Thirty years ago, a ghost haunted the box office, ten years later, it was a marvelous mutant invasion, and then ten years ago, the action was only all in your head.
In this time of strife we’re facing as a planet, it’s good that we have movies to get us through and bring us together. 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 July.
1990 • Ghost • 205.3 million
Thirty years ago, Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore stole our hearts with the cross-existence, clay pot molding, Whoopi Goldberg co-starring Ghost. The film has firmly entrenched itself in pop culture history. It solidified its stars as super-celebrities, and it featured a fire soundtrack from French composer Maurice Jarre. Not to mention the song “Unchained Melody,” which likely lead to many of the births in early 1991. The film earned 505 million worldwide and only set the studio back 22 million to make.
In a distant second place was Die Hard 2. The sequel to the skyscraper action-thriller put its hero in an airport against a new set of terrorists. Presumed Innocent starring Harrison Ford came in third and coincidentally also co-stars Bonnie Bedelia from Die Hard 2. The late, great John Ritter starred in Problem Child, a sort of modern, redheaded step-cousin of Dennis the Menace. Every spider lover’s favorite creature feature, Arachnophobia with Bill Pullman and Scarlett Johansson, took fifth place but is a timeless classic popcorn movie.
2000 • X-Men • 157.2 million
Up-and-coming director Bryan Singer hit the big time when he turned the venerable comic book team the X-Men into box office super-money. X-Men kickstart-ed a franchise that added five sequels, the Wolverine spinoff series, and a New Mutants film that will one day see the light of day. Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine is as iconic as any drawn by John Byrne or Frank Miller.
As impactful as X-Men was, and it indeed dominated on a global scale, it only won the domestic box office by a mere 200,000 dollars. In a close second was the first Scary Movie starring Anna Farris, Regina Hall, and all the Wayans brothers. Coming in a close third, only two million behind, was What Lies Beneath. Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer formed a superstar team in a supernatural thriller directed by Robert Zemeckis. Eddie Murphy was hot in 2000 and milked his Nutty Professor shtick for a sequel called The Klumps. Lastly, we have the Disney made film The Kid starring Bruce Willis, which, until this writing, I did not know existed.
2010 • Inception • 292.5 million
Ten years after X-Men, Inception took the box office crown with nearly double the amount. Christopher Nolan was hot off his reimagining of Batman. For Inception, he crafted a mind-bending masterpiece of a heist movie. The cast is mind-blowing, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Marion Cotillard, Ken Watanabe, and more. The film won four Academy Awards and made a boatload of money, further cementing Nolan’s place as the powerhouse director of the day.
Inception had competition, and it came in the form of Despicable Me, which earned 251 million. The first in the long-standing franchise introduced the world to the Minions and new costumes forever in the Halloween rotation. It hurts me to talk about the next film, but it exists, and it made enough money to land in third place. That movie is The Last Airbender, the ill-conceived live-action version of the brilliant animated series brought to un-life by M. Night Shyamalan. The power of Angelina Jolie fueled Salt’s success, a little mentioned action film from director Phillip Noyce. Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, and Zach Galifianakis teamed up for Dinner for Schmucks, a purported comedy.
July 2020 & Predictions
Does not compute. The box office is a strange place right now. The Wretched, a well-received horror film dominated weeks worth of box office returns from drive-in theaters across the country. For one day, YouTuber Eric Tabach held the #1 spot with his film Unsubscribe. July was supposed to feature the silver screen’s official return with the premiere of Christopher Nolan’s newest film Tenet. However, due to new spikes in COVID-19 cases, cinemas in the US have nixed the idea. Stay healthy and happy, readers. There’s no shortage of stuff to watch on streaming services across the interwebs!
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