This Weekend in History includes an early Quentin Tarantino script turned controversial hit, a Girl Power surprise hit, a foreign martial arts epic hit, and 5 cult classics.
August is the dumping ground for movies, so there aren’t a lot of options this time of the year. Have no fear, this series always highlights the best of mainstream hits, critical choice cuts, and midnight screening cult classics — this weekend is no exception.
This series features the best opening weekends since 1980. If they cracked the Top 200, there’s a chance they’ll show up here. However, if you’re hungry for more, make sure to check out the companion piece over at A TALE OF TWO DANS highlighting a totally different set of movies.
Without further ado, I present to you, the best of this Weekend in Box Office History.
- note: box office figures are domestic and are not adjusted for inflation
NATURAL BORN KILLERS – August 26, 1994
OPENING WEEKEND: $11 million // BOX OFFICE TOTAL: $50 million
Oliver Stone directs this controversial Quentin Tarantino script about mass murdering couple Mickey and Mallory. This hallucinatory trip through madness and violence is also a scathing deconstruction of society. Woody Harrellson abandoned his comedic career (CHEERS, WHITE MEN CAN’T JUMP) to tackle this dramatic film. The brilliant ensemble cast includes Juliette Lewis, Robert Downey Jr, and Tommy Lee Jones. The film crackles with kinetic energy, but also gets political tackling subjects like media, celebrity, family life, our obsession with violence, and the justice system. Also, check out those numbers for over 20 years ago.
BRING IT ON – August 25, 2000
OPENING: $ 17 million // TOTAL: $68 million
This surprise Girl Power hit benefitted from positive word of mouth. Look at the weekend results combined with the overall total. Impressive. This cheer-leading comedy has that MEAN GIRLS vibe. Its humour extends past its target demographic of teenage girls. Aside from the comedy, we also get an underdog sports competition story to root for. Kirsten Dunst jumped back into the limelight with this feature (years after INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE), but instead of appearing in the numerous cheer-leading sequels she opted to appear in SPIDER-MAN and turn to dramatic indies like MELANCHOLIA and MARIE ANTOINETTE.
HERO – August 27, 2004
OPENING: $18 million // TOTAL: $54 million
Jet Li stars in this martial arts epic from China. The period piece setting helps the drama and character, possibly providing us with Li’s best overall film. Fans of grand scale war sequences and action will be able to look past the subtitles. The success here relies on an earlier hit, CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, which really opened the doors for grand scale martial arts epics.
ANACONDAS: THE HUNT FOR THE BLOOD ORCHID – August 27, 2004
OPENING: $13 million // TOTAL: $32 million
This B-movie sequel was missing a lot of the draw from the first one: the cast. The original cult classic starred the likes of Jennifer Lopez, Ice Cube, Owen Wilson, and Jon Voight. Basically, this is a cash in product of a simple premise. It’s a monster movie where characters only serve as prey. This is a fun flick to just turn on and crack jokes with some buddies.
DESPERADO – August 25, 1995
OPENING: $8 million // TOTAL: $25 million
Happy 20th Birthday, DESPERADO! Director Robert Rodriguez really burst onto the scene with this crazy action flick, which also made a star out of Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek. Violence has never been so sexy. This sequel borrows its premise and lead character from the ultra-low budget indie phenomenon EL MIARACHI. Fans of Grindhouse cinema will love the John Woo balletic gunplay and the over-the-top action sequences captured by the hyper visualized eye of Rodriguez (SIN CITY, FROM DUSK TIL DAWN). Cult classic nerds watch out for cameos from Steve Buscemi and Quentin Tarantino.
NERD ALERT: The sequel, ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO, also stars Johnny Depp as a gun-slinging bad guy.
DARKMAN – August 24, 1990
OPENING: $8 million // TOTAL: $34 million
25 years ago, Sam Raimi directed his own superhero character hero (more than a decade before SPIDER-MAN), coming off the success of his EVIL DEAD movies. While the hero isn’t Bruce Campbell here, the movie is still a great Raimi cult classic. Liam Neeson leads the way as a disfigured hero with enhanced senses. Fans of visual filmmaking will really get a kick out of this Midnight Screener.
13TH WARRIOR – August 27, 1999
OPENING: $10 million // TOTAL: $33 million
Viking fans take notice. This epic adventure is based on the book EATERS OF THE DEAD by Michael Crichton (writer of JURASSIC PARK). Antonio Banderas leads the way in this beautifully photographed and atmospheric sword & armour adventure directed by John McTiernan (DIE HARD, PREDATOR). Ignored by the masses, this big budget flick has its own devote fanbase to this day. Perhaps this movie would have performed better with its original title and in this GAME OF THRONES era?
THE FINAL DESTINATION – August 28, 2009
OPENING: $27 million // TOTAL: $66 million
This cult classic sequel is also the Number 1 movie for This Weekend in History, good enough for #26 for August. The franchise consistently delivers the most inventive and over-the-top kills. The supernatural premise goes like this: these guys cheat death, and Death comes chasing back. A premonition always warns our hero to avoid disaster, and our heroes always have to find some way to beat Death — this time in 3D, which obviously helped the opening weekend. These horror movies are fun for what they are: mindless bloodbaths that feel like riding a roller coaster.
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Missing your favourite movie? Maybe it’s on the 2D Companion Piece?