Ten years ago, some other guys dominated the box office. Ten years prior, it was a bunch of cowboys in space, and ten years before that, students attempt to demystify death.
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, the lasting effect of a film 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 August.
1990 • Flatliners • 61.4 million
Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts Kevin Bacon joined forces with director Joel Schumacher to explore death in the thriller Flatliners. The late film director’s signature style is all over this tense, supernatural thriller that made a respectable amount of money though likely disappointed bean counters considering the star power. Sure, Schumacher still wasn’t the guy who put nipples on the bat-suit, but he’d already made waves with The Lost Boys (starring Sutherland) and St. Elmo’s Fire. Roberts was hot off of Pretty Woman, not to mention Steel Magnolias and Mystic Pizza. Bacon was already a household name and even starred in another cult hit earlier the same year, Tremors. Sutherland had hits like The Lost Boys, Stand By Me, and Young Guns under his belt. Flatliners ultimately spawned a sequel in 2017 that even brought Sutherland back to reprise his role in a cameo.
Sutherland was so hot in 1990 that he had the #1 and #2 biggest money-making movie released in August of that year. Young Guns 2 rode off its predecessor’s success, but the wave of making westerns younger and hipper didn’t last long. Following Young Guns 2 is Darkman, a comic book-esque movie directed by Sam Raimi and starring Liam Neeson before he had those skills from Taken. Mel Gibson and Robert Downey Jr. flew planes during Vietnam for the comedy-drama Air America. Filling out the top five earners is The Exorcist III, arguably the best film in the franchise after the first one directed by the original novel’s writer William Peter Blatty.
2000 • Space Cowboys • 90.1 million
Ten years after Keifer Sutherland dominated August, his father, Donald Sutherland, took the top spot as part of an ensemble cast of legends in Space Cowboys. The film featured Sutherland alongside star and director Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, and James Garner as four ex-test pilots sent into space to repair an old Soviet satellite. In a field dominated by big budget blockbusters and horror films, Space Cowboys was a drama comedy aimed at an older audience.
Hollow Man, the invisible man movie from Paul Verhoeven starring Kevin Bacon and Elizabeth Shue, took second place and spawned a sequel. Arguably the most memorable film from this year, Bring It On, took third place. The cheerleader battle film, starring Kirsten Dunst and Gabriel Union, is the stuff of pop-culture legend. Jennifer Lopez starred in the fourth place film, The Cell, a psychological thriller with incredible visuals from director Tarsem Singh. In the final spot is Coyote Ugly, a movie about sexy female bartenders who dance on the bar.
2010 • The Other Guys • 119.2 million
Ten years ago, soon-to-be Oscar-nominated director Adam McKay directed the buddy cop comedy The Other Guys. At this point and time, anything starring Will Ferrell was box office gold and alongside him was an equally bankable star in Mark Wahlberg. The Other Guys is the fourth of five collaborations between Ferrell and McKay and the third collaboration between Ferrel and Wahlberg.
On the heels of yet another successful pairing of Ferrel and McKay was the first of three The Expendables films (so far). August 2010 proved to be a month showcasing quite a range of successful films. The power of Julia Roberts drove Eat Pray Love, a romantic drama, to third place ahead of action thriller Takers starring the late Paul Walker and Matt Dillon. Audiences danced their way to cinemas to land Step Up 3D in fifth place.
August 2020 & Predictions
COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc on industries around the world. In the US, most cinemas are closed, and drive-in screens are keeping new film releases alive. Soon, Tenet, the new action film from Christopher Nolan will light up movie screens across the world but not in the US. There’s no doubt that whenever Tenet releases it’ll be a massive hit and add another fantastic entry into the Oscar-winning directors filmography. For now, enjoy the drive-in and streaming and keep yourselves healthy and safe.
Which of these films do you still watch today?
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