Many of the films from the 1940s were influenced in one way or another by war, whether drawing plot lines from the experiences of World War I, or the ongoing World War II. A few examples include The Great Dictator, Casablanca, and To Be Or Not To Be.

There were often a number of films that sought to provide an entertaining escape for their audience, such as The Mark of Zorro and The Three Musketeers. Other films were turned into franchises following their initial popularity. These included the Sherlock Holmes and Tarzan (which debuted in the 30s) franchises.

Other notable films from this decade include Madam Curie, Samson and Delilah, Oliver Twist, Rebecca, Hamlet and All the King’s Men.

1939 marked the year that television was first available for purchase by the American Public. Many broadcasts were limited or discontinued during World War II, as were the production of televisions which involved cathode ray tubes. 1940 saw the first broadcast of ice hockey and basketball, while later in the decade saw popular shows like The Ed Sullivan Show and Texaco Star Theater (later The Milton Berle Show) emerging.


Theaters worked hard in the 50s to recapture the interest of audiences after the introduction of the television. Epic fantasy films, such as The Ten Commandments and Ben-Hur, were one approach. 3-D was another tactic, with 1952-1955 considered as the “golden era” of 3-D films.

Audiences showed a strong interest in the unknown in the 1950s, which led to the success of the science fiction genre throughout the decade. Creature from the Black Lagoon, Forbidden Planet, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Blob, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The War of the Worlds were just a few of such films. People showed a similar interest in psychological thrillers, of which Alfred Hitchcock was a pioneer. His top films from the decade include Strangers on a Train, Vertigo, The Man Who Knew Too Much, North by Northwest, and Dial M for Murder.

The interest of the audience in the above genre was reflected by the television shows popular during the decade. Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone were first broadcast in the 50s. As the World Turns and The Guiding Light were also first broadcast in this decade. Sitcoms gained popularity, such as I Love Lucy; talent/variety shows, game shows, and westerns also had much success.


Social changes in the 1960s led to dramatic changes in the film industry. This constituted the beginning of the “New Hollywood” era that dabbled in the risqué, such as sexually explicit films and the developing drug culture. Examples of such films include Easy Rider and Barbarella.

The highest grossing film of the decade was The Sound of Music, which also claimed a number of Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Other top films from the decade spanned a range of interests. These included: Cool Hand Luke, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Pink Panther, Psycho, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Midnight Cowboy, Lawrence of Arabia and Spartacus.

On the small screen, television shows were designed to be family friendly. Unlike today, there were not multiple T.V.s in the house, and there were only a few channels available, so the entire family would sit and watch together. Some of the popular family shows were The Ed Sullivan Show, The Flintstones, Bonanza, and The Wonderful World of Disney.

Other top shows from the 1960s include Star Trek, Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, The Twilight Zone, My Three Sons, Dragnet, The Beverly Hillbillies, Dragnet, The Tonight Show and Laugh-In.


The highest grossing film of the 1970s was Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. The film contained unprecedented special effects, won six Academy Awards, and is ranked among the best films of all times (American Film Institute’s 100 years…100 movies).

Other notable films from the decade include Saturday Night Fever, Grease, Jaws, The Exorcist, The Godfather, Rocky, Superman, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. All That Jazz (1979) was added to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress after being deemed “culturally significant.”

Meanwhile, television programming really began evolving in the 70s as networks transitioned away from the “wholesome” and toward the “edgy”. All in the Family, Charlie’s Angels, The Love Boat, Three’s Company, and The Mary Tyler Moore Show ruled the airwaves. Game shows such as The Hollywood Squares, Family Feud and The Price is Right were also very popular.


The “Blockbuster” film, although having seen previous success in movies such as Gone With the Wind, The Sound of Music, Jaws, and Star Wars in previous decades, became an established format for films in the 1980s. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, two Star Wars sequels, the Indiana Jones trio, Top Gun, two Back to the Future films, and Fatal Attraction were of highest grossing blockbusters of the decades.

The 80s were host to a series of coming-of-age films, many times casting actors from other movies within the same genre. As a result, the term “Brat Pack” was coined to refer to these actors and their films. Some of the movies from this genre include Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and of course, The Breakfast Club.

During the 80s cable access grew and as a result television reached the majority of Americans. 1981 became a pivotal year for the music industry as MTV (Music Television) was launched. The night-time soap opera format was also hugely popular, thanks to the success of the shows Dynasty and Dallas.

Because of the growth of the television industry during this time period, more television shows could enjoy popularity. Night Court, Murder She Wrote, Star Trek: The Next Generation, MacGyver, The Cosby Show, Family Ties, Cheers, The Jeffersons, Seinfeld, and Married…With Children, are just a handful of examples.


The top five grossing films of the decade were Titanic, Star Wars Episode 1, Jurassic Park, Independence Day and The Lion King. Titanic would hold the record for the highest grossing film of all time until Avatar was released in 2010. The decade saw many other memorable feature films, a few of which include The Matrix, Pretty Woman, Home Alone, Forrest Gump, Bravehart and Mission: Impossible.

In television, adult animated sitcoms became a new offering that enjoyed much success. This stemmed from the launch of The Simpsons and led to other shows like Beavis and Butthead, South Park and Family Guy. This category remains popular through today, and many of these same shows are still releasing new episodes.

Sitcoms ruled television throughout the 90s. Fraiser, Friends, Married…with Children, Full House and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air were just a handful of the most successful of this genre. Soap-opera style shows like Beverly Hills: 90210, Felicity, Dawson’s Creek, Melrose Place and Baywatch were also popular and held their own against the competing sitcom genre. Shows like ER, NYPD Blue, The X-Files, Dr. Quinn – Medicine Woman, and The Practice were favorites in the drama genre.

Notable celebrity/entertainer deaths from the 90s: Jim Henson, Michael Landon, Dr. Seuss, Miles Davis, River Phoenix, Frank Zappa, John Candy, Kurt Cobain, Elizabeth Montgomery, George Burns and Frank Sinatra.


Reality television exploded in popularity following the launch of Surviror in the U.S. in 2000. This style of television claims to be entirely unscripted and usually features ordinary people instead of famous actors in dramatic or humorous situations. Another reality show, American Idol, which began in 2002, features people competing against each other for a recording contract. It is claimed by some to be one of the most revolutionary shows in television history.

2002 was a momentous year in the film industry as it was the first year that an African American won an Oscar for a lead role. As it happened, Halle Barry won for Best Actress (Monster’s Ball) while Denzel Washington won the Oscar for Best Actor (Training Day).

The internet site YouTube was launched in 2005, enabling users to share video files. Using it to self-market, people have posted video of their skills here and even become celebrities (ie. Justin Beiber). By the year 2007, YouTube was the most visited site on the internet behind Google and Facebook.

The 2000s saw the passing of a number of notable entertainers. Among them were Anna Nicole Smith (2007), Heath Ledger (2008), John Ritter (2003), Natasha Richardson (2009), Steve Irwin (2006) and Bernie Mac (2008).

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