New Line Cinema: A Retrospective

RT picks our 25 favorite studio classics!

by | May 7, 2008 | Comments

New Line Cinema: Thanks for giving us a great horror icon, for helping subversive
filmmakers bubble up to the mainstream, and for getting some beloved fantasy books the big-screen treatment they
deserved. Today,
Rotten Tomatoes celebrates four decades of independent existence (they’re now part of WB) by proffering our 25
studio favorites, sifting through a legacy spanning from Pink Flamingos to The Golden Compass, and all the Freddy Kruegers, Austin Powerses, and cute Hobbit children you can stuff in-between.

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25.
Harold and Kumar Go to
White Castle
(2004)
Tomatometer: 71%
White Castle is vintage New Line: a bold serving
of race relations, bongs, and twentysomething wish fulfillment. The sequel just racked up major box office, so what better time than now to celebrate the studio that began by distributing John Waters flicks and pushing
Reefer Madness onto 1960s college campuses?
24.


A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
(1987)
Tomatometer:
71%
Like any horror series, A Nightmare on Elm Street started out
strong before flaming out with endless mediocre sequels. But there were a
few safe places on Elm Street: Dream Warriors, for example,
snuck in good scares and compelling characters (with super powers!)
without turning Freddy into self-parody.

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23.

Blade

(1998)

Tomatometer: 54%
The years between barely-decent Batman Forever and not-bad
Spider-Man
was a dark era for superhero movie fans. The only real
bright spot: the Blade series, starring Wesley Snipes as Marvel’s iconic
vampire hunter. The first, directed by Stephen Norrington, was the most
cohesive of the trilogy, serving up a bloody platter of chills, thrills,
and sweet shades.
22.
Sid and Nancy (1986)
Tomatometer:
91%
The skuzzy romance of Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen as depicted here was
condemned by Sex Pistols’ lead singer, Johnny Rotten. Still, that doesn’t stop us from appreciating
Sid and Nancy for what it is: an enthusiastic cinematic love
letter, mythologizing the passion of the punk’s Romeo and Juliet.


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21.

Hairspray

(1988)

Tomatometer: 92%
John Waters’ comedy has always been the stuff of campy juvenilia. But in
Hairspray, campiness is not a line drawn to divide the normals and
the deranged: it’s a party embraced by all. The songs, the one-liners, the
crazy ‘dos — 1962 Baltimore hosted some infectiously fun times.
20.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
(1990)
Tomatometer:
44%
The Secret of the Ooze may have the ninja rap, but if you’re
jonesing for nostalgia-free Turtles viewing, go with the first. The
superior action scenes and its dark streak are tempered by director Steve
Barron’s clear affection for the source material.


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19.
Gummo

(1997)

Tomatometer: 29%
From John Waters to Gus Van Sant, New Line loved fostering unusual voices.
And few were as aggressively unusual as Harmony Korine’s. For most,
Korine’s Gummo is a 90-minute tract of ugly nihilism, but nearly
every scene leaves a chill that’s hard to shake.
18.
Wes
Craven’s New Nightmare
(1994)
Tomatometer:
84%
In New Nightmare,
Freddy Krueger bursts free of his celluloid confines and stalks the actors
of the original Nightmare on Elm Street, Robert Englund included.
It’s a brilliant meta-concept, and one Wes Craven would develop with more
financial success in the Scream franchise.


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17.
The New
World

(2005)


Tomatometer: 60%
Need a nature communal? Fire up the The New World DVD.
Terrence Malick’s interpretation of John Smith and Pocahontas is
slow-going, but that’s all the better to hypnotize you into a lush,
verdant universe rarely attempted in American movies.
16.

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
(1997)
Tomatometer:
67%
Spy spoofs (and double entendres) don’t get much better than in Austin
Powers
. While the sequels gorged themselves on bloated comedy
extravagance, the original’s swift and rascally attitude is as cheeky,
charming, and hilarious as ever.


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15. Dark
City

(1998)

Tomatometer: 75%
Originally, Dark City was eclipsed by The Matrix, the
other
perception-altering movie of the late ’90s. But whereas the
latter is all popcorn philosophy, Dark City is a brooding, moody
think piece. In recent years, it’s gained cult traction; the DVD boasts a
rare Roger Ebert commentary.
14.
The Sea Inside (2004)
Tomatometer:
82%
Including Maria Full of Grace and Vera Drake, New Line
released in 2004 a triumvirate of films revolving around the heady themes
of life and death. The best of the three, The Sea Inside, is a
glorious, perceptive drama about one man’s (Javier Bardem) fight to die by
euthanasia.


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13.

The
Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

(2002)

Tomatometer: 96%
Nominated for six Oscars (including Best Picture), The Lord of the
Rings: The Two Towers
suffers from no sophomore slump. In fact, the
masterful build-up and dread of the Helms Deep siege is more than enough
to cement it in history.

12.
A History
of Violence
(2005)
Tomatometer:
87%
Combining what he learned from more mainstream fare (Spider) and
his more twisted genre sensibilities (Videodrome), Violence
is an amalgamation of everything that makes director David Cronenberg
fascinating. A movie both a violent thriller and complex character study.


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11.

American
Splendor

(2003)

Tomatometer: 94%
As underground cartoonist Harvey Pekar, Paul Giamatti performs with the
same warts-and-all fearlessness Pekar imbues in his own writing. (The
author himself shows up in-between some scenes, giving his own take on the
movie and on life.) Pekar may be an unlikely hero, but he’s a definitively
American one.
10.
The Evil Dead (1981)
Tomatometer:
100%
Where would horror be without movies like The Evil Dead? With its
low-budget grittiness, mordant humor, and iconic hero Ash (Bruce
Campbell), who hasn’t been inspired to pick up their Super 8 and head out
with their friends into the heart of the woods?


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09.


The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

(2003)

Tomatometer: 94%
The only thing more Herculean than adapting J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord
of the Rings
? Making sure it ends right. And Peter Jackson does just
that in RotK; after battles huge (the Black Gate) and small (Frodo and Sam
in Mount Doom), he leads the viewers into the movie’s satisfying denouement.
08.
Dumb and Dumber
(1994)

Tomatometer:
60%
Puns, potty humor (Turbo Lax, anyone?), slapstick, pop culture references,
and non-sequiturs are tossed at the viewer with reckless abandon. Coupled
with Jim Carrey’s and Jeff Daniel’s game performances, Dumb and Dumber
makes for one of the most deliriously fun comedies of the 1990s.


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07.

Seven

(1995)

Tomatometer: 84%
Nobody these days nails down the cinema of psychopaths better than David
Fincher, and he arguably did it to greatest effect in Seven. It’s
gothic, it’s gruesome, and it features perfect performances from Morgan
Freeman and Brad Pitt, who earns a lifetime pass for tabloid overexposure
here.

06.
The Player (1992)
Tomatometer:
98%
Hollywood insider entertainment is usually self-indulgent, so how does
The Player
endure? Must be Robert Altman’s loose-goosey direction,
which lends certain artistry to the affair. Rather than working overtime
to show just how crazy! wacky! silly! the movie biz is, Altman lets
the chaos of Griffin Mill’s world waft and glide off the screen.


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05.

Boogie Night
s
(1997)


Tomatometer: 96%
Where can you find the longest single takes in cinema? Porn movies…and
Boogie Nights. P.T. Anderson’s epic seriocomic homage to sex,
drugs, and bellbottoms may have the glossy look of the era, but it also
uncovers the human element that was stitched into the hedonism.
04.
A
Nightmare on Elm Street
(1984)
Tomatometer:
94%
It’s always a trip when you re-watch the first movie of a horror series.
Friday the 13th is actually pretty tame. Halloween is a
subtle slasher. And A Nightmare on Elm Street? Wes Craven seeded
the movie with ethereal lightness; the movie floats with unique dream-like
anxiety.


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03.


The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

(1974)

Tomatometer: 89%
It’s been said, but The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is horrifying for
what it doesn’t show. New Line snatched up the distribution rights
in the early 80s, allowing new audiences to experience Massacre‘s
gripping realism and documentary-style horror.

02.
Magnolia (1999)

Tomatometer:
84%
Tracking his movie across a dozen characters and plotlines, Paul Thomas
Anderson puts the viewer on one heckuva emotional rollercoaster. Though
heavily reminiscent of Altman, Magnolia‘s driving romantic pulse
and ascent into wondrous surrealism makes Anderson more than an imitator;
it places him in the company of the American masters.


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01.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

(2001)
Tomatometer:
92%

It takes some serpentine mental mapping
to introduce Frodo (plus his friends, his enemies, and his magnificent
world) without overwhelming the audience. Just imagine how complexly
wired Peter Jackson’s head must be. But out of that head poured The
Fellowship of the Ring
, the richest, most wondrous fantasy of our time.
And check out the extended DVD cut; rather than sagging the movie’s
pace, the 208-minute runtime pulls the viewer further into Jackson’s
staggeringly realized interpretation of Middle-Earth lore.

The two sequels had Jackson working overtime to top himself in a valiant
dash to show off the grandeur, beauty, and horror of Tolkien’s universe. But the
things most appealing about The Fellowship of the Ring are also its
simplest, like watching daily life in the Shire and discovering the
interplay between hobbits and dwarves, between elves and humans. We see the sweet
innocence of the world before the forces of evil come out to destroy it.

And as a trilogy, The Lord of the Rings was something unique for a
specific audience. For the children of the 80s and 90s (let’s just say there’s a few of those in the Rotten Tomatoes readership, and on RT’s staff itself) who missed ground zero of the
Star Wars phenomenon, the Lord of the Rings movies presented the rarest of opportunities: a chance to spin our own movie trilogy into the hallowed halls of popdom.