(Photo by Marvel / courtesy Everett Collection)
Anthony Hopkins was such a fixture on the Oscars circuit during the ’90s that it was a shock to learn his nomination at this Academy Awards is his first in 20 years. After winning Best Actor for Silence of the Lambs in 1992, and getting nominated every two years after that for The Remains of the Day, Nixon, and then Amistad, the knighted actor would have to wait two decades before The Two Popes would put him officially back in the running for Oscar gold.
Of course, the awards are just one aspect of a legendary career that is now spanning into its seventh decade, one that started with a major role in 1968’s The Lion in Winter, starring Peter O’Toole and Katharine Hepburn. A Bridge Too Far, Magic, and The Elephant Man would be among Hopkins’ highlights in the years that followed, opening into an epic run in the ’90s, beginning with immortalizing Dr. Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs. Besides his Oscar-nominated hits, other films of the decade include Howards End, Legend of the Fall, The Mask of Zorro, and Meet Joe Black, guaranteeing Hopkins was inescapable no matter what movies you were into.
Hopkins returned to the Dr. Lecter for Hannibal and Red Dragon. And his most memorable roles in recent years play into his effortless gravitas, like a famed director in Hitchcock, Methuselah in Noah, Odin in the Thor trilogy, and one-half of The Two Popes, for which he was nominated for his latest acting Oscar. Lately, there was Elyse, and The Father, which drew some of the strongest reviews of his career. Now, we’re taking a look back and ranking Anthony Hopkins movies by Tomatometer!
The movie business is difficult; that shouldn’t surprise anyone. A lot of thought and care and preparation — not to mention money — goes into the filmmaking process, and sometimes the end result just doesn’t quite turn out the way its creators intended. But even when a film production goes sideways, for whatever reason, there’s often a glimmer of something incredible hidden beneath the botched line deliveries, mediocre special effects, and general ineptitude on display. Sometimes, there are great scenes to be found in truly Rotten movies.
With that in mind, we’ve compiled an initial list of 30 examples in which an inspiring exchange, an ingeniously staged action sequence, or a hilarious performance helped shine a light on otherwise mediocre productions. We’re talking about genuinely outstanding moments — not ones we find ironically amusing — that might feel right at home in more expertly crafted films. There are, of course, countless more we could have included, but we’ll save those for the next installment of this series. And, if there are any that you think belong here, let us know in the comments!
(Photo by 20th Century Fox)
DARTH MAUL vs. QUI-GON AND OBI-WAN
The long-awaited Star Wars prequel introduced us to such inexplicable horrors as Jar Jar Binks, midi-chlorians, and mind-numbing Galactic Senate debates, but the film did offer an awesome glimpse of what it could have been. The final battle pitting Darth Maul against Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi is one of the most dynamic lightsaber duels we’ve ever gotten, thanks in part to the martial arts talent of Ray Park as the Zabrak Sith Lord. Not only is the fight kinetic and inventive, who can forget the iconic moment when that second crimson beam emerges from Darth Maul’s double-bladed lightsaber?
The Transformers franchise is largely a jumbled mess of CGI, explosions, stilted dialogue, and perfunctory storytelling. That said, Michael Bay knows his way around visual spectacle, and while Dark of the Moon features its fair share of incomprehensible robot mayhem, there is one practical stunt (read: they did it for real) in the film that is genuinely thrilling. Bay enlisted the aid of experienced wingsuit flyers to jump off the Sears Tower and soar between Chicago’s skyscrapers as chaos unfolds all around them. It’s impressive, it’s majestic, and it’s just cool as hell. If only the rest of the movie could match this three-minute sequence…
OPENING HIGHWAY PILEUP
None of the Final Destination movies is particularly well-reviewed (Final Destination 5 is the only Fresh one at 62%), and for the most part, they all feel like a series of morbid Rube Goldberg-esque vignettes strung together by the thinnest of plots. A few of those gory scenarios, however, are surprisingly inventive, and none of them tops the opening to Final Destination 2, which sets its wheels in motion with an immaculately staged, over-the-top highway pileup that is equal parts ridiculous, harrowing, and literally explosive. Nothing else in the film even comes close.
(Photo by Distant Horizon)
DONNIE YEN vs. COLLIN CHOU
You may know Donnie Yen from Ip Man or Rogue One, and you may know Collin Chou as Seraph from the Matrix sequels, but chances are you haven’t seen this Hong Kong action thriller by Wilson Yip (who also directed the Ip Man movies). The story is a predictably rote potboiler about a loose-cannon cop who takes on a crime syndicate, but the climactic battle between Yen’s Detective Ma and Chou’s gangster Tony is savage and visceral, with bone-crushing stunt work and Yen adding MMA techniques to his more traditional martial arts style.
PARKING GARAGE SINGLE TAKE
Since directing and co-writing the first Saw, James Wan has introduced the world to the Conjuring universe, brought us the best-reviewed Fast and Furious movie, and earned the right to bring DC’s Aquaman to the big screen. Before all of that, though, he did direct this fairly absurd action thriller about a grieving father (Kevin Bacon) out for revenge against the gang who murdered his son. It’s a violent film with a ridiculous plot, but it does feature one sequence that demonstrates Wan’s potential for greater things. A two minute-long single take follows Bacon’s character as he attempts to lose his pursuers in a multi-level parking garage, with seamless camerawork that weaves up and down the ramps and alongside the outside of the garage to capture perfectly timed appearances by different characters. It’s impressive, and it far outshines everything else in the movie.
ABNER DOUBLEDAY INVENTS BASEBALL
Adam Sandler began his stint on Netflix with a bang, garnering a rare 0% with this joyless — and casually racist — spoof of The Magnificent Seven. There is one gloriously effective moment of inspired comedy, though. In a scene that riffs on the invention of baseball, John Turturro cameos as Abner Doubleday, who invites the titular sextet and a dozen others to play a new game with him, only to make up all of the sport’s rules and terminology on the spot just to ensure he wins. It may be the only joke in the movie that lands, but it lands superbly.
(Photo by New Line Cinema)
AUSTIN GOES TO HOLLYWOOD
By the time the third installment of Mike Myers’ Austin Powers series hit theaters, the world had just about had its fill of “Yeah, baby!”s and shagadelic double entendres, but the cameo-filled opening scene of Goldmember is pure magic. The film begins with an action-packed Hollywood adaptation of Austin Powers’ life story, starring Tom Cruise as the titular spy, Gwyneth Paltrow as Bond girl stand-in Dixie Normous, Kevin Spacey as Dr. Evil, and Danny DeVito as Mini Me. To top it all off, as the scene ends, the cameras pull back to reveal the man at the helm is none other than Steven Spielberg. Genius.
THE FIGHT FOR THE KEY
The first Pirates of the Caribbean film was a pleasant surprise, able to silence most of those who thought it silly to build a movie around an amusement park attraction. Every film since then has been a gradual step down, and it all began with the first sequel, Dead Man’s Chest, an overstuffed bombardment of spectacle with little but Johnny Depp’s performance to hold it all together. That said, the extended swordfight for the key to the titular chest is the high point of the film, making use of some fine stuntwork and clever setpieces to deliver a top-notch action scene.
“I WAS UP FOR PRINCESS LEIA.”
The Scream formula was getting creaky by the time they shifted the setting to Hollywood for the most meta entry in the series (the cast of a Stab film, based on the real events of Scream, start getting plucked off by a real-life ghostface). The laughs were still there, thanks mostly to a killer performance by Parker Posey as Jennifer Jolie, the actress playing Courteney Cox’s Gale Weathers; the scares, not so much. But kudos to Wes Craven and whoever else convinced Carrie Fisher to make a cameo as the disgruntled, and loyal-to-a-point, studio archivist Bianca. When approached by Jolie and Weathers on the hunt for details on a former starlet, Bianca stops them before they even get a chance to ask if she’s you know who. “I was up for Princess Leia,” Fisher explains. “I was this close. So who gets it? The one who sleeps with George Lucas.”
(Photo by Universal Pictures courtesy Everett Collection)
“LA MER” ON THE BEACH
It’s hard to deny that Mr. Bean is something of a cultural icon, and it’s essentially defined the career of Rowan Atkinson. While the early-’90s series was hugely popular, the character’s big screen outings didn’t quite measure up. 2007’s Mr. Bean’s Holiday found the endearing man-child stumbling his way through France, and it largely consisted of watered-down slapstick and his trademark buffoonery. But it was also intended to be an unofficial send-off for the character, and the film’s final moments absolutely shine in that respect. As Bean makes his way across a picturesque beach, everyone around him joins him in an uplifting rendition of “La Mer,” and it’s equal parts triumphant and bittersweet. Love him or hate him, his goodbye was perfect.
If you thought Cher singing “Fernando” to a man named Fernando in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again was as good, cheesy, and Cher-y as it gets at the movies, you clearly didn’t stick around for the second half of 2010’s Christina Aguilera vehicle Burlesque. The movie, which is Rotten at 36%, overflows with small pleasures for those in the just right mood (read: at least three Chardonnays into your evening), among them Kristen Bell as the vampy, villainous dancer Nikki. But when club owner Tess (Cher), fretful for the future of her business, belts out the Dianne Warren-penned survival anthem, “You Haven’t Seen the Last Of Me,” singing it to no one in particular, but somehow touching anyone who hears it, well… all hail the queen.
Poor man’s Scream, rich man’s Urban Legend, I know What You Did Last Summer was one of the defining slashers of the mid-to-late ’90s – even if it was one of the most generic and uninspired, sitting at 35%. Most remember it for its laughably hysterical moments (“What are you waiting fooooor!?”) and that weird Anne Heche business, but even the most discerning of genre fans give credit to director Jim Gillespie for the sequence in which the guy with the hook chases Sarah Michelle Geller’s Helen Shivers all over town. It’s genuinely scary (beware the mannequin jump scare), giggle-inducing (did she really just drop the keys), and a tiny bit moving in the end. Why the hell did she turn around?
(Photo by 20th Century Fox)
LOGAN AND VICTOR THROUGH THE WARS
X-Men Origins: Wolverine was Fox’s first attempt at a solo story based on one of their beloved Marvel properties, and other than hiring Liev Schreiber to star opposite Hugh Jackman, the film has precious few things going for it. (Seriously, who thought letting will.i.am speak — and shutting Ryan Reynolds up — was a good idea?) At least we got a pretty great opening credits sequence out of it: after revealing the origin of Logan’s (Jackman) relationship to Victor Creed (Schreiber), the film depicts the half-brothers fighting alongside each other in the US Civil War, both World Wars, and the Vietnam War, illustrating Victor’s violent descent in the process. That’s the movie we all wished we could have seen.
GARY OLDMAN WAXES NOSTALGIC ABOUT DISFIGUREMENT
Neither director Jonathan Demme nor star Jodie Foster returned for this 10-years-later sequel, but most assumed it was in capable hands, with Ridley Scott taking the helm, David Mamet penning the script, and Julianne Moore taking Foster’s place as Clarice Starling. The end result wasn’t expected to live up to its predecessor, but few foresaw the smug, unsatisfying tale of gore we ultimately got. However, in an initially uncredited role, an unrecognizable Gary Oldman plays disfigured Lecter victim Mason Verger, whose macabre retelling of his encounter with Lecter is chilling, gruesome, and a testament to Oldman’s ability to captivate an audience, even with a slab of play-doh stuck to his face.
“I’VE GOT YOU UNDER MY SKIN”
Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor made names for themselves with the Crank series, so it was evident from the start they weren’t exactly interested in high art. Right after Crank: High Voltage, in fact, they came back with this futuristic thriller starring Gerard Butler that plays more like a CGI-blasted update on The Running Man, but with far fewer genuine thrills. Rotten at 28%, the movie is kind of a slog to get through, but when Butler’s Kable infiltrates the mansion of evil game developer Castle (Michael C. Hall), something almost magical happens. Castle reveals himself to Kable via a choreographed dance routine set to Sinatra’s “I’ve Got You under My Skin,” complete with a troupe of mind-controlled brawlers. As Kable fends off his attackers and Castle continues lip-syncing in the background, you can’t help but wonder, “Why couldn’t the rest of the movie have been this interesting?”
(Photo by Columbia Pictures)
TERRY CREWS LOVES VANESSA CARLTON
Despite the cult popularity of In Living Color during the early 1990s, the various members of the Wayans family have struggled to achieve the same kind of success on the big screen. Much of their output has been defined by spoof movies and sub-subpar comedies like White Chicks, built from interesting enough ideas for a sketch or two, but a bit too flimsy for an entire movie. In this case, though, the presence of Terry Crews does help liven things up, and he is at his absolute best when he gleefully lights up as Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles” comes on the radio and he begins to lip-sync with it. It’s a small chunk of comedy gold in the middle of a stale, moldy, powdered-sugar donut.
THE “FIRST-PERSON SHOOTER” SEQUENCE
Back when he was still going by “The Rock,” Dwayne Johnson paid his dues in stinkers like 2005’s Doom, which did little to inspire confidence in video game adaptations on the big screen. At a measly 19% on the Tomatometer, Doom is an incoherent mess of a sci-fi action flick and an unfortunate stain on the resumes of all involved. But there is one instance of blatant fan service that, well, actually kind of works. The camera takes on the first-person viewpoint of Karl Urban’s character, Reaper, for several minutes as he tears through the research facility, blasting mutated baddies along the way. It’s a carefully planned and choreographed sequence that’s not only true to the game, but incredibly ballsy to attempt, and they managed to pull it off with pizazz.
THE 15-MINUTE FINAL BATTLE
After he brought a fresh new take on martial arts films with 2003’s Ong Bak, Tony Jaa co-directed and starred in its “sequel,” Ong Bak 2, which was neither set in the same time period as the first nor really related to it in any way outside of its title. Ong Bak 2 left much of its predecessor’s playfulness by the wayside in exchange for an overly serious and familiar tale of revenge that exposed Jaa’s shortcomings behind the camera. With that in mind, it’s still worth fast-forwarding to the final battle of the film, a glorious display of Jaa’s martial arts prowess that sees him utilizing multiple fighting styles and weapons techniques to take down an entire village of assassins over 15 brutal minutes of non-stop action. It’s visceral and awe-inspiring, and it highlights not only Jaa’s immense skill but also the dedication of his stunt team, who no doubt took a massive beating during the shoot.
(Photo by Lou Faulon/STX Entertainment)
This is not Luc Besson’s first space rodeo, but working with a $200 million budget, he evidently felt compelled to throw every wacky idea he ever had at the screen. The end result is a visually exquisite but narratively slipshod adventure, but it features another standout opening scene that hints at the film’s true potential. Set to the music of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” it chronicles the history of technological advancement that eventually leads to the film’s intergalactic setting, and it reflects a refreshingly hopeful, wholesome future of peace and cooperation that’s both touching and clever. And then the rest of the movie happens.
ROD’S QUIET PLACE
Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, and Akiva Schaffer have amassed a huge following, thanks to their work as The Lonely Island, and fans of their brand of humor are often quick to come to the defense of this cult comedy (we get it; some of you love it). Unfortunately, critics didn’t quite feel the same way, calling Hot Rod a loosely threaded collection of hit-or-miss sketches that fails to live up to its stars’ potential. The biggest “hit” of the lot, though, is clearly the scene when Rod (Samberg) escapes to his “quiet place” in the woods to blow off some steam and ends up tumbling down a hill for nearly a full minute. It begins as a spoofy Footloose homage before it suddenly turns into one of the greatest — and probably the longest — pratfalls ever filmed, and it’s pretty glorious.
“THERE WAS A FIREFIGHT!”
Perhaps the only good thing about The Boondock Saints is the opportunity to see Willem Dafoe at full tilt (though, to be fair, when is that ever not a good thing?). Much of the film is dedicated to macho posturing and childish fantasy wish-fulfillment — not a surprise considering its notoriously toxic writer-director — but there is a brief moment that lingers long after the credits roll. As Dafoe’s FBI agent Smecker arrives on the scene of a shootout, he begins to visualize what took place, passionately conducting a chorus that only exists in his mind and proclaiming, “There was a firefight!” The whole scene falls somewhere between unhinged and insane, and Dafoe’s exclamation is the cherry on top.
(Photo by Warner Bros.)
A RHINO GIVES BIRTH
Before he really began to demonstrate his range in movies like The Truman Show during the 1990s, Jim Carrey had to wade his way through a number of films that almost solely relied on his gift for physical comedy. His outlandish antics weren’t for everyone, though, particularly when you’d seen them before, and so the Ace Ventura sequel, When Nature Calls, settled at a measly 33% on the Tomatometer. While the movie feels like a somewhat stitched-together series of vignettes, the scene when Ace becomes trapped in a mechanical rhino, strips naked, and escapes through a tiny hole in the rear is… Well, as Simon Pegg put it, “It is one of the single most genius pieces of comedic writing that will never be given its due because it’s part of a ridiculous, vaguely racist, silly comedy.”
THE EMINEM INTERVIEW
Eminem is no stranger to controversy, and his most recent album reignited a familiar one about his use of homophobic slurs in his lyrics. Say what you will about his word choice, but the man is essentially besties with Elton John, and he even skewered himself on the issue in what is certainly the best scene in the 2014 comedy The Interview. As James Franco’s talk show host Dave Skylark interviews Em on his show, the contentious rapper casually reveals that he’s gay, and that he’s surprised no one has figured it out yet, considering the “breadcrumb trail” he’s left behind in all his lyrics. It’s a rather surprisingly effective moment that only works because of all the controversy he’s attracted, and his deadpan, matter-of-fact delivery is pitch perfect, making him the funniest man in the room.
After the success of the Matrix trilogy, the Wachowskis had carte blanche to work on whatever they wanted, and they chose to take on this long-in-development feature adaptation of the classic animated series. Despite their impressive technical wizardry and the candy-colored dreamscape they brought to life, the film bombed both critically and commercially. Even if you don’t love the movie as a whole, it’s hard to deny the power of the climactic race, an unexpectedly heartfelt finale bursting with top-notch special effects that not only boasts kinetic thrills but also provides closure on a key plot point. The film has gone on to inspire a cult following, and this ending is a big part of it.
(Photo by 20th Century Fox)
THE WET BANDITS GET BRICKED
The law of diminishing returns is very real, but when it comes to movies, it’s difficult to argue with a moviegoing public that saw something it liked and simply wanted more of the same. Enter Home Alone 2, which essentially repurposes the story from its predecessor but changes its setting from Chicago to New York. The silly shenanigans here are so familiar that it all essentially feels like a lazy rehash of the same movie. That said, the scene where little Kevin (Macaulay Caulkin) displays Hawkeye-level brick-throwing accuracy just gets funnier with every painful crunch, if only because Daniel Stern’s googly-eyed desperation and concussed mumbling reaches vaudevillian heights.
QUINN AND CREEDY DO STAR WARS
Nowadays, a fantasy action film headlined by Matthew McConaughey and Christian Bale might be met with fierce anticipation, but that’s exactly what we got in 2002’s Reign of Fire, and it was far less than the sum of its parts. Despite an intriguing, if somewhat goofy, take on post-apocalyptic humanity and some fairly successfully realized CGI dragons, the film bombed with critics and audiences alike. But in one scene, Bale’s Quinn and Gerard Butler’s Creedy reenact the climactic battle from The Empire Strikes Back for a crowd of awestruck children, playing it as an oral tradition, a campfire tale told from generation to generation. It’s an inspired nod to the power of Star Wars and a wink to the audience that hits its mark much more effectively than much of the rest of the film.
THE MISSING PHONE
By the time the third Jurassic Park movie came along, it was already clear the franchise was starting to run out of ideas (gymnastics battle, anyone?), and putting dinos onscreen was deemed sufficient. At least JP3 had a pretty formidable new breed in the Spinosaurus, and one scene in particular hints at how much better the film would have been with a bit more ingenuity. After Paul Kirby’s (William H. Macy) satellite phone goes missing earlier in the movie, his newly reunited son Eric reveals it was the sound of that phone that alerted them to their location. Cue the ominous ringing of the phone… and the Spinosaurus that swallowed it.
(Photo by Universal Pictures)
MEET MR. HYDE
Last year’s reboot of Universal’s classic monster movie franchise performed so dreadfully that the studio’s plans for its own “Dark Universe” were almost immediately eighty-sixed. That was, in itself, a pretty incredible feat, considering they had the talents of Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe to work with, but at the very least, the latter provided arguably the one standout moment of the movie. Crowe brought a complex intensity to the dual role of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, sophisticated in one breath and savage the next, and it left many of us asking if we couldn’t at least see a bit more of him, regardless of what happened to the Dark Universe.
Oliver Stone’s Any Given Sunday could have been so much more than it was, and at over two and a half hours, it was already a lot. Its overlong run time isn’t the only issue the film has, though; it also reiterates timeworn sports movie cliches and attempts to cast a critical eye on pro football even as Stone fetishizes it. All that aside, when you’ve got Al Pacino at your disposal, the smartest thing you can do is set him loose on some meaty lines, and that’s exactly what happens when Pacino delivers a pregame pep talk late in the film. It’s a powerful moment that really cements what Stone saw when he cast Pacino in the role of a head coach. Who wouldn’t follow that man?
THE BIG WAVE
It’s always a little tricky to turn real-life tragedy into a blockbuster production, but Wolfgang Petersen gathered a top-notch cast and gave it a go anyway. The Perfect Storm provided a pre-Pirates opportunity for Petersen to practice his nautical storytelling skills, but he proved he was more interested in the spectacle of it all. At the very least, he delivered an epic climax that ramped up the drama and pitted George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, William Fichtner, and the rest of the Andrea Gail crew against a monster wave they couldn’t hope to survive. It’s an amazing image, and the fact that it isn’t an exaggeration of what the open sea may hold makes it that much more terrifying.
While there would’ve been a certain amusement in watching a surly, 75-year-old Harrison Ford pretending to meet Lando for the first time and winning the Millennium Falcon, Disney went with the age-correct Alden Ehrenreich for Solo: A Star Wars Story. Though a few were up-in-blasters over casting someone besides Ford in the Han Solo role, that fervor has died down now that the reviews are out claiming the movie to be moderately neat-o. And that makes it the right time to look at 24 more movie characters replaced and recast with new actors, and how that turned out on the Tomatometer.
We here at RT went deep into the vault of horror franchises to tally up the victims of some of film and TV’s most deadly psycho killers. Take a peek at the results — if you dare!
Haunting Grounds: Bates Motel
Estimated Body Count: 20
Has there ever been a cinematic slasher more pitiable than Norman Bates? The poor guy is practically at war with himself, and his mom nags him from beyond the grave. Heck, every time he makes friends, they seem to end up dead. If Psycho exerted a profound influence on the slasher genre (and onscreen violence in general), it wasn’t because Norman was a particularly prolific killer. Alfred Hitchcock’s original (and the sequels) depicted a man in the clutches of inner torment and madness that was so gripping and scary that it didn’t need buckets of blood (or, in one memorable case, chocolate syrup) to be deeply unsettling. Nine deaths are attributed to Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) on the five-season AMC prequel TV series Bates Motel. But, really, who can say for sure?
Haunting Grounds: The Jeepers Creepers series
Estimated Body Count: 20
When Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer wrote “Jeepers Creepers” in the late 1930s, they surely never guessed their snappy little pop ditty would go on to provide the theme song for a murderous winged creature who possesses a bee- and dog-like ability to smell fear, and who can regenerate body parts by ingesting those of his victims. And that’s not all — the Creeper can also overcome overwhelmingly negative reviews, too! Although critics kept 2001’s Jeepers Creepers from a Fresh certification, the Creeper was back just two years later with a sequel, and there was even talk of a third installment. Not bad for a bad guy who’s limited to a single 23-day feeding frenzy every 23 years, right?
Haunting Grounds: The Thing from Another World, The Thing, The Thing
Estimated Body Count: 20
Human beings have long wondered what otherworldy monstrosities might be lurking out in the far reaches of space, which helps to explain the enduring appeal of John W. Campbell’s 1938 short story, Who Goes There? It’s the tale of an Antarctic research team that unwittingly rescues a malevolent alien from an icy grave. The creature repays the favor by forcibly (and messily) assimilating every living being within reach, including 20 unlucky scientists and a handful of dogs. Campbell’s monster — referred to as the Thing — has provided rich fodder for filmmakers over the decades, inspiring 1951’s The Thing from Another World, John Carpenter’s 1982 cult classic The Thing, and, most recently, the 2011 prequel/reboot of the same name.
Haunting Grounds: The Jaws series
Estimated Body Count: ~21, if you count the whale in Jaws 2
Most of the slashers on our list are bona fide film icons, but few of them can boast of having changed the entire industry the way Peter Benchley’s great white shark did: Before Jaws‘ 1975 debut, studios actually held their big films out of the summer market, believing the vacation months to be a commercial graveyard. Almost $500 million (and lots of bloody ocean water) later, a franchise was born — and although the third and fourth installments aren’t good for much besides unintentional humor, the original remains a certified classic with a 98 percent Tomatometer rating. Granted, the kill count here takes into consideration the havoc wreaked by multiple great whites over the course of the franchise, but it merely illustrates what Benchley already knew: the ocean is scary enough even without a gigantic bloodthirsty shark chasing you around, so tossing one in the mix just ups the ante.
Haunting Grounds: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre series
Estimated Body Count: 30
The twisted true-life tale of grave robber Ed Gein has inspired many notable cinematic grotesques, from Norman Bates in Psycho to Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs. However, Tobe Hooper may have done the most to immortalize Gein in the annals of perverse pop culture by emphasizing his habit of making clothing out of human flesh. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre introduced Leatherface, a developmentally disabled fellow under the control of his cannibalistic family. Though he started out as a pretty timid guy who was as afraid of visitors as they were of him, Leatherface came out of his shell in the sequels and reboots, making up for lost time in liberally employing his Poulan 306A.
Haunting Grounds: The Hellraiser series
Estimated Body Count: 35
By the late 1980s, the slasher genre was starting to feel a little stale — and then along came Pinhead, the sadomasochistic leader of the extradimensional pack of hooligans known as the Cenobites. The spike-headed hook fetishist wasn’t featured heavily in 1987’s Hellraiser, but Pinhead’s combination of creepy appearance, selective taste for victims, and clear fondness for gruesome torture stole the movie; throughout the eight-film series (four of which were released straight to DVD), Pinhead has remained the only constant, and for good reason: although his body count may be relatively low, no one else can match his prowess with a sharp, well-placed hook.
Haunting Grounds: The Child’s Play series
Estimated Body Count: ~38
Chucky may have devolved into a pint-sized Tony Clifton at this point, but the original Child’s Play was a superior genre piece — creepy, suspenseful, and blessed with an insidious sense of humor. Child’s Play riffed on the idea of innocence gone horribly wrong, with a quasi-Cabbage Patch Kid embodied by a vicious serial killer thanks to a voodoo ritual. Subsequent sequels — the most recent of which, Curse of Chucky, just recently made its way onto home video — have delivered more camp than scares, but Chucky’s left a trail of more than 35 corpses in his wake — and probably didn’t enamor himself to Teddy Ruxpin.
Haunting Grounds: The Nightmare on Elm Street series
Estimated Body Count: ~39
Arguably the most recognizable movie monster of the 1980s, Freddy Krueger may not be able to compete with other horror icons when it comes to killing in bulk. But the dermatologically-challenged Elm Street resident certainly wins points for style; in addition to his expert use of claw-tipped leather gloves, Freddy is adept at shape-shifting, strangulation, and generating geysers of blood from the bodies of future heartthrobs. Even accounting for the various forms Freddy has taken over the years in his efforts to turn the sweetest dreams dark and bloody, we’ve got his kill count somewhere in the vicinity of 39. That might be fewer than one might expect, but Mr. Krueger is an artiste who chooses his victims very specifically.
Haunting Grounds: The Final Destination series
Estimated Body Count: 39
Remember the old margarine commercials that said you can’t fool Mother Nature? Well, according to the Final Destination series, you can’t cheat Fate, either. It’s often said that revenge is a dish best served cold — but for the unseen hand of Fate, it tastes even better when garnished with a series of incredibly brutal (and, it must be said, very morbidly entertaining) booby traps. The series’ unseen antagonist has dispatched 39 victims, using everything from the mundane (death by falling brick) to the cleverly rewind-worthy (shower cord strangulation, ladder through the eye, death by falling cherry picker). By the time we surpassed The Final Destination and got Final Destination 5, the series was clearly aware of its silly appeal, and each creatively choreographed death was equally as hilarious as it was cringeworthy.
Haunting Grounds: The Scream franchise, Scream (TV series)
Estimated Body Count: 49
One of the rare slasher antagonists who’s a killer by committee, the Scream series’ Ghostface is played by a revolving door of mask-donning, knife-wielding psychopaths. Their motives are different (peer pressure, revenge, etc.), but the results are the same, no matter who wears the Edward Munch-inspired getup: teenagers will turn up dead, following the conventions of horror movies. And, as with other horror franchises, the body count increases with each sequel. Adding to the mayhem was the first season of MTV’s Scream, which aired this summer. All in all, this council of killers is responsible for at least 49 slayings.
Haunting Grounds: The Leprechaun series
Estimated Body Count: 50
The Leprechaun series is the embodiment of the finest that Irish culture and letters has to offer, easily surpassing the works of James Joyce and Oscar Wilde. The titular antihero is murderously committed to acquiring a pot o’ gold, an undertaking that prompts travel to such exotic locales as Las Vegas, Compton, and outer space. Despite his diminutive stature, the Leprechaun’s super-sharp claws and teeth have helped him tally 50 onscreen fatalities, including a very young Jennifer Aniston, who made her big screen debut in the first film.
Haunting Grounds: The Saw series
Estimated Body Count: 60
John Kramer was first christened “Jigsaw” by detectives who discovered the serial killer’s calling card was a puzzle piece-shaped hunk of flesh carved from the corpses of his victims. The name stuck as the cops closed in on Kramer and realized his elaborate, irony-laden traps were designed to punish those he deemed guilty of criminal acts or taking life for granted (he must have been a fan of Se7en). More characters and plot twists (Jigsaw doesn’t work alone! Something about cancer!) were introduced as the series wore on, and Saw evolved into a labyrinthine annual soap opera drenched in blood and agony. A Grand Guignol for our times.
Haunting Grounds: Manhunter, The Silence of the Lambs, Red Dragon, Hannibal, Hannibal Rising, Hannibal (TV)
Estimated Body Count: 98
Before 1991, you may not have even known what fava beans were — but after Anthony Hopkins’ first appearance as Doctor Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs, nobody ever thought of them the same way again. Like Jason Voorhees, Lecter doesn’t appear in much of the famous reboot — he’s only in a little over 15 minutes of Lambs — but it was the first time we actually witnessed the good doctor rack up a few kills on screen (both Manhunter and its remake Red Dragon only imply Lecter’s murdered some folks), and audiences had a clear, um, appetite for the flesh-craving serial killer’s brand of mayhem: he’s gone on to appear in a number of other books and movies. Although we just saw the end of Hannibal‘s three-season run on NBC, series creator Bryan Fuller insists we haven’t seen the last of Lecter just yet.
Haunting Grounds: The Halloween series, minus Season of the Witch
Estimated Body Count: ~107
The best-known escapee of Smith’s Grove Sanitarium, Michael Myers has never been a big fan of babysitters, nor is he particularly fleet of foot. He digs Blue Oyster Cult, and makes special use of Star Trek paraphernalia and kitchen cutlery. Since the release of John Carpenter’s landmark Halloween, Myers’ legend has been told in a number of sequels, and if his reasons for killing are obscure, he’s still coldly efficient at the task; he’s racked up a whopping 100-plus notches on his belt.
Haunting Grounds: The Invisible Man (1933)
Estimated Body Count: 123
We were shocked (shocked!) to discover that killers with high body counts could even be found in Old Hollywood fare. Based on the H.G. Wells 1897 novel, James Whale’s pre-code horror film featured Claude Rains (Casablanca) in his American film debut as the titular villain, also known as Dr. Jack Griffin. Hiding away in a snowy village, Griffin experiments on himself while working on a drug called “monocane,” which he believes is the secret to invisibility. Although he does succeed in turning himself invisible, he also becomes a crazed murderer. Killing those who get in his way, and a train full of people just for kicks, Griffin eventually causes the death of 123 people – including himself.
Haunting Grounds: The Friday the 13th series
Estimated Body Count: 146
Rocking facial protection that would do Jacques Plante proud, Jason Voorhees terrorized Camp Crystal Lake with cold precision (and an ability to cheat death that Rasputin would envy) in Friday the 13th. Occasionally, he breaks out of the bucolic confines of the countryside to wreak havoc in the big city (Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan), Hades (Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday), and the future (Jason X). According to our research, Jason has put a whopping 146 unfortunate souls on ice. Pretty impressive for a cat who drowned in 1958.
En español: Read this article in Spanish at Tomatazos.com.
Moviegoers get to choose between a master comic taking on three roles or a diabolical screen villain in his early years when they walk into their local multiplex this weekend.
Eddie Murphy stars in the outrageous comedy "Norbit" which is looking to rule the frame by pulling in teens while the dark thriller "Hannibal Rising" will play to an older adult audience interested in gruesome brutality. There should be little overlap between the audiences of the two films so each will have room to breathe and reach its potential. With the Super Bowl now history, Hollywood is looking for the marketplace to bounce back and score its biggest opening yet this year.
Movie fans adore films about loveable losers and the latest to add its name to the hit list is "Norbit." The PG-13 film stars Eddie Murphy as both a shy nerdy man and his vivacious wife who is large and in charge. The comic legend also plays a Chinese man who raised the title character when he was a child. Acting jobs were actually given to others too including Thandie Newton, Eddie Griffin, and Cuba Gooding Jr. The Paramount release seamlessly integrates the two Murphys on screen and the crude envelope-pushing humor will guarantee that every 15-year-old shows up on opening weekend. The marketing push has been solid too. "Night at the Museum"’s stellar box office run is proof of the hunger for big star-driven comedies and "Norbit" is finally the next biggie that will generate some major cash.
Timing for "Norbit" is pitch perfect. Murphy’s Golden Globe win and Oscar nomination for "Dreamgirls" has given him plenty of heat and media exposure over the last several weeks. With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, the date crowd certainly could be looking for something fun to go out and see this weekend. Plus, Black History Month adds an extra spotlight to African American stars and the former Axel Foley is among the most reliable draws of any black actor working today with immensely broad appeal. And the box office needs a big hit to kick things in gear as for three consecutive weekends, no film has managed to sell at least $20M worth of tickets.
Murphy has spent much of the last decade doing family-friendly films and hasn’t had an all-out comedy smash since 2000’s "Nutty Professor II: The Klumps" which opened in July of that year to $42.5M on its way to $123.3M. Fans turned out in droves to see the funnyman put on fat suits and play multiple characters that were rude and crude and led the sequel to a gross that nearly matched the original’s $128.8M from the summer of 1996. After all these years, moviegoers will certainly want another helping. Crashing into around 3,000 theaters, "Norbit" might see itself grossing $31M this weekend.
Now that movie buffs know the whole story of Darth Vader’s teen years, another popular screen villain gets his puberty tale told in "Hannibal Rising." The R-rated revenge flick tells the story of a young Mr. Lecter who seeks vengeance on those who killed his young sister. Along the way, we see how his love of eating flesh and human butchery came about. MGM and The Weinstein Company are hoping to lure in fans of the previous installments of the saga. Certainly 2001’s "Hannibal" and 2002’s "Red Dragon" proved that money could still be made despite the losses of director Jonathan Demme and actress Jodie Foster, both of whom won Oscars for 1991’s "Silence of the Lambs." Now, the real test for the franchise will come as Anthony Hopkins is no longer in the cast. However, part of his image is used in a clever way in the television spots that could fool some folks.
Many of the adult fans of the first films will definitely take a pass on "Hannibal Rising" since leads Gaspard Ulliel and Gong Li just don’t sell tickets. But curiosity and the brand name will attract some in the first week, especially those who crave brutality and a little cannibalism in their weekend fun. Long-term prospects look weak. The new chapter is not likely to approach the $36.5M opening of "Red Dragon" and will only see a fraction of the $58M bow of "Hannibal" which shattered the February opening weekend record six years ago when it opened on the exact same day. Bad reviews will not help much either. While its three predecessors all debuted in the top spot, this latest tale should find itself eating into the runnerup spot. "Hannibal Rising" opens in about 2,900 theaters on Friday and could gross roughly $15M for the weekend.
Last weekend, the spooky thriller "The Messengers" beat out the Diane Keaton comedy "Because I Said So" for the top spot, but the chick flick has been winning the weekdays ranking first on Monday and Tuesday. The Sony horror flick should see the steeper drop especially with Eddie stealing the teen vote and fall 55% to about $7M for a ten-day total of $24M. "Said So" may decline by 45% and rake in a similar $7M for a cume of $23M after ten days for Universal.
LAST YEAR: New releases flooded into the marketplace swiping the top four spots for the frame. Leading the way was the much-delayed Steve Martin comedy remake "The Pink Panther" which bowed to $20.2M on its way to $82.2M for Sony. Close behind was the horror sequel "Final Destination 3" with $19.2M leading to a $54.1M final for New Line. Bowing in third was the animated kidpic "Curious George" with $14.7M while Harrison Ford slumped into fourth with his action pic "Firewall" which opened to $13.6M. Final grosses reached $58.4M for the Universal toon and $48.8M for the techno thriller from Warner Bros. The fright flick "When a Stranger Calls" dropped 58% from first to fifth and collected $9.1M.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com
It’s time once again for another installment of "Early & Enthusiastic Amateur Film Critic," a regular series of articles over at AICN. This time the test screening buzz comes from a reader who got in to see an early version of "Hannibal Rising," which is a prequel to movies like "Manhunter," "The Silence of the Lambs," and (of course) "Hannibal."
From AICN: "I don’t want to give away any more. Gaspard Ulliel is excellent as Young Hannibal. The period setting is remarkable. The cinematography by Ben Davis is as gorgeous as Gong Li. The script by Thomas Harris grabs you and leads you deeper into the legend of Lecter. The audience seemed overall pleased and I hope they change not a frame. Far superior to "Red Dragon." As good as "Hannibal." One of the most entertaining movies I have seen this year."
Click here for the full report, which I’m sure came from someone not even remotely related to the film’s production, distribution, or marketing departments.
We knew it was being fast-tracked, and now it looks like Eli Roth is all finished with his screenplay for "Hostel 2." The sequel will go into production this September, and the young horror freak will be shooting in Prague, the Czech Republic, and maybe Slovakia — even though that country is still a little steamed over the first "Hostel."
From Production Weekly: "Reiterating that the sequel would focus on three females, he added that it will be darker than the original. "The first ‘Hostel’ is a journey into hell that starts off fun," he said. "Part 2 is going to start off scary and stay creepy all the way through. I want it to feel like the movie is going to pick up on the next cut, as if you could watch the two movies back-to-back and it would be a three-hour movie. There will be some new things thrown in there but it has to look and feel like that movie."
Jay Hernandez will be returning for the sequel.
Click here for more.
Frankly I’d rather read a book about Scientology than a "test-screening preview review," but my job is to share the scoopage, so click right here if you’d like to read a spoiler-laden recap of "Young Hannibal: Behind the Mask."
(I still refuse to read it, so if you want some dirt, you’ll just have to click the link. My apologies!)
Curious to see what a 20-something Hannibal Lecter might look like? Then head on over to Blackfilm.com, which is where you’ll find a few brand-new snapshots from the upcoming prequel Young Hannibal: Behind the Mask.
"This is the story of the monster Hannibal Lecter’s formative years. These experiences as a child and young adult led to his remarkable contribution to the fields of medicine, music, painting and forensics. We begin in World War II at the medieval castle in Lithuania built by Dr. Lecter’s forebear, Hannibal the Grim. The child Hannibal survives the horrors of the Eastern Front and escapes the grim Soviet aftermath to find refuge in France with the widow of his uncle, mysterious and beautiful Japanese descended from Lady Murasaki Shikibu, author of the Tale of Genji…"
For the pics and a bit more plot synopsis, click here.
Everyone’s favorite psycopath is back, reports SKNR.net. On November 28th, author Thomas Harris is set to release "Behind the Mask," the next chapter in the life of cannibal genius Hannibal Lecter. The story is said to follow young Lecter in World War II and his relationship with his sister and family — which is shattered by a Nazi occupation and subsequent atrocities.
According to the IMDb, the movie version is nearing completion, with Peter Webber ("Girl With a Pearl Earring") in the director’s chair and French actor Gaspard Ulliel in the role of young Hannibal. No release date is set, although it looks to be a Weinstein Co. production.
Variety reports that a quartet of well-known performers have been invited to star in Robert Zemeckis‘ upcoming adaptation of "Beowulf." Ray Winstone ("King Arthur"), Anthony Hopkins ("Hannibal"), Brendan Gleeson ("28 Days Later"), and Robin Wright Penn ("Unbreakable") "would be committing to a process that is more like a regular movie than the voiceover work commonly done for 3-D animated films," as the technology-happy Mr. Zemeckis is planning to deliver a "Beowulf" presentation not unlike "The Polar Express."
Also of particularly exciting note is that the screenplay for this project was written by the unlikely team of Roger Avary ("Pulp Fiction," "The Rules of Attraction") and Neil Gaiman ("Neverwhere" and the upcoming "MirrorMask"). More info on this rather intriguing project as soon as it’s made available…