Things that date movies

My dad can watch a film and by looking at the cars can date a film to within a year or two.

I was just watching a movie, Crocodile Dundee II, and could tell not the exact date, but that it was made before 9/11, because the WTC is on the skyline of New York. I’ve seen that in other films, and it kind of makes me sad for a moment.

What things help you date a film?

Silent movies.

Well, dinner and a movie are out, maybe dancing?

If I recall correctly, there was at least one movie (Spiderman?) where the Towers were digitally taken out - it had been filmed before 9/11, but not released until after.

My dad is like that as well. He can tell you the make, model and year of a car just based on a glimpse of the tail light.

I can’t nail down the year of a movie unless they say something specific to a year, usually pop culture related. Something along the lines of watching a TV show, going to a movie, hearing a song etc…

But in general terms, along the lines of pre/post 9/11, if a movie takes place in the late 80’s or early 90’s I tend to notice cell phones. Either brick phones be shown as a huge leap in technology for rich people (I think they had them in Wall Street) or the lack thereof. Often times I’ll watch a movie and think about the fact that the entire premise would be ruined if the main characters had cell phones. I can’t think of a good example off the top of my head, but think about how many movies there are where there’s a bad guy after someone and another person knows and needs to get to that person first to warn them. The movie would be moot if they could just call the protagonist and say “Hey, dude’s on his way over, to get the microfiche, why don’t you hop in your car and take a ride for a few hours. I’ll let you know when he’s gone”

Wait, got one. Ferris Bueller. The last scene. Nowadays, Ferris could have called his dad and asked him to pick up some medicine on the way home. That would have bought him plenty of time to get home and into bed.
Plenty of episodes of Friends wouldn’t have been half as funny if they all had cell phones. Of course, it ran from 1994 to 2004 so they really should have, I have to assume they left them out on purpose (did they have them towards the end).

Seinfeld has the same “dating” (lack of cell phones)

In a similar vein, answering machines instead of voicemail.

Hairdos and clothing can date late 60s, 70s movies pretty accurately: butterfly colars, bellbottoms, garish clothing, huge sideburns, bushy hair.

Leisure Suits

Men wearing hats (I mean EVERY man); clean-cut people smoking.

Everybody smoking. I was watching an old movie a few months ago. A young girl started smoking (15 or 16 years old). Her mother, a bit annoyed, asked her when she started smoking, she replied that her step father gave her a cigarette case for her birthday and she felt it would be rude of her not to use it. Her mother nodded in agreement. Now, this was done very much to annoy her mother, but still, something like that certainly wouldn’t fly today.

Existence of cell phones is also telling. The X-Files holds up pretty well against time except when Mulder whips out his cell phone and yanks out the telescopic antenna.

Friends also has several seasons where the wireless phone in Monica’s apartment has a long whip antenna. The act of whipping it out just calls more attention to it.

Lack of caller ID is also weird. Many fairly recent (90’s) movies and sitcoms try to use that moment between the ring and the answer as a a boiling point: ZOMG who could be calling me? Should I answer it? What is it’s the killer?

Of course, there are still plenty of movies being made that are stuck with pre-cell phone plots in a cell phone world, which is why cell phones in movies tend to have an alarmingly high failure rate.

Automobiles would be the easiest for me (if of course the film in question shows some).

What movie?

But they knew about it at the time. They have a flashback episode of X-files that took place around 1992 or so and Mulder turns around holding a huge cell phone(like the one from Wall Street).

That was a cool show.

Hospital scenes in older movies with iron lungs (they use ventilators now).

And hospital rooms with little or no high tech equipment.

The “brick” phone in Lethal Weapon.

Nurses wearing all-white dresses, especially if they have a cap on. I’m 25 and the only time I’ve seen a nurse dress like that IRL was our school nurse on Halloween. Also the length of men’s swimsuits or shorts. It’s pleasantly jarring watching a movie from before about 1990 and the men’s swimsuits stop at mid-thigh (that is if they aren’t briefs). Dito for gym shorts. Also tighty-whities on teenagers or adults.

This drives me nuts when it’s still a plot device on CSI/NCIS type shows. Still, like, this week. Who the heck still has an answering machine with a blinky light that the detective can press to hear the murderer who just left a message?!

(Waiting for the torrents of troglodyte Dopers who don’t use voicemail…)

I have an answering machine on the land line. It has 2 tapes (out going and incoming) and is big and clunky. It also works just fine.

'80’s movies have very characteristic hair and bad clothing, too, with the super padded women’s shoulders and poufy hair a la Dynasty or The Cosby Show or Full House.