Summer 1995: The Top Ten Hits and More

We are now smack dab in the middle of the 2015 summer movie season and we’ve seen our share of massive hits (hello Jurassic World) and big flops (goodbye Tomorrowland). As has become tradition on this blog, I will now take a look back at the same season from 20 years ago – giving you the top ten hits of that summer plus other notable pictures and the flops that also populated the calendar. I’ll be following up shortly with a post about the summer of 2005, one decade ago.

One thing that stands out for the summer of 1995 is that an astonishing four of the five eventual Best Picture nominees for that year came out in the summer. This is unheard of due to the fact that, typically, Oscar bait is released in the fall months. All four of those movies will be discussed in this post.

And now – let us revisit the titles that got us in the theaters during the hot months in 1995 (and some that didn’t).

10. Braveheart

Domestic Gross: $75 million

The 10th highest grosser of the season also happens to be the one that would go onto win Best Picture at the Oscars and earn director/star Mel Gibson a gold statue for his work behind the camera. The medieval war epic would win a total of five Oscars and mark a high point in Gibson’s filmography.

9. Congo

Domestic Gross: $81 million

Two summers earlier, an adventure film based on a Michael Crichton novel came out. It was called Jurassic Park and the rest is history. Expectations for the Crichton based Congo were high and it came from Spielberg protege Frank Marshall. Its $81 million gross was on the low end of expectations and critics were not kind (22% on Rotten Tomatoes).

8. Dangerous Minds

Domestic Gross: $84 million

One of the sleeper hits of the season was this urban classroom drama starring Michelle Pfeiffer. Now I could certainly attach a clip of the film or its trailer, but let’s be honest. The reason we remember this movie is three words: “Gangsta’s Paradise, Coolio!” Enjoy…

7. Waterworld

Domestic Gross: $88 million

The Kevin Costner adventure is widely considered to be the Heaven’s Gate of its decade. The production was a disaster with cost overruns (a budget of $172 million, which was crazy at the time) and highly mixed critical reaction. Also, like Gate, its reputation has improved over time. Yet in the summer of 1995, it was considered the season’s big belly flop.

6. Crimson Tide

Domestic Gross: $91 million

This Tony Scott directed submarine action thriller struck a chord with audiences and critics. Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman costarred with an impressive supporting cast that included Viggo Mortensen, James Gandolfini, and Steve Zahn.

5. Die Hard with a Vengeance

Domestic Gross: $100 million

Bruce Willis’s third go round as John McClane costarred Samuel L. Jackson and Jeremy Irons. It couldn’t quite match the $117M take of the 1990’s Die Hard 2, but the franchise would spawn two more entries years later.

4. Casper

Domestic Gross: $100 million

Despite mixed critical reaction, this live action version of America’s favorite friendly ghost starring Christina Ricci, Bill Pullman and lots of special effects was quite the family hit.

3. Pocahontas

Domestic Gross: $141 million

While not coming close box office wise to what Disney accomplished the previous summer with The Lion King, families still turned this retelling of the Pocahontas tale into a nice hit for the studio.

2. Apollo 13

Domestic Gross: $172 million

Ron Howard’s true life space epic starring Tom Hanks earned a Best Picture nomination and the admiration of audiences and critics alike, giving its star his fourth summer blockbuster in a row after A League of their Own, Sleepless in Seattle, and Forrest Gump.

1. Batman Forever

Domestic Gross: $184 million

The third flick in the Caped Crusader franchise marked the end of the Tim Burton/Michael Keaton era and the beginning of the Joel Schumacher version of the series. While Forever (which cast Val Kilmer as the title character and Jim Carrey and Tommy Lee Jones as villains The Riddler and Two Face) held bragging rights for the season’s largest grosser, it would all crumble two summers later when the disastrous Batman and Robin sunk the franchise until Chris Nolan rescued it.

And now – some other notable pictures from the summer of 1995 that didn’t make the top ten:

13. Nine Months

Domestic Gross: $69 million

This Hugh Grant comedy didn’t make much of an impression in the critical community, but audiences turned out partly because of the media swarm surrounding its star’s tabloid status involving picking up a prostitute.

14. Babe

Domestic Gross: $63 million

George Miller’s talking pig tale not only became one of the season’s sleeper hits, it also managed an unexpected Oscar nod for Best Picture.

16. Clueless

Domestic Gross: $56 million

Alicia Silverstone became a household name in this Valley Girl comedy which spawned endless catchphrases.

31. The Usual Suspects

Domestic Gross: $23 million

This indie thriller with its shocking ending started the career of director Bryan Singer and earned Kevin Spacey an Oscar for Supporting Actor.

32. Il Postino

Domestic Gross: $21 million

This Italian import was an art house favorite and is the fourth summer release in 1995 to nab a Best Picture nomination. If you’re wondering, the fifth was Ang Lee’s adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, which came out in the fall.

And now, the flops of summer 1995:

Steven Seagal’s Under Siege 2: Dark Territory managed only $50 million at the domestic box office, not coming close to the $83M earned by its predecessor.

It may have been a hit kids show, but the film version of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers sputtered with only $38 million.

While Braveheart had audiences in period piece action movie approval mode, the Richard Gere/Sean Connery King Arthur retelling First Knight flopped with just $37 million.

Comic book fans soundly rejected Sylvester Stallone’s wrong headed Judge Dredd to the tune of a paltry $34 million take.

Two films attempting to capitalize on the virtual reality craze at the time did virtually no box office business. Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe’s Virtuosity and Keanu Reeves’ Johnny Mnemonic made $24M and $19M, respectively.

Finally, while crowds loved that Babe pig, another family tale about the same animal – Gordy – came in 52nd for the summer earning just $3.9M. That’s not exactly bringing home the bacon! (I’m sorry)

And that’ll do it for my recap of the summer of 1995, folks! I’ll have 2005 up later this week…

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