On November 13, 2023, Screen Rant celebrated its 20th anniversary, and to commemorate this momentous occasion, we’re looking back at the defining movie and TV news stories of our lifespan. It’s a cliché barely worth mentioning that the news cycle hurtles forward incredibly quickly, and over two decades, Screen Rant has been at the sharp edge, covering the evolution of the industry. What started as a passion project blog uniting a handful of movie fans has become one of the world’s leading movie news platforms of all. It is with immense pride that we get to be that for millions of movie and TV fans across the world.
Just as Screen Rant has grown massively over those 20 years, the movie and TV industries have shifted dramatically. The age of accessible Internet changed everything; supposedly unfilmable movies becoming filmable; remakes and sequels became prevalent; TV enjoyed an incredible Golden Age; shared universes and billion-dollar box office hauls became the norm; and streaming was born, introducing the idea of binge-worthy TV. And through it all, Screen Rant was there with you. Here’s to 20 more years.
30 Harry Potter And The Birth Of The YA Movie
When JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books became a worldwide book selling phenomenon, it was only a matter of time before they became a movie franchise. But the Boy Who Lived shaped the movie industry in broader ways than the $7.7bn box office take they’d eventually earn over the span of 10 years. Harry Potter kicked off a creative arms race to find the next Harry Potter that Warner Bros. is still chasing with the April 2023 announcement of a new TV series based on Rowling’s books.
Pottermania inspired unsuccessful attempts to adapt the Alex Rider series (in 2006’s Stormbreaker), Percy Jackson’s series, Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, The Books of Ember, Darren Shan’s The Vampire’s Assistant… All focused not only on straightforward adaptation, but on longevity and brand-building. Literary worlds as rich as Narnia, the Divergent universe, and the excellent world of Maze Runner all failed by Harry Potter’s standards.
And for relative successes like The Spiderwick Chronicles, there were multiple disappointments, until Twilight, and The Hunger Games both recaptured some of the magic. Even a final assessment of the Fantastic Beasts series, which pivoted too hard into the Harry Potter lore to beef up the brand appeal didn’t quite work. And still, YA books will inevitably be snapped up in expensive rights auctions to try and get there again.
29 YouTube Created
December 15, 2005
While it has not become the direct-to-audience movie platform the YouTube Red aspirations may have suggested at one time, YouTube fundamentally changed the entire landscape of the industry. Movie trailers came out of the cinema, with YouTube first day viewing figures regularly held up as a tangible metric of hype. Arguably more importantly, YouTube also activated a generation of creator critics, able to offer increasingly high production immediate reactions that quickly replaced in-person post-screening vox pops. As the platform matured, so did the level of criticism with video essays, fan-first round-tables and podcasts, and a level of deep dive analysis that was previously inconceivable.
28 The 2007-2008 Writers Strike
November 5, 2007 – February 12, 2008
For 99 days at the end of 2007, The Writers Guild of America (WGA) took to the streets to fight for increased residual rates for DVD sales, jurisdiction over animation and reality writers, and control of residuals from new media. Like the strikes that would come almost 2 decades later, a shift in how money flowed in the industry (at this point determined by the domination of DVD sales), and emerging threats to the status quo prompted action. While the DVD residuals proposals ultimately led to no change, the new media issue protected the Guild from the rise of streaming, years ahead of its onset.
Inevitably, the strike action came with huge ramifications across the industry. Reality shows like The Amazing Race and Big Brother actually benefited, thanks to their lack of writers. On the other side of the coin, countless top tier shows, like The Big Bang Theory, Breaking Bad, the CSI catalog, Grey’s Anatomy, Lost, and The Office all received shorter seasons, while others like 24 were delayed, and more still were canceled outright.
27 Hollywood Rallies After Heath Ledger’s Death
January 22, 2008
Heath Ledger’s death in 2008 was a seismic event that had relatively inconsequential effects like the impact on The Dark Knight‘s marketing campaign. Ultimately, Ledger would become only the second actor to ever win a posthumous Oscar (after Peter Finch in 1977 for Network) for his performance as the Joker. His death also sparked a morbid fascination in news cycles, as a deeply personal tragedy became the source of conspiracy theories around his method approach to capturing the iconic Batman villain. But putting aside the column inches created, Ledger also inspired an outpouring of grief that was captured in art in an unprecedented way.
When he died, Ledger was midway through filming Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. Instead of recasting the star, the production paused for a month after Gilliam initially believed the production was over (partly because Ledger was a key selling point in financing it). Then Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell – all close friends of Ledger – replaced him in different scenes, explaining his character Tony appearing differently in the film’s different worlds. While Tom Cruise also expressed interest in appearing, Gilliam decided to keep it as a “family” affair, preserving a near-unprecedented artistic homage to Ledger made in the immediate aftermath of his death.
26 Avatar Becomes The Biggest Movie Of All Time (Twice)
December 17, 2009
When Screen Rant started, it had been 6 years since the last James Cameron film, and would be another 6 before his next released. The director had thrown his endorsement behind McG’s Terminator 3: The Rise of the Machines and released Titanic sub documentary Ghosts of the Abyss, but it wouldn’t be until 2009’s Avatar that he once again proved himself as King of the World.
In the years since, it became popular to bash Avatar for its simplistic Pocahontas-aping plot and a perceived lack of cultural impact (ignoring the technical innovations discussed later in this article that became the norm). What should never be forgotten is how Cameron is capable of creating global appeal hits. Avatar opened to glowing reviews, and, after a mixed opening weekend, had box office legs well into 2010, coasting past Titanic to become the highest-grossing movie of all time. It held the title until 2019, when Avengers: Endgame inched past, but reclaimed it with a smartly timed China re-release ahead of belated sequel Avatar: The Way of Water.
The Avatar franchise is poised to be an important part of Screen Rant’s coverage well into the next decade. After Cameron proved his critics wrong with The Way of Water, currently the third-highest grossing movie of all time, there’s three more sequels on the way through to 2031.
25 3D Returns (Temporarily)
One of the most immediate impacts of Avatar’s $2.7 billion success was the return of the movie gimmick that refuses to truly die: 3D. It may have had a similar red-and-blue heyday in the 1950s and 1980s, but this time it was an overhauled tech (card glasses were out, polarized lenses were in) and applied to the glitziest blockbusters rather than third entries in horror franchises.
Although 3D had been on the up for a couple of years before, it was Avatar that made it a must-have. A wave of hastily retrofitted releases in 2010 (most notoriously with Clash of the Titans) muted some of the awe, but still helped movies like Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland become billion dollar hits. For several years, 3D – with a requisite upcharge – was the default for tentpole releases, regardless of audience interest.
Eventually, around the mid-2010s, this had died out, although not before a smattering of big name directors making wholly unique movies: Ang Lee’s Life of Pi, Martin Scorsese’s Hugo and, cream of the crop, Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity. The trend and increased access to digital projection also saw a rise in high-frame-rate productions, with Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit and Lee’s Gemini Man. Cameron again proved the master when he finally released Avatar: The Way of Water in motion-smoothing HFR to minimal backlash.
24 The Second Disney Animation Renaissance
In 2003, the Disney Renaissance was well and truly over. Pixar had established itself as the new animation kings and the House of Mouse’s competing efforts had begun to show signs of wear (2003 was Brother Bear, a year later came the critically savaged Home on the Range). A shift into 3D did nothing to improve hopes.
Change began with Disney purchasing Pixar from Steve Jobs in 2006 and John Lasseter stepping up to lead the total animation output. Cell animation was left in the dust, but the creative ingenuity (and musical focus) returned. Today, Tangled, Frozen, Zootopia and Moana stand comfortably in the Disney pantheon alongside The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King.
Although that era seems now to have also ended, with a string of misses and Illumination and Sony Animation providing more popular alternatives, Disney still shows it can capture interest uniquely after the mega streaming release of Encanto in 2022.
23 The Hobbit Becomes A Trilogy, Peter Jackson Has A Breakdown
Jul 30, 2012
The earliest article on The Hobbit on Screen Rant was published on May 25, 2009. Originally intended to be directed by Guilermo del Toro, the pitch was a stylistically-distinct Middle-earth adventure that, over two movies, would tell the story of Bilbo Baggins and evolve into the original movies.
That’s not what we got. Eventually, del Toro left and, with the pressure of budget and release date bearing down, Jackson took over as director. Then, months before the first movie – An Unexpected Journey – released, it was announced that The Hobbit would become a trilogy. Assumed to be a result of corporate greed, the movie’s own behind-the-scenes documentary The Appendicies revealed a production pushed to breaking point, with Jackson writing the afternoon’s scripts on his lunch break. While the five studios behind the project wouldn’t balk at more release dates, the choice seems to come as much from Jackson as anybody else.
Although reactions to An Unexpected Journey hewed positive in 2012, opinion slowly soured as the bloated, unreal The Desolation of Smaug and The Battle of the Five Armies released. Now, with multiple excellent analyses of the movies from the likes of Just Write and Lindsay Ellis, their position as a misfire is set.
Peter Jackson, for his part, has changed his career, focusing on restoring old footage for uniquely compelling documentaries on the First World War and The Beatles’ Get Back sessions.
22 The Avengers Starts A Shared Universe Arms Race
April 26, 2012
It’s almost unthinkable now, but before Iron Man (2008) kick-started the MCU, the idea of shared universes across multiple movies or TV shows were a gimmick for the most part. Rare examples like Dan Aykroyd’s cameo in Casper, or Kevin Smith’s Askewniverse crossing over with Scream 3 were off-hand rarities. The Universal Monsters franchise, and Godzilla’s shared world were the trend-setters, but it wasn’t until the MCU that shared universes became a brand decision.
Even the MCU struggled with confidence to begin with: while Samuel L Jackson’s Nick Fury appeared in the Iron Man post-credits scene, an Avengers movie was not firmly planned, and everything was dependent on Jon Favreau’s gamble paying off. When it did, everything changed, lurching forward and establishing a trend for everything, everywhere, all at once being linked. Since then, the DCEU and DCU, Sony’s Spider-Verse, the Wizarding World, the MonsterVerse, Sonic’s Cinematic Universe, and the Hanna-Barbera shared universe have all followed.
21 Disney Buys Lucasfilm, Reboots Star Wars
Oct 30, 2012
“Yes, you read that headline correctly (and no, this is not some sort of elaborate hoax… we think).” began Screen Rant’s coverage of Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm and announcement of a sequel trilogy. So unexpected was the news after George Lucas wrapped up the prequel trilogy and pivoted into animation. Thought dead, resigned to TV and video games, Star Wars was well and truly back.
The ensuing story is one of light and dark. Suspicious at first, Star Wars fandom was won around with the appointment of JJ Abrams as director of Star Wars 7, which brought back the original cast of Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher alongside newcomers Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver and John Boyega. The Force Awakens opened to a media hype rarely seen, grossing over $2 billion worldwide and sparking a galaxy of theories. The trilogy’s subsequent movies both grossed over $1 billion each.
Production issues marred the effort from the start, with a revolving door of writers and directors on almost every project (the only movie to have a reportedly smooth production was Rian Johnson’s perennially divisive Star Wars: The Last Jedi). Things reached a peak when Phil Lord and Chris Miller were fired 80% of the way through creating Solo: A Star Wars Story, replaced for extensive reshoots with Ron Howard. Although the movie marked Star Wars’ first flop, it was The Rise of Skywalker that left audiences most perplexed.
Star Wars has since pivoted to streaming TV with an army of prequel, sequel and spinoff shows expanding the universe, ahead of a return to theaters with three upcoming movies announced. Screen Rant now has a dedicated Star Wars team led by Tom Bacon, covering the releases and diving deep into the world.
20 A24, Blumhouse & Elevated Horror
Horror purists may balk at the suggestion that horror ever needed improvement, but it’s fair to say that critical consensus has always viewed horror through a separate filter. The Academy typically ignores the genre, despite any and all metrics of popularity and typical success, and it’s taken the rise of cool indie powerhouses A24 and Blumhouse to redefine horror to force a rethink. Off the back of a comparative wilderness period for horror through the first part of the 21st century, provocative, deep-thinking horror became defined as “elevated horror”. Stand-outs like Robert Eggers’ The Witch (2015), Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017), and Ari Aster’s Hereditary (2018) release in stark contrast to the cheap thrills of the previous decade.
Intriguingly, the subgenre category isn’t one that sits comfortably with a lot of the film-makers involved; Peele, for instance, is on record as saying the term is a “trap”. But it persists all the same, as a shift in ideology; a more contemplative, discourse-inspiring collection of horror movies designed to provoke thought as much as fear. Dread replaces jump scares (though the film-makers are careful not to replace the pillars of horror film-making), and the vibe change is arguably more about a different way to engage the audience than it is about completely redefining the movies.
19 Streaming Services Make Their Own TV & Movies
Somewhat inevitably, Netflix’s success bred like-minded competition, as studios belatedly began a digital arms race for their own proprietary platforms. Netflix’s strategy evolved to include both hugely expensive auteur projects like Scorsese’s The Irishman, and providing a platform for big-name directors, as well as mid-level budgeted projects that few other studios would make. And at the same time, Disney, Warner Bros, Paramount, Universal, and Apple launched streaming services to house their own catalogs and as a direct play for subscriptions.
Naturally, those platforms needed a way to differentiate themselves and offer subscribers exclusive content as an enriched selling point beyond the appeal of convenience. With titles split across so many models, exclusives quickly became the deciding factor in the subscription wars, with millions poured into captivating audiences. Apple pumps huge production budgets into originals without the same pressure heaped on early views – Netflix’s apparent metric of choice – instead delivering audience-centric productions seemingly focused entirely on quality over reach.
18 The Sony Hack
November 24, 2014
In early December 2014, hackers, who identified themselves as the “Guardians of Peace” claimed responsibility for an attack on Sony Pictures that had begun at the end of November. Demanding the immediate removal of The Interview from Sony’s release date, the GOP warned of violent consequences if terms weren’t met. The Interview was, of course, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s satirical black comedy about a fictional plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (Randall Park).
The hackers stole data from Sony Pictures’ computer network, with most attention focusing on leaks concerning production inner workings and unreleased movies. Inevitably, salacious details like industry gossip, hints of unrevealed conflicts, and embarrassing private criticism of Sony’s own movies dominated news coverage.
Somewhat inevitably, North Korea denied all involvement, despite FBI evidence, but the damage was done as Sony Pictures co-chair Amy Pascal resigned in disgrace. The Interview was released, with some alterations, on December 25, 2014, with one of the most notorious cyber attacks in modern history in its rear mirror.
17 Billion Dollar Grossers Become The Norm
In 2006’s The Holiday, Eli Wallach’s Arthur Abbott decries the change in Hollywood since his days as a writer, bemoaning how “box office results [are] reported like baseball scores on the nightly news.” That metric of success is nothing new: indeed, Variety has reported the top-grossing films of every year since 1932, so Abbott was perhaps yearning for a Hollywood that never existed. But in the last 20 years, a noticeable shift has formed around the vaunted status of the Billion Dollar Movie. Other than three 1990s releases – Jurassic Park (1993), Titanic (1997), and Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999) – every billion dollar movie’s release date has started with 20.
Where once, a 10 figure box office haul was an outlier, it’s now more than just an aspiration for blockbusters. The culture of franchise movies and sequels means that Hollywood top tables actively discuss billion dollar prospects as a test of investment viability. Given escalating production and marketing costs, this was as much a necessity as a nefarious money grab. Discourse around the top level franchises – anything made by Marvel, Disney, DC, starring James Bond or Harry Potter characters, or productions costing $200m and up – proclaims a sub-billion dollar result a failure. In reality, only a small percentage of movies ever hit the milestone, but that has in no way changed the conversation.
16 Oscars So White
In January 2015, mere moments after the announcement of that year’s Oscar nominees, activist April Reign started the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag on Twitter in January 2015. The hashtag quickly became the focal point of a protest that had gestated for years, taking aim at the Academy’s perceived biases, ignoring minority film-makers and talents – particularly of African American, Latino, and Asian American descent. Calls for re-evaluation of the nomination process focused criticism on the Academy’s predominantly older and white membership, which in turn led to very public boycotts by the likes of Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee.
The protest led to the promise of wholesale changes, as the Academy announced key initiatives to increase its own membership diversity and within nominees. These included efforts to recruit a more diverse membership, revise voting procedures, and expand the number of potential nominees in certain categories. For all the positivity of those changes, there is clearly still work to do. In January 2020, Issa Rae announced the best director nominees during an official live stream for that year’s Oscars ceremony with an acerbic qualifier: “Congratulations to those men.”
15 That La La Land/Moonlight Oscars Mix-Up
February 27, 2017
As well as the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, the shift to 10 Best Picture nominations after The Dark Knight was snubbed in 2009 and the short-lived plan to introduce an Outstanding Achievement in Popular Movies category speak to the general state of the Oscars picture. On a more specific scale, 2017’s event led to the single greatest embarrassment in Academy history: the usual infallible, prestigious event got something very wrong.
In a hard-fought battle for Best Film, Damien Chazelle’s La La Land was the favorite to land the prestigious statue, so when Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway announced the musical as the winner, after a confused beat, it wasn’t a shock. Only, La La Land didn’t win. In a comedy of errors, the presenters were handed the envelope for Best Actress, which read Emma Stone for La La Land, and read out the wrong winner. As the excited La La Land cast and crew descended on the stage, an unexpected commotion led to the horrible realization and producers Fred Berger, Marc Platt, and Josh Horowitz were informed of the problem, before graciously conceding:
Horowitz: “I’m sorry, there’s a mistake. Moonlight, you guys won best picture. This is not a joke.”
Platt: “This is not a joke. They read the wrong thing.”
14 Harvey Weinstein & Me Too
One of the most seismic news events in modern history saw the downfall of one of Hollywood’s most notorious figures. Started in 2006 by activist Tarana Burke, the MeToo movement began as a grassroots campaign to raise awareness of widespread sexual harassment and assault. Focused initially on the experiences of marginalized and underprivileged communities, it came to greater prominence in October 2017, when allegations were made against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. As multiple survivors came forward, actress Alyssa Milano tweeted on October 15, 2017, to encourage victims to use the phrase “Me Too”, creating a viral social movement.
Spreading wider than the accusations against Weinstein, which ultimately led to his conviction and imprisonment, the #MeToo hashtag became a focal point for survivors from within and outside the industry. In turn, the movement sparked wider conversations about sexual misconduct, consent, and gender equality, before a shift into advocating for systemic change and workplace reform. As the dust began to settle, other prominent Hollywood figures, including director Bryan Singer, Brett Ratner, Bill Cosby, and financier Jeffrey Epstein, were accused of crimes by multiple victims.
13 Troubled Productions, Spiraling Budgets & Reshoots
Troubled productions are nothing new in Hollywood, but over Screen Rant’s 20 years – and especially in the 2010s – there was increased visibility of these changes and the impact they had on the finished product.
We’ve already discussed Star Wars director problems: Gareth Edwards replaced by Tony Gilroy on Rogue One reshoots; Ron Howard replacing Lord & Miller on Star Wars; JJ Abrams replacing Colin Trevorrow on Star Wars 9; unmade movies from Guilermo del Toro, James Mangold, Josh Trank, Patty Jenkins, Taika Waititi, David Benioff & DB Weiss and more. And despite the column inches, much of what happened on all the movies remains a mystery.
But this wasn’t a Lucasfilm-only situation. Fantastic Four was taken off Josh Trank’s hands to the point he said on opening day it wasn’t his movie in a tweet calculated to have cost the studio $10 million. David Ayer’s Suicide Squad was retooled from a grim-dark villain team-up into a Guardians of the Galaxy riff. Entire parts of Shane Black’s The Predator were removed.
Even productions that retained their creatives weren’t immune to changes, with Marvel infamous for changing movies down to the line and even the most visually uninspiring blockbuster posting budgets that require almost $1 billion box office to break even. Whether a result of inexperienced directors getting the keys to major franchises or studios struggling with accounting, it’s
And that’s before getting to the biggest case of all…
12 The Snyder Cut
Few stories in Screen Rant’s history are quite as wild as that of Justice League. DC’s answer to The Avengers went into production months after the successful but divisive release of Batman v Superman. A course correction was deemed necessary by Warner Bros and so a lighter tone was pushed with Zack Snyder remaining at the helm.
Following the death of his daughter, Snyder stepped away from the project and Joss Whedon came in for reshoots (although subsequent reports state Snyder was fired). Initially sold as small tweaks in-keeping with the movie’s original vision, it quickly became clear that Whedon was overseeing a total redo of the movie, remaking and retooling the entire movie. The resulting Justice League was a Frankensteined movie audiences roundly rejected. Story over.
ScreenRant’s Key Release The Snyder Cut Articles:
Except it wasn’t. From opening night, there were calls to Release The Snyder Cut, which got louder as it became apparent that there was a substantially different movie that had been mostly replaced. Over the years, details of Whedon’s reshoots, Snyder’s original vision and behind-the-scenes machinations came out, and the campaign gained steam (not without its own issues on social media). For many years, it was viewed as an impossibility, but we covered it with ferocity all the same.
Eventually, as support grew and HBO Max looked to bring high-interest projects to its service, they gave Snyder the money to finish his cut, including new scenes featuring Jared Leto’s Joker and Martian Manhunter. The resulting movie was a 4-hour epic that may be an acquired taste, but is undeniably the cap of the DCEU.
11 Netflix Surprise Drops A Cloverfield Movie At The Super Bowl
February 4, 2018
Movie marketing is a movable feast, with billions of dollars a year dropped on boosting attention for upcoming theatrical and home releases. More recent years have seen studios weaponizing influencer culture, where follower counts trump all else (including, occasionally, more sensible metrics like appropriateness). That trend may not be popular with so-called legacy media, but it speaks to the need for innovation that tracks emerging trends. The alternative is to do something completely unexpected, like Netflix did with The Cloverfield Paradox in 2018.
After a relatively long production period from its announcement (as God Particle) in 2012 through to filming in 2016, and eventually its delayed release in 2018, Paramount sold the release rights to Netflix. So far, so straightforward. Then, during Super Bowl LII, Netflix released a trailer, confirming their acquisition of the rights, and the shocking plan to immediately release The Cloverfield Paradox after the end of the Big Game.
It was a novel approach for Netflix, who banked on the existing Cloverfield brand to draw a large audience in the peak post-game slot, but ultimately, The Cloverfield Paradox could not compete with This Is Us‘ mammoth 27 million audience on NBC. Some people just don’t like to change channel.