One-hundred-plus years of filmmaking provides a long, rich, and deep history to look back on. Retro reviews and analysis of old films are practically necessary full-time specialities. Month after month, films release, vying to make as much money as possible, and reign as box office champs. Some rise, some fall, but regardless of financial success, it’s never a sign of a lasting effect. A great example is the little-mentioned 2012 film which released just eight years ago. 2012 made nearly 800 million dollars and effectively vanished off the face of the earth.
So, where does that leave the ghosts of box office champs past?
Let’s take a look back ten, twenty, and thirty years ago
at the biggest movies released in April.
1987 – The Secret of My Success
The secret to Michael J. Fox’s success is having uncanny comedic timing and a wildly professional work ethic. Fox appeared in nine movies during the 80s, two of them Back to the Future 1 & 2 are pop culture classics. Teen Wolf, maybe less so, but it spawned a sequel reboot on MTV.
Fox followed Teen Wolf and Back to the Future with Light of Day, an underrated drama co-starring legendary rocker Joan Jett. After Light of Day came The Secret of My Success, a comedy about a driven man living two lives.
The 80s was a decade replete with classic, funny films. The likes of Ferris Bueller, Spaceballs, or Planes, Trains, And Automobiles simply overshadowed Fox’s Secret of My Success. The biggest flaw of Secret of My Success is that it doesn’t know what kind of film it wants to be. Fox can handle any comedy, but here the script and director seem caught between slapstick and sex-driven sitcom.
1997 – Anaconda
From Fly Girl on In Livin’ Color to standout co-star in Money Train to 1997 when J-Lo became a household name. In 1997, J-Lo broke out with smash-hit biopic Selena, lifted Anaconda from direct-to-video b-movie to box office hit b-movie, and featured in Oliver Stone film, U-Turn. Now, twenty years later, and J-Lo is a living legend entertainer. Hit records, failed marriages, cinematic success and disaster, and critically acclaimed TV shows, J-Lo has checked off a lot of the necessary boxes.
Of the past three decades, the 90s had the least amount of remakes, reboots, or reimaginings. Because of this, we got cinematic b-movie greatness Anaconda. Let’s face it; today Anaconda would play on a Saturday afternoon on SyFy or live somewhere unseen in the vast ocean of streaming selections. It also wouldn’t have a cast with J-Lo, Ice Cube, Eric Stoltz, and Jon Voight.
Anaconda, like any great b-movie, has a simple, straightforward plot. A film crew is looking for anacondas in the Amazon, and death-packed wackiness ensues. Along the way are cliché characters played with scene-chewing gusto, particularly by Voight who uses a strange accent. Anaconda’s effects are fun, half-practical, half-super-dated CG. The film doesn’t waste time trying to take itself too seriously.
2007 – Disturbia
Talk about baggage. From child star to movie star to arrests, bizarre viral videos and publicity stunts, there’s plenty to say about Shia LaBeouf. In 2007, Shia was fresh off a hit TV show and starting a string of box office hits that included the first Transformers movie just a few months later.
Disturbia is a suburban paranoia thriller film inspired by Hitchcock’s Rear Window. Perhaps foreshadowing the future, LaBeouf plays a teenager on house arrest who spends the time peeping on neighbors. One neighbor is a beautiful schoolmate; the other might be a psychotic murderer. LaBeouf is on the case and the film, directed by DJ Caruso, rides a great pace that keeps it moving through the thrills.
2017 – I predict …
The Fate of the Furious releases on April 14th. If the film even makes half of what Furious 7 made it’ll still earn more than all three movies in this write-up. Ten years from now, when I’m doing an updated version of this article, I have no doubt Fate of the Furious will be the ghost of box office champion’s future.