This series highlights the best opening weekends since 1980.
This Weekend features a few horror movies – ’tis the season, right. We have a 90s cult classic from the writer of SCREAM, the best Japanese horror remake, and one of the better American horror remakes. There’s also Christopher Nolan does magic, Slyvester Stallone’s best action movie ever, and 5 Cult Classics (with Pacino vs De Niro).
Selected movies come from the Top 200 weekends in the past 3 1/2 decades. Each film is accompanied by a nerdy little blurb justifying its inclusion. If you’re favourite doesn’t appear here, it might be in the companion piece over at A TALE OF TWO DANS.
- note: box office figures are domestic and are not adjusted for inflation
I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER – 1997
OPENING WEEKEND: $16 million // BOX OFFICE TOTAL: $73 million
Kevin Williamson, the writer of SCREAM, continued his horror takeover with this fun thriller. Jennifer Love Hewitt stars alongside Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillipe, and Freddie Prinze Jr. This was the glory days of the late 90s horror revival. The story here follows partying teens who accidentally kill a fisherman. They swear to keep it a secret… except the fisherman isn’t dead. The hooded slasher returns with a lethal hook to torment these teens.
A box office success, SUMMER would spawn several sequels. The first one is still the best and definitely worth watching for horror fans this Halloween.
THE RING – 2002
OPENING: $15 million // TOTAL: $129 million
This Japanese remake made a star out of Naomi Watts. The super scary premise haunted us all. Check out that box office. Word of mouth helped this spookfest catch on with the mainstream. THE RING took itself seriously and delivered several memorable frights.
NERD ALERT: Director Gore Verbinski would get the call from Hollywood and film PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN next.
THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE – 2003
OPENING: $28 million // TOTAL: $81 million
The original 70s horror film is considered one of the best of all time. The idea that this could actually happen made it all the more frightening and shocking. The remake has a considerably higher budget. However, the low budget documentary aesthetics were part of the classic’s charm. That said, this film looks beautiful – especially for the genre.
Speaking of… Jessica Biel stars as The Final Girl up against the chainsaw wielding maniac. By focusing on the insane inbred family more than Leatherface, the remake was even more psychologically disturbing.
THE PRESTIGE – 2006
OPENING: $15 million // TOTAL: $53 million
Christopher Nolan’s movie about magic probably would have performed much better at the box office if it came out today. This thrilling drama stars Hugh Jackman versus Christian Bale, with Scarlett Johansson. There is a focus on quantum physics and science to explain magic. Instead of tricking the audience with illusions and slight of hand, Jackman’s magician is interested in exploring the known universe and its strange properties.
THE PRESTIGE is a brilliantly photographed head-scratcher with complex mysteries and a twist ending.
FIRST BLOOD – 1982
OPENING: $7 million // TOTAL: $47 million
Sylvester Stallone’s best action movie was his first one – kind of like the drama genre too. This was the first appearance of iconic action hero John Rambo. Here, the character was a soldier suffering from post traumatic stress after Vietnam. He wasn’t the muscle-bound kill-em-all gun-blazer of the sequels. Rambo originally didn’t want to kill anyone. This one is also more interesting because of its setting in America and its themes of paranoia and PTSD. This Stallone flick is much better than its reputation.
The Number 1 opening weekend This Month in History belongs to PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 with $53 million – good enough for #3 in October. This low budget found footage horror movie went on to gross $104 million overall.
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 premiered in 2010 (a year earlier), raking in $41 million – strong enough to crack the Top 10 for the month. It would finish with an $84 million box office total. This successful series continues to this day, with the latest sequel set to hit soon.
FROM HELL – 2001
OPENING: $11 million // TOTAL: $32 million
The Hughes Brothers followed up MENACE II SOCIETY with this Alan Moore (THE WATCHMEN, V FOR VENDETTA) comic book adaptation. Moore based his story on the real life mystery of JACK THE RIPPER. Johnny Depp stars as the man on the case – he is a tortured soul, addicted to opium. The visuals are a real highlight in this horrific thriller, but the story is really compelling too.
THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES – 2008
OPENING: $11 million // TOTAL: $38 million
Every now and then you just want to sit back and watch a nice character story. I know “nice” is like the worst adjective ever, but that’s how you feel after you watch this amazing movie. Really really “nice.” This character story follows a little White girl (Dakota Fanning) in the racist South of yesteryear. She runs away and is taken in by a “nice” family of honey-makers. They just happen to be strong independent Black women (Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson, and Alicia Keys) who teach her to find happiness in life amidst any struggle.
HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS – 1988
OPENING: $7 million // TOTAL: $18 million
The HALLOWEEN series really missed the mark with Part 3. THE SEASON OF THE WITCH didn’t even have Michael Myers in it… at all. Producers knew they needed their masked killer back, but the audience wasn’t biting. Several more sequels would continue, but never held up as well as the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREETS or FRIDAY THE 13THS. It’s a shame because the original HALLOWEEN with Jamie Lee Curtis (who starred in the Part 2 as well) was so incredible. The franchise deserved a much better legacy.
SLEEPERS – 1996
OPENING: $12 million // TOTAL: $53 million
This one is a cult classic now because of its stellar cast of rising stars at the time. Brad Pitt starred alongside Robert De Niro (with Jason Patric, Kevin Bacon, Billy Crudup, and Dustin Hoffman) in a story split across decades. The plot revolves around a tragic accident that happened to a group of friends. They’ve kept the secret for years, until recently. This was a really captivating and provocative thriller.
DEVIL’S ADVOCATE – 1997
OPENING: $12 million // TOTAL: $61 million
This one is probably best known for Al Pacino’s over-the-top brilliancy as the Devil. Keanu Reeves plays the hero, a Southern lawyer moving on up the ranks. He eventually earns a spot under the tutelage of Satan himself, a fellow lawyer heading up his own practice. Charlize Theron co-stars in this hammy campy (but not on purpose) supernatural courtroom thriller. Shot with a large budget, and photographed rather well, the film takes itself seriously and tries its best to deliver a compelling story. The question is: Was Al Pacino the only one in on the joke?
Stay tuned for more next weekend.
What do you think?
Leave a comment below.
Missing your fav? Check out the 2D Companion Piece.
Follow me @slipthroughnerd