Focus Features is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year with the Focus 15 initiative, which will bring some of their most beloved titles back to the big screen this summer in theaters all around the world.
The celebration kicked off at Cannes last month, where the company premiered “The Beguiled” in competition (Sofia Coppola went on to win Best Director), and it continues this month at the Los Angeles Film Festival with screenings of “Lost in the Translation,” “Moonrise Kingdom” and “The Kids Are All Right.”
To celebrate, we’re looking back at the company’s first 15 years with the 15 movies that defined the Focus brand each year.
The first feature in Focus’ history is Todd Haynes’ beloved melodrama “Far From Heaven.” The movie premiered at the Venice Film Festival, winning prizes for Julianne Moore and cinematographer Ed Lachman. Both would go on to land two of four Oscar nominations the movie received. With much acclaim and $29 million at the box office, “Far From Heaven” proved Focus was going to be the real deal.
Other 2002 titles: “The Pianist”
Focus Features broke out in 2002 with awards players “Far From Heaven” and “The Pianist,” but it was Sofia Coppola’s adored “Lost in Translation” that proved the company wasn’t going to be a one-year wonder. The drama made $120 million worldwide and earned four Oscar nomiantions, including Best Picture. Coppola won for Best Original Screenplay.
Other 2003 Films: “Deliver Us From Eva,” “The Shape of Things,” “Swimming Pool,” “Sylvia,” “Long Time Dead,” “21 Grams”
Michel Gondry and Charlie Kaufman’s landmark science-fiction romance is perhaps the most beloved title in Focus’ entire library. The cult following surrounding the movie remains as strong as ever so many years later. Kaufman won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, giving Focus its third awards hit in three years.
Other 2004 Films: “Ned Kelly,” “My Little Eye,” “The Door in the Floor,” “Vanity Fair,” “The Motorcycle Diaries”
Another year, another awards darling. “Brokeback Mountain” famously lost the Oscar for Best Picture to “Crash,” but it had a more powerful legacy as one of the first queer films to earn major attention from Hollywood and the box office. Ang Lee’s romance won three Oscars out of eight nominations and made $178 million worldwide.
Other 2005 films: “Rory O’Shea Was Here,” “Brothers,” “My Summer of Love,” “Broken Flowers,” “The Constant Gardner,” “Pride and Prejudice,” “The Ice Harvest”
2006 marked the first year Focus Features went home without an Oscar, but they did get a major indie cult classic with Rian Johnson’s “Brick.” The neo-noir mystery drama brought the hardboiled detective story to high school and made Johnson an instant favorite. It also accelerated Joseph Gordon-Levvitt’s rise to Hollywood star.
Other 2006 Films: “Something New,” “On A Clear Day,” “Scoop,” “Hollywoodland, “The Ground Truth,” “Catch A Fire,” “The Secret Life of Words”
Focus returned to its awards season glory in 2007, most prominantly with Joe Wright’s romantic war drama “Atonement.” Nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture, the film grossed $129 million and cemented Keira Knightley’s status as a period drama darling.
Other 2007 Films: “Evening,” “Talk to Me,” “Eastern Promises,” “Lust, Caution,” “Reservation Road,” “Dan in Real Life”
“Milk” may have been Focus’ awards powerhouse in 2008, winning Sean Penn the Best Actor prize, but “In Bruges” has a much more unforgettable legacy. The movie introduced Martin McDonagh’s brilliant filmmaking voice to the world and quickly became an indie favorite thanks to its black humor. Colin Farrell won a Golden Globe for his performance, turning the movie into a dark horse contender.
Other 2008 Films: “Milk,” “The Other Boleyn Girl,” “Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day,” “Hamlet 2,” “Burn After Reading”
Focus Features entered the animated movie business by bringing Laika into prominance with the distribution of “Coraline.” The 3D family movie is one of the most beloved indie animated films ever made. It grossed $124.6 million and earned an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature. More importantly, it gave Laika the respect and admiration to make more inventive stop-motion hits.
Other 2009 Movies: “9,” “Sin Nombre,” “The Limits of Control,” “Away We Go,” “Thirst,” “Taking Woodstock,” “A Serious Man,” “Pirate Radio”
Lisa Cholodenko’s beloved comedy-drama “The Kids Are All Right” was a breakout Sundance hit that Focus turned into a four-time Oscar nominee. Another high-profile release that brought an LGBTQ story into the spotlight, the movie earned universal acclaim from top critics.
Other 2010 Movies: “Greenberg,” “Babies,” “The American, “It’s Kind of a Funny Story,” “Somewhere”
Focus Features has such an incredible legacy that even in a more modest year like 2011, they still managed to pull off an Oscar winner (Mike Mills’ “Beginners” won Christopher Plummer the Best Supporting Actor prize) and a major indie debut. Dee Rees’ “Pariah” is a contemporary queer classic that took Sundance by storm.
Other 2011 Films: “The Eagle,” “Jane Eyre,” “Hanna,” “Beginners,” “One Day,” “The Debt,” “Tinker Tailor Solider Spy”
Focus Features and Wes Anderson were a match made in indie movie heaven with “Moonrise Kingdom.” The offbeat coming-of-age drama was a critical darling in 2012, becoming Anderson’s second biggest box office hit at the time and earning him an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay.
Other 2012 Films: “Being Flynn,” “Seeing A Friend for the End of the World,” “ParaNorma,” “For a Good Time, Call…,” “Anna Karenina,” “Hyde Park on Hudson,” “Promised Land”
Focus Features’ big hit of 2013 was “Dallas Buyers Club,” which brought Jean Marc-Vallee stateside and earned Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto the Oscars for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor, respectively. But you got to love Focus for taking a chance and bringing Edgar Wright’s final piece in the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy to the U.S. It was confirmation that Focus was still in tune with what movie lovers want.
Other 2013 Films: “Admission,” “The Place Beyond the Pines,” “Closed Circuit,” “Dallas Buyers Club”
Focus landed its second consecutive Best Actor victory at the Oscars with Eddie Redmayne in “The Theory of Everything.” The Stephen Hawking bipoic divided critics, but it was an awards success story and earned the company a hefty $120 million at the worldwide box office.
Other 2014 Films: “That Awkward Moment,” “Bad Words,” “The Signal,” “Wish I Was Here,” “The Boxtrolls,” “Kill the Messenger,” “Mr. Turner”
Even in a weaker year for Focus, the company still managed to make waves in awards season. Tom Hooper’s “The Danish Girl” became Focus’ darling of the year, winning Alicia Vikander the award for Best Supporting Actress and earning Eddie Redmayne another Best Actor nomiantion.
“Loving” may have been Focus’ prestige offering of last year, but “Kubo and the Two Strings” was no doubt their 2016 masterpice. IndieWire called it the best animated film of the year, and it confirmed that Laika and Focus have one of the best working relationships in the movies right now.
Other 2016 Films: “Nocturnal Animals,” “The Forest,” “Race,” “London Has Fallen,” “The Young Messiah,” “Ratchet & Clank,” “Loving,” “American Honey” (international), “A Monster Calls”
15 years later, Focus Features shows no signs of slowing down.
The started the year strong with “The Zookeeper’s Wife,” the Jessica Chastain-starring WWII drama that earned a sizable chunk at the indie box office. They also brought “The Beguiled” to Cannes this year, where Sofia Coppola became the second woman in history to win Best Director.
Focus has potential awards players with “Darkest Hour” and “Victoria and Abdul” later this fall, and they should be able to turn the Charlize Theron-starring “Atomic Blonde” into a major genre hit this summer.
Best of all: Focus will end the year with perhaps the most anticipated movie of the 2017, Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day-Lewis’ “Phantom Tread.”
Happy 15th anniversary, Focus Features. Here’s to the next 15.