How 'The Fifth Element' Predicted Lady Gaga And Everything Else About Modern Life—Back in '97

Fifth Element

Photo: Screengrab

“The Fifth Element,” released in 1997, is on virtually no one’s list of all-time great movies, and yet it continues to run in virtual permanent rotation on cable TV.Since its release, the special effects epic — in which Bruce Willis‘ taxi driver must save Milla Jovovich‘s doomsday saviour from marauding aliens — has grossed $263 million worldwide.

Click here to see everything The Fifth Element got right about the future>>
It’s still hugely popular: 925 people have reviewed it on Amazon and it still carries four-and-a-half stars out of five. People are still adding new reviews to the retail site every few days — even though it’s now 15 years old.

Surprisingly, considering its nonsensical plot and feeble acting, it was a critical hit, too: Roger Ebert, writing for the Chicago Sun-Times, said at its release: “I would not have missed seeing this film, and I recommend it for its richness of imagery.” It sure was pretty to look at (and the movie is equally entertaining with the sound off.)

But what explains “Fifth Element”‘s endurance, both with TV programmers and the audiences whom they expect to watch the movie repeatedly? Here’s one possibility: by chance, “Fifth Element” touches on all the major angsts and dramas of modern American life, such as terrorists, Doomsday and cruise ships.

SEE ALSO: The 1976 Movie ‘Network’ Predicted YouTube and ‘Two And A Half Men.’

Yes, a fashion model can carry an entire movie.

Before 'Fifth Element,' Milla Jovovich was a model. Although she had done some movie work, she was best-known as the grunge Kate Moss. It was not at all clear that a model could play the lead in a movie with a $90 million production budget.

Now, Jovovich carries the Resident Evil franchise on her back, which has grossed $675 million worldwide.

We love divas.

The movie revolves around attempts to recover a set of sacred stones which are being carried aboard a spaceship by this blue-tentacled singer. In a climactic scene, the concert is attacked by aliens who kill the diva -- but not before she can hand the stones to Willis.

Is Diva Plavalaguna from the movie any less weird than Lady Gaga from Earth? Or Nicki Minaj, for that matter?

And cruise ships.

Much of the action takes place on a giant space cruise ship headed to Fhlosten Paradise, a vacation planet. The cruise ship industry was still in its infancy in 1997. In 2011, a record 16 million people bought a cruise.


These aliens terrorize the cruise ship in their hunt for the Fifth Element. In 1997, terrorism was something that happened in far away place, to other people. Since 2001, however, it's been on the cultural frontburner almost continuously.

The real estate crisis.

In future New York, we see that apartments for ordinary people are reduced to tiny cubicles. Not too different from the current New York!

Reality TV.

People forget that reality TV as we know it now didn't exist in 1997. So the section of the movie in which a DJ (played by Chris Tucker) narrates his own entrance onto the cruise ship, and is then caught in the crossfire of a gun battle, seemed hilariously crass at the time.

Today, it's just normal.

Bruce Willis: still huge.

Willis was a star before the movie, and his light hasn't really dimmed since. The same can't be said of some of the other big-name actors who had hits that year, including Mike Myers ('Austin Powers'), Val Kilmer ('The Saint') and Mel Gibson ('Conspiracy Theory').

Willis' former wife, Demi Moore, also had a hit with 'G.I. Jane' that year.

It's also a great alternative for Halloween.

As Halloween has become a bigger and bigger economic event in the U.S., the need has grown for more and better costume alternatives. Fifth Element provides ideas in spades, both for party-goers who are somewhat conservative ...

... and for those who prefer something a little more daring.

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