Originally written September, 2000
Wondering what happened to summer movies this year? Wondering what happened to that movie season that we all look forward to? You know, the season when the studios roll out their big audience-grabbers, the films that make movie stars movie stars and make all the money that studios need to produce the rest of the films they make? Remember those summer blockbusters that make you want to go back again and again to see how they did those great effects and see all those great stunts? You know…..SUMMER??!!
Remember when Memorial Day meant a great new summer release that would last all summer long? Remember when a summer movie would be so good that all the critics would lament the fact that such a good movie was opened in the summer because it would never be remembered come Oscar time? Remember the summers when you looked forward to escaping the summer heat by settling into a dark, cool theatre for 2 hours of pure escapist entertainment?
It’s mid-September…..I’m still waiting for summer.
I’m not an expert. I’m not a box office whiz. I’m not even a true critic in the fact that I don’t see everything that comes out, so I can’t really compare every film. But I am a fan, someone who loves movies, and all I know is that there was only ONE FILM that got me excited about movies this summer, and that film was Gladiator, released on May 5, a full month before the summer season really started. I haven’t done many reviews because, quite frankly, there was nothing I wanted to see. I saw and reviewed Mission: Impossible 2, which I was looking forward to, but it left me so incredibly downcast that I gave up on the rest of the season.
Not willing to just write the summer off, I needed some proof that I wasn’t just imagining things. Was this really a bad summer or am I just getting older and not appreciating the summer fare? I decided to do a little research and compare this summer with past summers, hoping to find some answers. You make your own conclusions.
Here were the big films from the summer of 1994:
The Lion King
Clear and Present Danger
Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
Here, we had two Best Picture nominees (and the Best Picture winner), a successful franchise installment, a big summer action flick, a small, independent success, and two breakout films for future HUGE stars (Jim Carrey and Sandra Bullock owe a lot to the summer of ’94).
To Die For
The Usual Suspects
More Best Picture nominees, and, again, the Best Picture winner came from the summer crop. Another successful movie franchise installment, a couple independent surprises and a delightful well-written vehicle for a would-be movie star (Alicia Silverstone was never able to follow-up her Clueless debut). Powerful dramas, not big-budget action flicks, ruled the summer in 1995.
A Time to Kill
Courage Under Fire
No Best Picture nominees here, but Courage Under Fire was a critical favorite (and, keeping with summer tradition, was a breakout film for then-unknown Matt Damon). Independence Day and Twister were poor films but pleased the masses, and A Time To Kill gave all Grisham fans something to look forward to. The Rock proved to be a good time and transformed the once-independent-serious-actor Nicolas Cage into an action star.
The Lost World
Men In Black
My Best Friend’s Wedding
The Full Monty
Air Force One
2 Best Picture nominees came from the summer of 1997, including the all-time box office champion, Titanic. Men in Black took the summer by storm, thriving in Titanic’s shadow. Other strong films were able to stand up to the titanic competition, including Julia Roberts’ comeback, and Harrison Ford’s presidential action blockbuster. The Lost World failed critically, but who could resist? Face/Off and Con Air continued what had begun in 1996….Nicolas Cage is the new action hero of summer.
Mask of Zorro
Saving Private Ryan
The Truman Show
Lethal Weapon 4
Out of Sight
There’s Something About Mary
Summer of 1998 had a little something for everybody, including the breakout and unexpected hit, There’s Something About Mary. Saving Private Ryan was the critical and commercial success of the summer, but The Truman Show, There’s Something About Mary, Out of Sight and Bulworth left the critics and the audiences gleefully touting the quality of screenplays in Hollywood. If films this good can come out in summer, just think of the possibilites for the other seasons!
Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace
Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me
Thomas Crown Affair
Blair Witch Project
The Sixth Sense
The hits keep coming. Just like in 1997 when Titanic hit, it must have been hard for anything to thrive in the shadow of Star Wars: Episode I, but several films did, including Best Picture nominee The Sixth Sense and summer sensation The Blair Witch Project. Julia Roberts stole the summer with two blockbusters and Austin Powers continued his hold on twenty-something America. The South Park movie satisfied all fans of the crude series, while winning over many new fans.
Mission: Impossible 2
Me, Myself and Irene
Nutty Professor II
The Perfect Storm
Gone in 60 Seconds
Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle
What Lies Beneath
Let’s see…..X-Men did well, but if you’re not a fan of the genre, forget it. Chicken Run was a nice surprise. Scary Movie was the hit of the summer…….but I’m not sure that’s anything considering the competition. Other than that, I’m mystified. Did anyone enjoy any of these films???? Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see many Best Picture nominees in this list…..
Let’s look at the good side of all of this: just think of all the money we saved this summer by not going to the movies!
Come on, Fall……