1975 – “Jaws” open in limited release

Along with “Star Wars” two years later, “Jaws” was the film that redefined Hollywood’s approach to films: it sent it searching endlessly for the next big thing, the next blockbuster.

It also made Steven Spielberg a star, one of the new breed of Hollywood auteurs. Unlike most of them, he actually lived up to the hype. “Jaws” was an unlikely film to make such a hit – monster movies are always a heard sell, and this one was infamously plagued by difficulties with the mechanical shark. Spielberg’s true genius showed itself in how he turned those limitations into strengths – the shark looks too fake to show on screen? Then keep it barely seen, a mysterious and deadly force more than a fish.

Referenced in:

Bicycle Race — Queen

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