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The Most Important 'Firsts' In Film History

Updated May 20, 2020 14.3k votes 1.8k voters 150.9k views22 items

List RulesVote up the coolest "firsts" in the history of film.

We can trace the history of filmmaking back to the 1890s. Motion pictures were initially considered a novelty, a peep show booth at a fair. Technology in film moved fast, and within 20 years, filmmakers figured out how to edit scenes together to make a comprehensible story and properly light a set. By 1926 motion pictures were already using sound. There are so many cool firsts in film history that are often overlooked.

This film firsts list is not just a technical account of the history of cinema. It's a combination of movie history firsts and cool firsts. When was the first time a cellphone was used? When was virtual reality first introduced on the silver screen? Movies have always been one step ahead of history, breaking down walls and tearing down stereotypes. The first cinematic interracial kiss came in 1957, 10 years before Loving v. Virginia legalized interracial marriage nationwide. Hollywood was sending characters to the moon in 1902, decades before NASA.

Tropes are also on this list of film firsts. What was the first film to use body-swapping as a plotline? You know, like when an uptight father doesn’t understand his son and the son doesn’t get why his dad is such a grump all the time, so they switch places in order to see what it’s like to live in the other person’s shoes. What about the nerdy girl makeover trope? A mousy gal with glasses, a bad haircut, and no sense of style suddenly becomes totally gorgeous with a few makeover tips and contact lenses.

Read about those Hollywood firsts in film and more. Also, make your voice heard. Be sure to vote up the coolest movie history firsts.
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  • Steven Spielberg was only 27 years old when he directed Jaws (1975), and the film totally changed cinema forever. Jaws pretty much invented the concept of the summer blockbuster. During its initial run, the horror movie brought in $260 million, which may not seem like a lot of money for summer films today. However, when adjusted for inflation, Jaws has earned a total of $1,098,916,300. Before Jaws, films were traditionally released only in major markets, then slowly rolled out across the country. Jaws opened nationwide right away and distributors took notice of the massive box office success.
    • Actors: Steven Spielberg, Richard Dreyfuss, Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, John Searle
    • Released: 1975
    • Directed by: Steven Spielberg
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  • First Entirely CGI Movie - Toy Story
    Video: YouTube
    Pixar has made so many great movies. Toy Story (1995) was the very first feature-length animated movie to be made entirely using CGI. The three films in the Toy Story franchise have grossed nearly $2 billion worldwide and a fourth installment is expected in 2018. Pixar's CGI set a very high bar for the animation boom that occurred in the two decades after Toy Story's release.
    • Actors: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Don Rickles, Penn Jillette, Annie Potts
    • Released: 1995
    • Directed by: John Lasseter
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  • First Appearance of a Cellphone - Lethal Weapon
    Photo: Warner Bros.
    It barely resembles the tiny cell phones we're used to, but Danny Glover's character Roger Murtaugh has a cell phone in Lethal Weapon (1987). The two-pound cell known as "the brick" actually became quite popular in the 1980s. You may also remember Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) had one for all his on-the-go financial wheelings and dealings in Wall Street (1987).
    • Actors: Mel Gibson, Gary Busey, Danny Glover, Joan Severance, Darlene Love
    • Released: 1987
    • Directed by: Richard Donner
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  • First Movie to Win the Big Five at the Oscars - It Happened One Night
    Photo: Columbia Pictures
    The romantic comedy It Happened One Night (1934) was the first movie to win "The Big Five" (the five major awards) at the Academy Awards in 1935. Clark Gable won for Best Actor, Claudette Colbert for Best Actress, Frank Capra for Best Director, Robert Riskin for Best Writing, and the film itself won for Best Picture. The only two other films to have achieved this honor were One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) and The Silence of the Lambs (1991).
    • Actors: Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, Ward Bond, Joseph Crehan, Bess Flowers
    • Released: 1934
    • Directed by: Frank Capra
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