Timeline of Greatest Film
Milestones and Turning Points
in Film History


The Year 1991

Timeline of Greatest Film History Milestones and Turning Points
(by decade and year)
Introduction | Pre-1900s | 1900s | 1910s | 1920s | 1930s | 1940s | 1950s
1960s | 1970s | 1980s | 1990s | 2000s | 2010s
1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999

The Year 1991
Year
Event and Significance
1991
Disney's Beauty and the Beast (1991) was the first fully animated feature film to be nominated for Best Picture by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. [Note: Mary Poppins (1964) was only partially animated.]
1991
24 year-old USC film graduate John Singleton received an Oscar nomination as Best Director (the first time in this category for an African-American) for his debut film, the coming-of-age drama Boyz 'N the Hood (1991). He was also nominated for Best Original Screenplay. It was culturally significant as the first mainstream movie to deal with gang violence in America's urban ghettos. Its story was about two South Central LA boys, Tre Styles (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) and Ricky Baker (Morris Chestnut) from divergent families who attempted to survive while surrounded by violence in the simmering inner city.
1991
Ridley Scott's radical wide-screen film Thelma and Louise (1991) with a debut script by Callie Khouri (that won a Best Screenplay Oscar) was the first feminist-buddy/road film with two raging female heroines. Although controversial and defiant (like its counterpart Easy Rider (1969) was in its day), it offered splendid character roles to two actresses Susan Sarandon (as fed-up, overworked waitress Louise) and Geena Davis (as housewife Thelma) portraying outlaw women in flight across the American Southwest from abusiveness in marriage, rape and the law. [Incidentally, the film also launched Brad Pitt as a new star.]
1991
Jonathan Demme's Best Picture and Director win for the horror film The Silence of the Lambs (1991) was unexpected - it was the third film to win the top five awards since two other films had accomplished the same feat: One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (1975) and It Happened One Night (1934). It was a five-time major Academy-Award winner, sweeping Best Picture, Best Actor (Anthony Hopkins), Best Actress (Jodie Foster, her second Oscar in four years), Best Director (Jonathan Demme), and Best Adapted Screenplay (Ted Tally). The film contained a classic representation of evil personified - the notorious, cobra-like, intelligent psychiatrist turned psychopathic serial killer Hannibal Lecter (portrayed masterfully by British actor Anthony Hopkins), playing opposite dedicated, fledgling, vulnerable and rising female FBI agent-trainee/investigator Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster). [Prestigious British stage, TV and film actor Hopkins had an impressive collection of movies to his credit with both minor and major parts over many years (The Lion in Winter (1968), A Bridge Too Far (1977), The Elephant Man (1980), The Bounty (1984), and 84 Charing Cross Road (1987)).] Foster's strong, yet restrained, vulnerable female lead role in the much talked-about film was intensified by public knowledge of her real-life associations as a victim with assassin John Hinckley and her role as child-prostitute Iris opposite Robert De Niro's portrayal of a crazed killer in Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver (1976).
1991
Although Orion Pictures had done well with Kevin Costner's Dances With Wolves (1990) and The Silence of the Lambs (1991) - both Best Picture winners, its shaky financial situation (after years of money-losing pictures) caused it to file for bankruptcy late in 1991, to protect itself from creditors in federal court.
1991
Pixar and Disney agreed to co-produce the first fully computer-generated feature film, Toy Story (1995), released four years later.
1991
One of the first public uses of amateur video footage (subsequently aired by news agencies, and becoming a media sensation) was the capture of the March 3, 1991 prolonged beating of Rodney King, an African-American motorist, by several white LAPD officers who hit, stomped, and kicked him after he'd led them on a high-speed chase. In late April of 1992 after the four LAPD officers were acquitted of assault charges, race riots erupted in major US cities, and LA experienced three days of intense looting, deaths, injuries, fires, and arrests.
1991
The first truly believable, naturally-moving computer-generated character was the morphing, liquid molten metal, T-1000 cyborg in James Cameron's Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991). It was the first instance of a computer generated main character. Over 300 special effects shots made up 16 minutes of the film's running time.
1991
Writer/director James Cameron's sequel Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) was the most expensive movie up to its time. It was the first film in history to cost $100 million to produce. The exorbitant cost was mostly due to its advanced visual effects. (From its six Oscar nominations, the film won four awards, including Best Makeup, Best Sound, Best Sound Editing, and Best Visual Effects.) The film's trailer alone cost $150,000. Arnold Schwarzenegger's salary was reported to be between $12 and $15 million. Evidentally, it paid off, as the film was the top-grossing (domestic) film of 1991, at $204.8 million. (The # 2 and # 3 highest-grossing domestic films falling way behind were Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991) at $165.5 million, and Disney's animated Beauty and the Beast (1991) at $145.8 million.)
1991
The cable-TV channel Comedy Central (originally named CTV: The Comedy Network) was launched on April 1, 1991, April Fool's Day.
1991
First time writer/director Julie Dash's historical epic drama Daughters of the Dust (1991) was the first independent film produced, written and directed by an African American woman to be distributed in the US to a wide and general audience. It was added to the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress in 2004 - the first film made by an African American woman to be placed inside the registry.
1991
Stanley Kubrick's big-budget studio film Spartacus (1960) was reissued. It had been severely criticized for its infamous bathing-seduction scene (originally cut from the film) between bisexual, prurient Roman patrician General Marcus Crassus (Laurence Olivier) in a sunken tub (partially veiled by see-through netting) and his submissive 26 year-old Sicilian "body servant" Antoninus (Tony Curtis). They engaged in a notorious, double-entendre conversation about bi-sexual experimentation and sexual preferences with their veiled culinary talk about the morality of eating oysters and/or snails, and Crassus' affinity for sexual variety (Crassus: "It is all a matter of taste...my taste includes both snails and oysters") - the scene was restored to the theatrical release version in 1991.
1991
Paul Reubens (aka PeeWee Herman), the star of many popular films (i.e., PeeWee's Big Adventure (1985)) and his own TV show (the mid-80s Pee-wee's Playhouse), was arrested in Florida for indecent exposure while watching an X-rated film in a theatre. The arrest of the kids' show star was a devastating blow to his reputation and career, and marked the end of his PeeWee character.
1991
Screenwriter and director Frank Capra, noted for his "Capra-corn" films heralding the common man, died at the age of 94. He had won three Best Director Academy Awards during his career: It Happened One Night (1934), Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), and You Can't Take It With You (1938). Two of his films won Best Picture: It Happened One Night (1934) and You Can't Take It With You (1938). Other well-known films included Lost Horizon (1937), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Meet John Doe (1941), Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), and It's a Wonderful Life (1946).
1991
British director David Lean died at the age of 83. He was best known for his widescreen epic films, including The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Doctor Zhivago (1965), Ryan's Daughter (1970), and A Passage to India (1984). Other well-known films included In Which We Serve (1942), Brief Encounter (1946), Great Expectations (1946), Oliver Twist (1948), and Hobson's Choice (1954). He had received seven Best Director Oscar nominations during his career, winning twice for The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) and Lawrence of Arabia (1962).


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