20 Movies 20 Years Later

No Matter What’s Happened In The Past, One Film Inspired Women To Take Their Future Into Their Own Hands

"Jackie Brown" 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.

Jackie Brown (Pam Grier) is a strong, level-headed, beautiful 44-year-old flight attendant just looking for a break. She's worked hard her entire life to make it to the top only to end up back at the bottom again. So Jackie Brown does what any desperate woman would do to get ahead in life. She uses her job as a flight attendant to smuggle money into the U.S. for a low-life, small arms dealer named Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson), only to end up getting burned. 

The fact that she's 44 and has nothing to show for it except a $16,000 a year salary as a flight attendant (which was even below-average minimum wage for 1997), of which the arresting cop Ray Nicolette (Michael Keaton) knowingly brings up this information during her interrogation, really drives home Jackie Brown's sense of "nothing left to lose." 

It's hard to believe that this classic Quentin Tarantino movie is 20 years old this year since he's released plenty of current hit movies like Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight


The intro to Jackie Brown is befitting in the sense that we see Jackie just "moving through life" via airport conveyor belt as the song "Across 110th Street" plays in the background, a song about growing up in a neighborhood of drugs, prostitution, and violence, but still trying to claw your way out.

Jackie Brown as a character is a strong woman with a somewhat checkered past, but not as a result of her own doing, as a result of a man (no surprise there). However, Jackie Brown is a compelling story of the pinnacle moment in Brown's life where she decides enough is enough. At that point, she becomes an empowering role model for taking charge of your life and not letting another entity, namely a man or the government, take what should rightly belong to you — your freedom (and in Jackie's case, a large chunk of well-earned money).

We know that regardless of the circumstances Jackie finds herself in, she's still a good person deep down. In the fitting room scene where she makes the money exchange with Melanie (Bridget Fonda), we see the moment where Jackie has that minute of contemplation, possibly wondering if she's doing the right thing and knowing there's no turning back. 

Explicit language, viewer discretion advised.

Writer and director Quentin Tarantino has a true passion for '70s action films, which he's brought to the big screen again and again, but he always delivers the plot twists we all know are coming, and yet, never seem to see coming. Perhaps he throws us for a loop with his '70s-style font, chapter-esque headlines that pretty much outline the transition from one scene to the next. This is a technique in cinematography that when well-executed, is less intrusive as a spoiler alert and instead, keeps us in the loop while employing occasional flashbacks from each character's point of view. These are all techniques he included in Jackie Brown.

In 1997, there weren't many well-known directors that had a knack for this very specific style of production. Tarantino easily became a household name and a must-see at the box office. Everyone talked about whatever latest Tarantino movie was coming out. The Kill Bill volumes were by far the most successful duo Tarantino created, second to Pulp Fiction, which turned out to be an evergreen cult classic.

The one thing that Tarantino has been able to do over and over again is gain the loyalty of A-list celebrities to star in his movies regardless of the budget for said movies. It's almost as if they beg to be in the next Tarantino flick. For Jackie Brown, you'll see big stars like Robert De Niro (who plays ex-con Louis Gara), Michael Keaton (playing the ATF cop, Ray Nicolette), Bridget Fonda (playing the blonde, surfer girl Melanie Ralston), and even Chris Tucker (who plays low-life criminal, Beaumont Livingston). These are just supporting roles, too!

As a fan of '70s action films, Tarantino most likely chose Pam Grier to play the lead role in Jackie Brown considering her iconic correlation with the '70s and the movies in which she played a woman in prison, so it's almost a throwback to previous roles such as Coffy, Foxy Brown, Friday Foster, and Sheba, Baby. However, she still held a presence as an empowering woman rising above it all. If there's one thing women can take away from Jackie Brown, it's the fact that sometimes you have to aggressively take control of your life to ensure your own happiness, 

Jackie Brown is available on AmazonGoogle PlayiTunes, Netflix, and YouTube.

Cover image: Miramax Films

(H/T: A.V. Club)

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