Top 25 SNL Alumni Performances: Numbers 5-1

The list of my personal top 25 cinematic performances from the many alumni at Saturday Night Live reaches the top 5 today! If you missed my previous entries covering numbers 25-6, you can find them all at the following links:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/06/21/top-25-snl-alumni-movie-performances-numbers-25-21/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/06/22/top-25-snl-alumni-movie-performances-numbers-20-16/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/06/24/top-25-snl-alumni-performances-numbers-15-11/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/06/25/top-25-snl-alumni-performances-numbers-10-6/

Let’s get to my overall favorites, shall we?

5. Chevy Chase, National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)

Chase’s finest and funniest work belongs to his doofus dad role as Clark Griswold in this classic that spawned three sequels, including the cherished Christmas Vacation. This is one of the pictures that can be rewatched endlessly and much of that is due to Chase’s signature performance.

4. Mike Myers, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)

Myers successfully translated his SNL character Wayne Campbell to the silver screen in 1992’s blockbuster Wayne’s World alongside his costar Dana Carvey (who nearly made the list for his work in that film). Yet the most hilarious work from Myers comes here as both the title character and (especially) nemesis Dr. Evil. Two sequels would give Myers an opportunity to play even more deliriously over the top parts.

3. Will Ferrell, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)

After the back to back hits of Old School and Elf, Ferrell developed his most iconic character with his arrogant and clueless news anchor. Anchorman has deservedly became an all-time comedy classic.

2. Eddie Murphy, Coming to America (1988)

Let’s face it – this list could have been dominated by Eddie. I had Trading Places and The Nutty Professor in the top 25, but could have included 48 Hrs., Beverly Hills Cop, Bowfinger, Shrek, Dreamgirls, or Dolemite Is My Name as well. However, my personal favorite is this 1988 humorous fairy tale when Murphy was at the peak of his power. This is the first pic that gave him the opportunity to portray multiple characters and he certainly makes the most of it.

1. Bill Murray, Groundhog Day (1993)

Just as with Murphy, many movies from Murray could have made the cut. You already saw Ghostbusters and Lost in Translation on here and other contenders included Caddyshack, Scrooged, What About Bob?, Kingpin, Rushmore, and Zombieland. Overall, I go with Groundhog Day as his finest hour and #1 on the whole list. Simply put, I find Groundhog Day to be perfection and the quintessential vehicle for its versatile star.

And there you have it, folks! It’s been fun putting together the list and I hope you enjoyed reading it…

The #1 Movies That May Shock You

So get this… when James Bond made his triumphant return to the silver screen in 2006 with Daniel Craig and Casino Royale, it did not open at #1 at the box office. That’s because it opened against the animated hit Happy Feet and those darn penguins never allowed 007 a top spot.

Yet two years later, the critically massacred Bangkok Dangerous with Nicolas Cage did manage to open atop the charts. This is a picture that’d almost certainly be relegated to a VOD only debut today.

This is one among many surprising examples of films in the last two decades that were fortunate enough to claim that they were the #1 movie in America that you wouldn’t expect. It’s all about timing. And there’s a host of easily forgotten pictures that accomplished the number one feat due to debuting in January or April or September in many cases – often seen as dumping grounds for studios. The reverse holds true. As with Casino Royale and others, the fact that they opened in more competitive weekends prevented them from top dog bragging rights.

Neither Austin Powers (in the original 1997 pic) or Ron Burgundy can claim a first place ribbon. Austin came in second to Kurt Russell’s Breakdown out of the gate. The first Anchorman couldn’t topple the second weekend of Spider-Man 2 in 2004. The 2013 sequel couldn’t get above the second Hobbit flick.

However, David Spade’s Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star somehow hit #1 in 2003 when it came out in the doldrums known as early September. And how about that Classic Sigourney Weaver and Jennifer Love Hewitt comedy romp Heartbreakers? It also reigned supreme for a week in April 2001. The 2011 Farrelly Brothers dud Hall Pass with Owen Wilson accomplished the same, but it took his Wedding Crashers three weeks to get to first due to interference from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Even Frozen couldn’t open first and it may be the most beloved kids flick in some time. You know what did? 2003’s Kangaroo Jack and I didn’t see too many kids wearing his Halloween costume…

In 1996, Jean Claudde Van Damme had two #1 premieres with The Quest and Maximum Risk. So did Steven Seagal in 1997 with Fire Down Below and Chris Brown and Hayden Christensen in 2010 with Takers. Much better known action pictures such as Wanted, World War Z, The Day After Tomorrow, and The Bourne Identity cannot claim the same.

How about horror classics Urban Legends: Final Cut, Darkness Falls, The Covenant, The Roommate and The Possession? Number ones they all were. Real genre classics Scream and Saw? Nope.

Sandra Bullock won an Oscar for The Blind Side, but it never got there. Christoph Waltz did for Django Unchained. Same story. These films did open #1 and have a combined zero Oscar nominations among them: Eye of the Beholder and The Musketeer from 2001. SwimFan in 2002. The Forgotten (how appropriate) in 2004. Glory Road in 2006. Lakeview Terrace in 2010.

So, as you can see, longevity counts in box office world and being #1 doesn’t always equate to adoration. Just ask James Bond. And then ask Dickie Roberts.

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!