Summer 1993: The Top 10 Hits and More

As we move towards the end of the summer 2013 movie season, I thought it would be interesting to revisit the movies that captured audience’s attention some 20 long summers ago. While crowds this summer have been drawn to Iron Man, the Minions, and Superman – it was a different story two decades ago. The top ten hits of summer ’93 reveals a surprising number of adult-oriented fare mixed with family pics… and especially an extinct species ruling everything. After going through the Top 10, I’ll also touch on some big misfires that season… equivalent to this year’s The Lone Ranger or White House Down. 

Here we go:

10. Rookie of the Year

Domestic Gross: $53 million

In summer 1993, it was Dennis the Menace that was expected to be the season’s biggest family flick. It didn’t turn out that way (it was #11). Instead, its underwhelming performance paved way for Rookie of the Year to break into the top ten. A high-concept comedy about a 12 year-old breaking into the big leagues, Rookie was a solid performer that kind of came out of nowhere. And it’s got Gary Busey in it!

9. Rising Sun

Domestic Gross: $63 million

Based on a Michael Crichton bestseller, Rising Sun stars Sean Connery and Wesley Snipes as mismatched detectives investigating a murder that may have been perpetrated by the Yakuza. I remembered not liking this very much when I first saw it, but it’s grown on me since. This, by the way, will not be the end of seeing movies based on books by Crichton on this list. Far from it…

8. Dave

Domestic Gross: $63 million

A warmhearted and fun comedy from director Ivan Reitman, Dave stars Kevin Kline as a doppelganger for the President of the United States. When the real POTUS falls into a coma, Dave is recruited to become leader of the free world. If you haven’t seen it, it’s well worth it with fine performances from Kline and Sigourney Weaver as the First Lady.

7. Free Willy

Domestic Gross: $77 million

Another family flick that exceeded expectations, this whale tale captured the hearts of audiences… and it’s got that syrupy but effective Michael Jackson song in it too!

6. Cliffhanger

Domestic Gross: $84 million

After a number of box office disappointments in the late 80s and early 90s, Sylvester Stallone made a big comeback with Cliffhanger, a highly entertaining action flick. Also features some delicious overacting from John Lithgow as the main villain.

5. In the Line of Fire

Domestic Gross: $102 million

Fresh off winning Best Picture and Best Director for Unforgiven, Clint Eastwood kept the hot streak going with this terrific thriller about an aging Secret Service agent who might have met his match. John Malkovich is fabulous as a demented ex-Government operative who is determined to take out the President.

4. Sleepless in Seattle

Domestic Gross: $126 million

This effective and well-regarded rom com teamed up Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan with the late Nora Ephron for the first time in a loose remake of An Affair to Remember. The film was a huge hit for Hanks and later that year, he would star in Philadelphia, for which he won the first of two Oscars in a row.

3. The Firm

Domestic Gross: $158 million

Based on the enormous John Grisham bestseller, The Firm was eagerly awaited and it capitalized with huge b.o. numbers. From director Sydney Pollack, its all-star cast features Tom Cruise, Gene Hackman, Ed Harris, Holly Hunter, and…. Gary Busey!

2. The Fugitive

Domestic Gross: $183 million

Quite simply, The Fugitive is one of the greatest action thrillers ever made. Period. Based on the well-known TV series, Harrison Ford stars as Dr. Richard Kimble in director Andrew Davis’s thrilling pic. Tommy Lee Jones won Best Supporting Actor as the lawman chasing the good doc.

1. Jurassic Park

Domestic Gross: $357 million

There was little doubt that Steven Spielberg’s dino epic would be the summer’s #1 picture and it certainly delivered. For those too young to have experienced it in the theater, its visuals at the time were truly mind-blowing. They still are. Jurassic has spawned two inferior sequels (a fourth is being made), but the original is still a special film.

And now for the disappointments…

Many analysts 20 years ago had Last Action Hero pegged to be the summer’s #2 highest grosser after Jurassic. After all, it starred Arnold Schwarzenegger (the biggest movie star on the planet at the time) and was from director John McTiernan, who made genre classics Predator, Die Hard, and The Hunt for Red October. It didn’t turn out that way. Publicity for the pic was toxic with rampant stories of a bloated budget and bad test screenings. Last Action Hero grossed a disastrous $50 million. Truth be told, in hindsight, it’s far from a great film but not nearly as bad as its reputation.

Another high-profile flop: Sliver. Based on another bestseller (from Ira Levin), the film received a lot of publicity due to it being Sharon Stone’s follow-up to the blockbuster Basic Instinct. Audiences rejected it wisely after stories of a troubled production and negative reviews. It earned only $36 million. While the film is mediocre at best, it does feature UB40’s top-notch version of “Can’t Help Falling In Love”… so let’s all enjoy it, shall we?

In 1992, a “Saturday Night Live” skit turned into box office gold when Wayne’s World made a killing. Months later, the same could not be said for Coneheads. It made an anemic $21 million.

And finally… summer 1993 proved that a popular video game does not make a popular movie. Especially if it’s just completely terrible. That was the case for Super Mario Brothers starring Bob Hoskins, John Leguizamo, and Dennis Hopper. Mario and Luigi’s movie careers ended with an embarrassing $20 million gross.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this trip down memory lane, my friends!


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