Why the Roaring Twenties are Such an Iconic Decade in Movie History

10 Jan 2017

Jazz music, flappers, cocktails, pinstripe suits and endless optimism – they didn’t call it the ‘Roaring Twenties’ for nothing. From the classics of Agatha Christie and P. G. Wodehouse to the antics of The Great Gatsby, it’s a time when classic mischief reigned supreme. To this day, some of our favourite films tip their trilbies to this decade of fun, style and intrigue. From comedies to tragedies, and romance to gangster flicks, what is it about the 1920s that’s made it so irresistible for the big screen?

For starters, the 1920s revelled in its own quirky brilliance. Men were sleek, suited and booted, while women were smart, stylish and savvy. This decade is a playground of possibilities for filmmakers, with many of the most defining stories of all time either having been written in, or being set within, this glamorous era.

Ben Affleck and Sienna Miller in Live by Night.

The Great and The Good

Many film buffs have a fondness for The Great Gatsby, the emotional epic that redefined the literary genius of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan and Joel Edgerton brought spark and vitality to an ensemble as eccentric as they were tragic. Its influence on film fanatics was enough that a renewed interest in flapper skirts, tuxedo parties and jazz music erupted following the film’s release.

The classics of yesteryear are just as keen on the Roaring Twenties as contemporary movies. The perfect example being Singin’ in the Rain; the 1950’s masterpiece featuring Gene Kelly’s iconic dance in the downpour.

The movie itself is a tongue-in-cheek look at a very real issue of the 1920s, the rise of movies with sound, or “talkies,” over silent film. The introduction of dialogue allowed movies to deliver a new level of profundity and it was a pivotal decade that helped define cinema as the craft we love it as today.

Plenty More Twenties Roar in Store

Cinema’s love for the Roaring Twenties isn’t a passing phase. The era continues to inspire the magical as much as the mundane, with J. K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them transporting us to the Wizarding World in 1920s New York.

In January 2017, the glitz and style of the era will see its grim underbelly exposed in the much-anticipated Live by Night, in which Ben Affleck, Elle Fanning, Brendan Gleeson, Chris Messina, Sienna Miller, Zoe Saldana and Chris Cooper unite in a prohibition-era epic.

What you put out into this world will always come back to you, but it never comes back how you predict. Taking fatherly advice is not in Joe Coughlin’s nature. Instead, the WWI vet is a self-proclaimed anti-establishment outlaw, despite being the son of the Boston Police Deputy Superintendent. Joe’s not all bad, though; in fact, he’s not really bad enough for the life he’s chosen. Unlike the gangsters he refuses to work for, he has a sense of justice and an open heart, and both work against him, leaving him vulnerable time and again—in business and in love. Driven by a need to right the wrongs committed against him and those close to him, Joe heads down a risky path that goes against his upbringing and his own moral code. Leaving the cold Boston winter behind, he and his reckless crew turn up the heat in Tampa. And while revenge may taste sweeter than the molasses that infuses every drop of illegal rum he runs, Joe will learn that it comes at a price.

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