). One of its oft-quoted lines of dialogue was: "I feel the need, the need for speed." Top Gun (1986) just barely surpassed the second highest-grossing (domestic) film of the year, Crocodile Dundee (1986) at $174.8 million.
1986
Ted Turner, the Atlanta media mogul, took over MGM by purchase, but then sold off major parts of the studio. He retained the vast MGM (and United Artists) film library of more than 3,650 titles for $1.2 billion (2,200 MGM, 75 pre-1948 Warner Bros., including Casablanca (1942), and 700 RKO), intended for broadcast by his cable television stations. He then started the controversial fad of colorizing classic films (computer-altering black and white films) to make them appear as color films -- threatening initially to change John Huston's The Maltese Falcon (1941). He did colorize King Kong (1933), It's a Wonderful Life (1946), and Miracle on 34th Street (1947), among others.
1986
In President Ronald Reagan's State of the Union Address delivered on February 4, 1986, he referred to the future of America with a quote from the film Back to the Future (1985): "Never has there been a more exciting time to be alive -- a time of rousing wonder and heroic achievement. As they said in the film, Back to the Future: 'Where we are going, we don't need roads.'"
1986
Film reviewers and critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert remained on the nationally-syndicated show At the Movies until 1986, when they had another dispute (with Tribune Entertainment), and left to create a new Disney-produced show (Buena Vista Television), titled Siskel & Ebert & the Movies, later shortened in 1989 to Siskel & Ebert. Their popular and influential show, nominated for numerous Emmy Awards, lasted until 1999, when Siskel died from a brain tumor in 1999, and the show was renamed Roger Ebert & the Movies for one year.

[Tribune attempted to keep At the Movies alive in 1986 with critics Bill Harris and Rex Reed, and then Dixie Whatley, but the show was eventually cancelled in 1990.]
1986
Dolby SR ("Spectral Recording") was introduced as a system used both when a soundtrack was recorded and when it was played back. The system permitted the capturing of louder sounds with wider frequency response and lower distortion.
1986
James Cagney died at the age of 86, of a heart attack. After entering films from his early career as a vaudeville dancer, his most memorable roles were as tough guys in gangster films such as Public Enemy (1931), The Roaring Twenties (1939), and in White Heat (1949). He had been nominated three times as Best Actor, for Angels With Dirty Faces (1938), his sole win for Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), and for Love Me or Leave Me (1955).
1986
David Lynch's surrealistic, psychosexual Blue Velvet (1986) was a throwback to art films, 50s B-movies and teenage romances, film noir, and the mystery-suspense genre. It was an original look at sex, violence, crime and power under the peaceful exterior of small-town Americana in the mid-80s. Beneath the familiar, peaceful, 'American-dream' cleanliness of the daytime scenes lurked sleaziness, prostitution, unrestrained violence, and perversity - powerful and potentially-dangerous sexual forces that could be unleashed if not contained.
1986
Woody Allen's richly-nuanced film Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), his biggest box-office success up to the time (without adjusting for inflation), was a thoughtful treatise on marriage, relationships, life, the existence of God and love, seen through the eyes of three sisters: Hannah (Mia Farrow), Lee (Barbara Hershey) and Holly (Dianne Wiest).
1986
Influential African-American film-maker Spike Lee independently produced the low-budget comedy She's Gotta Have It (1986), his breakthrough and debut feature film. It won the Prix de Jeunesse award at Cannes, and helped to usher in the American independent film movement in the mid-1980s.
1986
Actor Clint Eastwood was elected mayor of the small town on the Monterey Peninsula, Carmel, California on April 8, 1986, and served only one term. Two films (he directed both of them) were made during his two-year tenure: the war film Heartbreak Ridge (1986), and the music biopic Bird (1988).
1986
The Best Actor Oscar award was won by Paul Newman for his role as older pool hustler 'Fast Eddie' Felson - now manager of his pool-heir apparent (Tom Cruise) in director Martin Scorsese's sequel The Color of Money (1986) - a reprise/remake of his earlier role 25 years earlier in The Hustler (1961). It was his seventh nomination and first competitive win. He became the only actor, to date, to win an Oscar for reprising a role in a sequel.
1986
Marlee Matlin, the first deaf actress to be nominated for an Academy Award, won for Best Actress Oscar for her debut film role in Children of a Lesser God (1986). 21 year-old hearing-impaired performer Matlin became the youngest winner of a Best Actress Oscar. Note: The 1986 film was the first female-directed film (Randa Haines, her feature film debut) ever to be nominated for Best Picture.
1986
Writer/director Oliver Stone's Vietnam war chronicle Platoon (1986), based in part on Stone's own participation in the Vietnam War as a grunt, opened and went on to win the Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director. It was the first of his so-called Vietnam War trilogy, also consisting of Born on the Fourth of July (1989) and Heaven & Earth (1993). Oliver Stone had been nominated for three awards, as director and screenwriter of Platoon (1986) and as screenwriter (with Richard Boyle) of Salvador (1986).
1986
Director Rob Reiner's first real hit film was Stand By Me (1986), an adaptation of Stephen King's The Body. (Earlier films included This Is Spinal Tap (1984) and The Sure Thing (1985).] It paved the way for his future hits: The Princess Bride (1987), When Harry Met Sally... (1989), Misery (1990), and A Few Good Men (1992).
1986
The HBO network's first Oscar winner (Best Documentary Feature) was Down and Out in America (1986). It was the first cable program, an HBO production, to win an Academy Award.
1986
While participating at a one-man film retrospective show (in Davenport, IA), charismatic and charming actor Cary Grant (aka Archie Leach), at the age of 82, died of a massive cerebral hemorrhage. He starred in some of the best-loved, classic films of all time including screwball comedies and Hitchcock thrillers -- The Awful Truth (1937), Bringing Up Baby (1938), Gunga Din (1939), Only Angels Have Wings (1939), His Girl Friday (1940), The Philadelphia Story (1940), Suspicion (1941), Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), Notorious (1946), To Catch A Thief (1955), An Affair to Remember (1957), North by Northwest (1959), and Charade (1963). He was only nominated twice for Best Actor, for Penny Serenade (1941) and for None But the Lonely Heart (1944).


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