This series highlights the biggest opening weekends since 1980.
This Weekend in History shines the spotlight on an indie thriller that divided everyone, a new actress makes her stamp on Hollywood, an underrated thriller from the late 90s, a nutso action sequel, a hidden gem with A-list actors, a surprise smash thriller, Brad Pitt gone goofy, a small comedy that blew up big, and 5 scary Cult Classics.
September is typically a pretty quiet month, as far as big time blockbusters are concerned. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some worthy selections though. This Weekend is full of some great underrated films. If the movie cracked the Top 200 openings it has a chance to show up here. If you’re missing your favourite film it might be in the companion piece of at A TALE OF TWO DANS.
Without further ado, let’s dig in.
DRIVE – 2011
OPENING WEEKEND: $11 million // BOX OFFICE TOTAL: $35 million
Ryan Gosling stars in this amazing indie thriller. Soaked in style and steeped in character, this internal thrill-ride blazed past my expectations. While in no means an action flick like FAST & FURIOUS, this drama is still filled with exciting sequences. The ensemble cast is very impressive, with Albert Brooks, Carey Mulligan, Christina Hendricks, and Oscar Isaac. The story is compelling, delving into relationships and love in order to explore what really drives our hero, and what he’s willing to break the rules for.
EASY A – 2010
OPENING: $18 million // TOTAL: $58 million
Emma Stone burst onto the scene with her leading role in this hilarious comedy. For me, Stone is like the new Tom Hanks, charming and adept at comedy, while possessing dramatic chops as well. She leads the way in this high school comedy take on THE SCARLET LETTER. At its best, this comedy feels like a contemporary John Hughes movie.
THE GAME – 1997
OPENING: $14 million // TOTAL: $48 million
David Fincher directs this pulse-pounding twist & turn filled thriller. Michael Douglas plays a man with everything, his brother (Sean Penn) invites him to play in an alternate reality game. (Don’t worry there’s no sci-fi or supernatural element.) Douglas puts together a mystery, soon finding his life in danger. He doesn’t know if it’s part of the game or something way worse. An underrated cult classic for fans of adult thrillers.
ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO – 2003
OPENING: $23 million // TOTAL: $56 million
Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek return in this bonkers sequel to Robert Rodriguez’s DESPERADO. Johnny Depp appears as the scene-stealing baddie. Over-the-top action, crazy gunplay, and a wild sense of humour keeps this movie exciting from start to finish.
ROUNDERS – 1998
OPENING: $8 million // TOTAL: $23 million
Matt Damon and Ed Norton square off against a villainous John Malkovich in this card-playing thriller. This underrated flick did better on home video, but it still worth spreading the word. Today, these actors are much larger stars. It may be pretty interesting for younger fans to check out what these two were doing nearly 20 years ago.
NO GOOD DEED – 2014
OPENING: $24 million // TOTAL: $53 million
Taraji P. Henson (TV’s EMPIRE) stars in this home invasion thriller. It was a dark and stormy night when she answered her door to a stranger, played by Idris Elba. A simple premise, but well-executed. The audience showed up big for this fun concept. Here is a movie to yell at the screen and blow off some steam with.
NERD ALERT: September has quite a few big hits starring predominantly black casts. This has the biggest opening weekend, but there are several more (check out the companion piece too).
BURN AFTER READING – 2008
OPENING: $19 million // TOTAL: $60 million
The Coen Bros guide this thriller focused on some incredibly dumb and shallow characters. A great cast and ridiculous scenarios ensure we’re having fun the whole time. Coens do quirky thrillers like no one else. Frances McDormand and George Clooney lead the way here, but Brad Pitt steals the show alongside John Malkovich.
BARBERSHOP – 2002
OPENING: $21 million // TOTAL: $76 million
Ice Cube stars and produces this super successful comedy. A great ensemble cast and tons of laughs gave this hit extended legs on home video, making it a huge hit across demographics. A refreshing setting of the barbershop avoided any action or crime elements. The focus here was on having a good time.
FREDDY’S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE – 1991
OPENING: $13 million // TOTAL: $35 million
Another NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET sequel – in blue & red 3D! This was around the time horror fans were getting tired of these slasher franchises. As great as Freddy Krueger is, it all started to seem like the same thing over and over. It also wouldn’t be the last horror movie to say it was the final one – only to have a sequel coming soon.
For what they are, Freddy movies are the most fun in the 80s slasher sub-genre, better than FRIDAY THE 13th or HALLOWEEN. They always pushed the limits on visual FX technology, like the practical make-up FX and animation.
RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION – 2012
OPENING: $21 million // TOTAL: $42 million
This video game based horror franchise is incredibly successful on a worldwide stage. Milla Jovovich is the hero in this series, usually teaming up with a ragtag group of zombie hunters. As the sequels went on, the budgets would increase and the films would highlight at least one crazy over-the-top action sequence. Turn off your brain and have some fun.
STRAW DOGS – 2011
OPENING: $5 million // TOTAL: $10 million
A remake of the controversial Sam Peckinpah cult classic. James Marsden stars as the passive and unlikely hero, forced to protect his girlfriend (Kate Bosworth) from savage attackers invading their new home. Now-a-days, this film had no problem with getting banned, like the original. It’s a sign of the times. However, this contained horror / thriller is super intense and worth watching if you want to be scared by a realistic scenario.
DEVIL – 2010
OPENING: $12 million // TOTAL: $34 million
This M. Night Shyamalan produced horror movie kind of flew under the radar. A simple premise in a confined space created a lot of tension. The mystery here is someone in the elevator is actually the devil. One by one, people trapped in the elevator die. A good guessing game that keeps you on the edge of your seat.
CABIN FEVER – 2003
OPENING: $9 million // TOTAL: $21 million
Eli Roth hit the ground running with his horror debut. Your typical teens go into the woods scenario gets a fresh spin with a flesh-eating virus infecting them one by one. Paranoia fuels this thrilling horror, but there is also tons of laughs along with the buckets of gore. Not for the faint of heart, but a massive recommendation for genre fans.
The Number 1 movie for This Weekend in History is the horror sequel, INSIDIOUS 2, with $40 million. It would finish with $84 million during its run in 2013. Paranormal movies are finally losing some popularity today, but there were several big hits in the past decade or so, including this one with #2 opening overall for September since 1980.
What do you think?
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Missing your fav film? Maybe it’s in the 2D companion piece?