This series highlights the best opening weekends since 1980.
This Weekend in History features a holiday favourite, 2 of the best vampire films from the 90s, a family fun sports film for all time, one of the better remakes ever, and 5 Cult Classics.
A lot of franchises released sequels to their popular series in November. Some of these entries might have a few sequels attached to them. Selected movies are featured from the Top 200 list. If you’re missing your favourite film it might be in the companion piece.
* note: box office figures are domestic and are not adjusted for inflation *
HOME ALONE – 1990
OPENING WEEKEND: $17 million // BOX OFFICE TOTAL: $286 million
Happy 25th Birthday! This is one of the best holiday films ever. HOME ALONE is totally mindless and tons of fun with slapstick comedy all over the place. Check out those box office numbers. This is what word of mouth can do for a movie. The nearly $300 million total is not adjusted for inflation, making it even more impressive.
BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA – 1992
OPENING: $31 million // TOTAL: $83 million
Francis Ford Coppola directs one of the best adaptations of this familiar vampire story. He keeps the Gothic setting and takes the material seriously. The costuming and set design is top notch. The incredible visuals are a real highlight, but there are some amazing performances too. Gary Oldman is unrecognizable as the older Count, and demonstrates immense versatility. Winona Ryder is totally captivating as Dracula’s object of affection. And Anthony Hopkins appears as vampire killer Van Helsing. An all-around mesmerizing adaptation of a legendary horror novel.
SPACE JAM – 1996
OPENING: $28 million // TOTAL: $90 million
Michael Jordan plays basketball against a squad of giant monsters. That’s okay, because he’s playing aside his own Tune Squad with our favourite Looney Tunes characters. This family film was much bigger on home video, becoming a staple in households. It’s more for children, but it’s silly enough to make you want to turn off your brain and enjoy.
INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE – 1994
OPENING: $36 million // TOTAL: $105 million
Here’s another serious take on the vampire myth. This one stars Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt as Victorian-looking blood suckers. The focus here is on the negative side effects of being a vampire and philosophical waxing on immortality. Also of note, Kirsten Dunst broke onto the scene with an impressive performance as a cursed child with fangs. Beautifully photographed and filled with passion, this 90s hit is worth watching.
CAPE FEAR – 1991
OPENING: $10 million // TOTAL: $79 million
One of the best remakes comes from master cinematic auteur Martin Scorsese. Robert DeNiro plays a madman bent on revenge against the lawyer (Nick Nolte) who put him behind bars. DeNiro chews up the scenery as the over-the-top villain, aiming his vengeance at Nolte’s teenage daughter (Juliette Lewis’ breakthrough role). This intense adult thriller aims for theatrics and succeeds.
The Number 1 movie This Weekend In History is TWILIGHT: BREAKING DAWN – PART 2 with $141 million. It would finish with a total of $292 million in 2012. This movie was the finale in a tremendously popular vampire franchise. A love triangle formed around a teenage girl, a vampire, and a werewolf kept everyone tuned to the screen for years.
The original TWILIGHT debuted with $70 million, and finished with $193 million in 2008. NEW MOON made $142 million – in its first weekend! The sequel finished with $297 overall in 2009. BREAKING DAWN: PART 1 kicked things off with $138 million and finished with $281 million in 2012. While not as crazy successful as HUNGER GAMES, these movies were on par with the earnings of HARRY POTTER.
BEOWULF – 2007
OPENING: $28 million // TOTAL: $82 million
Iconic director, Robert Zemeckis (BACK TO THE FUTURE, FOREST GUMP, CONTACT), tackles the CGI realm with this adaptation of a most famous epic poem. The imagery is odd at first because of the photo realism. Once you get used to it, there is amazing spectacle to behold, and daring camerawork that couldn’t be achieved in a non-virtual realm. This is one for fantasy nerds only. Bonus: Angelina Jolie as a seductive demon.
IMMORTALS – 2011
OPENING: $32 million // TOTAL: $84 million
Greek Gods get a pseudo-Zack Snyder translation with this slo-mo action-packed adaptation by visionary director Tarsem Singh (THE CELL, THE FALL). The Man of Steel himself, Henry Cavill, stars as our hero – who is blessed by the Gods. He must save the realm and battle titans in this over-the-top over-stylized comic-book vibing adventure.
I STILL KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER – 1998
OPENING: $17 million // TOTAL: $40 million
The sequel debuted in the fading days of the 90s horror boom. Kevin Williamson (writer of SCREAM) wrote an interesting premise for the original and filled it with tons of tension. Jennifer Love Hewiit returns for the sequel, which keeps the intensity up, but tries to aim for laughs too. The concept works better the more the characters take it seriously. Still, this is a must-see for 90s horror fans. It has a big budget with good actors. Keep your eyes peeled for a gonzo Jack Black.
SKYLINE – 2010
OPENING: $12 million // TOTAL: $21 million
This cult classic tanked at the box office, but the low-budget alien invasion flick isn’t actually all that bad. The FX are pretty impressive for the low budget. There’s lots of excitement. And the sci-fi designs are at least kinda rad. Keep in mind this is a b-movie, but it’s a b-movie done right.
CARLITO’S WAY – 1993
OPENING: $9 million // TOTAL: $37 million
Don’t let the box office fool you, this indie gem is one of Al Pacino’s better films. Sean Penn is nearly unrecognizable in a co-starring role that nearly steals the show. Nearly. This is Pacino’s show after all. And this is the genre he does best: crime. This one may have missed your radar, but don’t let it slip/through now.
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Check out the companion piece for a completely different menu of tasty nerdy treats.
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