1977 – “Star Wars” premieres

It all started out pretty humbly: George Lucas, a filmmaker with one hit and one interesting failure (American Graffitti and THX-1138, respectively), was able to leverage his success into a reasonably large budget for the time (about $8 million in 1976 dollars), and make a fantasy with scifi trappings inspired by his love of action movies and serials from the past.

Star Wars (as it was originally titled – both the Episode IV and the A New Hope are later additions) riffed off classic Westerns (the cantina sequence), World War Two dogfight movies (the Death Star assault), martial arts movies (the Force training sequence), Flash Gordon serials (in general) and, of course, Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress.

It would go on to become one of the highest grossing films of all time, second only to Gone With The Wind (in inflation-adjusted figures), spawn five sequels and any number of spin-offs, and make scifi mainstream in a way it had never been before. Along with Jaws, it also helped to create the blockbuster-obsessed culture of Hollywood’s last three and a half decades.

Referenced in:

Bicycle Race — Queen
Californication — Red Hot Chili Peppers

1999 – The Columbine Massacre

On April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold walked into Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, with murder on their minds. At 11:19 AM, the pair opened fire. By the time the stopped shooting, a little under a half hour later, they had killed 13 people and injured 21 others (3 more people sustained injuries fleeing the pair). At approximately 12:08 PM, the pair finished their rampage by committing suicide.

In the aftermath, the entire American nation descended into a storm of grief and anger. Rumours and blame-throwing flew thick and fast, as a desperate search for an explanation (or, if you’re more cynical, a scapegoat), chased its own tail around and around and around, while the victims of the slayings became martyrs and the killers the greatest villains since Hitler.

More than a decade later, we know little more than we did then. Although several rumours regarding the killings have been thoroughly debunked, many of these remain widely believed. Short of a combination of telepathy and time travel, we will never know.

Referenced in:

Cassie — Flyleaf
Columind — Filter
One by One — The Calling
The Kinslayer — Nightwish
A New Hope — Five Iron Frenzy
The Nobodies — Marilyn Manson
The Fight Song — Marilyn Manson
Disposable Teens — Marilyn Manson
This is Your Time — Michael W. Smith
Friend Of Mine — Jonathan and Stephen Cohen
We Don’t Want To Sing Along — Chumbawumba