This book/film really captures the vibe of its decade.

I’m always fascinated by books or films that manage to perfectly capture that very palpable sense of time and place - they’re so perfectly in tune and in touch with the zeitgeist or “vibe” of the time period that they’re dealing with that they’re practically time machines. When you read or watch them, you can really touch, feel, and taste that moment in time.

What books or films do you think really capture the era that they deal with in this way? I’m especially interested to hear dopers weigh in on eras or moments that they experienced firsthand. For example, I’ve always felt that the book/film The Ice Storm and the film The Last Days of Disco truly capture “the seventies,” though I was born in 1980, so I’m really not sure if that’s true or if they simply present such an exaggerated, intentionally “of the times” vibe that’s in line with the other “seventies” books, TV shows, and films I’ve seen that they appear to be legitimately in tune with their era.

All right, lay them out! Feel free to get specific ("this movie perfectly captures the re-emerging cowboy culture of the late seventies/early eighties - Urban Cowboy) or as general (Annie Hall is about as “the seventies” as it gets) as you like.

I would say that Tom Wolfe’s novels capture the essence of their respective time periods, somewhat. I have reservations because there always seems to be a kind of time lag. But maybe that’s because I wait until the go to the bargain books before I buy them.

Cameron Crowe seems to have perfected the art of making this type of movie.

Say anything …, Singles, Jerry Maguire are all exactly of and about their time.

One thing I can’t recall - was there a sing-a-long-with-the-radio song in Singles? It seems there almost had to have been, to fit with the others (and Almost Famous, but maybe not.)

Slacker captured the late-80s/early-90s college town counterculture vibe.

And panamajack, speaking of Cameron Crowe, Almost Famous does a pretty good job with the 70s.

And the movie Dick does a really nice job of capturing the Watergate era (at least what I remember of it from my childhood). Especially nice job of capturing the styles of the era.

I saw Echo Park for the first time not long ago, and even though it’s not such a great movie, it made me really nostalgic for the 80s. So I guess it captured something of the vibe.

I think Dazed and Confused is a perfect example of a movie that captures the vibe of its decade. Awesome movie.

Douglas Coupland’s Generation X captures the overeducated/underemployed late 20s/early 30s subculture of the late 80s/early 90s so well that it inspired a media term. IMO it succeeds where RENT fails in making the characters sympathetic rather than just whiners though its marginalia is the best part. Unfortunately Coupland hasn’t fired nearly as good a shot with any of his later books.

Sinclair Lewis’s Babbitt is timeless in some way but in others a perfect period piece. Ditto to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Jazz Age.


Network- mid 1970s

Risky Business (affluent early 1980s)

Fast Time at Ridgemont High (my favorite high school movie ever)- early 80s

You’ve Got Mail (a date movie that will be dated by its technology and that reflects, however simplistically, the extinction of the indie book store- soon a generation will have little idea they ever existed)

Barbarians at the Gate- best movie you’ll ever see about a real life corporate take-over (keeps your interest much more than it may sound like, and Jonathan Pryce/James Garner squaredancing is a great image).

Wall Street (the Douglas/Sheen version- “Greed is good”)- the Reagan era

I opened this thread to mentioned Dazed and Confused as well. I can only guess that it truly captures the vibe of its decade since I wasn’t even alive in the 70’s, but it sure seems to give off a convincing vibe of some sort. Whenever I see it it makes me wish I had been a high school kid in the 70’s.

The 1970s: Nashville, Taxi Driver, The Executioner’s Song and Dazed and Confused.

The sixties: movie Yellow Submarine

(OK, for me)

Good call with Nashville–that was going to be my suggestion.
As one who was there, Dazed and Confused did capture the 70’s vibe for me.
I was a teen in Colorado and I used to wonder if the movie, set in Texas, had a bit of a Western flavor which might not jive with Eastern or West Coast (former) teens.

I wasn’t around for the 16th century religious wars in France, but Queen Margot, with its combination of sumptuous scenery, pageantry and dirt, dreadful violence and gloomy lighting, captures for me what must have been a hellaciously worriesome time for royals and poor folk alike; Protestants in particular.

King of the Hill–the film, not the animated series, takes place in the 1930’s, is a survival story of when a young boy is left to fend for himself at the apartment.
The Depression era production design, the subtle details, the lighting–the viewer definitely steps into another time and place here. There is fear and hunger and desperation, but lighter moments too. Spalding Gray is unforgettable.

I have it on the authority of a 60ish California-native car nut I know that American Graffiti is pretty much a piece of the true cross.

I was going to suggest something for the '30s. But Eve owns the '30s. I just live there.

Yes and no.

I mean, I was a teenager in the Seventies, and I fully agree that Linklater got all the details exactly right. All the music, all the clothes, all the phrases, all the attitudes… everything was EXACTLY as it was in the Seventies.

And yet the movie bored me to tears. Perhaps that’s because standing around listening to Aeromsith with a bunch of stoners (which I did quite often!) wasn’t very interesting THEN. So why would it be interesting to watch now?

I would guess that Paper Moon captures the 30s really well.

Also, I suspect Cinderella Man did a nice job with this.

Sampiro–Fitzgerald invented the phrase “the jazz age” and he published a collection of stories “Tales of the Jazz Age” (I think that was the title) but no one book called “Jazz Age” or “The Jazz Age.” The Great Gatsby does convey some real sense of that the 1920s were like, though.

Maybe its just me but MASH (the movie)captured the late 60’s even though it was placed in the Korean War.It reflected a 60’s attitude with race-relations,sex,disenchantment with the establishment and pot.

I do rent them out, for a hefty fee.

Early, Depression '30s? Almost anything from Warner Brothers, esp. the earlier Busby Berkeleys (42nd Street, Gold Diggers of 1933, Footlight Parade).

I Love the 1910s (coming soon to VH1!), and Booth Tarkington novels really get that period down perfectly. One novel that really gets the end of the 1920s-beginning of the '30s in New York is Christopher Morley’s brilliant Human Being (1932).

I’m confused by the OP - do you mean books/movies made later that captured an era, or those made at the time of the era they portray? Which movie portrayed the 1940’s better: Saving Private Ryan, or The Best Years of Our Lives

For books & movies of the former, you have to allow for phrases, styles, attitudes, etc. that snuck in (shag haircuts on Happy Days and The Waltons); for those of the latter, theres’ always the contemporary bias of portraying people as they want to be portrayed (had any of those noble returning GI’s in The Best Years of Our Lives been posted at Fort Lewis Washington at the same time as the events shown in Frances?), or, in the reverse as with Babbit the illumination was provided only by the sparks of axes being ground.

(anyway, my choice is Barry Lyndon, except for Ryan O’Neill wandering through like a surfer-dude in the wrong century. If Stanley Kubrick wanted a matinee-draw for his lead, why couldn’t do like Ken Russell and cast an English rock star with equally bad acting skills?)

The 70’s: The Effect of Gamma-rays on Man-in-the-moon Marigolds.

Both take things to extremes, but they still convey a real sense of time-and-place:
1930’s: O Brother, Where Art Thou?
1990’s: The Big Lebowski

I do love the Coen brothers.