This year marks the 20th anniversary of the original #MeninBlack. Starring #TommyLeeJones and #WillSmith, the movie nabbed three Academy Award nominations, taking home one for Best Makeup, and immediately became one of the most popular comedies of the 1990s. The success of 2012’s Men in Black 3 proved that audiences still loved the franchise as much as they did when it first hit the big screen in July 1997.
There’s no question why Men in Black continues to pull in viewers. There aren’t too many sci-fi fans that can resist the combination of comedy and awesome effects along with cool-looking suits and Ray-Bans. And Tommy Lee Jones’ long-suffering straight man persona played perfectly against Will Smith as a wisecracking new agent. There is a lot to love in this 20-year-old film that spawned two sequels.
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No one plays a comedy scene quite like Will Smith. When the agency was trying to determine whether James Darrell Edwards, III could be agent material, they issued a series of tests. Hilarity ensues when Smith doesn’t quite fit in with the other recruits.
Trivia: Both David Schwimmer and Chris O’Donnell turned down the role of Agent J.
The Straight Man
Tommy Lee Jones has made a career out of playing serious roles, but how he maintained his composure while filming Men in Black remains a mystery. His character rarely, if ever, cracked a smile, and even in the midst of chaos, he didn’t panic. As a result, he played perfectly against Will Smith’s comedic Agent J.
Trivia: Tommy Lee Jones only accepted the role of Agent K after Steven Speilberg promised the scrip would be improved.
From Vincent D’Onofrio’s “Edgar suit” to the intergalactic bugs, Men in Black brought a fascinating array of aliens to the big screen. Whether it was Jeebs (Tony Shaloub) as a pawn shop owner whose head could grow back, or the worm-like creatures handing out the coffee at the agency, there was no dearth of out-of-towners in this movie. It’s certainly no wonder Men in Black won the Academy Award for Best Makeup.
Trivia: It took six hours each day to transform Vincent D’Onofrio into the Edgar Bug. Silk swatches were glued to D’Onofrio’s cheeks and tied around the back of his head to stretch his face.
In most action films, the main characters aren’t wearing sharp suits and expensive Cheap Oakley sunglasses, but Men in Black had a style all its own — Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones looked more like high-powered attorneys than intergalactic Ghostbusters.
Trivia: The Cheap Oakleys sunglasses used by the Men in Black are Ray-Ban’s “Predator 2.” After the film’s release, Ray-Ban reported that sales of these glasses tripled to $5 million.
Men in Black will never grow old to its fans. We’ve watched it enough times to have memorized the lines. Yet, we’ll stream it again when we need to laugh or we’re feeling nostalgic. It’s a sometimes gross, always entertaining feel-good sci-fi movie, and I’ve no doubt it’ll still be remembered fondly in another 20 years.