David Cronenberg's A History Of Violence Marked The End Of VHS

Okay, boomer: what's the last VHS tape you ever bought? Was it, by any chance, "A History of Violence," the 2006 David Cronenberg film starring Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello, Ed Harris, and William Hurt in an Oscar-nominated role? Or was it a Black Diamond Disney tape that you bought as a collector's item on eBay for thousands of dollars — only to realize later that it was not worth nearly that much?

If you answered "A History of Violence," then congratulations. You were the proud owner of what was, according to The Los Angeles Times, "the last major Hollywood movie to be released on VHS." In the streaming age, when Blockbuster Video stores have long since gone the way of the dodo, even the notion of physical media like Blu-rays or DVDs might seem quaint to some viewers. Before either of those formats came into existence, however, there was a little thing called VHS, which stands for "Video Home System."

As random as it might seem, owning "A History of Violence" on VHS meant owning a piece of the format's demise.

A History of Violence is also a history of VHS

VHS tapes were once the standard format for home media, so much so that, as Inverse notes, they held a monopoly from about 1988 to 1997. Developed by the Japanese electronics brand JVC, they first entered the U.S. market as a competitor to Sony's analog Betamax format in 1977. That same year, the original "Star Wars" movie hit theaters, further solidifying the new blockbuster trend that Steven Spielberg had begun two summers earlier with "Jaws." A whole generation of '80s kids grew up watching those movies and their sequels — and other franchise films like them — on VHS.

It's not so different from the experience of a kid streaming superhero flicks in the 2020s, except that in this case, there was considerably more static and white noise, since people were often popping tapes they had recorded or recorded over into VCRs. Though the Cronenberg of the 2010s might decry such flicks as "boring" and "adolescent," he himself actually made a comic book movie, too, with "A History of Violence." Working from a script by Josh Olsen (which also earned an Oscar nomination, like Hurt), he adapted the story from a graphic novel written by John Wagner, illustrated by Vince Locke, and published by Paradox Press and Vertigo Comics, two DC Comics labels.

Cronenberg and Mortensen went on to collaborate again in "Eastern Promises" in 2007 and "A Dangerous Method" in 2011. "Eastern Promises" garnered Mortensen his own Oscar nomination in early 2008. By the end of that year, The LA Times would report that the last-ever truckload of VHS tapes had left a Florida warehouse.