This series highlights the best opening weekends since 1980.
This Weekend in History shines a spotlight on a sociopath that the audience rooted for, Shakespeare with guns, the little horror movie that could, an action-packed Girl Power hit, one of the best holiday movies ever, and 5 Cult Classics.
Occasionally, months will have 5 viewing weekends… like October. Selected films appear from the Top 200, but also include a few that extend as far as November 3. If you end up hungry for more nerdy picks check out the companion piece.
* note: box office figures are domestic and are not adjusted for inflation *
NIGHTCRAWLER – 2014
OPENING WEEKEND: $10 million // BOX OFFICE TOTAL: $32 million
Jake Gyllenhaal gave one of last year’s best performances… and totally got snubbed by the Academy in the process. His sociopath spirals downwards making us wonder what he is capable of. Surprisingly, some of the audience couldn’t help but root for him. That goes to show you how charismatic Gyllenhaal is as a parasitic ambulance chaser. That said, this is an incredible movie all around.
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE’S ROMEO + JULIET – 1996
OPENING: $11 million // TOTAL: $46 million
Shakespeare went MTV with neck-breaking editing and over-the-top style. Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes lead the way in a contemporary take on the Bard’s Tale. Who knew Shakespeare could work with guns a.k.a. “Sword 9mm”? Acid trip director Baz Luhrman did. This is one of the most exciting versions of this tale. Not all full of pomp and circumstance, and actually signifying something.
SAW – 2004
OPENING: $18 million // TOTAL: $55 million
This low budget gross-out horror came out of nowhere to break through into the mainstream and spawn a slew of depraved sequels. Each one got more and more gory, whereas the original was much more psychologically intriguing. We are thrown into a dangerous scenario along with the characters, putting together the pieces of this thrilling Jigsaw puzzle making us all question our own ethics and morals.
CHARLIE’S ANGELS – 2000
OPENING: $40 million // TOTAL: $125 million
Happy 15th Birthday, Angels! This action-packed Girl Power hit was also filled with laughs. Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, and Lucy Liu teamed up to kick a little ass, under the tutelage of Bill Murray – ‘natch. This was actually a lot of over-the-top fun for everyone.
THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS – 1993
OPENING: $8 million // TOTAL: $50 million
Tim Burton produced this stop-motion animation inspired by one of his drawings. Our holiday traditions get spun on their heads to delightful effect. The songs are actually good too. A lot of the charm comes from the hand-made aesthetics and one-frame-at-a-time photography, but there are also a lot of dark laughs to be had. This is a must-watch annual event movie… for decades now.
The Number 1 opening This Weekend in History belongs to the CG animated smash hit, MONSTERS INC. with $63 million. Debuting in early November, this comedy would go on to make $256 million overall in 2001. That is a hefty sum for sure. Unfortunately, the sequel didn’t have the same charm or laughs of the original.
ZACK & MIRI MAKE A PORNO – 2008
OPENING: $10 million // TOTAL: $31 million
While not the best Kevin Smith movie, this vulgar comedy will still make you laugh the whole way through. Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks star as a couple strapped for cash. They make their own porn to earn some easy money. Jokes arise from how ill-equipped they are for this hilarious undertaking.
THE ONE – 2001
OPENING: $19 million // TOTAL: $44 million
Before Jason Statham was leading the way in his action flicks, he was playing second fiddle to Jet Li – or two Jet Lis. This sci-fi cult classic involves clones and all sorts of ridiculous tropes to fill in the blanks between fights. Check this out when you want a turn-off-your-brain good action movie.
A VERY HAROLD & KUMAR 3D CHRISTMAS – 2011
OPENING: $13 million // TOTAL: $35 million
The modern day Cheech & Chong blaze up the holidaze in this one. The charm of this dynamic duo was fading in this their third adventure. These silly stoner comedies deliver what you’d expect… and then some. I can’t remember what the actual story is… but that’s appropriate given the sub-genre. I do remember that they managed to squeeze in some traditional stop-motion Holiday Special animation though. That was fun.
JOHN CARPENTER’S VAMPIRES – 1998
OPENING: $9 million // TOTAL: $20 million
James Woods leads the way as a Western ass-kicker who’s bounty has fangs. John Carpenter always delivers on genre expectations, and this is no different. Here’s a b-movie done right. It delivers on its promises. This is vampires done dusty and dirty with an outlaw Wild West vibe.
ENDER’S GAME – 2013
OPENING: $27 million // TOTAL: $62 million
Although not as good as the book, this impressive sci-fi action flick had lots of spectacles to behold. Harrison Ford co-stars as a commander training teenagers to save the galaxy against alien invaders. The complex approach to the young hero is most welcomed. The story has a few compelling twists and turns to go along with all the space action.
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