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 2 of the biggest movies of all time, Jennifer Lawrence establishing her spot near the top, Tom Cruise establishing his dramatic chops, Jim Carrey establishing his box office dominance, and 5 Cult Classics.
December has a good mix of franchises, blockbusters, Oscar buzz movies, and word-of-mouth surprises. Featured movies are selected from the Top 200 list of openings. If you’d like a whole new selection, check out the 2D Companion Piece.
- note: box office figures are domestic and are not adjusted for inflation
AVATAR – 2009
OPENING WEEKEND: $77 million // BOX OFFICE TOTAL: $750 million
The biggest movie of all time often gets accused of lacking originality (like having a similar plot to POCAHONTAS – did that cartoon have blue aliens avatared by a paraplegic?). However, this story has been told over and over before movies even existed. It’s as familiar as the traditional hero quest. What separates it from mediocrity is its execution. James Cameron guides us on a spectacular adventure, transporting us to another world filled with wonder and excitement.
TITANIC – 1997
OPENING: $29 million // TOTAL: $601 million
James Cameron has made several amazing movies that aren’t in the Top 5 box office earners (like ALIENS and TERMINATOR), but he very well may be remembered in history as the helmer of AVATAR and TITANIC. Based around a true event, this romance mixes incredibly well with adventure. Despite having no fantasy or science-fiction, this epic still feels magical. Perfectly paced, with familiar characters, but also tremendous emotion and sheer spectacle.
AMERICAN HUSTLE – 2013
OPENING: $19 million // TOTAL: $150 million
This David O. Russell character-piece divided the audience. However, many critics (and fans still) adored this Scorsese feeling drama. Black comedy laces every edge. Stylish and compelling, the directing and writing is just as amazing as the bold performances. Christian Bale, Jennifer Lawrence, and Bradley Cooper lead the way in this 70s-set crime thriller meets character drama.
RAIN MAN – 1988
OPENING: $7 million // TOTAL: $173 million
Tom Cruise wanted to be taken seriously. Already a star of comedies and action films, Cruise stepped into the shoes of drama. While the subject matter occasionally gets heavy, this drama is also filled with light-hearted laughter. Dustin Hoffman plays an autistic savant, who Cruise slowly begins to understand and appreciate as their relationship develops.
DUMB & DUMBER – 1994
OPENING: $16 million // TOTAL: $127 million
Jim Carrey was one of the highest paid actors during the 90s. Due to his success in ACE VENTURA and THE MASK, he commanded $20 million. Jeff Daniels joins Carrey, assembling one of the best comedic duos to ever hit the screen. Ridiculous and raunchy, this comedy isn’t for everyone. These characters are still lovable, despite how annoying they might seem at first glance.
DUMB & DUMBER is one of the best comedies ever, with laughs constantly flying all over the place.
The Number 1 movie This Weekend in History is THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY with $85 million. This impressive haul gives it the top spot for December… until this weekend and STAR WARS happens. Overall, the first chapter of the latest Middle-Earth trilogy made $303 million domestically. Focused more on CG than practical FX, Peter Jackson’s HOBBIT doesn’t look (or feel) as magical as the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy.
DUDE, WHERE’S MY CAR? – 2000
OPENING: $14 million // TOTAL: $47 million
A spiritual successor to DUMB & DUMBER, this comedy stars Ashton Kutcher (THAT 70s SHOW) and Seann William Scott (AMERICAN PIE). They partied so hard they can’t remember what happened last night. The crazy scenario involves time travel and aliens… I think. I can’t remember. Dude, where’s my plot? Regardless of story, there are a few quotable scenes and memorable laughs that make this still worth watching years later.
VANILLA SKY – 2001
OPENING: $25 million // TOTAL: $101 million
Tom Cruise stars alongside Cameron Diaz and Penelope Cruz in this TWILIGHT ZONE vibing mind-f*ck. Remade from the superior Spanish film LOS ABRAS LOS OJOS from the director of THE OTHERS, Cameron Crowe’s version fails to capture the same spirit. Super compelling themes and philosophy get explored along the twisting and turning experience. Definitely worth watching, but this mysterious film will leave you scratching your head. This is one for movie fans who like to participate with their stories.
BEAVIS & BUTTHEAD: DO AMERICA – 1996
OPENING: $20 million // TOTAL: $63 million
The obscene MTV cartoon gets the feature film treatment. Created by Mike Judge (OFFICE SPACE, KING OF THE HILL), these comedic duo rivals Carrey and Daniels from DUMB & DUMBER, joining the ranks of lovable cinematic idiots, like Bill & Ted and Wayne & Garth. Traveling across America, these teenage punks get into tons of trouble along the way.
EDDIE MURPHY: RAW – 1987
OPENING: $9 million // TOTAL: $51 million
During the 80s, Eddie Murphy’s stand-up comedy rivaled legends like Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor. He wasn’t afraid to get R-rated or cause controversy. RAW is one of two excellent concert films from that era. Murphy commands the stage, splitting your sides from laughter. Put simply, this is one of the best stand-up movies ever made.
I remember renting this from the General Store as a kid. I needed to run home and get a hand-written letter from my mom. Let’s just say she wasn’t a big fan of Murphy’s foul language… at least, I learned something (like a new word here and there ).
BLACK SWAN – 2010
OPENING: $8 million // TOTAL: $107 million
Darren Aronofsky (REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, THE FOUNTAIN, PI) always directs compelling features which are open to interpretation. SWAN imagines mental illness on screen. Natalie Portman portrays a ballerina up for the lead in an important play. The pressures drive her insane. Paranoia is reflected back at Portman with several magnificent get-under-your-skin kinds of ways. Once again, there is substance behind the performances and style. Aronofsky is one of our best directors working today.
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Hungry for more? Check out the 2D Companion Piece for a tasty new menu of selections.
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