September 2017 is SYFY's 25th anniversary, so we’re using it as an excuse to look back at the last 25 years of ALL science fiction, fantasy, and horror, a time that has seen the genres we love conquer the world of pop culture. For us, that means lists! ALL THE LISTS! We’ll be doing two “25 greatest” lists per day all throughout September, looking back at the moments, people, and characters that shaped the last quarter century. So keep checking back. Please note: Our lists are not ranked; all items have equal standing in our brains.
What items in our lists were your favorites? Did we miss something? We welcome respectful debate and discussion, so please let us know in the comments!
The last 25 years have been an explosion of landmark moments for fans of movies, television, comics, and gaming. Whether it’s sci-fi, fantasy, sci-fantasy, superheroes, zombies, or Venom, the gears have been constantly turning. Many of the biggest moments involve female-led projects finally being given their due, while some others show that some people will resist change no matter how ugly things get. Not every entry on this list is pleasant, but every entry is notable. Not every story is a cause for celebration, but they can all provide opportunities to learn. With all of that in mind, come and fire up your crossover-loving, shared-universe-needing, female-led happy puppy headset as we look at the 25 BIGGEST MOMENTS from the last 25 years.
Agents of SHIELD crosses over with Captain America: The Winter Soldier
In the first of Marvel’s television efforts, a resurrected Phil Coulson (it’s a magical place) and his hand-picked team proved to be fun in the first half of its inaugural season, but was transformed into something truly fantastic when the second Cap movie came along. Weaving into that movie as well as back out, our characters have to face the huge amounts of fallout that occurred in that film, most notably, the fall of their own agency and the return of HYDRA. Two of their own betray them, and for a bit, they had to prove that they weren’t “Agents of Nothing.” It was a landmark in connecting TV and film, and Marvel has continued to do this over the course of the MCU, though, so far, it’s always the films influencing the TV shows. This will take another leap forward if, perhaps, Jessica Jones shows up to fight Thanos. We’re not holding our breath, but this first step gives us hope for something like that happening at some point.
Deadpool hits it big
The fact that Deadpool was made at all is astonishing. It took many years, some leaked demo footage, and all of the charm Ryan Reynolds had to make it happen, and to make it happen the way it should — with an “R” rating. Unheard of in comic book properties, it is perfectly in line with the character, and audiences responded. Compared with other comic book films, this one had a pretty slim budget, but it ended up out-grossing most of them. More than anything, it gave birth to the “R” rated comic book movie, something that Logan would soon take advantage of.
Disney buys Lucasfilm
It was George Lucas’ retirement, really, and what a way to go. In 2012, the house of mouse bought Lucasfilm for four billion dollars, and George waltzed away into the sunset with his wife. The incredibly formidable Kathleen Kennedy was put in charge of all things Lucas, (namely, Star Wars) and she has since shown that she is more than capable of delivering the goods. Ushering in a new trilogy of films, spin-off movies, and a new animated show, this landmark acquisition continues to pay off.
Edgar Wright leaves Ant-Man
Edgar Wright is one of the best filmmakers working today, so when he was set to direct this MCU film, both Marvel fans and Wright fans were excited. Things did not go as planned. After years of development, Wright and Marvel parted ways. They citied the age old “creative differences” as the reason, but what we were really seeing was the start of producer-driven franchise films. We’re seeing this play out right now with Star Wars, with the directors of the young Han Solo spin-off being jettisoned, and more recently the firing of Colin Trevorrow from Episode IX. With Ant-Man, well, it worked out. Peyton Reed took over and made a film that was much more enjoyable than expected, and Edgar Wright made the exceptional Baby Driver.
First prototype of the Oculus Rift VR Headset is created
Planned to be a cost effective alternative for VR craving gamers, the prototype of the first Oculus Rift headset was initially put together by the 18-year-old Palmer Luckey in his parent’s garage. Eventually joined by John Carmack, they used every tool in the box (including duct tape) to make the thing work. Partially funded by Kickstarter and developed for various conventions over time, the most recent version of this technology became available to the public in 2016. Its rise and success is proof that VR in gaming is not just a passing fad.
Game of Thrones premieres
Three men of the Night’s Watch go beyond the Wall, encounter white walkers, the now iconic title theme began, and fantasy finally came to “prestige TV.” We thought it would be successful, but nobody could have predicted how huge this epic tale of dragons, wolves, and bastards would become. The books were popular before, but now they were front and center at every bookstore. Tyrion Lannister action figures were made. People who normally would never be interested in fantasy were soon heard discussing things like “The Red Wedding,” as well as how horrible Joffrey was. This wasn’t just a show for fantasy fans and book readers; this soon became a show for everybody. From the humble exposition dump that was “Winter is coming”, to “WHERE ARE MY DRAGONS?”, to watching characters you love die horribly in front of you, this was fantasy hitting the mainstream in a whole new way, giving HBO the biggest hit that it has ever had.
This is not a celebration, not in any way. This was not great. This was AWFUL, but it changed the conversation around gaming forever, so we include it here. A campaign of sexism and misogyny that targeted three female members of the gaming community in 2014, it was all done under the banner of “ethics in game journalism.” Game developers Zoe Quinn and Brianna Wu, alongside critic Anita Sarkeesian, were relentlessly trolled, doxed, threatened with rape, and also threatened with death. The trolls felt empowered by their new gamergate hashtag, and emerged from under their digital bridges waving digital torches. The three targets stood firm anyway, though their lives will never be the same. Described by some as a culture war, it proved to be a clear example of how toxic and awful the Internet and its users are capable of being. It changed the conversation around gaming, but it also changed the conversation around basic human decency, which can be summed up with two words: BE BETTER.
The Hunger Games becomes the first #1 Female Led Film since The Exorcist
It may have been the first, but thankfully it was not the last. Jennifer Lawrence’s starring turn in this tale of volunteering as tribute for the worst season of Survivor ever shown opened an important door, and it showed studios that films with female protagonists can be successful. Scarlett Johansson continued to demonstrate the possibilities with Lucy, and of course Wonder Woman eventually came along and lassoed its way to victory. Long overdue, but at least it finally happened. Here’s hoping the trend continues.
Jodie Whittaker is cast as The Doctor
Being a show in which the lead character regenerates into a different body every few years, Doctor Who has brought in some brilliant actors to play the title role—but before now, they had all been male. Could Time Lords change their gender? Steven Moffat showed us a few examples that this was possible, most notably when he had series villain The Master regenerate into the absurd mad genius that is Michelle Gomez. This gave fans hope that maybe, one day, our favorite madman in a box could potentially be played by a female, or at least by a non-white actor. Incoming showrunner Chris Chibnall is the one who finally made it happen. As sad as we will be to see the masterful Peter Capaldi go this December, we can take solace in the notion that he’ll be handing the TARDIS key off to Doctor #13, played by Jodie Whittaker. Known from her performances in Chibnall’s Broadchurch as well as the incredibly fun Attack the Block, Whittaker seemed a natural choice who wasn’t really on anyone’s radar. It didn’t matter. After 52 years and 12 different Doctors, (plus John Hurt) it was finally time. As the Eleventh Doctor, himself, said, “Times change, and so must I.”
Jurassic World grosses over $500 million worldwide in its first weekend
Was it Chris Pratt? The dinosaurs? IMAX prices? Maybe it was that shot of Bryce Dallas Howard running in heels, but whatever it was, this was a massive haul. This old dino-franchise showed that it didn’t just have life left in it; it had life-that-finds-a-way left in it. In the age of streaming and dwindling sales at the box office, this was a sign that maybe things could turn around. As good as this record was, it didn’t last long, oddly enough. A little space movie came along a few months later and blew it out of the stars.
Killing the Star Wars Extended Universe
When Disney took over Lucasfilm, one of the biggest casualties was the enormous catalogue of books and comics that were set after the Emperor took the plunge. Some of them were great, some of them were awful, but none of them were considered “canon” by any means. The new order at Lucasfilm needed to jettison almost everything in order to have the freedom to tell the sequel story that they wanted to tell. The only true things still in the canon were the six films and the groundbreaking animated TV show, The Clone Wars. Everything else was put under the banner of “Legends” and a new era of books and comics began, except, this time, all of it was canon. Over time, the new canon would bring back some huge favorites from the old EU (Mandalorians, Thrawn, Caf), but some karkin’ kriffs still have their Snokes in a Sheev over the loss of their vast amount of older books. It’s not like Lucasfilm destroyed them! They still exist! You can still buy them! The great thing about the EU was always that you could go with what stories you liked, and dispense with the rest. For people who like their canon neat and tidy, the new generation of books and comics, all tying into the same whole, (under the guidance of the all-powerful Lucasfilm Story Group) is a blessing.
The Lost Finale
Love it or hate it, chances are you watched it. If you were a fan of this series, odds are that you most definitely watched it. Some fans were satisfied, but others were left feeling empty. Many felt that things were unresolved, and this says a great deal about the expectations of fans. Can we expect too much from these stories that we love so much? Most likely, yes. The creators of this show, most notably Damn Lindelof, eventually quit twitter because of the overwhelming negativity sent their way, not only after this show had its finale, but after ANY show had a finale. The demands on the creators of these tales is sky-high these days, and if they fall short, well, the fans will let them know it.
This multiplayer title from Blizzard Entertainment had a huge amount of buzz before it was actually released. A fun variation on a team based FPS, the game seemed to attract players that normally wouldn’t go in for that kind of thing. You can thank the game’s characters, that spark with more life and creativity than most FPS characters do. The reaction upon release was ecstatic, with gamers spending every waking hour playing the game. Blizzard encouraged fans to take their obsession past the game itself, and as a result, an entire community of anime and memes have sprung up, with no end in sight.
Marvel’s The Avengers
Not only was this the first time a studio attempted to put all of its comic book heroes in the same film, it was also the culmination of several years of solo films and the entire “Phase 1” of the MCU. The result was a film that critics and audiences could not get enough of, and it proved that Marvel’s epic gamble was worth it. The MCU is still chugging along the same track, and all the while, many other film properties have been trying to build their own shared cinematic universes. None of them have come close to the MCU, as, oftentimes, films try and force a shard universe down your throat in the very first film. By first making good films that were great on their own, the MCU proves that taking your time and having patience is paramount to success.
Mass Effect 3’s Ending
This is a great time for video games that feature choice systems, because the endings will vary based on what choices you make during the game. If you play like jerk, the story will usually end with you getting some kind of comeuppance. If you fail to save a character earlier on, you may end up losing everything as a result. When the ending of a game seems to disregard the player’s choices, however, gamers get upset — and the ending of Mass Effect 3 is a great example of this. As part of a game that focuses on the player having to make live and death decisions, you might expect the ending to have repercussions based on those decisions. Instead, everyone got the same ending and the ramifications of their individual choices seemed to have no effect whatsoever. Players felt very disrespected — and they had no problem letting the game’s creators know it. It led to the release of an alternate ending and a massive discussion about the responsibility of game creators as storytellers and to their audience.
One word comes to mind, and the word is: BINGE. When Netflix started streaming, they changed the way many of us watched television. It no longer mattered what we had waiting on the DVR, or what discs were in the mail. The next episode of Frasier was right there. In fact, the whole show was, so why stop watching? They turned the dial up again when they started to create original content, dropping off a full season of House of Cards all at once. If you didn’t want to wait a week to see what awful scheme Kevin Spacey had up his sleeve, well, you didn’t have to. People became more intimate with their own couches than ever before, and before long Hulu and other premium services joined in the fun. With so many options, many people decided they didn’t need regular cable at all, and became what it now known as “cord cutters.” Binge watching is not the healthiest way to spend a day, and some of us that don’t know when enough is enough can get into trouble—but, foR the responsible ones among us, being able to watch a couple episodes of Daredevil in one sitting (then actually leaving the house) is a wonderful thing.
The New 52
Continuity in the world of comics is difficult, and, in the case of DC Comics (fresh off of the epic “Flashpoint” crossover event), it was so difficult that the time came to wipe the slate clean and reboot everything. Flashpoint had made things so crazy with every title they had, and there was no coming out of it. Instead of trying, they cancelled all of their existing titles and, in 2011, released new comics under the “New 52” banner. Even old warhorse titles like Action Comics and Detective Comics got their numbers reset. The results were mixed (some were glad that Barbara Gordon could walk again, others were upset), but such a drastic overhaul had never been seen before.
The Sad Puppies/Rabid Puppies
This is a weird one. The Hugo Award is the longest-running prize for sci-fi and fantasy literature, having started in 1953. In 2013, a disgruntled writer became tired of the awards always going to “heavy handed message fiction,” so he created The Sad Puppies, which was a voting block meant to thwart the ambitions of the greater establishment. This writer said that he wanted to promote pulpier action stories, but over the years the block mostly tried to give the awards to the writer himself. The group successfully invaded the ballots for years and even inspired a spin-off block called “Rabid Puppies.” Many Hugo voters chose the option of “No Award” instead of giving in to the imbalanced view of these voting blocks, and finally, in 2017, an attempt was made to limit the power that these blocks have. Sometimes nominating their own work, and sometimes nominating authors who have no notion of their existence, both groups of puppies are puzzling. They prove insulting to the awards, to puppies, and to Sarah McLachlan.
Sony and Marvel make a deal for Spider-Man
Sony has proven that they will do anything, ANYTHING, to retain the rights to their cash cow franchise, and that includes making two films with Andrew Garfield that tried to out-MCU the MCU and ended up being appreciated by nobody. Whether driven by desperation, aggravation, email leaking scandals, or fans rabidly screaming for Spidey to take his rightful place in the MCU, Sony finally came to the table. The deal was unprecedented, and the long and short of it ended up being that Marvel finally had control over its biggest star. They knew what to do with him, too — first having him pop up during a certain airport battle, and then showcasing him in his very first MCU solo film. While things look great on the MCU side of things, Sony hasn’t stopped fighting the good fight — they’re still hard at work making Spider-Man movies… that will not feature Spider-Man. The current word is that he will not appear in them. Hope you like Venom!
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
From the moment John Boyega popped up wearing real Stormtrooper armor in the first trailer, to the fifth time we saw the film in the theaters, this is the movie that brought Star Wars back. Real sets, real prosthetics, old favorite characters, and a whole host of new ones made this one hell of a comeback. It was a critical smash, but it also set the box office on fire, and for one shining moment, everyone in the Star Wars world was happy. Until the dark times. Until the backlash. These days, it’s pretty cool to bash this film, but such is the journey every SW film takes. We could go on and on about how it’s not a reboot OR a rehash, about Joseph Campbell, and about how a film in this series often rhymes and mirrors the others, but we’ll save all of that for another time. This was a landmark moment and as Disney’s first foray into the GFFA, it was an unquestioned success.
“Spider-Verse” crossover comics event
In the storytelling experiment that was “Edge of the Spider-Verse,” we got multiple variations of what Spider-Man could be, including the ever popular Spider-Gwen. With all of these alternate Spideys established, Marvel decided to throw them all together in one massive crossover, which they aptly named “Spider-Verse.” Not only does this crossover feature characters from the “Edge…” series, it also contains any and all versions of the character that have ever existed, from Peter Parker to Miles Morales to Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham. The result was such dizzying fun that Marvel is ramping up for another one, this time using Venom. “Edge of the Venomverse” is going on right now. Hope you like Venom!
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
The minute you enter Diagon Alley, you see tons of extraordinary décor, countless shops packed with merchandise, and kids running everywhere with wands that they just had their parents buy them. The sight instantly brings to mind the first time the lawyer in Jurassic Park sees the dinosaurs, saying, “We’re gonna make a fortune with this place.” He would be right. An immersive theme park experience that is any Harry Potter fan’s dream come true, the Wizarding World lets you tour Hogwarts, have a wand choose you, ride the tunnels below Gringotts, and drink a Butterbeer. Most of the rides are state of the art, (the wicker hippogriff coaster aside) and it is a collector’s paradise. The wild success of the first park spawned several other locations, as well as parks based on other fantasy/sci-fi worlds. Disney has already opened the world of Pandora from Avatar, and work is currently underway on the biggest expansion Disney parks has ever done: a full-on Star Wars land. Shut up and take our money!
The Walking Dead premieres
Based on the long running comic of the same name, this AMC series that premiered in 2011 was largely responsible for the new golden age of zombies. The tale of Rick Grimes and his fellow survivors was a surprise runaway hit, and much like Game of Thrones, it brought geekery into the mainstream. The gore effects are some of the best seen anywhere, and though, nowadays, it is prone to pulling stunts like the “who did Negan beat to death??” finale a year ago, it’s still a glorious haven for those who enjoy zombies and the people that fight against them. It opened many new doors, and some lesser-known comic books turned TV shows (Preacher comes to mind) may not have happened without it.
AT LONG LAST, DIANA HAS ARRIVED. Why is the release of this film notable? It is the first big screen adaptation of one of pop culture's most iconic and recognizable figures. It is the one of the ONLY comic book movies anchored by a female superhero ever. It was directed by a woman. It became the highest grossing “origin” movie of any superhero. It is the first film to be almost universally accepted by fans in the DCEU continuity. Do we have to go on? Representation matters, and every child deserves to see themselves as a part of our modern mythmaking. If you doubt the power or impact of this film, there is a certain video from Comic Con 2017 that we recommend you watch. A little girl dressed as Diana tells Gal Gadot what the movie meant to her, and that little video is all the proof anyone needs.
Stephen King's It is the #1 horror movie of all time
So long, The Exorcist ... and you can take your "adjusted for inflation" with you!
So, there you have it. These were OUR choices of big events from the last decade. What are yours? Let us know in the comments which moments you’d put on your list!