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The Most Popular Movie the Year You Were Born

These films were the biggest box-office hits of the year, according to filmsite.org. Did your favorites make the cut?

Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links.

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Popular movies the year you were born

Watching movies has become an essential part of everyday life. Not only can movies transport you to another point in time, but movies can also raise important topics that reflect and eventually can become a part of national conversations. It’s fun to look back in time to see what movies were popular, and even more fun to see what films were popular the year you were born. These are the time travel movies you should watch again.

Note: Prices listed were accurate as of press time; pricing fluctuations may occur. 


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1930: Tom Sawyer

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Mark Twain’s timeless novel about the adventures of a young boy gets film fame too. Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, and Joe Harper trick the town into thinking they’re dead, witness a murder, and more. These are the best children’s books ever written.

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1931: Frankenstein

 

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A scientist is obsessed with trying to make a dead corpse come to life, but has to live with the consequences when he succeeds in this film adaptation of Mary Shelley’s classic novel. Don’t miss the movies that were actually better than the book.

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1932: Shanghai Express

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In this romantic adventure film, a woman and her former lover reconnect on a train to Shanghai. It won the Academy Award for best cinematography. Don’t miss these Oscar-winning movies you forgot actually won.

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1933: King Kong

 

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People have been obsessing over this giant ape since he first traveled from Skull Island to New York City in the original 1933 movie King Kong. Here are hidden New York City gems most New Yorkers don’t even know about.

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1934: It Happened One Night

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When a spoiled socialite runs away from her father to join her husband, a story-hungry reporter blackmails her into letting him tag along.

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1935: Mutiny on the Bounty

 

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As HMS Bounty sets sail from England to Tahiti, Captain Bligh turns into a ruthless tyrant. Before they make their way home, first mate Fletcher Christian leads a mutiny so the crew can go back to paradise in Tahiti—until the captain comes back for revenge.

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1936: Modern Times

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In Charlie Chaplin’s last appearance as Little Tramp, the character tries making his way in an industrialized society. With Chaplin’s success in silent films, Modern Times is the first and only movie that the character gets a voice. Here are iconic movies that are set in every state.

1937: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

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Walt Disney made waves with the first feature-length, English-language animated film to be in color. In it, Snow White must hide with dwarves when a jealous queen tries to kill her.

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1938: The Adventures of Robin Hood

 

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Sir Robin of Locksley leads his outlaw band of Merry Men on an adventure to take from the rich and give to the poor.

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1939: Gone With The Wind

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Based on the book by Margaret Mitchell, Gone With the Wind follows the romantic pursuits of a Georgia plantation owner’s daughter, Scarlett O’Hara, during and after the Civil War. Check out more romantic movies even unromantics love.

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1940: Pinocchio

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A fairy grant’s a puppeteer’s wish for his marionette to come to life. With the help of Jiminy Cricket, the wooden Pinocchio tries to prove his honesty and bravery make him worthy of being a real boy.

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1941: Sergeant York

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Based on the true story of Sergeant Alvin York, this film follows the American’s journey from drafted pacifist to decorated war hero during World War I.

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1942: Bambi

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A curious young deer makes friends with his fellow forest creatures, including a peppy rabbit named Thumper, as he learns about courage and love. When hunters threaten his friends, Bambi must step up to lead the animals to safety. Check out these other family-friendly movies your kids will like as much as you.

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1943: This Is the Army

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In this wartime musical comedy, Jerry Jones’ dancing career is ruined when his leg is wounded on the battlefield during World War I. By the time World War II begins, he’s switched to producing, and his son Johnny reluctantly follows his father’s footsteps with an all-soldier show.

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1944: Going My Way

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Bing Crosby plays a laid-back young priest trying to mentor a gang of kids and take over the Manhattan parish’s finances for the aging Father Fitzgibbon, despite the older pastor’s disapproval. The film won seven Oscars, including Best Picture.

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1945: Mom and Dad

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When her parents refuse to discuss sex education with her, a high school girl gets pregnant by a pilot, who dies in a plane crash. Even though some communities banned it for obscenity, the movie was one of top five box office successes of the decade.

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1946: It’s A Wonderful Life

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This black-and-white Christmas classic will make you feel all the feels. All the problems of George Bailey’s life mount up until he feels he can’t handle it anymore. As he’s ready to jump off of a bridge, his guardian angel, Clarence, comes by to show him what life would be like if his wish came true and he hadn’t ever been born.

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1947: Forever Amber

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A poor 17th-century English girl decides to raise herself to nobility but must choose between status and true love.

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1948: The Snake Pit

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A woman wakes up in an insane asylum without memory of how she got there in this film adaptation of Mary Jane Ward’s semi-autobiographical book. The movie jumps back in time to flashbacks from before her hospital admittance and follows her journey through recovery.

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1949: Samson and Delilah

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This romantic epic is based on the biblical story of lust and betrayal. Delilah seduces Samson, the strongest man in his enslaved Israeli tribe, to discover the secret behind his strength.

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1950: Cinderella

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The prince is throwing a ball to find a wife, but Cinderella’s wicked stepmother and stepsisters ruin her chance to go. Cinderella’s chance at finding love seems hopeless until her fairy godmother comes to the rescue.

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1951: Quo Vadis

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When a Roman commander falls in love with a Christian hostage, he begins to question the nature of his Emperor’s regime.

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1952: The Greatest Show on Earth

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Take a peek behind the circus curtain with Cecil B. DeMille’s high-flying classic. Apparently, a lot of drama goes into getting the greatest show on Earth as profitable as possible.

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1953: Peter Pan

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What better way to revisit your childhood on movie night than with a movie about the boy who never grows up? Take a trip to Neverland with Wendy, Peter and the Lost Boys with this Disney classic. These are classic children’s quotes every adult needs to hear.

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1954: Rear Window

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This Alfred Hitchcock classic follows a wheelchair-bound photojournalist and his girlfriend as they use binoculars to spy on the neighbors. A high-profile cast—Grace Kelly, Thelma Ritter, and Wendell Corey lead the show—made this mystery-thriller an instant box-office hit. Read through these unanswered questions about Grace Kelly’s death.

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1955: Lady and the Tramp

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An animated film in which two dogs fall in love? Amazing. Plus, these pups’ spaghetti-and-meatballs kiss is nothing short of iconic.

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1956: The Ten Commandments

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A biblical epic based on the life of Moses and his receiving of the Ten Commandments.

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1957: The Bridge on the River Kwai

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This epic war film based on the novel Le Pont de la Rivière Kwai by Pierre Boulle follows the construction of the Burma Railway by British prisoners during World War II.

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1958: South Pacific

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Sail away into date night with this World War II musical romance featuring a young Navy nurse and a French planter. With a Rogers and Hammerstein score, you can’t go wrong. Make sure you know these movies with the best soundtracks.

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1959: Ben-Hur

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This film, which follows the story of a Judah Ben-Hur, a well-to-do prince and merchant in Jerusalem in AD 26, had a budget of $15.175 million, the largest of its time. Thankfully, it generated $74.7 million in North American box office sales.

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1960: Swiss Family Robinson

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Not sure how well your family would fare in a shipwreck on a deserted island? Live vicariously through the Robinson family with this adventure film put out by Disney.

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1961: 101 Dalmatians

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When the evil Cruella de Vil kidnaps a litter of puppies to make a dalmatian skin coat, Pongo and Perdita, the pups’ parents, must find a way to rescue them in time. This is why firehouse dogs are usually dalmations.

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1962: The Longest Day

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History buffs, this is the movie for you! Based on the 1959 book, Longest Day: The Classic Epic of D-Day, this movie takes you back in time to June 6, 1944, when the Allied forces landed on the beaches of Normandy, France to defeat Nazi Germany. You get to see this iconic day in military history unfold from both the Allied and German perspectives.

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1963: Cleopatra

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Elizabeth Taylor is a stunning Queen of the Nile in this historical flick about the triumphs and tragedies of Cleopatra.  

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1964: Mary Poppins

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You’ll be singing along to this nostalgic Disney classic starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. If only we could all have a magical nanny like Mary Poppins who could take us on wild adventures with goofball chimney sweeps like Bert! Find out what the Mary Poppins author thought about the original movie.

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1965: The Sound of Music

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Yes, the hills are alive with yet another popular classic starring Julie Andrews who plays a governess for the seven children of a wealthy Austrian widower, Captain Von Trapp whose heart has grown cold. Andrews will win over your heart in this fun, family film just like she did with the Von Trapp clan. 

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1966: The Bible: In the Beginning and Hawaii (virtual tie)

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You’ll learn all about the Biblical book of Genesis which features the stories of Adam and Eve, Noah’s Ark, and Abraham and Isaac in The Bible: In the Beginning. The movie Hawaii tells the tale of an American missionary and his wife who travel to Hawaii in hopes of converting the natives to a more civilized, modern life. But instead of understanding, culture clashes ensue and tragedy strikes.

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1967: The Jungle Book

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Welcome to the jungle! In this Disney classic, young man-cub Mowgli learns with the help of his animal friends Bagheera and Baloo that the jungle is no place for a boy. These are the things that are never allowed in Disney films.

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1968: Funny Girl

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Barbra Streisand nails it as early 1900s Broadway actress and comedian, Fanny Brice, in this critically acclaimed musical hit about a young Jewish woman from New York City who dreams of becoming a star. With the help of a suave gambler, who she falls in love with and marries, Fanny Brice, becomes an overnight comical sensation for the Ziegfeld Follies, a Broadway production. 

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1969: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

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Paul Newman and Robert Redford play a dynamic duo in this four-time Oscar-winning film about two bank robbers who flee from the law and head for Bolivia.

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1970: Love Story

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A poor baker’s daughter and rich boy become star-crossed lovers in this modern-day Romeo and Juliet. Despite his family’s disapproval, the two get married and struggle to make ends meet. When circumstances finally start to look up for the pair, one of them is diagnosed with a terminal illness and their short-lived love story comes to an end.   

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1971: Billy Jack

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Billy Jack is a half-Indian Vietnam veteran who returns from the war and lives on a reservation outside of a conservative town in Arizona. He soon becomes the protector of the progressive Freedom School, a peaceful art school where children of all ages and races are welcome. Unfortunately, the peace gets corrupted when the town’s local bigots start to initiate a campaign to destroy the school and humiliate its students. Billy Jack must do everything in his power to end this unjust evil, even if it means murder.

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1972: The Godfather

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Marlon Brando won the Oscar for Best Actor in 1973 for his brilliant performance as mob boss, Don Vito Corleone. The Don tries to pass down his empire to his youngest son Michael, played by Al Pacino, but the young man is reluctant to take control of the powerful organized crime dynasty his father has created. Check out every Oscar Best Picture winner ranked.  

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1973: The Exorcist

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If you were born in ’73 and are also a horror fan, that’s fitting because it’s also the year the frighteningly successful psychological thriller about a young girl possessed by the devil hit theaters, infamously creepy 360-degree head spin and all. It racked up ten Academy Award nominations, winning two. 

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1974: Blazing Saddles

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Western fans saddled up for the Mel Brooks’ directed Blazing Saddles this year, a western comedy starring Gene Wilder that satirized racism by casting the hero as a black sheriff in an all-white town (bucking Hollywood’s usual depiction of the American West).

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1975: Jaws

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Beaches across America were probably a little emptier after the man-eating shark in this blockbuster hit from Steven Spielberg terrorized the big screen. It was deemed so iconic that the Library of Congress added it to the National Registry of Films in 2001, a list reserved only for those that are “culturally, historically, or aesthetically” significant. These are some of the scariest Halloween movies you’ve ever seen

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1976: Rocky

 

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Sylvester Stallone donned his boxing gloves (and removed his shirt) and took to the ring in this rags-to-riches story about an Italian-American amateur boxer who went from working the slums of Philadelphia to competing in the world heavyweight championship. The film spawned six sequels, with the third including a song now synonymous with the hardworking Rocky, “Eye of the Tiger” by the band Survivor.

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1977: Star Wars

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A long time ago, in [what now seems like] a galaxy far, far away, George Lucas’s epic space adventure began and fans were first introduced to characters now rooted in America’s cultural history—Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, Obi-Wan Kenobi, R2-D2, C-3PO, and of course, Darth Vader. Now 11 films into the franchise (with two more planned through 2020), the force is still going strong. How well do you know Star Wars? Here are Star Wars facts everyone gets wrong

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1978: Grease

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While a young John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John fell in love on-screen as a pair of 1950s high school sweethearts in Grease, moviegoers were busy falling in love with this musical rom-com’s best-selling soundtrack. Test your knowledge by guessing which movie or play came first

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1979: Kramer vs. Kramer

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This novel-turned-big screen drama starring Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep was such a heartrending depiction of divorce that it snagged five Academy Awards in 1980: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay. Check out this list of the most epic movies about weddings

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1980: Star Wars: Episode V—The Empire Strikes Back

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George Lucas wasted no time debuting the second installment of his space saga, set three years after the original.

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1981: Raiders of the Lost Ark

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Harrison Ford got hearts racing as a ruggedly handsome archaeologist-turned-adventurer in the first of Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones action serial. Here are surprising movie trivia facts you won’t believe are true. 

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1982: E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial

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Steven Spielberg continued his blockbuster run with this science fiction fantasy film about the unlikely friendship between a boy and his extraterrestrial friend, E.T., who was just trying to phone home.

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1983: Star Wars: Episode VI—Return of the Jedi

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The final piece of the original Star Wars trilogy was nominated for four Academy Awards but failed to pick up any little gold statues.

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1984: Ghostbusters

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Who you gonna call? Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Rick Moranis, for starters. A dream team of screen comedians take on barfing green ghouls in one of the most beloved comedies of all time. This is how you become a real-life ghostbuster.

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1985: Back to the Future

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Marty McFly and Doc Brown have a time-traveling DeLorean (Radical!). They use it to go to high school with Marty’s parents in the ‘50s (Laaaame). This pioneering sci-fi comedy has attained cult classic status for good reason. Here are mind-blowing facts about the film that put flux capacitors on the map.

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1986: Top Gun

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“Maverick,” “Goose,” and “Iceman” are fighter pilot trainees alternately making the skies safer and more dangerous in this military romance that made all filmgoers suddenly want their own codenames.

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1987: Three Men and a Baby

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Tom Selleck, Steve Guttenberg, and Ted Danson take turns screwing up fatherhood as three New York bachelors mysteriously bequeathed with a baby that may belong to one of them. Based on a French comedy called Three Men and a Cradle, the film went on to be remade four times in India.

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1988: Rain Man

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Sleazy Tom Cruise and autistic savant Dustin Hoffman take a road trip to escape a mental institution, cheat a Vegas casino, watch Judge Wapner, and other brotherly activities. Funny and heartfelt, Rain Man won four Oscars, including a Best Actor statue for Hoffman.

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1989: Batman

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Michael Keaton takes his turn as the caped crusader to battle Jack Nicholson’s bleached-skinned Joker in a film that director Tim Burton called a “duel of the freaks.” This dark and stormy predecessor to Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight reboots also gave the world nine new Prince songs, including his fourth number-one single, “Batdance.”

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1990: Home Alone

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Kevin becomes lord of his manor after his family forgets to bring him on vacation—and a lord must occasionally protect his castle from invaders. Macaulay Culkin beats up Joe Pesci in the family film that made violence fun for many a millennial.

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1991: Beauty and the Beast

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Boy meets girl; boy repulses girl because he’s actually a frightful hybrid of like five different animals; boy transforms from beast into hunk and all is well in France. A monument to the Disney Renaissance of the ‘90s when animated movies became just as fun for parents as their kids, Beauty and the Beast is a tale as old as time for a very good reason. These are the life lessons anyone can learn from Beauty and the Beast.

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1992: Aladdin

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A meet-cute in the slums of Agrabah sends a handsome thief chasing after a strong-willed princess with swords, sorcery, and, eventually, the truth. One of Disney’s finest films, Aladdin deserves a place in the pantheon for nothing less than Robin Williams’s signature role as a fast-talking genie with whom everyone—still—wishes they could be friends. This is the reason why you don’t see moms in Disney films.

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1993: Jurassic Park

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Dino DNA turns an ill-conceived theme park into a gauntlet of hungry velociraptors, stomping tyrannosaurs, and unhinged Jeff Goldblum laughter. Four films later (Jurassic World 2 is slated for 2018), who would’ve thought that a little mosquito would spawn one of the highest-grossing media franchises of all time? Make sure you know these books that have been turned into successful movies.

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1994: The Lion King

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The Dane grows a mane in Disney’s all-singing, all-dancing, all-animal rendition of Hamlet. Beloved for its big and playful soundtrack, The Lion King earned Oscars for Elton John, Tim Rice, and Hans Zimmer, spawned a perpetually popular Broadway musical, and—for better or worse—got  “Hakuna Matata” stuck in millions of kid and parent craniums alike. No worries.

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1995: Toy Story

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This Disney movie was the first theatrical film produced by Pixar. Bringing a young boy’s toys to life, this film recounts the relationship of a cowboy, Woody, and an astronaut, Buzz Lightyear, as they work to be reunited with their owner, Andy.

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1996: Independence Day

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This movie is a science fiction action film that focuses on a group of people in the aftermath of an attack by an existential race. It was directed and co-written by Roland Emmerich, who came up with the idea for the film after questioning his own belief in aliens.

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1997: Titanic

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Titanic shares the fictional love story of Jack Dawson and Rose DeWitt Bukater, while outlining the true story of the sinking of the RMS Titanic. The budget for the film was a record-breaking $200 million, but the 11 Oscars that it won and over $2 billion it brought in worldwide made up for it.

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1998: Saving Private Ryan

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This epic war drama took place during the Invasion of Normandy during World War II. This film made such an impact because of its graphic portrayal of war. The film made over $480 million in theaters.

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1999: Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace

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This film is the first installment in the Star Wars prequel trilogy, set 32 years before the original film. The premiere of the film was highly attended by the following that the Star Wars saga had created.

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2000: How the Grinch Stole Christmas

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This Christmas tale is based on the well-known children’s book by Dr. Seuss. Starring Jim Carrey, this film was the first Dr. Seuss book to be adapted into a full-length film. These are the best Hallmark Christmas movies.

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2001: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

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Based on the first book in the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, this film follows a young wizard, Harry Potter, through his adventures at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. These are the hidden messages you missed when reading the Harry Potter series for the first time.

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2002: Spider-Man

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This superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character stars Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker. It tells the exhilarating story of how Peter, a high school student living in New York City, fights crime with his newly discovered spider-like superpowers.

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2003: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

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This movie was based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s book and was produced, written, and directed by Peter Jackson. This acclaimed film won 11 Academy Awards and brought in over $1 billion worldwide. Here are the hidden messages in the Lord of the Rings you never noticed.

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2004: Shrek 2

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Typically, sequels are never as good as the first movie, but Shrek 2 is definitely not ogre-rated. In this animated comedy, Shrek and Fiona continue their love story by going to meet Fiona’s parents in the Kingdom of Far Far Away.

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2005: Star Wars: Episode III—Revenge of the Sith

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In the third movie in the Star Wars prequel, the Jedi Knights lead a massive war against the Separatists. The film aired on May 19 and received more positive reviews than the first two movies in the series.

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2006: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

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Captain Jack Sparrow returns in the sequel to the first Pirates film, The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003), as he and his swashbuckling friends search for the heart of Davy Jones—with the fate of their souls at stake. Talk about a lot to lose. Do you think Captain Jack ever used pirate jokes to ease the tension?

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2007: Spider-Man 3

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This famous comic book superhero makes a comeback on the big screen. Toby Maguire’s Spider-Man has defeated the Green Goblin and Doc Ock, but now he has to face his worst enemy: himself.

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2008: The Dark Knight

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Consistently named one of the best superhero movies ever made, The Dark Knight takes viewers into the chaos of Gotham as Batman attempts to save his city from the Joker. Heath Ledger posthumously won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as the Joker. He is the only actor to ever receive this award after death.

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2009: Avatar

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James Cameron’s sci-fi fantasy takes place on the moon Pandora, where one man tries to stop his fellow humans from colonizing the planet and drive out the natives he has come to love. The film’s use of stereoscopy, essentially making 3D images look more real by adding depth, is considered a technological breakthrough for the industry.

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2010: Toy Story 3

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Adventurous for young viewers, nostalgic for young-at-heart viewers, and tear-jerking for everyone. In the third film in this classic series, our small but mighty heroes once again must find their way home before their owner Andy leaves for college. It just goes to show that some toys were made to be more than toys. This is what actually happened to Andy’s dad in the films.

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2011: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

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The final installment of the Harry Potter series was a bittersweet moment for fans. Yes, the adventures of Harry, Ron, and Hermione reached an inevitable end, but at least it was a satisfying one, equal parts thrilling, visually stimulating, and touching. The only question that remains (and will never be unanimously answered) is whether the movies were better than the books.

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2012: The Avengers

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Marvel’s greatest heroes unite to defeat Loki and his evil alien army before they take over Earth and everyone on it. And when you put Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk, Thor, Black Widow, and Hawkeye in a battle of epic proportions, you better believe it’s going to be as witty as it is action-packed.

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2013: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

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In the second film of the Hunger Games series, Katniss and Peeta are thrown back into the arena, but this time, they’re not just fighting for their lives. They’re fighting for the rebellion that hopes to overthrow the Capitol.

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2014: American Sniper

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This war drama is based on a memoir of the same name by Chris Kyle, the deadliest marksman in U.S. military history, and follows Kyle’s tormented life on and off the battlefield. The film drew controversy over its portrayal of the Iraq War, but critics agreed on Bradley Cooper’s moving performance as the lead character, which earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.

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2015: Star Wars: Episode VII—The Force Awakens

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Nearly 40 years after the original film, we return to a galaxy far, far away as newcomers Rey, Finn, and Poe join veteran rebels (yes, Han Solo and Chewbacca make a comeback) in the fight against Kylo Ren and his First Order. Clearly, the world was ready for more intergalactic action; currently, it’s the third-highest-grossing film of all time, raking in over $2 billion worldwide.

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2016: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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Once again, Star Wars rules the year, at least at the box office. This space epic takes place between Episodes III (Revenge of the Sith) and IV (A New Hope), when a group of rebel fighters attempts to overtake the Death Star, but not if the Empire has anything to say about it. Next, make sure you read these Star Wars quotes to live by. May the Force be with you.

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