The Fifth Element premiered in theaters on May 9th 1997.
French director Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element was released in theaters 25 years ago. Met initially with box office success but divisive reviews, the film has endured among fans and grown to be revered for its production and costume design. The unique sci-fi epic starred peak 90’s era Bruce Willis as Earth Special Forces veteran turned-flying cab driver Korben Dallas. It also featured Gary Oldman as genocidal industrialist Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg, Milla Jovovich as an artificially produced human weapon Leeloo, and a pre-Rush Hour Chris Tucker as loud, obnoxious, and fabulously dressed internet streamer DJ Ruby Rhod.
With a budget of $90 million, Besson didn’t waste a single cent on making The Fifth Element stand out. The polluted, dystopian New York City of 2263 feels lived in and overpopulated. In addition, most of the action takes place in daylight, to differentiate the film from other sci-fi like Blade Runner, where the majority takes place at night. Legendary French fashion designer Jean-Paul Gaultier also designed eclectic costumes.
There’s hardly anything about The Fifth Element that is not distinctive.
A French film mainly shot in London, it was the costliest European movie production ever at the time. The main protagonist, Korben, and the main antagonist, Zorg, never share screen time, nor do they interact. The film is also notable for how it challenged gender norms in characters and costume designs. Initially set to be played by Prince, Chris Tucker’s Ruby Rhod is a queer celebrity who wears dresses exclusively. The only character with real superpowers is the young woman Leeloo.
The film’s message is that love is the titular Fifth Element to save humanity, which is far from profound. However, the film’s true star is the visuals, and to this day, The Fifth Element remains a thrill to watch. Get a copy of the movie here.