The Movies puts the player in control of his own movie studio, which he must run from 1920 to the present day. Along the way, the player researches new technologies, such as sound, color and special effects. You hire actors, directors, writers and crew members, assemble sets and produce movies. As history progresses, new events change the movie going public's appetite for films: gangster movies in the 1930s, sci-fi films in the 1950s, etc. Making good movies allows you to make more movies, unlocks new sets and can even win you awards.
The real draw of The Movies is the powerful but intuitive Machinima tools. The player can create a custom script, drop actors into roles, and control their emotions and actions. When you're done shooting, you can drop the film into post-production, where you can edit the footage with a drag-and-drop interface similar to professional tools. You can add sound effects, music and dialogue (which the program lip-syncs). Then, you can export your movies to a WMV file and share it with the world.
Some criticisms of The Movies are that the simulation and tycoon elements never come together, that the simulation has too many responsibilities for the player, and that there aren't enough scenes and costumes to make varied movies. Recently, the online component has been dropped, and Lionhead will no longer be hosting movies on its Web site. Fortunately, there are plenty of fan sites where you can still upload movies, such as The Movies Underground, as well as YouTube.
There is also an Expansion Pack called Stunts and Effects, which adds new special effects, scenes, costumes and sets to use in your movies. The biggest reason to get it, though, is that it allows you to control the camera angles in your movie, which greatly adds to the variety of shots you can get in your film. Sadly, said expansion pack was only released in several markets, notably the Asia-Pacific region, due to Microsoft buying out Lionhead Studios before it can be released elsewhere.
This game provides examples of:
- The Alcoholic: Actors and directors have the annoying tendency to become this and get distracted often from their work to go to the bar, although it can be overcome with rehab.
- Ambiguously Gay: William McDuff, the thespian-turned-radio announcer from the 1920s. He speaks in an effeminate, posh-sounding accent, gets excited about the most trivial of things, and says that a guy named Ralph is taking him out for a meal. He also openly resents Hollywood for causing the decline of theater.
- Artistic License — Film Production: A lot of inaccuracies concerning film production are introduced in order to simplify the game:
- All scenes are shot in the order they appear in the final movie. This can often lead to the cast and crew rushing to one set for a scene, then to another one for the next, then back to the first one for the next instead of doing all the scenes that uses that set at once. If a set is used by another production, they have to wait until they're finished instead of filming another part of the movie in the meantime. If an actor is off eating or drinking, the whole production is put on hold until they return (often by player intervention) instead of trying to do scenes where the actor does not appear.
- Most of the sets are uncovered. While it makes sense for some of them (like the street sets), it looks ridiculous for those that are supposed to be indoor sets.
- Scenes are always done perfectly in one take, even if the actor and/or director has no experience whatsoever in the movie's genre.
- Movies have way fewer scenes than real ones of the same era due to gameplay complications that would arise from using movies of realistic length.
- Editing a movie in post-production does not seem to affect the quality of the movie even if the player creates an edit that emulates the effect of chopping up the film into pieces, throwing them in the air like confetti then picking the pieces at random and taping them back together.
- Award Show: The Lionhead Motion Picture Awards ceremony is held every five years from 1925 onwards. Winning awards grants you bonuses (one per award) which makes the game easier until the next ceremony.
- Big Eater: Actors and directors who aren't The Alcoholic will become this instead, with the same distraction problems which can also be solved with rehab.
- Buxom Is Better: And the bigger the chest of your actress, the bigger the payday... heck, you can force them to plastic surgery to get their jugs bigger. For profit.
- Command & Conquer Economy
- Dance Party Ending: If you let the computer AI generate the scripts for you when your writers are still inexperienced, you'd almost inevitably end up with a script with this.
- Game Mod: There's a fairly large and devoted modding community.
- Hollywood, California: The setting of the game.
- Hollywood History: Literally, in this case. You move from The Roaring '20s to Next Sunday A.D..
- It's Always Spring: Given the setting, perfectly justified.
- It Will Never Catch On: William McDuff's attitude towards movies, when he's not angry against them for "killing" theater.
- Machinima: The whole point of the game.
- Obvious Stunt Double: In The Movies: Stunts and Effects your films are penalized by critics if you use a stunt double who is of a different race or gender than the actor they are representing.
- One-Handed Shotgun Pump: An option during scenes featuring a shotgun.
- Politically Correct History:
- Women and people of color can have the same positions (and expect to be paid the same) as white men despite this being historically incorrect until the Women's and Civil Rights Movements.
- No one ever gives an eye about two actors with the same gender kissing passionately on the silver screen.
- If you have a Custom Script Office, you could film a movie that's raunchy, potty-mouthed, and overly violent, and get rave reviews and win awards at a time where The Hays Code would have a field day it.
- Prima Donna Director: Your directors can turn into these if you aren't careful.
- Product Placement: There's a billboard outside your movie lot that shows period-correct ads for Chrysler, Motorola and ATI, as well as the The Hollywood Reporter. Most of the cars you can purchase as decoration are real Chrysler models.
- Real Time with Pause: Only mildly useful, unfortunately. It doesn't allow picking anything up, so at best you can have a look at your actors' stats and maybe interact with your buildings. It would really have helped, given that game-time goes by so fast.
- Red Scare: Half of Wally Cronkleberger's announcements are anti-Communist comments. The news also claim Communism is a viral disease.
- Shout-Out: It's a game about making movies; this is pretty inevitable.
- Several of the sci-fi costumes resemble Darth Vader and Imperial Stormtroopers.
- The Motion Capture Alien greatly resembles a Xenomorph.
- One scene available for the Bathroom set is almost identical to the famous shower scene from Psycho
- Another scene is identical to when Butch kills Vincent in Pulp Fiction.
- Some of the radio announcers are expies of well-known radio personalities, such as Wally Cronkleberger (Walter Cronkite) and Mad Dog (Wolfman Jack).
- One of the 80's outfits is a ridiculously oversized off-white suit.
- Simulation Game: Most of the game is a business sim, but is also contains elements of the Raising Sim genre. You have to keep your actors and directors happy if you want to make them into big stars.
- Speaking Simlish: A kind of half-assed version that sounds like mumbling. Fortunately, you can turn it off.
- Which leads to Gameplay and Story Segregation, as your movie lot staff and cast speaks this simlish-like tongue, but the radio announcer and the award announcers, as well as the narrators, will always speak proper English (or a proper version of whatever language the copy of your game is localized to). The directors also speak in a real language whenever they call out directions: "Action! Cut! It's a wrap!".
- Summer Blockbuster/Oscar Bait: In this case, they're one and the same. The best-rated movies will be the most popular, and the most popular movies will win the most awards.
- Tech Tree: You can build a laboratory to research new technologies and items. Those come in "research packs" that your scientists, hired to work at the lab, work on in order to unlock them. It is not required to do research to unlock the packs, but it allows your studio to get them earlier and have a leg up on the competition.
- Virtual Paper Doll: You'll have to keep your actor's fashions up to date.
- Wide Open Sandbox: There is a sandbox mode which allows you to choose your starting year, your starting budget (from $100,000 to $100 million) and has options you can choose to make the game easier. However, the years you can select and the items that are available to you in this mode have to be unlocked in the story mode, although manually modifying the unlocking.ini file can also do the job.