First-quarter hits such as Cloverfield ($80M) and the Hannah Montana concert movie ($65.2M) surprised us during the shadow of the writer’s strike -- and then the Iron Man ($318.3M) and The Dark Knights ($530.8M) summer mega-blockbusters took over, and we really started getting excited.
[IMG:R]We unexpectedly clamored to see Meryl Streep trip the light fantastic in musical Mamma Mia! ($143.7M); lusted after teen vampires in Twilight ($167.3M); bended bullets with Angelina Jolie in Wanted ($134.2); went 3-D at the center of the Earth in Journey to the Center of the Earth ($101.7M); and kicked ass with James Bond in Quantum of Solace ($161.2M)
Additionally, the end of the year brought us many treats in the form of limited release films that made a huge impression. Slumdog Millionaire has been one of the most talked about and highly regarded films of the year, due to the cinematic virtuosity of director Danny Boyle’s singular vision. Furthermore, films with phenomenal performances have caught our eye, such as Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler, Sean Penn in Milk, Frank Langella in Frost/Nixon and the entire cast of Doubt.
[IMG:L]2008 also had its fair share of missteps. These films all had terrific marketing campaigns, big stars and proven pedigrees -- but guess what? Nobody cared that much -- and the lackluster box-office results proves it.
Take M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening ($64.5M), for example. It was supposed to be a return to the old, creepy-scary Shyamalan -- R rated to boot -- but people stayed away in droves. The Wachowski brothers eye-candy Speed Racer ($43.9) also petered out, while Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy’s comic feats in The Love Guru ($32.2M) and Meet Dave ($11.8M), respectively, failed to inspire
But mostly 2008 will be remembered not for the box-office totals or down attendance, but rather the seeming limitless supply of “must see” movies.
POW! BAM! The Summer of Superheroes!And it kicked off in high style -- with summer's Iron Man. We knew it would be big -- we just didn't know how big: thanks to Robert Downey Jr.'s humanity and Jon Favreau's sly direction, nearly $200 million in global weekend box-office and $102.1 million domestically (including $3.5 million in Thursday previews).
Then, in mid-July, Heath Ledger's Joker and Christian Bale's increasingly dark The Dark Knight swooped down and generated $158.4 million its opening weekend, setting a new benchmark for opening weekend revenue. $260 million for the Friday-Saturday- Sunday period gave the industry its biggest movie-going weekend of all-time, obliterating numerous records and in the process, raising the overall marketplace to unprecedented box-office heights.
Other notable superhero films -- despite lukewarm reviews -- included Will Smith's drunken superhero in Hancock, Edward Norton in a re-tooled Incredible Hulk and Guillermo Del Toro's terrific Hellboy 2: The Golden Army.
The Horror Cash MachineSure, a number of them crash and burn -- but as a genre, the horror film has proven to be worth its weight in box-office gold. All they require is a simple premise, some pretty young stars to shriek and scream -- and die off, one by one -- some heavy-handed marketing and the ability to scare the bejesus out of us. The Saw franchise, in particular, has become a Halloween constant, as folks continue to line up to be terrorized by Jigsaw and his increasingly fiendish antics. As frightening as real life can be at times, scary movies allow a visceral and primal escape from real life. And the ticket sales prove the point.
The top fright-fests of the year:
Saw V ($56.7M)
The Strangers ($52.5M)
Prom Night ($43.8M)
The Eye ($31.3M)
One Missed Call ($26.8M)
The Ruins ($17.4M)
The Haunting of Molly Hartley ($13.3M)
Family Films Went to the Dogs This YearAnd, yes, we mean that literally. Family-themed movies were at an all-time high, with such stellar films as Pixar’s Wall-E, which combined cinematic art with wonderful storytelling; Kung Fu Panda; and Madagascar 2. But there’s no question the big story of the year has to be the preponderance of canine-themed films, such as Beverly Hills Chihuahua, Bolt and most recently Marley & Me, barking their way to the top of the charts. And don't be put off by Marlely's low rating here -- it only had a week to run at the time we compiled this. No question it'll rack up more kibble through the first weeks of the year.
The top family flicks of the year:
Kung Fu Panda ($215.4M)
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa ($172.3M)
Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who! ($154.5M)
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian ($141.6M)
Beverly Hills Chihuahua ($92.5M)
Marley & Me ($36.3M)
Comedy Rules in a Tough EconomyAs a a counterpoint to all the fanboy flicks that got all the hype, female-driven comedies didn't do so bad themselves. The big-screen return of Sex and the City ignited a fervor among women looking to follow Carrie Bradshaw and company -- or at least their fashion sense. But it wasn't just the women who were looking for a good laugh to make them forget their economic woes. Tropic Thunder single-handedly reversed the negative public perception of Tom Cruise, as he gave a memorable and scene-stealing turn as an megalomaniac movie mogul. Pineapple Express did the same thing to reverse James Franco's lagging career. And let us not forget Forgetting Sarah Marshall (and Jason Segel's nude romp) or Role Models, both of which sprung from the creative minds of the Judd Apatow-comedy machine.
The top laffers to put a smile on our faces:
Sex and the City ($152.6M)
Get Smart ($130.3M)
Tropic Thunder ($110.4M)
Step Brothers ($100.4M)
Four Christmases ($100.1M)
You Don't Mess with the Zohan ($100M)
Pineapple Express ($87.3M)
What Happens in Vegas ($80.2M)
27 Dresses ($76.8M)
Fool's Gold ($70.2M)
Role Models ($65.5M)
Forgetting Sarah Marshall ($62.8M)
Baby Mama ($60.2M)