This series highlights the best opening weekends since 1980… with 10 movies you don’t want to SLIP/THROUGH the cracks.
This Weekend in History features an 80s sequel to one of the best adventures of all time, an original superhero movie, an amazing biopic, a recent 3D spectacle that’s also introspective(?!), a Tim Burton dark fantasy, and 5 Cult Classics.
In the past decade or so, November has become the destination spot to drop franchise sequels. Selected films will be accompanied by other entries in the series (that also debuted This Weekend in History). Selected movies appear on the Top 200 List. Check out the 2D Companion Piece for a completely different selection.
- note: box office figures are domestic and are not adjusted for inflation
BACK TO THE FUTURE 2 – 1989
OPENING WEEKEND: $28 million // BOX OFFICE TOTAL: $118 million
One of the best adventure of all time, travels right through time and into the future – or what 1989 thought 2015 would look like. The original Marty McFly adventure is one of the best movies ever made, so it’s hard to compare the sequel. Fans will have a ton of fun though. There are lots of laughs, and more than a few clever connections to the first BACK TO THE FUTURE.
UNBREAKABLE – 2000
OPENING: $30 million // TOTAL: $95 million
M. Night Shyamalan used to make great movies… 15 years ago! His first few were really impressive – like this original superhero tale, starring Bruce Willis as an unbreakable hero, and Samuel L. Jackson as his nemesis. UNBREAKABLE started the trend of taking comic book characters seriously, even though this one happens to be NOT based on a comic book. Christopher Nolan would adopt this philosophy to reboot BATMAN years later. This beautifully photographed influential thriller still holds up.
MALCOLM X – 1992
OPENING: $1O million // TOTAL: $48 million
Spike Lee directs Denzel Washington in this stellar drama based on Malcolm X’s life. Washington delivers the best performance of his career as the “by any means necessary” leader of the equal rights movement. To entice comic book nerds into watching this incredibly important biopic: think of X like Magneto, and Martin Luther King as Professor Xavier. Both fight for equality, with different methods. Not to say, Malcolm is a villain (by any means), but he was willing to bend the rules to get attention. It’s been over 20 years since this hit the big screen, but Lee’s film is just as important as ever.
LIFE OF PI – 2012
OPENING: $22 million // TOTAL: $125 million
This introspective adventure was a true spectacle on the 3D big screen. Ang Lee directs with hyper-stylized visuals. Considering how much FX are on screen, this tale is surprisingly human. Impossible to film otherwise, Lee takes full advantage of technology creating a big budget adventure unlike any other. This film asks important questions, and is open to interpretation. Faith has rarely been this captivating and this imaginative.
SLEEPY HOLLOW – 1999
OPENING: $30 million // TOTAL: $101 million
Tim Burton does dark fantasy. Again. With Johnny Depp. Again. But it works. This violent fairy tale is tinged with humour. but focused on the supernatural elements. Gothic imagery blends incredibly well with set design. Everything looks off-kilter and strange. Depp looks human, and doesn’t get too goofy. While it gets lost in the story, and gets a little hokey by the end, SLEEPY HOLLOW is one of the better Burton & Depp collaborations.
The Number 1 movie This Weekend in History is HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE with a phenomenal $158 million in 2013. This impressive debut is also the Number 1 opening for the month of November (since 1980!). The sequel to HUNGER GAMES would go on to make $425 in total (domestically).
HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 1 debuted with $122 million in 2014, finishing with $337 million overall. The epic conclusion (PART 2) hits over 4,000 screens this weekend. Will it make more than CATCHING FIRE and break the November box office record? Or will it make even less than the first MOCKINGJAY? Stay tuned for an update.
PREDATOR 2 – 1990
OPENING: $9 million // TOTAL: $31 million
Unfortunately, this sequel stunk up the box office. For some reason this story shifts locales from the actual jungle, to the concrete jungle. Danny Glover is good as the hero, but the urban setting doesn’t work as well as Mother Nature. There is some good action, and good scares, but the most memorable bits aren’t until the climax. Fanboys will remember the face off against multiple predator aliens on their own ship… and the unforgettable trophy on display: a xenomorph skull from ALIENS… teasing the ALIENS VS PREDATOR movie that took way too long to hit the screen.
THE MIST – 2007
OPENING: $9 million // TOTAL: $26 million
Frank Darabont tackles Stephen King once again. Previously helming some of the better King adaptations, like SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION and THE GREEN MILE, and developing THE WALKING DEAD for televion. However, Darabont’s bleak version of THE MIST failed to latch on with the movie-going public. It’s a shame. This intense thriller tackles alien invasion alongside religious zealotry.
DANCES WITH WOLVES – 1990
OPENING: $9 million // TOTAL: $184 million
Kevin Costner broke through into the mainstream with this Oscar winning drama about a White man who finds his place in the world with Native Americans. Set during the Civil War era, this period piece was focused on characters that are timeless. While some critics dismiss the on-the-nose approach of Costner’s directing, word of mouth made this into a bonafide hit. Check out those numbers for 25 years ago! With inflation, this would probably be like a $300 million dollar blockbuster drama.
RED DAWN – 2012
OPENING: $14 million // TOTAL: $45 million
Chris Hemsworth had a lot of bad luck, before he got a lot good luck. Back before the man was a god as Thor, Hemsworth starred in this MGM action flick and CABIN IN THE WOODS – both of which were shelved for years as the studio went through financial troubles. It’s too bad, because both of these genre pictures are worth watching. RED DAWN remakes the 80s cult classic about Russians invading America. This time out it’s the North Koreans. Hemsworth leads a group of teens (with some young rising talent like Josh Hutcherson) as they fight back, and try to save the captive adult population in determent camps.
THE ADDAM’S FAMILY – 1991
OPENING: $24 million // TOTAL: $114 million
This is the best Tim Burton film not made by Tim Burton. Adapted from the classic TV show, this story spoofs stuff like the old Universal Monsters, by showing what they’re like when they just hang out at home. In the movie, there are a lot of fish out of water jokes, like clashing cultures. This is fun twisted bit of mildly spooky family entertainment with great performances all-around from the likes of Anjelica Houston, Raul Julia, Christopher Lloyd, and Christina Ricci.
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Missing your fav film? Check out the 2D Companion Piece.
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