20 Movies 20 Years Later

With A Blend Of Sci-Fi, Comedy, And Sexual Tension, It’s No Surprise One Action Film Became A Cult Favorite

"The Fifth Element" turns 20 this year.

20 Movies 20 Years Later remembers and explores the films that touched us back then and still resonate today. Join A Plus as we rewatch movies released in 1997 and celebrate their contributions to pop culture.

The Fifth Element is a favorite for many because it's action-packed, it has comedy, it has romance, it's sci-fi, fantasy, and has a little touch of a dystopian world all swirled up in an adventure that couldn't have been lead by anyone else but Korben Dallas (the sexy, age-defiant Bruce Willis).

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It's the 23 century in New York and Leeloo (Milla Jovovich) is the embodiment of "The Fifth Element," essentially the chosen one that saves the world from being destroyed from Great Evil, according to the prophecy. By default, the fate of the world is in Korben's hands when she literally falls into his cab for help.

Like the Virgin Mary, Leeloo's demeanor is innocent and pure in nature, which tends to be associated with a childlike disposition. Recently there was light shed upon this concept, specifically calling out The Fifth Element and Tron: Legacy for their representation of a "born sexy yesterday" science fiction trope. In the movie Tron: Legacy, Quorra (Olivia Wilde) is described as profoundly naive, and unimaginably wise all wrapped up in the body of a sexy woman. This same trope was attributed to Leeloo in The Fifth Element.

This was definitely manifested in the clothing we see Leeloo wearing at the beginning of the movie after she is fully regenerated. She is literally wearing perpendicular strips of cloth that pass as "futuristic clothing." How else would producers get away with revealing so much in 1997? 

Jonathan McIntosh brings up a good point in stating, "Through the use of science fiction conventions, [women] are brought into the human world already fully formed. The mind of a child manifested in a mature female body." Perhaps we've never thought about it like this before because it works so well in the science fiction genre. It also pulls the viewer into the dystopian world through Leeloo's innocent eyes, which would also help cloak this idea of born sexy yesterday. However, does The Fifth Element deserve this form of bad reputation? Maybe, but actresses like Marilyn Monroe were typecasted as the dumb blonde, as McIntosh pointed out, so this kind of inequality has been around for a while.

There are also other characters who flip roles, such as the effeminate nature of Ruby Rhod (Chris Tucker) and at times he seems childlike, as well. I think director Luc Besson wanted to show variety in genre, but also diversity to maybe offset this "born sexy yesterday" trope that he knew was there. Either way, Ruby Rhod brings comic relief to the film, as you can see in the video below.

A couple of fun facts about the movie: The Fifth Element director Luc Besson asked his wife Maïwenn Le Besco to fill in last minute to play Diva Plavalaguna in the film when the woman who was originally supposed to play the role never showed up for rehearsals. Maiwenn only had three months to learn the song and prepare to lip sync as it is actually the vocal talents of Albanian opera lyric soprano Inva Mula that hit all ranges of highs and lows that seem humanly impossible. 

Also, Maiwenn's performance was kept a secret to the cast members and only revealed during shooting to capture their raw emotions. Bruce Willis' awe of the performance that was captured in the movie is, in fact, genuine. You can watch his reaction in the video clip below.

Another interesting fact that many fans already know is that the hero and villain typically have a showdown, but Zorg (Gary Oldman) and Dallas never actually cross paths in the flick.

The film has earned a cult following since its release, no doubt because of the many action scenes, sci-fi fans' love of dystopian futures and, likely, the "born sexy yesterday" nature of Jovovich's character. And while the latter may lump it into a category some love to hate, others simply love the film and can now view it through a more-informed lens.

The Fifth Element is available on Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, and YouTube.

Cover image: Columbia Pictures

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