Best Year’s Ever

As one year turns to the next in short order, it got me thinking. What are some examples of actors and directors who had remarkable calendar frames over the past few decades? The guidelines are pretty simple – the individual must have had two (and in a couple of cases, three or more) pictures that made an impact during 19(fill in the blank) or 20(fill in the blank).

And wouldn’t you know it? My ruminations quickly turned into a lengthy list that I’ve paired down to a top 25. Let’s call this Best Year’s Ever and count down from #25 to #1!

25. Channing Tatum (2012)

It was a busy year for the performer to say the least. Tatum was in Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire, but three major roles made him the star he is today. There was the hit romance The Vow, hit comedy 21 Jump Street, and his signature and semi-autobiographical title role in the summer sleeper Magic Mike (also from Mr. Soderbergh).

24. John Travolta (1996)

Two years following his major comeback in Pulp Fiction and a year following his Golden Globe nominated lead in Get Shorty, Travolta’s hot streak continued with three hits: John Woo’s action thriller Broken Arrow and fantasy dramas Phenomenon and Michael.

23. Clint Eastwood (1971)

The last two months of 1971 were fruitful for the legend. In November, he made his directorial debut with the well-reviewed psychological thriller Play Misty for Me. This began a career of dozens of behind the camera works, including Best Picture winners Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby. In December, Eastwood starred as Dirty Harry which spawned his lucky cop franchise.

22. Sigourney Weaver (1988)

Weaver won two Golden Globes 30 years ago – Best Actress (Drama) for Gorillas in the Mist and Supporting Actress for Working Girl. She would be nominated for two Oscars as well, but come up short. All part of a remarkable decade that included Ghostbusters and Aliens.

21. Joe Pesci (1990)

Pesci won an Oscar for his unforgettable supporting work in Martin Scorsese’s GoodFellas. That same fall, he was a burglar terrorizing Macaulay Culkin in the holiday classic Home Alone.

20. Kevin Spacey (1995)

Current scandals aside, there’s no denying Spacey was the movie villain of 1995. He won an Academy Award as (spoiler alert!) Keyser Soze in The Usual Suspects and as a demented serial killer in Seven. Earlier in the year, he costarred with Dustin Hoffman and Morgan Freeman in  Outbreak and headlined the critically approved indie comedy Swimming with Sharks.

19. Nicolas Cage (1997)

Leaving Las Vegas awarded Cage his Oscar two years prior. By the summer of 1997, he was a full-fledged action hero with two blockbusters in the same month: Con Air and Face/Off.

18. Will Ferrell (2003)

Ferrell’s transformation from SNL favorite to movie star happened here with the spring’s Old School as Frank the Tank and in the winter as Buddy in Elf.

17. Morgan Freeman (1989)

The nation’s Narrator-in-Chief had a trio of significant roles nearly three decades ago – his Oscar nominated chauffeur in the Best Picture winner Driving Miss Daisy, a dedicated and stern principal in Lean on Me, and a Civil War officer in Glory.

16. Steven Soderbergh (2000)

The prolific filmmaker made two Best Picture nominees with Erin Brockovich and Traffic (he would win Best Director for the latter). Both surpassed the century mark at the box office and Julia Roberts won Best Actress for Brockovich and Benicio del Toro took Supporting Actor in Traffic.

15. Halle Berry (2001)

Ms. Berry had a revealing role in the summer action fest Swordfish. She then became the first (and thus far only) African-American to win Best Actress for Monster’s Ball. This was all sandwiched between XMen hits.

14. Hugh Jackman (2017)

Berry’s XMen cast mate Jackman retired his Wolverine character to critical and audience admiration with Logan in the spring. At the end of the year, his musical The Greatest Showman was an unexpected smash.

13. Leonardo DiCaprio (2002)

Five years after Titanic, the jury was still out as to whether DiCaprio’s leading man status would hold up. His roles in Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York and Steven Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can left little doubt. He’s been one of Hollywood’s most dependable stars since.

12. Francis Ford Coppola (1974)

In 1972, Coppola made perhaps the greatest American film of all time with The Godfather. Two years later, its sequel came with enormous expectations and exceeded them. Like part one, it won Best Picture. As if that weren’t enough, he made another Picture nominee in ‘74 with the Gene Hackman surveillance thriller The Conversation.

11. Michael Douglas (1987)

His signature role as greedy tycoon Gordon Gekko in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street won him an Oscar and gave him one of the most famous cinematic speeches ever. He also lit up the screen in the blockbuster thriller Fatal Attraction, which was the year’s second largest grosser.

10. Julia Roberts (1999)

She started the decade with a smash star making turn in Pretty Woman. Julia Roberts ended it with two romantic comedy summer $100 million plus earners: Notting Hill with Hugh Grant and Runaway Bride (which reunited her with Pretty costar Richard Gere). She’d win her Oscar the next year for Erin Brockovich.

9. Tom Cruise (1996)

1986 wasn’t too shabby either with Top Gun and The Color of Money. Yet it’s a decade later that serves as Cruise’s year with the franchise starter Mission: Impossible in the summer and Cameron Crowe’s Jerry Maguire, which earned Cruise a Golden Globe award and an Oscar nod. They were the third and fourth biggest hits of the year, respectively.

8. Sandra Bullock (2013)

Nearly two decades after her breakout role in Speed, Bullock had a banner 2013 alongside Melissa McCarthy in the summer comedy The Heat and her Oscar nominated turn as a stranded astronaut in the fall’s Gravity.

7. Sylvester Stallone (1985)

Sly was the undisputed champion of the box office (not to mention sequels and Roman numerals) in 1985, notching the second and third top hits of the year behind Back to the Future. They were for his two signature characters with Rambo: First Blood Part II and Rocky IV.

6. Robert Downey Jr. (2008)

A decade after all the wrong kind of headlines for his drug addiction, Downey Jr. pulled off perhaps the most impressive comeback in movie history. 2008 saw him as Tony Stark in Iron Man, the film that kicked off the MCU in grand fashion. Later that summer came Ben Stiller’s Tropic Thunder, which earned Downey a rare Oscar nod for a comedic performance.

5. Tom Hanks (1993)

There’s more than one year to consider for Hanks… 1995 (Apollo 13, Toy Story) comes to mind. Yet 1993 saw him with Meg Ryan in the now classic Sleepless in Seattle and winning an Oscar in Philadelphia as a lawyer diagnosed with AIDS. His status as a romantic and dramatic lead was solidified in a matter of months. A consecutive Academy Award followed in 1994 for Forrest Gump.

4. Mel Brooks (1974)

The director managed to make two of the most beloved comedies of all time in one year… Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. The two features combined contain some of the funniest scenes ever filmed.

3. Jennifer Lawrence (2012)

Already an Oscar nominee two years prior for Winter’s Bone, Lawrence’s road to superstardom was paved in 2012. In March came The Hunger Games, the year’s third top earner that spawned three sequels. In December came Silver Linings Playbook, where she won Best Actress.

2. Jim Carrey (1994)

In 1993, Carrey was known as a great cast member of Fox’s groundbreaking sketch show “In Living Color”. By the end of 1994, he was the most bankable comedic star in America as Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, and Dumb and Dumber all hit screens.

1. Steven Spielberg (1993)

In a list filled with lots of choices, the #1 selection was rather easy. The highest grossing filmmaker of all time’s 1993 was astonishing. Dino tale Jurassic Park in the summer was a marvel technical achievement that began a franchise. At the time of its release, it became the largest grosser in history with the top opening weekend yet seen. Six months later, Holocaust epic Schindler’s List won seven Academy Awards (including Picture and for Spielberg’s direction).

I hope your New Year is your best yet, readers! Have a happy one…

Summer 1997: The Top 10 Hits and More

Put on your nostalgia goggles (or maybe the sunglasses that make you forget stuff if Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones flash a light at you) because I’m recounting the summer of 1997 on the blog today!

This has become a seasonal tradition around here and I gave you the top 10 summer hits of 1987 and more earlier this week. If you missed that post, you can find it here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/08/01/summer-1987-the-top-10-hits-and-more/

This time around, we’re going back 20 years when Nicolas Cage accounted for 25% of the top 8 moneymakers and Batman crashed and burned.

We’ll begin with the top ten and then get to some other notable pics and flops:

10. Hercules

Domestic Gross: $99 million

Disney’s ‘toon couldn’t reach the century mark and that was considered a disappointment after early and mid 90s smashes like Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King. 

9. Contact

Domestic Gross: $100 million

Robert Zemeckis’s follow-up to Forrest Gump (which ruled summer 1994) was a well-regarded science fiction drama with Jodie Foster and an emerging Matthew McConaughey.

8. Con Air

Domestic Gross: $101 million

This action thriller from the Bruckheimer factory is our first to feature Mr. Nicolas Cage (who was coming off a recent Oscar win), along with an all-star cast including John Cusack, John Malkovich, Steve Buscemi, and Ving Rhames.

7. George of the Jungle

Domestic Gross: $105 million

Disney probably didn’t anticipate this remake of the  cartoon starring Brendan Fraser would manage to out perform Hercules, but that it did.

6. Batman and Robin

Domestic Gross: $107 million

This may have placed sixth for the summer, but Batman and Robin came in well below its three predecessors and director Joel Schumacher and new Caped Crusader George Clooney have been apologizing about it for the last 20 years. We’re still trying to block out those Arnold/Mr. Freeze bad puns.

5. Face/Off

Domestic Gross: $112 million

Mr. Cage teamed up for Mr. John Travolta for John Woo’s entertainingly over-the-top sci-fi and action mash-up.

4. My Best Friend’s Wedding

Domestic Gross: $127 million

Julia Roberts made a return to box office dominance in this rom com which featured stolen scenes from costar Rupert Everett.

3. Air Force One

Domestic Gross: $172 million

“Get off my plane!” became one of the season’s catchphrases with Harrison Ford as the butt kicking POTUS battling Russian terrorist Gary Oldman in the skies.

2. The Lost World: Jurassic Park

Domestic Gross: $229 million

Steven Spielberg’s eagerly anticipated follow-up to 1993’s Jurassic Park kicked off with the biggest opening weekend of all time (at that time). However, in the end, it couldn’t manage to top the gross of its predecessor. If you’d polled probably any box office analyst at the beginning of the year, they likely would have said it’d be #1 for the summer. Yet that honor ended up belonging to…

1. Men in Black

Domestic Gross: $250 million

A franchise was born and Will Smith made it two summers in a row with the top grossing picture (the previous year being Independence Day) with Barry Sonnenfeld’s megahit sci-fi action comedy.

And now for some other notable pics:

The Fifth Element

Domestic Gross: $63 million

Audiences and critics didn’t quite know what to make of Luc Besson’s visual feast featuring Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman, and Chris Tucker. Sound familiar? Same thing is happening 20 years later with Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. 

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery

Domestic Gross: $53 million

The Mike Myers 007 spoof performed well, but it wasn’t until home video that Powers turned into a genuine phenomenon spawning countless catchphrases. Its sequel two summers later would earn more in its opening weekend that part 1 did in its domestic total.

The Full Monty

Domestic Gross: $45 million

This British import about unconventional male strippers was the summer’s true sleeper and went on to earn a host of Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. Monty would earn over $250 million worldwide compared to its tiny $3.5 million budget.

Cop Land

Domestic Gross: $44 million

After appearing in a string of high-octane action flicks, Sylvester Stallone changed it up with this crime drama featuring an impressive supporting cast that included Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, and Harvey Keitel.

And now for some of the season’s large belly flops:

Speed 2: Cruise Control

Domestic Gross: $48 million

Keanu Reeves didn’t want to touch it, but Sandra Bullock came back for this ridiculed sequel where Jason Patric was the new lead. Considered by many to be one of the worst follow-ups of all time.

Out to Sea

Domestic Gross: $29 million

Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau created comedic gold with The Fortune Cookie and The Odd Couple and reunited years later to box office fortune with the Grumpy Old Men movies. This one? Not so much.

Father’s Day

Domestic Gross: $28 million

Ivan Reitman directing Robin Williams and Billy Crystal in a high-profile comedy? Sounds like a good recipe, but the product was mediocre at best and audiences didn’t turn out.

Excess Baggage

Domestic Gross: $14 million

Two summers earlier, Alicia Silverstone had broken out with Clueless. The summer of 1997 was a breakdown. In addition to appearing as Batgirl in the already discussed Batman and Robin, this action comedy with Benicio del Toro bombed big time.

Steel

Domestic Gross: $1.7 million

People may have wanted to watch Shaquille O’Neal on the basketball court, but they had zero interest in watching him as the title superhero in this disaster.

And that does it for now, folks, but I’ll be back soon recounting 2007!

Top 25 Highest Grossing Actresses of All Time (10-6)

We have now reached Top Ten of the Top 25 Highest Grossing Actresses in box office history.

And now, numbers 10-6 before we reach our finale tomorrow…

10. Jennifer Lawrence

Career Earnings: $2.3 billion

Franchises: The Hunger Games, X-Men

Highest Grossing Picture: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) – $424 million

Number of $100M+ Earners: 9 (The Hunger Games, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, X-Men: First Class, X-Men: Days of Future Past, X-Men: Apocalypse, Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle)

Lowest Grosser: Garden Party (2008) – $10,000

Overall Rank: 57

9. Anne Hathaway

Career Earnings: $2.3 billion

Franchises: The Princess Diaries, Rio, Alice in Wonderland

Highest Grossing Picture: The Dark Knight Rises (2012) – $448 million

Number of $100M+ Earners: 10 (The Princess Diaries, The Devil Wears Prada, Get Smart, Valentine’s Day, Alice in Wonderland, Rio, The Dark Knight Rises, Les Miserables, Rio 2, Interstellar)

Lowest Grosser: Song One (2015) – $32,000

Overall Rank: 52

8. Sandra Bullock

Career Earnings: $2.4 billion

Franchises: Speed, Miss Congeniality

Highest Grossing Picture: Minions (2015) – $336 million

Number of $100M+ Earners: 8 (Minions, Gravity, The Blind Side, The Proposal, The Heat, Speed, A Time to Kill, Miss Congeniality)

Lowest Grosser: Who Shot Patakango? (1992) – $2,000

Overall Rank: 47

7. Emma Watson

Career Earnings: $2.6 billion

Franchises: Harry Potter

Highest Grossing Picture: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (2011) – $381 million

Number of $100M+ Earners: 10 (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, This is the End, Noah)

Lowest Grosser: Colonia (2016) – $15,000

Overall Rank: 32

6. Elizabeth Banks

Career Earnings: $2.7 billion

Franchises: Hunger Games, Pitch Perfect

Highest Grossing Picture: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) – $424 million

Number of $100M+ Earners: 8 (The Hunger Games, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, The LEGO Movie, Pitch Perfect 2, Seabiscuit, The 40 Yr. Old Virgin

Lowest Grosser: Ordinary Sinner (2003) – $4,000

Top 5 manana!

 

Summer 1994: The Top Ten Hits and More

Last summer I wrote two blog posts discussing that season’s top films (and flops) from 20 years ago and 10 ten years ago. In that spirit, we shall do it again beginning with the summer movie season of 1994 some two decades in our rearview.

While we may be focused on Godzilla and the X-Men and Spider-Man and Transformers and not yet trained dragons in 2014, summer 1994 proved that when it came to predicting the #1 highest grossing picture, you never knew what you were going to get.

As I did last year, I will start with the top ten grossing pictures from 10 to 1 and then discuss some other notable titles, as well as some flops.

10. Wolf

Domestic Gross: $65 million

Mike Nichols may be known more for dramatic titles such as The Graduate, Carnal Knowledge, and Silkwood – but in 1994 he turned to the horror genre with Wolf, a mature retelling of the Wolfman tale. He got some big names to contribute – Jack Nicholson, Michelle Pfeiffer, and James Spader. The film received mostly positive reviews and I count myself as a fan.

9. The Client

Domestic Gross: $92 million

Josh Grisham fever was its peak at this time as The Firm with Tom Cruise and The Pelican Brief with Julia Roberts were blockbusters the previous year. The Client with Susan Sarandon and Tommy Lee Jones continued the hot streak even though it didn’t reach the grosses of the aforementioned pics. Sarandon received an Oscar nomination for her role and the movie spawned a short-lived TV series one year later.

8. Maverick

Domestic Gross: $101 million

Mel Gibson reteamed with his Lethal Weapon series director Richard Donner for this western/action/comedy based on the 1950s TV show. Jodie Foster and original series star James Garner rounded out the cast. Critical reaction was mostly positive and while the $100M haul was solid, its gross was a bit on the low end of domestic expectations.

7. The Mask

Domestic Gross: $119 million

In February of 1994, Jim Carrey became a massive box office force with his starring debut Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. This special effects driven comedy would go even further in solidifying that status. It also introduced the world to Cameron Diaz, in her first major movie role. A sequel in 2005 Son of the Mask minus Carrey was quickly and deservedly forgotten.

6. Speed

Domestic Gross: $121 million

A surprise hit – the well-constructed and suspenseful Speed from director Jan de Bont turned Keanu Reeves into an action star and gave Sandra Bullock her breakout role. Dennis Hopper was a rock solid villain, too. Like The Mask, this too spawned a ridiculed sequel in 1997 minus Reeves.

5. Clear and Present Danger

Domestic Gross: $122 million

Harrison Ford was fresh off his megahit The Fugitive when his second Jack Ryan flick Clear and Present Danger managed to out gross its predecessor Patriot Games two years earlier by $40 million dollars. It remains the highest grossing Jack Ryan picture domestically.

4. The Flintstones

Domestic Gross: $130 million

Many expected the film version of the famous Hanna-Barbera cartoon to be the summer’s top grosser with its huge marketing tie-ins. It didn’t turn out that way, though its $130M take was decent. Reviews were mostly bad, however, and while Universal planned this as a franchise – we would never see John Goodman as Fred, Elizabeth Perkins as Wilma, Rick Moranis as Barney, or Rosie O’Donnell as Betty return. A 2000 “sequel” with an all-new cast fizzled.

3. True Lies

Domestic Gross: $146 million

The previous summer, Arnold Schwarzenegger had experienced an unexpected box office flop with Last Action Hero. His reteaming with Terminator director James Cameron in this action/comedy got him back in the good graces of audiences. This well-reviewed flick also featured a fine performance from Jamie Lee Curtis as Schwarzenegger’s wife who’s oblivious that he’s an international super spy. The pic also has the distinction of featuring career best work from Tom Arnold!

2. The Lion King

Domestic Gross: $312 million

Disney was five years into its animation resurgence (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin) when this came along and out earned them all. A classic from the moment it was released, The Lion King remained the highest grossing traditionally animated picture until just last year when Frozen overtook it. The film is also well-remembered for its Elton John soundtrack.

1. Forrest Gump

Domestic Gross: $329 million

If you would’ve polled 100 people in early 1994 as to what would be the summer’s biggest earner, I’ll venture to guess nobody would’ve said Forrest Gump. The journey through history of a simple yet remarkable man captured the hearts of audiences across the U.S. upon its July release. The reward? Besides being the year’s largest hit, it also earned Oscars for Best Picture, Director (Robert Zemeckis) and Actor (Tom Hanks), earning the performer his second Academy Awards in consecutive years following his 1993 Philadelphia victory. It also spawned a whole lotta catchphrases.

Outside of the Top Ten, here are some other notables flicks from the season 20 years ago:

12. The Crow

Arriving in theaters more than a year after star Brandon Lee was tragically killed on the set of the film, The Crow resonated with audiences to the tune of a $50 million gross.

13. Natural Born Killers

Oliver Stone’s wild tale of media sensationalism gave Woody Harrelson his first acclaimed dramatic role. The controversial pic, costarring Juliette Lewis, Tommy Lee Jones, and Robert Downey, Jr., earned a solid $50 million.

And now… for the flops of the season:

City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold whiffed with both critics and audiences. While the 1991 original earned $124 million, the sequel managed a sad $43 million. Sequelitis also caught up with Eddie Murphy as Beverly Hills Cop III also was drubbed by critics and viewers alike. The third installment took in $42 million while the first earned $234 million in 1984 and II made $153 million in 1987.

Universal Pictures was hoping to turn The Shadow with Alec Baldwin into a franchise, but its meager $32 million gross ended that prospect in a hurry.

Wyatt Earp starring Kevin Costner was looked at as a potential blockbuster but mixed reviews and the fact that well-received Earp flick Tombstone had come six months prior meant this only made a paltry $25 million.

Finally, while Julia Roberts had already starred in successful rom coms – it turned out filmgoers weren’t clamoring to see her chemistry with Nick Nolte in the flop I Love Trouble, which petered out at $30 million.

And there you have it, folks! That’s what was happening 20 years ago at multiplexes across the nation. I’ll be back with my overview of summer 2004 very soon!