Summer for the movie season works like this: It heats up in May, gets broiling hot in June and July then starts to cool off only slightly in August before dropping off dramatically for the September cool down. Here we are in June, and 30 years of cinematic history reveals just how hot the silver screen gets this time of year.
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 rise, some fall, but regardless of financial success, the lasting effect of a film in popular culture is unpredictable.
So, where does that leave previous box office champs? Let’s take a look back ten, twenty, and thirty years ago at the box office hits released in June.
1990 • Total Recall • 119.3 million
The movie screen was a busy place in the summer of 1990. Taking the top spot at the box office was Total Recall starring none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger. The former Hercules in New York star was one movie away from reaching peak Arnold with Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Total Recall, based on the Philip K. Dick story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale,” was a crossroads of talent at its finest. Co-stars of the film included Ronny Cox (RoboCop), Michael Ironside (The Perfect Storm), and Sharon Stone (Basic Instinct). Behind the camera was Paul Verhoeven, who was riding high off of RoboCop and was still years away from creating the timeless classic Starship Troopers.
It’s hard to write about 1990 and keep it short. Coming in second to Total Recall was Dick Tracy, the super-stylized comic strip turned film with a cavalcade of stars including Al Pacino (The Godfather), Dustin Hoffman (Hook), and Madonna (A League of Their Own). Tom Cruise-d into third with Top Gun on the ground Days of Thunder from director Tony Scott (True Romance). Eddie Murphy scored another hit with the sequel to 48 Hours, Another 48 Hours. RoboCop 2 from director Irvin Kirshner (Empire Strikes Back) came in last with 45 million, a marked decline from the previous film.
2000 • The Perfect Storm • 182.6 million
The year 2000 marked a peculiar June for the box office. Where 1990 cranked out a lot of pop culture gems still referenced to this day, ten years later, and the winner of June was The Perfect Storm starring George Clooney. It follows the crew of a commercial fishing vessel, directed by Wolfgang Petersen (Das Boot, NeverEnding Story) and based on the non-fiction book by Sebastian Junger. Called the Andrea Gail, the boat never returned after being caught in a weather phenomenon referred to as the “perfect storm” of 1991. Along for the ride with Clooney was Mark Wahlberg (The Happening), John C. Reilly (Step Brothers), and Michael Ironside (Total Recall).
The Perfect Storm is a fine film if a little lost to memory in the minds of most cinephiles. Following it at the box office is the mostly panned Big Momma’s House starring Martin Lawrence. The Patriot with Mel Gibson made 113 million closely followed by the animated Chicken Run. Gone in 60 Seconds with Nicholas Cage and Angelina Jolie rounds out the top five. June 2000 featured a tight numbers two through five, as an average of only four million dollars separated the four films.
2010 • Toy Story 3 • 415 million
June 2000 was a little strange. But June 2010 was back to things as usual with a handful of big hits still resonating today. Taking the top spot is Toy Story 3 from Pixar, which delivered yet another fantastic story paired with stunning computer-generated visuals. New characters such as Jessie and Lots were born thanks in part to the wonderful vocal talents of Joan Cusack (Working Girl) and Ned Beatty (Rango).
Caption the number two spot is the third installment of The Twilight Saga, Eclipse. Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattison return for the vampire-werewolf-human love triangle. The reboot of The Karate Kid starring Jaden Smith (After Earth) and Jackie Chan (Rush Hour) beat Adam Sandler’s “comedy” Grown Ups for third place. Landing in the final spot is The A-Team starring Bradley Cooper about America’s favorite band of ex-soldiers on the run helping those in need.
June 2020 & Predictions
The box office is at a standstill now. Indie film The Wretched won the box office for several weeks. Christopher Nolan’s Tenet will likely be the next big film release, but as the pandemic continues, we’ve got new problems here in the United States to contend with too. So, who knows?! However, for those who are safe, healthy, and able, there’s plenty of content to consume on your favorite video viewing device through streaming channels across the interwebs.
Read more from writer Ruben R. Diaz!
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