11. The War of The Roses (1989)
For Jonathan and Barbara Rose, life has been a storybook dream. They got married, have an immaculate house in the suburbs of Washington D.C., collect vintage antiques, two children, a cat and a dog. As the years pile on, Jonathan is a successful attorney and Barbara is a bored housewife who starts her own business. However, Mrs. Rose has fallen out of love with her husband and demands a divorce. Thus, begins the war over who gets the house and how to divide up their material possessions.
American author Warren Adler released his black comedy novel about marriage and divorce in 1981. Eight years later director (also starring) Danny DeVito would again team up with Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner for the film version based on Michael Lesson’s screenplay. Nominated for several awards, the 1989 feature would receive critical acclaim and serves a cautionary tale about love, hate and material wealth.
12. Malcolm X (1992)
The true story of a leader in the Black Power Movement as told to author/interviewer, Alex Haley (“Roots”). Malcolm X explains how he rose from a poor child of a bi-racial family in the rural mid-west, to his days as a criminal in Harlem, to his incarceration and transformation into the influential Muslim-American and former outspoken member of the Nation Of Islam. He encountered death threats for his politics, trailed by the CIA, was silenced by Elijah Muhammad and radically shifted his separatist views, until his assassination in 1965.
As early as 1968, a novelist James Baldwin (“Go Tell It On The Mountain”) and a once blacklisted screenwriter Arnold Perl, began developing the autobiography into a script, but remained undeveloped. When the film’s director, Spike Lee, acquired the rights to his life long dream project, he re-wrote the script, but stayed true the subject and encountered a barge of controversies in addition to critical acceptance.
13. Trainspotting (1996)
A tightly knit group of misfit heroin addicts and petty thieves is becoming unwound in Edinburgh, Scotland during the late 1980s. Mark “Rent Boy” Renton seeks out sobriety, love, a good job and healthy relationships with his family and friends, but struggles with the depressive dependence of the drug. Meanwhile, the world around is changing and his cynical view on life and the destructive paths of his mates make it next to impossible.
Irvine Welsh’s 1993 novel is a gritty realistic glimpse of the world of liquor and drugs through the eyes and words of its long-suffering characters. For the 1996 film adaptation directed by Danny Boyle and screenplay by John Hodge, a more coherent narrative is established through “Rent Boy”, brilliantly portrayed by Ewan McGregor.
It would become Pop Culture phenomena in both the UK and the USA, despite acquiring criticism for glorifying drug abuse. A sequel based on Welsh’s book “Porno”, is currently in production with the original cast, screenwriter and director.
14. Crash (1996)
After a near fatal car crash, James Ballard encounters a mysterious “doctor” named Vaughan, who is also a survivor of automobile accident. Inviting him to join a group of alienated victims of automobile collisions, who illegally converge on empty roads to re-act famous car crashes of celebrities. They are all symphorophiliacs, otherwise known as fetishists who achieve sexual arousal through catastrophes and are versatile in their appetites for multiple partners.
From the moment of its release in 1973, JG Ballard’s novel was meant hostility and controversy. Many found the subject matter disturbing and distasteful, yet like difficult to ignore similar to passing by any incident involving carnage. It would inspire many popular songs (The Normal’s “Warm Leatherette” and The Creatures “Miss The Girl”), in addition to the film version.
The 1996 feature as directed by David Cronenberg (who also wrote the screenplay) would also be met with harsh criticism, but gain commercial success and receive six Genie Awards in the picture’s home country of Canada.
15. Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
A freelance journalist and a Samoan civil rights attorney take a drug-fuelled holiday in Las Vegas with the quest for the “American Dream”, at the height of the Vietnam War and counterculture revolutions in the United States. During their chaotically dangerous, yet comical experiences, they wreak havoc on the locals, tourists and somehow manage to dodge any law enforcement entanglements.
Initially appearing in two segmented articles by “Gonzo Journalist” Hunter S. Thompson in Rolling Stone magazine, the book was released in 1972. It was met with mixed reviews, but over time became revered as important piece of literature.
After many attempts from many different directors and actors to bring it to the big screen, Terry Gilliam (animator for Monty Python) would be the direct the screenplay written by him, Alex Cox, Tony Grisoni and Tod Davies. The 1998 film failed in the theatres, but would become cult classic once released on video and cable.
16. American Psycho (2000)
Although a young, attractive, investment banking executive on Wall Street in the late 1980s, Patrick Bateman is a deranged killer, preying upon homeless people, prostitutes and eventually some of his colleagues. As his bloodlust increases, his trail becomes difficult to disguise. Meanwhile, he has a beautiful fiance, enjoys pop music and renting videotapes along with taking pride in his physique, diet and materialistic sensibilities.
Brett Easton Ellis’ 1993 novel was meant to be a metaphorical attack on the American Dream from the eyes of a yuppie in an era of the Conservative Revolution. However, the author encountered professional difficulties and death threats for its negative depictions of women, minorities and homosexuals in addition to the graphic violence and apathetic attitude.
Mary Harron’s darkly comedic script (co-written with Guinevere Turner) in 2000 would endure similar controversies and protests, but became a commercial and cult success, despite the author’s disapproval of the director’s interpretation.
17. Party Monster (2003)
Michael Alig, originally from Indiana, arrives in New York during the later part of the 1980s. He along with his core group sexually ambiguous, drug addicted club kids build on the concept of being “Famous For Nothing”, by organizing underground raves and creating extravagant egos. Muddled by madness, Michael kills a drug dealer, Angel, dismembering body and dumping it in the New York River. Feeling a sense of invincibility, he brags about the murder and eventually skips town.
The 1998 documentary “Party Monster: A Shockumentary” directed by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato would inspire Michael Alig’s former mentor and fellow Club Kid friend, James St. James, to write his 1999 memoir “Disco Bloodbath: A Fabulous But True Tale Of Murder In Clubland”.
Bailey and Barbato would team up again in 2003 to direct the feature length film version, but would receive mainly negative reviews, despite a surprising strong performance by Macauley Culkin, in his first adult role after nearly a decade of absence.
18. A Scanner Darkly (2006)
Fred is an undercover narcotics agent cracking down on the sources who can lead him to the manufacturers of a dangerous drug known as Substance D. When he is not on duty, wearing a scramble suit, which masks his true identity, his name is Bob Arctor.
In a suburban house in Orange Country, California, he too is experimenting with Substance D and living with two other addicts, who suspect that Bob is not who he pretends to be. As his addiction grows, Agent Fred/Bob is slipping up and additional surveillance of his actions is required and might qualify for a recovery program at an institution called New Path.
Author Philip K. Dick’s 1977 science fiction novel is a semiautobiographical account of real events involving his time spent immersed in the drug culture including attempts at recovery. With authorization from PKD estate, director and screenwriter Richard Linklater shot the 2006 film with interpolated rotoscope, merging live action and animation. Met with positive reviews, the feature did well on a marginal level and remains faithful to the source material.
19. No Country for Old Men (2007)
While hunting near the Mexican border, a Texan welder and Vietnam vet Liewelyn Moss stumbles across the carnage of a drug deal gone wrong. Discovering a truck full of heroin and a satchel full of money, he an opportunity to run off with the latter, but not before he is discovered and chased through the desert.
Escaping the pursuers, Moss makes it home and sends his wife to her mother’s house and he heads off in another direction. Investigating the drug crime scene is a WWII veteran and Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, who is aware that a cold-blooded killer, Anton Chigurh, is on Moss’ trail to recover the stolen money.
Published in 2005, Cormac McCarthy’s suspenseful noir western novel was met with mixed reviews. Many critics considered it inferior to his previous works, but the story left a lasting impression on its readers. Two years later, Joel and Ethan Cohen wrote the script and directed the film version, which gained critical acclaim in several countries and won four Academy Awards.
20. 50 Shades of Grey (2015)
Due to her roommate’s illness, soon to be college graduate, Anastasia Steele, agrees to conduct an interview a young and wealthy entrepreneur in Seattle. Upon meeting Christian Grey, she finds intimidating and arrogant, but carries on with her task with assumption that they will never meet again.
A short time later, he turns up at her job in a hardware store, to purchase cable ties, masking tape and rope. Once a mutual attraction is established, contracts are drawn up that stipulate the personal, sexual and sadomasochistic natures of their relationship may never be disclosed to anyone.
Part one of a trilogy, Erika “E.L.” James developed the books from a “Twilight” fan fiction series online in 2011. A year later, the series was published on paperback was at first touted as the resurgence in female erotica. However, the novel gained negative reviews and caught fire from feminist groups, claiming the glorification of rape and abusive men who because of their wealth and power can get away with manipulating women.
The 2015 film adaptation directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson and a script by Kelly Marcel was met with similar harsh criticisms and protests from various groups, yet still became a box office hit in several countries and be the third highest grossing feature directed by a woman. The two sequels are scheduled for releases in 2017 and 2018.