20 Movies 20 Years Later

Even Through All The Glitz, One Drama Still Tells A Compelling Story About One Young Man’s Growing Pains

"Boogie Nights" turns 20 this year.

20 Movies 20 Years Later remembers and explores the films that touched us back then and still resonate today. Join A Plus as we rewatch movies released in 1997 and celebrate their contributions to pop culture.


Twenty years ago, Mark Wahlberg exploded onto the screen in big, bright neon letters as Dirk Diggler, a young man who turned into an adult superstar in Boogie Nights. But what came along with this tale of boyhood innocence and ignorance dazzled by the glitz and glamour of the adult film industry in the San Fernando Valley in the late '70s and early '80s was a slew of real-life perils many of us can relate to. From being bullied in school, to facing drug addiction and the consequences that come with it, to the shame associated with homosexuality to infidelity, Boogie Nights was far more than a movie about Wahlberg's character, although he was central to the plot.  

Still, the uneducated, shy guy who knew the power of sex early on grabbed audiences' attention quickly and put Wahlberg on the map as an actor, following his short-lived, early '90s, "Good Vibrations" hip-hop career as Marky Mark, and other films playing drastically different roles, such as in Basketball Diaries — opposite Leonardo DiCaprio, who was the first choice to play Diggler but declined the part — and Fear.

The film also put a spotlight on other stars such as Julianne Moore, whose motherly role was sugarcoated with sweetness and a whole lot of seduction, and Heather Graham, known as Rollergirl for many obvious and not-so-obvious reasons, a role for which she gained critical praise, winning the MTV Movie Awards Next Generation trophy.

Warning: The below clip features depictions of drug use.

But it was Burt Reynolds who acted as the glue that held this dysfunctional, sex-crazed, insecure, and very rich family together. In fact, critics credit writer-producer-director Paul Thomas Anderson with bringing Reynolds back to his heyday when he cast him as the top adult filmmaker Jack Horner, which earned him a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor and some of the best reviews of his career.

Still, it's been well documented that Reynolds openly admitted that he "hates" the film and "hated" working with Anderson. So it was no surprise that when the filmmaker, who is married to actress Maya Rudolph, offered Reynolds a part in his follow-up Magnolia, the veteran actor declined saying, "I'd done my picture with Paul Thomas Anderson, that was enough for me."

"Personality-wise, we didn't fit," Reynolds added.

"I think mostly because he was young and full of himself," he continued about the young filmmaker, who was only on his second film. "Every shot we did, it was like the first time [that shot had ever been done]. I remember the first show we did in Boogie Nights, where I drive the car to Grauman's Theater. After he said, 'Isn't that amazing?' And I named five pictures that had the same kind of shot. It wasn't original. But if you have to steal, steal from the best."

Warning: The below clip features depictions of drug use and explicit language.

Despite Reynolds harsh reviews of the filmmaker, Boogie Nights was a hit that became a classic, went down as one of the great films of its time, and still resonates with new audiences today. That could be because of the fantasy of the adult film world that it reveals, but Diggler's journey through the industry and his development — for the good and the bad — touches on many coming-of-age moments and lessons we can all learn from.

Boogie Nights is available on Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, and YouTube.  

Cover image: New Line Cinema


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