Thirty years ago, the box office sizzled with actions, ten years later, it was laughing its way to the bank, and ten years after that, it was laughing again from a kick to the nuts.
October is the month of Halloween and is perhaps no month better represents movies. After all, actors, directors, and the rest of the filmmaking industry are professionals at playing pretend. You’d think, though, that a month celebrating enjoying the macabre would produce nothing but horror hits. However, our look at the box office over the past 30 years and the films that earned the most money reveals that horror is hardly the only thing people watch this month.
So, who took the box office crowns in our analysis this month? Let’s take a look back ten, twenty, and thirty years ago at the biggest movies released in October.
1990 • Marked For Death • 46 million
In a year of Ghost, Pretty Woman, and Home Alone, love stories and a kid comedy, along comes Marked For Death, an action movie from hot star Steven Seagal. Marked For Death was Seagal’s third film after stints as a stunt coordinator and martial arts instructor who reportedly broke Sean Connery’s wrist during filming. Marked For Death features the typical hard-boiled, steely-eyed protagonist that Seagal always seemed to play back then. Playing former DEA agent John Hatcher, Seagal tries to save his town from a gang of religious zealots determined to take over John’s hometown.
October of 1990 didn’t see too much excitement in films that left a longstanding pop culture impact. Memphis Belle, a fictionalized retelling of the last mission of an American Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bomber, came in behind Marked For Death. A re-release of the acclaimed Disney animated film, Fantasia, earned the third spot. In fourth is Quigley Down Under, a film starring Tom Selleck as a sharpshooter fighting for Aborigines’ lives in Australia. In 1990, Kirstie Alley was hot stuff in Hollywood and starred in Sibling Rivalry, a star-studded comedy directed by Carl Reiner that included Sam Elliott, Jami Gertz, Bill Pullman, Carrie Fisher, and Scott Bakula.
2000 • Meet The Parents • 161.1 million
Long ago, comedy legends Jerry Stiller and wife Anne Meara gave birth to comedy legend Ben Stiller who starred in a remake of 1992’s Meet The Parents and led it to the October box office crown of 2000. Director Jay Roach (Bombshell) and a stellar cast with the likes of Blythe Danner (Gweneth Paltrow’s mom) and Robert DeNiro created a film that spawned two sequels and several loose spin-offs. The film’s left a pop culture impression that includes the line “Are you a pothead, Focker?” uttered by DeNiro.
Two hot stars came together in 2000 for the film Bedazzled, about a man who makes a deal with the devil. Hollywood hunk Brendan Fraser played the man. To play the devil was sinfully gorgeous, Elizabeth Hurley. The late Harold Ramis directed the film. Behind Bedazzled is Pay It Forward, the feel-good film starring Haley Joel Osment, Helen Hunt, and Kevin Spacey. There’s no denying it made saying ‘pay it forward’ a common phrase. Following the super-success of Blair Witch, the filmmakers tried to make a ‘standard’ sequel, even ditching the found-footage vibe. Blair Witch 2: Book Of Shadows was a mild success that ended the franchise for the next 14 years. The Contender, a political drama starring (and co-produced by) Gary Oldman, snuck into the top five and received two Oscar nominations (Joan Allen, Jeff Bridges)
2010 • Jackass 3D • 177 million
On October 1st, 2000, MTV, the channel that played music videos at one point in time, released a bunch of lunatics onto the world. The show was called Jackass, and it featured Johnny Knoxville, Bam Margera, Steve-O, Wee-Man, and a host of other crazy characters performing some ridiculous stunts and acts of random stupidity. It’s the type of video common today in our social media world, but rare back in 2000 when it sometimes took minutes to even log on to the worldwide web. Ten years after the premiere of Jackass on MTV, the third film in the series released to massive success.
Speaking of the internet then and now, in second place is the acclaimed film from writer Aaron Sorkin and director David Fincher about Facebook’s rise. The Social Network starred pre-Lex Luthor Jesse Eisenberg and a pre-Spiderman Andrew Garfield. The film received many awards, including a Best Picture at the Golden Globes and eight Oscar nominations (winning three). RED, a movie about retired assassinations, starred Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, and more, and blasted its way the third spot. The sequel to Paranormal Activity landed in fourth, followed by Secretariat, a film about a horse that won a race.
October 2020 & Predictions
The box office is not a great place. Tenet is doing reasonably well considering the situation, but outside of that, it’s a wasteland. Several theater chains are closing shop for the foreseeable future after Disney announced delays to high-profile films like Black Widow until 2021. Who’s to know what the future holds for the silver screen. In the meantime, streaming services are cranking out content like there’s no tomorrow. So, at least we’ve all got something to watch. Maybe too much something, but that’s an article for another time.
Which of these films do you still watch today?
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