September isn’t known for many mega-hits, and this month’s look at box office history bucks many trends. Thirty years ago, we got a glimpse at the real Princess Leia, ten years later, we’re remembering titans, and just ten years ago we were taken to a town full of criminals.
Like nearly everything on planet Earth, the box office is continually evolving. 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 specialties. Month after month, films release, vying to make as much money and grab as much attention as possible. Some fall, but regardless of financial success, a film’s lasting effect on popular culture is unpredictable.
So, where does that leave past box office champs? Let’s take a look back ten, twenty, and thirty years ago at the biggest movies released in September.
1990 • Postcards from the Edge • 39 million
Everyone’s favorite space princess, Carrie Fisher, lived a tumultuous life as the daughter of legendary actress Debbie Reynolds and music superstar Eddie Reynolds. Fisher turned her story into a semi-autobiographical novel called Postcards from the Edge. Fisher further turned this story into a one-woman show of the same name and a non-fiction book called “Wishful Drinking.” In 1990, Fisher wrote the screenplay to the film, which starred Meryl Streep, Shirley McClaine, and Dennis Quaid. The film won the box office crown for movies released in September of 1990, and earned critical acclaim across the world, including two Oscar nominations.
September 1990 featured the release of another critically acclaimed film, Goodfellas, from director Martin Scorsese. The mob drama centered around Ray Liota’s portrayal of real-life gangster Henry Hill. The star-studded cast included Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco, and Samuel L. Jackson. Melanie Griffith, Matthew Modine, and Michael Keaton starred in the psychological thriller Pacific Heights, which is probably due for a re-do. Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Death Warrant took the action star into prison based on the first script David S. Goyer ever sold. Peter Hyams directed Narrow Margin, starring Gene Hackman and Anne Archer in a crime thriller set on a train speeding through Canada.
2000 • Remember The Titans • 113.5 million
What do you get when you get Disney to distribute a film by action blockbuster producer Jerry Bruckheimer and starring Oscar-winning screen legend Denzel Washington? You get Remember the Titans, a biopic about Herman Boone, the African-American football coach at T. C. Williams High School, and his attempt to integrate the school. Remember the Titans remains a beloved film to this day and considered one of the best sports films ever made.
Remember The Titans had little in the way of competition. On its heels, with 60 percent less box office take, is The Exorcist Director’s Cut. However, in third place, Almost Famous didn’t bring in a ton at the box office, but received critical acclaim and remains a well-liked film. The Cameron Crowe directed film earned supporting actress Kate Hudson a Golden Globe award and an Oscar nomination. Everyone loves Keanu Reeves (for good reason!), but in 1990 he earned a worst support acting Razzie Award nomination for playing serial killer David Allen Griffin in the film The Watcher. Renée Zellweger stalked Greg Kinnear in the dark comedy Nurse Betty. Chris Rock and Morgan Freeman round out the cast of Nurse Betty as hit men.
2010 • The Town • 92.1 million
Ben Affleck starred, directed, and co-wrote The Town, a film based on the novel Prince of Thieves by Chuck Hogan. The Town earned 154 million at the global box office, and a lot of critical acclaim. The film is about a group of pro bank robbers seeking one last score. Fenway Park, the stadium typically occupied by the Boston Red Sox baseball team, is the target. Co-stars include Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively, Titus Welliver, Pete Postlethwaite, and Chris Cooper.
Milla Jovovich’s zombie-killing badass Alice returns in the fourth installment of the video game to movie franchise. Resident Evil: Afterlife. Paul W.S. Anderson returns to the series since directing the first one. Pre-Oscar winning Emma Stone carried teen comedy Easy A to an impressive haul nearly ten times the film’s budget. Before Shia Leboeuf told us to “Just do it” he starred in the fourth-place movie Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, aka “Wall Street 2” from director Oliver Stone. Meanwhile, contract killer George Clooney is Jack in the film The American.
The box office is sputtering back to life though it’s still a long way from any sense of normalcy. The New Mutants finally saw the light of day to lukewarm reviews and a decent haul. Unhinged, starring Russell Crowe, is out and though the reviews aren’t great, the lunacy of the film seems to have a little hint at cult status. Bill & Ted Face the Music is out in theaters, but it’s also on-demand which looks to become the new normal going forward. Christopher Nolan’s Tenet is poised for a big debut and box office run that go a long way towards keeping the silver screen alive and well.
Which of these films do you still watch today?
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