The Top 10 Baby Boomer Movies

The Top 10 Baby Boomer Movies

Baby Boomer” is a term used to describe a person who was born during the demographic Post-World War II baby boom.  Today, the sheer number of these aging rebels settling into retirement, as witnessed by the birth of the Tea Parties, is a demographic to be reckoned with.  Various academics and scholars have attempted to determine the broad cultural similarities and historical impact of this age group using scientific and highly technical socio-economic applications.  I believe that looking at the kinds of movies enjoyed by baby boomers, during different periods of their lives, gives us a better picture (no pun intended) of the generation’s contribution.

Most baby boomer’s movie experience began in the late 50’s when they were finally old enough to go by themselves to the “picture show” on Saturdays.  Horror and science fiction was the genre most likely showcased and in 1958 The Blob starring Steve McQueen was released.  “Beware the Blob!  It creeps and leaps and glides and slides across the floor,” explained the trailer. At Palestine’s Texas Theatre we were standing in our seats looking to see if it was coming down the aisle!  If that wasn’t scary enough, the movie showed the Blob flowing out of the projection booth, after it had already eaten the operator. Wow!  None of us knew who Steve McQueen was or had any idea that he had attended a junior college about thirty miles from our hometown.

Most of us guys were beginning to notice the opposite sex by the next year and packed into the theatre to see Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot.  It was probably my first Oscar winning movie, but it wasn’t the 1959 Best Costume Design Academy Award that caught my attention.  My buddies and I soon found that we liked it hot and Marilyn was about as hot as it got for movies at the time!  None of our Dads happened to mention that Candy Barr was stripping for Jack Ruby at the Carousel Club in Dallas or that she had made one of the most famous porn flicks of the era.

Home From the Hill starring Robert Mitchum as Captain Wade Hunnicut, the wealthiest and most powerful rancher in a South Texas town, stirred our interest in cultural identity and heritage.  The 60’s proved to be an “awakening” in freedom of expression and civil rights.  George Hamilton Jr. as the legitimate heir and George Peppard as the illegitimate son; set the stage for dysfunctional families to become the rage in novels and television series such as Dallas.  The family unit, no longer the Nelsons or the Cleavers, would never be the same.

By the time we were graduating from high school; two movies set the tone for lives and careers as we moved from the comfort of mom and dad’s home to the real world of being on our own.  “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate,” was the memorable line from Cool Hand Luke.  This 1967 Oscar winning blockbuster starred Paul Newman and launched the careers of an ensemble cast including George Kennedy, Dennis Hopper, Wayne Rogers, Harry Dean Stanton and Joe Don Baker.  Joe Don was from down the road at Groesbeck and would later become famous as Buford Pusser in the cult-classic, Walking TallThe Graduate (also 1967) made Cougars famous long before Ashton Kutcher ever dated Demi Moore.  Directed by Mike Nichols (Diane Sawyer’s husband), this movie single-handedly took sex out of the closet and put it in the hotel room!  The music by Simon & Garfunkel still resonates today, “And here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson, Jesus loves you more than you will know (Wo wo wo).

In 1971, The Last Picture Show, written by Larry McMurtry from Archer City, Texas, won two Oscars.  This would not be the last time we would hear of Larry Jeff as he would go on to write, Terms of Endearment, Lonesome Dove, Texasville, and Brokeback Mountain.  This B/W classic would drive home the point that we could no longer be irresponsible and must face the realities that life had in store for us.  Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shepherd and Randy Quaid were just beginning their careers as many of us were doing the same but for a lot less money.  Cybill Shepherd and the Director, Peter Bogdanovich married after the film but the relationship ended in divorce — a common fate for baby boomers in the 70’s.

Humor becomes a much needed respite in our lives by the 1980’s. Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987) was so funny that in some parts you would literally find yourself crying with laughter, especially if you were ever forced to travel for your job.  Everyone thinks that travel is something you will want to do when you retire, unless of course, you’ve already had to do it week after week.  Steve Martin is a comic genius.  John Candy was certainly his equal as a comedian, but fell into the unfulfilled abyss as many boomers have.  Horace Walpole (1717-1797) explained it like this, “The world is a tragedy to those that feel, but a comedy to those that think.”

Maybe not poets, but baby boomers are not without romance.  Nora Ephron caught the nuance of romance in her 1989 release, When Harry Met Sally . . ., starring Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan.  This movie answered the nagging boomer question, “Can two friends sleep together and still love each other in the morning?”  Apparently Meg didn’t have any problem with the answer as she slept with Russell Crowe while still married to Dennis Quaid!  Only Meg knows if she faked her orgasms with the Gladiator.

As we grow older we tend to look back at the what-could-have-been(s).  In Texasville, Larry McMurtry did exactly that.  Texasville is the Last Picture Show, thirty years later.  Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shepherd, Randy Quaid, Cloris Leachman, Eileen Brennan and Timothy Bottoms play the same characters from the 1971 picture.  The good part is they all still look pretty good. The bad part is the only place to eat in the town is still the Dairy Queen!

Everyone in high school knew a guy like Forrest Gump.  This 1994 release brought back many memories from our generation — Kennedy, Vietnam, Watergate, Smiley and Apple Computers.  “Stupid is as Stupid does” could easily be made the baby boomers national anthem.  Forrest Gump gave us the ability to understand what is so special about our generation.  Different from our fathers sacrifice and different form our children’s future pay-back.  After all, “Life is like a box of chocolates.  You never know what you’re gonna get.”

My top 10 ends here, as the older you get, the less likely you are to go to the theatre.  It’s so easy to watch a DVD in the comfort of your own home, but it’s not the same.  The movie experience at the picture show is something that baby boomers will never forget. Perhaps Steve Martin said it best, “You know what your problem is, it’s that you haven’t seen enough movies – all of life’s riddles are answered in the movies.”