Summer 2004: The Top Ten Hits and More

As we’re moving deep into the 2014 Summer Movie Season – on this here blog I’ve been reflecting on what has come in the summers before us. Days ago, I wrote a post reflecting on the hits, notable pictures, and flops from 20 years ago in 1994. Today – we focus on the season from a decade ago with 2004’s summer entries.

We’ll start with the Top Ten, but what is notable is some of the comedies that weren’t on that list that spawned endless catchphrases and became massive cult classics:

Onto the Top Ten:

10. Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story

Domestic Gross: $114 million

Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller teamed up for this well-received sports comedy which received 70% positive support on Rotten Tomatoes. While this was a solid hit, Vaughn’s biggest comedy would come one summer later with a certain pic costarring Owen Wilson.

9. Fahrenheit 9/11

Domestic Gross: $119 million

It’s not often you see a documentary in the top ten summer hits, but in the summer of 2004 the country was focused on an upcoming Presidential election between Bush and Kerry. Michael Moore’s examination of the Iraq War struck a chord with viewers and became the highest grossing documentary of all time.

8. Van Helsing

Domestic Gross: $120 million

Don’t let its #8 ranking fool you because Van Helsing starring Hugh Jackman was considered a major flop upon release. With a reported $160 million budget, it couldn’t recoup that stateside and a potential franchise for Jackman stalled immediately. Good thing he’s got another character he can go back to time and time again.

7. Troy

Domestic Gross: $133 million

Wolfgang Peterson’s Trojan War saga starring Brad Pitt, Orlando Bloom, and Eric Bana under performed a bit domestically (with its reported $175 million budget) but made it up overseas.

6. I, Robot

Domestic Gross: $144 million

While not reaching the heights of his previous summer hits Independence Day or Men in Black – Will Smith’s I, Robot did respectable business. Based on a short story by Isaac Asimov, it received mixed reviews from critics and a planned sequel never materialized.

5. The Bourne Supremacy

Domestic Gross: $176 million

Goodwill left over from the 2002 original The Bourne Identity propelled this Matt Damon sequel to gross over $50 million more than its predecessor. A third Bourne feature would follow three years later before Damon left the franchise and Jeremy Renner took over in 2012.

4. The Day After Tomorrow

Domestic Gross: $186 million

Roland Emmerich returned to doing what he does best (showing the world getting destroyed) and audiences rewarded him for it. Starring Dennis Quaid and Jake Gyllenhall, Tomorrow is the highest non-sequel on the list and it took in over half a billion worldwide.

3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Domestic Gross: $249 million

Alfonso Cuaron took over directing duties from Chris Columbus in this third franchise entry. While many (including myself) consider this the best of the series, it surprisingly has the lowest domestic gross of all eight Potter flicks.

2. Spider-Man 2

Domestic Gross: $373 million

Generally considered one of the best superhero movies of all time and the best of this particular franchise, Spider-Man 2 was a massive hit even though it couldn’t quite match the $403 million performance of the 2002 original.

1. Shrek 2

Domestic Gross: $441 million

DreamWorks Animation easily ruled the summer as the sequel featuring the vocal work of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, and Cameron Diaz took the top spot. Of the four Shrek entries, it is the biggest grosser and outshined its predecessor by nearly $180 million dollars.

Beyond the top ten, there are four particularly notable pictures which achieved major cult status:

14. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

It made a decent $85 million upon release, but as we all know, the Will Ferrell comedy has gone onto to becoming one of the most quoted flicks in memory. A 2013 sequel followed.

15. The Notebook

Based on the Nicholas Sparks novel, The Notebook caused audiences to fall in love with Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams and brought in $81 million.

27. Napoleon Dynamite

With a tiny $400,000 budget – the quirky comedy Napoleon Dynamite with Jon Heder came out of nowhere and posted a $44 million domestic gross. Like Anchorman, it became an endlessly quoted picture.

38. Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle

It made a meager $18 million upon release, but this stoner comedy became an instant cult classic and spawned two sequels.

And now we move to the flops of the summer:

21. The Stepford Wives

Frank Oz’s remake of the 1975 film cost $90 million to make and earned just $59 million. Critics weren’t impressed and audiences ignored the sci-fi comedy starring Nicole Kidman, Matthew Broderick, and Christopher Walken.

25. King Arthur

Training Day director Antoine Fuqua teamed up with Clive Owen and Keira Knightley for this retelling of the medieval legend. With a $120 million budget, Arthur tanked stateside with only $51 million.

29. Catwoman

Warner Bros. surely regrets spending $100 million on this critically lambasted Catwoman feature which starred Halle Berry and Sharon Stone. It earned only $40 million. The silver lining for the studio: one summer later, a certain Chris Nolan would reinvigorate their superhero fortunes with Batman Begins.

And that’s what was going on ten years at the multiplexes, my friends!

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