Saturday, December 29, 2012

#502. Box Office 2001

Continuing our look back at the most popular movies from each year, we've now reached 2001, the start of the modern franchise era:

1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone ($317 mil)
Chris Columbus kicked off the movie franchise with child actors and a clear vision of a kid-friendly experience.  Perhaps it's worth remembering that to this point only the first four books (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was released in 2000, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix not until 2003) were in bookstores.  At any rate, it was a complete phenomenon.

2. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring ($313 mil)
Like Titanic there was no expectation for Peter Jackson to find massive success.  I still think it's because of the fantasy craze kicked off by Harry Potter, the need for adults to legitimize their interest in the boy wizard, and there was J.R.R. Tolkien just waiting in the wings and coincidentally a whole series of films launching at the same time as Harry's cinematic adventures.

3. Shrek ($267 mil)
Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy discover the last great characters of their careers, both a blessing a curse, since audiences would apparently never again embrace them in live action, which is fine, because they continued to love this franchise for years to come.

4. Monsters, Inc. ($255 mil)
Pixar's formula is to take characters you wouldn't normally think to take seriously and make them stars.  Here it's monsters, the traditional enemy of children, and make a movie explaining their perspective, which is apparently that they're just another job sector, collecting energy to power their city the only way they know how, which is to provoke terror from kids.  I will always have a soft spot for this one because my sister named her cat after the girl.  Bonus points if you know the girl's name.

5. Rush Hour 2 ($226 mil)
Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker continue to be wildly popular in the sequel to their surprise hit, basically repeating the same exact story.  Being a fan of that story, as many others were at the time, I really enjoyed it.  One of the more successful versions of the buddy cup movie formula, because it also recognizes that the buddy cup movie formula is basically the odd couple movie formula, and this is about as odd a couple as you can get.

6. The Mummy Returns ($202 mil)
Another of the franchises that seems to have lost its popular luster, possibly because the rest the monster genre didn't return around it, even though Van Helsing certainly tried.  Or maybe they just waited way too long for the third one.  This would also count as the secret origin for Dwayne Johnson's movie career.

7. Pearl Harbor ($198 mil)
Trying to manufacture a cultural event works far better when it's Schindler's List than when you're trying to support blockbuster filmmaking.  I think everyone understands that now.

8. Ocean's Eleven ($183 mil)
Still the source of George Clooney's most reliable popular success, this is basically the frat club of Hollywood's most famous actors getting to have fun making movies, more akin to Newman and Redford than the Rat Pack who starred in the original.

9. Jurassic Park III ($181 mil)
It's true, there was a third installment in this franchise, basically dinosaurs running amok...again.  You can tell it was something of a factory model, since at least the last one had a lot more interaction from original author Michael Crichton, including a book as source material.

10. Planet of the Apes ($180 mil)
Tim Burton's vision of the material (originally a book, and not the Charlton Heston movie, just so you know) infused a strong aesthetic to the simian appearance of the actors inhabiting his landscape, as you might expect from the director.  It was also one of the first efforts to redo a popular movie, and as such invoked nerd rage and backlash.

11. A Beautiful Mind ($170 mil; Russell Crowe in another massive hit, this time with far less obvious material, and thus the backlash hit almost immediately after)

12. Hannibal ($165 mil; speaking of backlash, Hollywood dared revisit Silence of the Lambs and make a franchise out of one of Anthony Hopkins' most famous role, which some audiences thought was blasphemy for...some reason)

13. American Pie 2 ($145 mil; another big success meant this officially became a franchise, with several more sequels featuring the original stars, as well as dozens of mostly unrelated direct-to-video spinoffs)

14. The Fast and the Furious ($144 mil; launched the popular careers of Paul Walker and Vin Diesel, which only this same franchise years later could apparently continue)

15. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider ($131 mil; like the Mummy movies this was partly Hollywood redoing Indiana Jones, but let's face it, this was also all about Angelina Jolie in her most popular role)

16. Dr. Dolittle 2 ($112 mil; Eddie Murphy can certainly appreciate the success of these films, but I wonder if even he remembers how they were such big hits, other than the fact that they were made with kids in mind, which apparently he will only do so often, or in Donkey form)

17. Spy Kids ($112 mil; like Schwarzenegger before him, Robert Rodriguez apparently only has massive success when he works against type, though diminishing returns probably means he ought to switch up the formula a little more)

18. Black Hawk Down ($108 mil; Ridley Scott makes a movie out of one of the more infamous military incidents of the 1990s)

19. The Princess Diaries ($108 mil; say hello to Anne Hathaway!)

20. Vanilla Sky ($100 mil; I think this is the true source of the backlash Tom Cruise is still experiencing today, not just Eyes Wide Shut, what some people apparently interpreted as a baffling vanity project)

21. The Others ($96 mil; this was Nicole Kidman's version of The Sixth Sense and remains her biggest solo success)

22. Legally Blonde ($96 mil; behold the popular debut of Reese Witherspoon!)

23. America's Sweethearts ($93 mil; I think there was some kind of bizarre backlash attached this movie as well, which still affects the careers of Billy Crystal and Julia Roberts)

24. Cats & Dogs ($93 mil; the birth of CGI work helping animals to interact with the real world)

25. Save the Last Dance ($91 mil; Julia Stiles was almost a movie star because of this)

26. Atlantis: The Lost Empire ($84 mil; one of Disney's new returns to animated oblivion after all but giving the zeitgeist to Pixar)

27. Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius ($80 mil; the road to computer animated dominance had speed bumps)

28. A.I. Artificial Intelligence ($78 mil; the 2001 backlash effect also claimed this movie, Spielberg finishing a concept developed by Kubrick, starring the kid everyone though they'd love forever from The Sixth Sense)

29. Training Day ($76 mil; Denzel Washington officially became cool by turning evil)

30. Along Came a Spider ($74 mil; Morgan Freeman plays Alex Cross for the second time, after Kiss the Girls)

31. Bridget Jones's Diary ($71 mil; everyone thought they'd love Renee Zellweger forever)

33. The Score ($71 mil; blockbuster acting confluence of Edward Norton, Robert De Niro, and Marlon Brando)

34. Shallow Hal ($70 mil; Jack Black starts to become a huge star)

35. Swordfish ($69 mil; I could say this was the film that Hugh Jackman made to become known for something other than Wolverine, or that it also featured John Travolta, but c'mon, this one is known for Halle Berry, and if you don't know why, then just move along okay?)

36. The Mexican ($66 mil; Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt had some backlash from this, because that's a lot of what 2001 was about, or have you not gotten that yet?)

37. Down to Earth ($64 mil; back when everyone still thought they'd love Chris Rock forever)

38. Spy Game ($62 mil; this counts as one of Brad Pitt's successes, thanks in part to Robert Redford)

39. The Wedding Planner ($60 mil; the odd nature of Jennifer Lopez's millennial success was that it became harder for her to be a movie star, which was what she was before)

40. Behind Enemy Lines ($58 mil; Owen Wilson is a treasure, but this hit is better known for the direct-to-video franchise it spawned)

41. Ali ($58 mil; can we please just put aside the myth of "making films for awards season" and just admit that people like Will Smith can simply engage in making really good movies, or is this just more of that 2001 backlash?)

42. The Animal ($57 mil; sure, this stars Rob Schneider, but it also features Colleen from the first season of Survivor, the last time anyone would ever see her)

43. Moulin Rouge! ($57 mil; Baz Luhrmann being Baz Luhrmann, with Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor belting their hearts out playing along)

44. Rat Race ($56 mil; hilarious ensemble comedy that deserves more respect)

45. A Knight's Tale ($56 mil; Hollywood's effort to make a star of Heath Ledger and also the direct result of the marketing for and success of Gladiator)

47. Blow ($52 mil; Johnny Depp at his druthers, and part of the major push to make Penelope Cruz a Hollywood star)

48. The Royal Tenenbaums ($52 mil; ensemble success for Wes Anderson)

50. Enemy at the Gates ($51 mil; Joseph Fiennes and Jude Law are always trying to convince people that they're worth watching)

51. K-PAX ($50 mil; Kevin Spacey has the same problem, and here he's doing while trying to also convince people that he's not crazy just because he thinks he's a space alien)

52. Serendipity ($50 mil; add Kate Beckinsale to the list of stars trying to get people to watch her)

53. Kate and Leopold ($47 mil; this was Hugh Jackman's first attempt to distance himself from Wolverine; and you can add Liev Schreiber to that list of actors begging people to appreciate them)

55. Zoolander ($45 mil; if Ben Stiller didn't procrastinate making the second one for so long, he'd have his own Austin Powers)

56. The One ($43 mil; this is Jet Li doing The Matrix)

59. Gosford Park ($41 mil; a bunch of really great British actors)

63. Evolution ($38 mil; Ivan Reitman trying to have another Ghostbusters)

65. Jeepers Creepers ($37 mil; Justin Long could only star in a horror movie with this title)

71. Amelie ($33 mil; say hello to Audrey Tautou!)

74. Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within ($32 mil; how to make a computer animated movie and have it come out creepy)

75. From Hell ($31 mil; Johnny Depp starring in a movie based on a graphic novel by Alan Moore)

76. Monster's Ball ($31 mil; Halle Berry earned an Oscar from this one)

79. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back ($30 mil; also known as Kevin Smith either finally completely selling out or making the movie he always wanted to make, besides Clerks)

82. The Majestic ($27 mil; Jim Carrey and Frank Darabont collaborate)

85. Joe Dirt ($27 mil; Dennis Spade perhaps learns that he is not going to become the next Adam Sandler)

86. The Musketeer ($27 mil; Justin Chambers would find actual success as a cast member of Grey's Anatomy)

87. Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles ($25 mil; you're a long way from success, Paul Hogan)

88. Memento ($25 mil; Christopher Nolan's first masterpiece)

89. Captain Corelli's Mandolin ($25 mil; no matter what else they say, Nicolas Cage, you still made a movie with a really awesome title)

91. 15 Minutes ($24 mil; other than another stop in the failed attempt to make Edward Burns happen, this also featured rare film roles for Kelsey Grammer and Avery Brooks)

94. Corky Romano ($23 mil; Chris Kattan is not even the new David Spade)

97. Joe Somebody ($22 mil; ironic title, because this was pretty much when everyone stopped loving Tim Allen, perhaps another victim of 2001 backlash)

99. Joy Ride ($21 mil; written by J.J. Abrams)

108. Rock Star ($17 mil; one of the 17 million permutations of Mark Wahlberg)

110. Original Sin ($16 mil; Angelina Jolie and Antonio Banderas somehow didn't excite the interest of moviegoers)

111. O ($16 mil; innovative Shakespeare adaptation)

112. 3000 Miles to Graceland ($15 mil; people who are crazy enough to still be obsessive about Elvis are not also going to support the comeback of Kevin Costner)

113. Life as a House ($15 mil; Hayden Christensen makes his wide debut)

123. American Outlaws ($13 mil; Hollywood's idea of how to make a star of Colin Farrell)

132. The Curse of the Jade Scorpion ($7 mil; Woody Allen with wacky crime story)

133. The Man Who Wasn't There ($7 mil; Joel & Ethan Coen making one of the rare modern black and white movies)

136. Mulholland Drive ($7 mil; say hello to Naomi Watts)

137. Sexy Beast ($6 mil; the unlikely title for Ben Kingsley's comeback)

138. Town & Country ($6 mil; infamous flop and Warren Beatty's last movie to date)

140. One Night at McCool's ($6 mil; is much more mccool in its own head)

141. Ghost World ($6 mil; secret origin for Scarlett Johansson)

145. Monkeybone ($5 mil; movie I will absolutely see at some point)

148. Made ($5 mil; Jon Favreau's followup to Swingers)

149. Bubble Boy ($5 mil; let's all pretend Jake Gyllenhaal didn't make this)

156. Glitter ($4 mil; nearly torpedoed Mariah Carey's career)

157. Left Behind ($4 mil; based on a wildly popular series of Christian books depicting the apocalypse)

162. Pootie Tang ($3 mil; I'm convinced this deserves cult fame)

165. Hedwig and the Angry Inch ($3 mil; had instant cult fame)

169. Waking Life ($2 mil; artsy indy movie from Richard Linklater)

174. Sidewalks of New York ($2 mil; happen, Edward Burns, happen!!!)

210. The Devil's Backbone ($700 thou; Guillermo del Toro helps make his own legacy)

228. Donnie Darko ($500 thou; we'll pretend Jake Gyllenhaal made this)

252. Wet Hot American Summer ($200 thou; enduring cult ensemble comedy)

260. Chopper ($200 thou; secret origin of Eric Bana and Andrew Dominik)

277. Audition ($100 thou; infamous Japanese horror movie)

301. The Million Dollar Hotel ($50 thou; U2's Bono helped make this movie)

Source: Box Office Mojo


PT Dilloway, Superhero Author said...

Wow that's a lot of stuff. I watched all of the ones in the top 10 except for number 1. I don't think the success of LOTR had anything to do with Harry Potter. Those books existed what 50 years before Potter?

But you're right that this is where we really start to see franchises--and would-be franchises--take over at the box office. It's like Hollywood finally figured out the secret to making money again. In the 30s-50s it was more about stars but in the 21st Century it's about properties. That's probably why so many formerly bankable stars have had such a rough go in the last 12 years.

PT Dilloway, Superhero Author said...

I decided to count and came up with 35 of these I've seen.

Tony Laplume said...

It's also why stars like Johnny Depp and Robert Downey, Jr. successfully transformed themselves into being franchise stars, and accounts for all of Orlando Bloom's actual success, and even Chris Evans, who keeps hopping from franchise to franchise.

PT Dilloway, Superhero Author said...

And then you get that effect where property stars try to transform into regular movie stars but those like Rob Pattinson and Daniel Radcliffe have found that about as difficult as everyone not named Harrison Ford to come out of Star Wars.

Tony Laplume said...

Well, exactly. But part of the point I'm making in this series is that how much a movie makes doesn't actually define its success. Hollywood may choose who gets to work on what based on economic concerns, but good material can be made for little, or made for a lot and make a little, or be made for a lot and make a's doesn't ultimately matter. Most people who watch movies don't care about this stuff, but they'll choose what to care about based on how popular a movie was when it was originally released. That's what I discovered when I started the original research for the project, that a lot of the movies from the 1980s that I know about were simply the movies that made the most that year. The funny thing is their popularity at the time belies the fact that movies today can easily make more money, but we have such a more contentious relationship with our hits now.

I wanted to see if there truly was a difference, or what shaped the difference if there was one, what trends developed and why we think everything's so different now. And if you go back to Star Wars, you realize that there's no difference now, we're all still trying to find the unifying movie experience, except now we're a lot more cynical about it.

Maurice Mitchell said...

2011 was quite a year. Here are my thoughts on some of these.
A Beautiful Mind is one of my favorite mind-blowing films.
The Fast and the Furious is a true classic almost ruined by two bad sequels.
Spy Kids. I heard a rumor that he made this film so kids could enjoy his style of action without watching R-Rated movies. I respect him for that.
The Animal was horrid. Just an excuse to do bestiality jokes. Nicole Kidman's had a bunch of awards for other films, so I think it's hard to call "The Others" her "only hit." Good points all around though.

Tony Laplume said...

Not her "only" hit, but her biggest as lead actor.


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