This series highlights the best opening weekends since 1980… with 10 nerdy hand-picked movies.
This Weekend in History features an enchanting fantasy based on beloved novels, Tom Cruise vs the truth, an SNL fav, a horror series that reinvigorated the genre, one of the best 90s action flicks you’ve never heard of, and 5 Cult Classics.
December is a great month for movie fans. Every genre gets represented with highly anticipated or well-received releases. The following movies were selected from the Top 200 List of highest grossing opening weekends. If you’re interested in flashing back, make sure to check out the Tale of Two Dans Companion Piece.
- note: box office figures are domestic and are not adjusted for inflation
CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH & THE WARDROBE – 2005
OPENING WEEKEND: $66 million // BOX OFFICE TOTAL: $292 million
Narnia got enough visitors to place 6th overall for the month. Fans of the CS Lewis novels finally got to see a large-scale, big budget, big screen adaptation. Elaborately staged, with stunning visuals, NARNIA will sweep you away. It really feels magical. Character and adventure are balanced well.
Unfortunately, the sequels didn’t live up to the impressive debut chapter.
A FEW GOOD MEN – 1992
OPENING: $16 million // TOTAL: $141 million
Tom Cruise and Demi Moore lead a criminal trial in military court against formidable opponents, like the scene-stealing Jack Nicholson. Rob Reiner helms a riveting thriller framed by captivating character work. Stellar performances all around are the main highlight. While holding onto airplanes during massive stunt sequences, it’s easy to forget Tom Cruise’s astounding dramatic chops. Several movies made in the 90s fully embellished his startling talent.
New to Cruise’s 90s repertoire? Why not start here?
WAYNE’S WORLD 2 – 1993
OPENING: $14 million // TOTAL: $48 million
Saturday Night Live had an amazing roster back in the 90s. Several features were adapted from popular skits. One of the biggest crossover hits was Mike Myers’ WAYNE’S WORLD. These lovable cable-access TV hosts, Wayne & Garth (Myers & Dana Carvey), weren’t the brightest bulbs, but their blinding charisma won us over. The story this time focused on rock ‘n roll, with Tia Carrere as a lead singer who Wayne falls head over heels for. While the sequel may not have as many belly laughs as the original, it’s still one of the better 90s comedies.
Bonus Points: Kim Bassinger has a hilarious role, and Drew Barrymore has a nice cameo.
SCREAM 2 – 1997
OPENING: $ 33 million // TOTAL: $101 million
Wes Craven’s SCREAM changed the game for horror fans. A huge crossover hit, this self-aware slasher made the audience laugh as much as they screamed. The highly anticipated sequel raked in tons of money for the era, green-lighting a slew of inferior copycats. Kevin Williamson’s writing is a real highlight, combined with Craven’s masterwork behind the camera, this horror franchise is the best of the 90s – and still the best since.
The sequel’s self-aware commentary focused on the first film’s success with biting satire, including the daring opening sequence: the premiere of STAB (based on the true events & characters of SCREAM).
THE LAST BOY SCOUT – 1991
OPENING: $8 million // TOTAL: $60 million
Shane Black was one of the hottest writers in Hollywood during the 80s and 90s. This is the guy behind the pen of such action classics as LETHAL WEAPON. This time he teamed up with Bruce Willis and Damon Wayans for a balls-to-the-wall high-octane action-thriller directed by genre master Tony Scott. Willis does his best John McClane here since DIE HARD, tossing wise-ass remarks left and right. He’s just a cliched bad-ass hero; however, that cliche comes from other writers and directors copying Black’s trademark voice. Check out the original source here, and laugh along with the excitement.
Bonus Points: An early role for Halle Berry.
The Number 1 movie This Weekend in History is THE HOBBIT: DESOLATION OF SMAUG, opening with $74 million. The second chapter in Peter Jackson’s HOBBIT Trilogy would finish with $258 in domestic total. Rushed and uninspired, this trilogy lacked the magic and practical touch of the LOTR Trilogy. That said, most fans seem to cherish this new trilogy just as much as the original treasure.
TWINS – 1988
OPENING: $11 million // TOTAL: $112 million
Arnold Schwarzenegger was the epitome of what an action hero looked like in the 80s. He knew this type-casting wouldn’t fulfull his lofty ambitions in Hollywood. He needed to branch out. Several comedies of his were actually pretty good. TWINS ranks up there with KINDERGARTEN COP. This ridiculous premise pairs Ah-nold with Danny DeVito as twins. While playing more like a sitcom than a feature film, this cult classic comedy is definitely worth watching.
Bonus Points: Look out for 80s crush Kelly Preston (MISCHIEF, SECRET ADMIRER, CHRISTINE).
JEWEL OF THE NILE – 1985
OPENING: $7 million // TOTAL: $76 million
We wouldn’t have BACK TO THE FUTURE without this action/comedy/INDIANA JONES clone. The success of the original (ROMANCING THE STONE) proved to Hollywood that director, Robert Zemeckis, could deliver a hit. Michael Douglas returns for the sequel as well, leading the way as our hero, a jungle adventurer who gets into lots of mayhem with Danny DeVito. However, the real fun is Douglas’ chemistry and relationship with the feisty Kathleen Turner.
MARS ATTACKS! – 1996
OPENING: $9 million // TOTAL: $38 million
Tim Burton turns the old school Topps trading cards into a giant FX-filled extravaganza with an all-star cast including Jack Nicholson. Rising talent (at the time) Natalie Portman also has an important role. The alien invasion premise is familiar, but Burton puts such an inventive and playful spin on familiar tropes that this visual trip is worth checking out.
Bonus Points: Tons of cameos, like Jack Black, Sarah Jessica Parker, Martin Short, Danny DeVito, Pierce Brosnan, and Michael J. Fox.
THROW MOMMA FROM THE TRAIN – 1987
OPENING: $7 million // TOTAL: $58 million
Billy Crystal leads the way (alongside Danny DeVito… again!) in this silly comedy about dysfunctional family. There are several great quotes from this 80s hit. Crystal has to deal with his pain-in-the-ass mother, getting into several crazy situations.
Nerd Alert: Momma is played by the leader of the Fratelli crime family in THE GOONIES. This memorable actress steals scenery in every movie she’s in. Check this out when you’re in the mood for retro laughter.
THE GOLDEN CHILD – 1986
OPENING: $12 million // TOTAL: $80 million
Eddie Murphy is an action hero?! That’s right, this silly adventure mixes supernatural elements and a whole lot of John Carpenter’s BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA. This VHS was in heavy rotation during my childhood. I think it was one of those bargain bin purchases. At the time, Murphy was more known for SNL and his stand-up comedy concert films. However, this action film dialed back his raunchy sense of humour just a bit. This was a sign of things to come. Compared to all of Murphy’s Disney movies, this one feels risque.
When you’re in the mood for something strange, check out this guilty pleasure.
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