At the time? Embarrassing. Now? Fun! Strange how a few years makes you see the joy that was intended.
1. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
When it came out, it was a flop. Not surprising, since it’s a children’s movie that contains a shot of a chicken getting beheaded (it’s during the boat ride scene). The author of the original book, Roald Dahl, despised it. But repeated showings on network television in the 1970s, when there were only a few channels and scant opportunities for kids to watch programs of their own — the beheading was excised for that — made this a beloved property of the post-Moon Shot generation. Gene Wilder’s wild-haired, is-he-or-isn’t-he performance, though wildly different from the squirrelly, goateed Wonka of the book, was a harbinger for modern sarcasm. He also gave the movie the heart it needed to endure — something Johnny Depp, in his unleashed, twerpy interpretation couldn’t muster. Look at the picture. His off-kilter performance is still worth a meme, 41 years later.