60 Essential Adventure Movies

The adventure is one of the hardest kinds of movie to define, but like certain other genres: “You know it when you see it.” Adventures are grand, exciting, and often epic tales, usually focused on people on a mission, whose purposes include fame, fortune, and glory. The best adventure movies can run on the thrill of exploration and discovery, treading deep into jungles, stalking across arid deserts, or sailing across open oceans. The casts of characters feature rambunctious pirates, lordly counts, mercenaries and bounty hunters, big whales, and even bigger apes. And adventure movies can invite their other genre buddies along for the ride, too, including fantasy and science-fiction.

Now we’re embarking on our own journey, plundering gem after gem for a guide to what we’re calling the essential adventure movies if you love the genre. Listing these best adventure movies in chronological order, we begin a century in the past, when the adventure genre was defined by the swashbucklers of Captain Blood and The Three Musketeers. At the same time, the fantastical elements introduced in King Kong and Wizard of Oz marked adventure movies as the spot to introduce the latest in dazzling special effects.

After World War II, the adventure genre entered its prestige era, with historical epics like Lawrence of Arabia and The Man Who Would Be King, and tales of derring-do in The African Queen and The Great Escape. Here it should be said there is a certain Western-centric viewpoint that cannot be denied as inherent to many adventure movies, one that ‘others’ different countries and cultures. And hopefully what elevates these movies above that are their swaggering sense of playful optimism and lighthearted fun.

That’s certainly evident in Raiders of the Lost Ark, whose retro serial action and intrigue established the adventure formula for a new generation, which marched on through Indiana Jones’ sequels, Romancing the Stone, National Treasure, and The Mummy. During the same ’80s Indy decade, the adventure genre opened itself back up to sci-fi and fantasy, along with spotlighting younger protagonists, leading to The Goonies, The NeverEnding Story, Labyrinth, and more.

Around the turn of the century, the adventure movie successfully aided the resurrection of other genres that common Hollywood wisdom had deemed box office poison: swashbucklers (The Mask of Zorro), high fantasy (The Lord of the Rings), and even the pirate movie (Pirates of the Caribbean), which had been sent to Davy Jones’ Locker after Cutthroat Island sank Carolco Pictures.

And since 2012’s Life of Pi, there’s been another adventure resurgence with The Jungle Book and more Kong and Jumanji movies.

Now, continue on and discover the 60 best adventure movies to watch now!

#60
#60
Adjusted Score: 101783%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Leaving his country village, D'Artagnan (Douglas Fairbanks) heads to Paris in hopes of becoming a musketeer. Soon after, he meets... [More]
Directed By: Fred Niblo

#59

King Kong (1933)
98%

#59
Adjusted Score: 108234%
Critics Consensus: King Kong explores the soul of a monster -- making audiences scream and cry throughout the film -- in large part due to Kong's breakthrough special effects.
Synopsis: Actress Ann Darrow (Fay Wray) and director Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) travel to the Indian Ocean to do location shoots... [More]

#58

Captain Blood (1935)
100%

#58
Adjusted Score: 104115%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In England in the 1600s, Dr. Peter Blood (Errol Flynn) treats the wounds of a man who had been injured... [More]
Directed By: Michael Curtiz

#57
Adjusted Score: 109007%
Critics Consensus: Errol Flynn thrills as the legendary title character, and the film embodies the type of imaginative family adventure tailor-made for the silver screen.
Synopsis: When King Richard the Lionheart is captured, his scheming brother Prince John (Claude Rains) plots to reach the throne, to... [More]

#56

The Wizard of Oz (1939)
98%

#56
Adjusted Score: 115182%
Critics Consensus: An absolute masterpiece whose groundbreaking visuals and deft storytelling are still every bit as resonant, The Wizard of Oz is a must-see film for young and old.
Synopsis: When a tornado rips through Kansas, Dorothy (Judy Garland) and her dog, Toto, are whisked away in their house to... [More]
Directed By: Victor Fleming

#55

Gunga Din (1939)
92%

#55
Adjusted Score: 93957%
Critics Consensus: Funny, suspenseful, and spectacularly entertaining, Gunga Din is an expertly calibrated adventure flick with some unfortunately outdated ideas about race.
Synopsis: British army sergeants Ballantine (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.), Cutter (Cary Grant) and MacChesney (Victor McLaglen) serve in India during the 1880s,... [More]
Directed By: George Stevens

#54
Adjusted Score: 106494%
Critics Consensus: Remade but never duplicated, this darkly humorous morality tale represents John Huston at his finest.
Synopsis: In this classic adventure film, two rough-and-tumble wanderers, Dobbs (Humphrey Bogart) and Curtin (Tim Holt), meet up with a veteran... [More]
Directed By: John Huston

#53
#53
Adjusted Score: 80432%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Aspiring swordsman D'Artagnan (Gene Kelly) arrives in Paris with hopes of joining the royal guard and falls in love with... [More]
Directed By: George Sidney

#52
#52
Adjusted Score: 101111%
Critics Consensus: Perfectly cast, smartly written, and beautifully filmed, The African Queen remains thrilling, funny, and effortlessly absorbing even after more than half a century's worth of adventure movies borrowing liberally from its creative DNA.
Synopsis: After religious spinster's (Katharine Hepburn) missionary brother is killed in WWI Africa, dissolute steamer captain (Humphrey Bogart) offers her safe... [More]
Directed By: John Huston

#51
Adjusted Score: 91341%
Critics Consensus: One of Disney's finest live-action adventures, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea brings Jules Verne's classic sci-fi tale to vivid life, and features an awesome giant squid.
Synopsis: In 1866, Professor Pierre M. Aronnax (Paul Lukas) and his assistant Conseil (Peter Lorre), stranded in San Francisco by reports... [More]
Directed By: Richard Fleischer

#50

Moby Dick (1956)
83%

#50
Adjusted Score: 83657%
Critics Consensus: It may favor spectacle in place of the deeper themes in Herman Melville's novel, but John Huston's Moby Dick still makes for a grand movie adventure.
Synopsis: Capt. Ahab (Gregory Peck) has a vendetta against Moby Dick, the great white whale responsible for taking his leg. He... [More]
Directed By: John Huston

#49
#49
Adjusted Score: 99746%
Critics Consensus: A feudal adventure told from an eccentric perspective, The Hidden Fortress is among Akira Kurosawa's most purely enjoyable epics.
Synopsis: Japanese peasants Matashichi (Kamatari Fujiwara) and Tahei (Minoru Chiaki) try and fail to make a profit from a tribal war.... [More]
Directed By: Akira Kurosawa

#48
Adjusted Score: 85371%
Critics Consensus: A silly but fun movie with everything you'd want from a sci-fi blockbuster -- heroic characters, menacing villains, monsters, big sets and special effects.
Synopsis: A geologist (James Mason) and his assistant (Pat Boone) set off on an expedition to the center of the earth.... [More]
Directed By: Henry Levin

#47
#47
Adjusted Score: 105717%
Critics Consensus: The epic of all epics, Lawrence of Arabia cements director David Lean's status in the filmmaking pantheon with nearly four hours of grand scope, brilliant performances, and beautiful cinematography.
Synopsis: Due to his knowledge of the native Bedouin tribes, British Lieutenant T.E. Lawrence (Peter O'Toole) is sent to Arabia to... [More]
Directed By: David Lean

#46

The Great Escape (1963)
94%

#46
Adjusted Score: 97795%
Critics Consensus: With its impeccably slow-building story and a cast for the ages, The Great Escape is an all-time action classic.
Synopsis: Imprisoned during World War II in a German POW camp, a group of Allied soldiers are intent on breaking out,... [More]
Directed By: John Sturges

#45
#45
Adjusted Score: 50659%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: An adaptation of the classic Dumas novel, this film tells the tale of aspiring swordsman D'Artagnan (Michael York), who arrives... [More]
Directed By: Richard Lester

#44
#44
Adjusted Score: 98358%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Based on a short story by Rudyard Kipling, this adventure film follows the exploits of Peachy Carnehan (Michael Caine) and... [More]
Directed By: John Huston

#43
#43
Adjusted Score: 102224%
Critics Consensus: Featuring bravura set pieces, sly humor, and white-knuckle action, Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of the most consummately entertaining adventure pictures of all time.
Synopsis: Dr. Indiana Jones, a renowned archeologist and expert in the occult, is hired by the U.S. Government to find the... [More]
Directed By: Steven Spielberg

#42
Adjusted Score: 89562%
Critics Consensus: It may be too "dark" for some, but Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom remains an ingenious adventure spectacle that showcases one of Hollywood's finest filmmaking teams in vintage form.
Synopsis: The second of the Lucas/Spielberg Indiana Jones epics is set a year or so before the events in Raiders of... [More]
Directed By: Steven Spielberg

#41
#41
Adjusted Score: 88042%
Critics Consensus: Romancing the Stone reaches back to the classic Saturday morning serials of old with an action-filled adventure enlivened by the sparkling chemistry between its well-matched leads.
Synopsis: A dowdy romantic-adventure writer is hurled into a real-life adventure in the Colombian jungle in order to save her sister,... [More]
Directed By: Robert Zemeckis

#40
#40
Adjusted Score: 82899%
Critics Consensus: A magical journey about the power of a young boy's imagination to save a dying fantasy land, The NeverEnding Story remains a much-loved kids adventure.
Synopsis: On his way to school, Bastian (Barret Oliver) ducks into a bookstore to avoid bullies. Sneaking away with a book... [More]
Directed By: Wolfgang Petersen

#39

The Goonies (1985)
77%

#39
Adjusted Score: 80852%
Critics Consensus: The Goonies is an energetic, sometimes noisy mix of Spielbergian sentiment and funhouse tricks that will appeal to kids and nostalgic adults alike.
Synopsis: When two brothers find out they might lose their house they are desperate to find a way to keep their... [More]
Directed By: Richard Donner

#38

Return to Oz (1985)
54%

#38
Adjusted Score: 56413%
Critics Consensus: Return to Oz taps into the darker side of L. Frank Baum's book series with an intermittently dazzling adventure that never quite recaptures the magic of its classic predecessor.
Synopsis: Dorothy discovers she is back in the land of Oz, and finds the yellow brick road is now a pile... [More]
Directed By: Walter Murch

#37
#37
Adjusted Score: 85362%
Critics Consensus: Bolstered by impressive special effects and a charming performance from its young star, Flight of the Navigator holds up as a solidly entertaining bit of family-friendly sci-fi.
Synopsis: This 1978 Disney adventure tells the story of 12-year-old David (Joey Cramer) who lives with his family in Fort Lauderdale,... [More]
Directed By: Randal Kleiser

#36

Labyrinth (1986)
74%

#36
Adjusted Score: 78422%
Critics Consensus: While it's arguably more interesting on a visual level, Labyrinth provides further proof of director Jim Henson's boundless imagination.
Synopsis: Teenage Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) journeys through a maze to recover her baby brother (Toby Froud) from a goblin king (David... [More]
Directed By: Jim Henson

#35
#35
Adjusted Score: 103682%
Critics Consensus: A delightfully postmodern fairy tale, The Princess Bride is a deft, intelligent mix of swashbuckling, romance, and comedy that takes an age-old damsel-in-distress story and makes it fresh.
Synopsis: A fairy tale adventure about a beautiful young woman and her one true love. He must find her after a... [More]
Directed By: Rob Reiner

#34
Adjusted Score: 93086%
Critics Consensus: Lighter and more comedic than its predecessor, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade returns the series to the brisk serial adventure of Raiders, while adding a dynamite double act between Harrison Ford and Sean Connery.
Synopsis: An art collector appeals to Jones to embark on a search for the Holy Grail. He learns that another archaeologist... [More]
Directed By: Steven Spielberg

#33
#33
Adjusted Score: 79396%
Critics Consensus: Even as its special effects take center stage, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids still offers a charming, high-spirited sense of adventure for the whole family.
Synopsis: When kids sneak into inventor Wayne Szalinski's (Rick Moranis) upstairs lab to retrieve an errant baseball, his experimental shrink ray... [More]
Directed By: Joe Johnston

#32
#32
Adjusted Score: 74228%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: An adventurer (Jackie Chan) and his friend (Alan Tam) aid a woman (Rosamund Kwan) kidnapped by cultists seeking a set... [More]
Directed By: Jackie Chan

#31

Hook (1991)
29%

#31
Adjusted Score: 32918%
Critics Consensus: The look of Hook is lively indeed but Steven Spielberg directs on autopilot here, giving in too quickly to his sentimental, syrupy qualities.
Synopsis: When his young children are abducted by his old nemesis, Capt. Hook (Dustin Hoffman), middle-aged lawyer Peter Banning (Robin Williams)... [More]
Directed By: Steven Spielberg

#30

White Fang (1991)
65%

#30
Adjusted Score: 65792%
Critics Consensus: This glossy edition of White Fang shaves off the rough-hewn edges that made Jack London's epic story so distinct, but gorgeous photography and heartfelt performances make this an appealing adventure.
Synopsis: This adaptation of Jack London's wilderness tale focuses on young Jack Conroy (Ethan Hawke), who has arrived in Alaska to... [More]
Directed By: Randal Kleiser

#29
Adjusted Score: 55019%
Critics Consensus: Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves brings a wonderfully villainous Alan Rickman to this oft-adapted tale, but he's robbed by big-budget bombast and a muddled screenplay.
Synopsis: Nobleman crusader Robin of Locksley (Kevin Costner) breaks out of a Jerusalem prison with the help of Moorish fellow prisoner... [More]
Directed By: Kevin Reynolds

#28
#28
Adjusted Score: 96167%
Critics Consensus: The Last of the Mohicans is a breathless romantic adventure that plays loose with history -- and comes out with a richer action movie for it.
Synopsis: The last members of a dying Native American tribe, the Mohicans -- Uncas (Eric Schweig), his father Chingachgook (Russell Means),... [More]
Directed By: Michael Mann

#27
Adjusted Score: 82248%
Critics Consensus: Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book may not hew as closely to the book as its title suggests, but it still offers an entertaining live-action take on a story best known in animated form.
Synopsis: When his father is killed by a jungle tiger, Mowgli (Jason Scott Lee) is orphaned and grows up in the... [More]
Directed By: Stephen Sommers

#26

Jumanji (1995)
55%

#26
Adjusted Score: 56952%
Critics Consensus: A feast for the eyes with a somewhat malnourished plot, Jumanji is an underachieving adventure that still offers a decent amount of fun for the whole family.
Synopsis: A magical board game unleashes a world of adventure on siblings Peter (Bradley Pierce) and Judy Shepherd (Kirsten Dunst). While... [More]
Directed By: Joe Johnston

#25
#25
Adjusted Score: 85851%
Critics Consensus: Banderas returns as an aging Zorro in this surprisingly nimble, entertaining swashbuckler.
Synopsis: After being imprisoned for 20 years, Zorro -- Don Diego de la Vega (Anthony Hopkins) -- receives word that his... [More]
Directed By: Martin Campbell

#24

The Mummy (1999)
61%

#24
Adjusted Score: 65195%
Critics Consensus: It's difficult to make a persuasive argument for The Mummy as any kind of meaningful cinematic achievement, but it's undeniably fun to watch.
Synopsis: The Mummy is a rousing, suspenseful and horrifying epic about an expedition of treasure-seeking explorers in the Sahara Desert in... [More]
Directed By: Stephen Sommers

#23
Adjusted Score: 100591%
Critics Consensus: Full of eye-popping special effects, and featuring a pitch-perfect cast, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring brings J.R.R. Tolkien's classic to vivid life.
Synopsis: The future of civilization rests in the fate of the One Ring, which has been lost for centuries. Powerful forces... [More]
Directed By: Peter Jackson

#22
#22
Adjusted Score: 26309%
Critics Consensus: Angelina Jolie is perfect for the role of Lara Croft, but even she can't save the movie from a senseless plot and action sequences with no emotional impact.
Synopsis: This live action feature is inspired by the most successful interactive video-game character in history -- Lara Croft. Beautiful and... [More]
Directed By: Simon West

#21
#21
Adjusted Score: 77422%
Critics Consensus: Though it may not reach for any new artistic heights, The Count of Monte Cristo is an old-fashioned yet enjoyable swashbuckler.
Synopsis: The classic story of an innocent man wrongly, but deliberately imprisoned and his brilliant strategy for revenge against those who... [More]
Directed By: Kevin Reynolds

#20
Adjusted Score: 86718%
Critics Consensus: May leave you exhausted like the theme park ride that inspired it; however, you'll have a good time when it's over.
Synopsis: Capt. Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) arrives at Port Royal in the Caribbean without a ship or crew. His timing is... [More]
Directed By: Gore Verbinski

#19
Adjusted Score: 91600%
Critics Consensus: Russell Crowe's rough charm is put to good use in this masterful adaptation of Patrick O'Brian's novel.
Synopsis: In 1805, aboard the H.M.S. Surprise, the brash Captain Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe) and his trusted friend, the ship's scholarly... [More]
Directed By: Peter Weir

#18

Big Fish (2003)
76%

#18
Adjusted Score: 82679%
Critics Consensus: A charming father-and-son tale filled with typical Tim Burton flourishes, Big Fish is an impressive catch.
Synopsis: When Edward Bloom (Albert Finney) becomes ill, his son, William (Billy Crudup), travels to be with him. William has a... [More]
Directed By: Tim Burton

#17
#17
Adjusted Score: 51400%
Critics Consensus: National Treasure is no treasure, but it's a fun ride for those who can forgive its highly improbable plot.
Synopsis: Historian and code-breaker Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage) has been searching his whole life for a rumored treasure dating back to... [More]
Directed By: Jon Turteltaub

#16

King Kong (2005)
84%

#16
Adjusted Score: 93928%
Critics Consensus: Featuring state-of-the-art special effects, terrific performances, and a majestic sense of spectacle, Peter Jackson's remake of King Kong is a potent epic that's faithful to the spirit of the 1933 original.
Synopsis: Peter Jackson's expansive remake of the 1933 classic follows director Carl Denham (Jack Black) and his crew on a journey... [More]
Directed By: Peter Jackson

#15

Zathura (2005)
76%

#15
Adjusted Score: 81193%
Critics Consensus: Dazzling special effects for the kids + well-crafted storytelling for the 'rents = cinematic satisfaction for the whole family.
Synopsis: After their father (Tim Robbins) is called into work, two young boys, Walter (Josh Hutcherson) and Danny (Jonah Bobo), are... [More]
Directed By: Jon Favreau

#14

Duma (2005)
93%

#14
Adjusted Score: 94725%
Critics Consensus: This is an old-fashioned, richly textured family film that will appeal to children and adults alike.
Synopsis: Xan (Alexander Michaletos) lives on a ranch in Kenya with his mother (Hope Davis) and father (Campbell Scott). When the... [More]
Directed By: Carroll Ballard

#13

Stardust (2007)
77%

#13
Adjusted Score: 84384%
Critics Consensus: A faithful interpretation that captures the spirit of whimsy, action, and off-kilter humor of Neil Gaiman, Stardust juggles multiple genres and tones to create a fantastical experience.
Synopsis: To win the heart of his beloved (Sienna Miller), a young man named Tristan (Charlie Cox) ventures into the realm... [More]
Directed By: Matthew Vaughn

#12
Adjusted Score: 66219%
Critics Consensus: Modern visuals and an old fasioned storyline make this family adventure/comedy a fast-paced, kitschy ride.
Synopsis: During an expedition to Iceland, professor Trevor Anderson (Brendan Fraser), his nephew Sean (Josh Hutcherson) and their guide, Hannah (Anita... [More]
Directed By: Eric Brevig

#11

Nim's Island (2008)
52%

#11
Adjusted Score: 54751%
Critics Consensus: Despite good intentions, Nim's Island flounders under an implausible storyline, simplistic stock characters, and distracting product placement.
Synopsis: Life is an adventure for a courageous youngster named Nim (Abigail Breslin), who lives on an exotic island with her... [More]

#10

City of Ember (2008)
54%

#10
Adjusted Score: 57827%
Critics Consensus: City of Ember is visually arresting, and boasts a superb cast, but is sadly lacking in both action and adventure.
Synopsis: For generations a massive generator has sustained the needs of the underground city of Ember. But the generator was built... [More]
Directed By: Gil Kenan

#9
#9
Adjusted Score: 61844%
Critics Consensus: Tim Burton's Alice sacrifices the book's minimal narrative coherence -- and much of its heart -- but it's an undeniable visual treat.
Synopsis: A young girl when she first visited magical Underland, Alice Kingsleigh (Mia Wasikowska) is now a teenager with no memory... [More]
Directed By: Tim Burton

#8

Life of Pi (2012)
86%

#8
Adjusted Score: 96903%
Critics Consensus: A 3D adaptation of a supposedly "unfilmable" book, Ang Lee's Life of Pi achieves the near impossible -- it's an astonishing technical achievement that's also emotionally rewarding.
Synopsis: After deciding to sell their zoo in India and move to Canada, Santosh and Gita Patel board a freighter with... [More]
Directed By: Ang Lee

#7

The Jungle Book (2016)
94%

#7
Adjusted Score: 114735%
Critics Consensus: As lovely to behold as it is engrossing to watch, The Jungle Book is the rare remake that actually improves upon its predecessors -- all while setting a new standard for CGI.
Synopsis: Raised by a family of wolves since birth, Mowgli (Neel Sethi) must leave the only home he's ever known when... [More]
Directed By: Jon Favreau

#6
#6
Adjusted Score: 104571%
Critics Consensus: Offering exhilarating eye candy, solid acting, and a fast-paced story, Kong: Skull Island earns its spot in the movie monster's mythos without ever matching up to the classic original.
Synopsis: Scientists, soldiers and adventurers unite to explore a mythical, uncharted island in the Pacific Ocean. Cut off from everything they... [More]
Directed By: Jordan Vogt-Roberts

#5
Adjusted Score: 93704%
Critics Consensus: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle uses a charming cast and a humorous twist to offer an undemanding yet solidly entertaining update on its source material.
Synopsis: Four high school kids discover an old video game console and are drawn into the game's jungle setting, literally becoming... [More]
Directed By: Jake Kasdan

#4
#4
Adjusted Score: 103408%
Critics Consensus: The Lost City of Z's stately pace and visual grandeur hearken back to classic exploration epics, and Charlie Hunnam turns in a masterful performance as its complex protagonist.
Synopsis: At the dawn of the 20th century, British explorer Percy Fawcett journeys into the Amazon, where he discovers evidence of... [More]
Directed By: James Gray

#3
#3
Adjusted Score: 63038%
Critics Consensus: A Wrinkle in Time is visually gorgeous, big-hearted, and occasionally quite moving; unfortunately, it's also wildly ambitious to a fault, and often less than the sum of its classic parts.
Synopsis: Meg Murry and her little brother, Charles Wallace, have been without their scientist father, Mr. Murry, for five years, ever... [More]
Directed By: Ava DuVernay

#2
Adjusted Score: 93176%
Critics Consensus: Led by a winning performance from Isabela Moner, Dora and the Lost City of Gold is a family-friendly adventure that retains its source material's youthful spirit.
Synopsis: Having spent most of her life exploring the jungle, nothing could prepare Dora for her most dangerous adventure yet --... [More]
Directed By: James Bobin

#1
Adjusted Score: 100542%
Critics Consensus: The Kid Who Would Be King recalls classic all-ages adventures -- and repurposes a timeless legend -- for a thoroughly enjoyable new addition to the family movie canon.
Synopsis: Old-school magic meets the modern world when young Alex stumbles upon the mythical sword Excalibur. He soon unites his friends... [More]
Directed By: Joe Cornish

(Photo by Fox Searchlight / courtesy Everett Collection)

20 Movies To Watch If You Loved Jojo Rabbit

When director Taika Waititi isn’t busy making Thor the funniest character in the MCU, he takes the time to stay true to his quirky indie roots, releasing movies like Jojo Rabbit. It’s about a young Nazi boy with an imaginary Hitler friend, whose mother is hiding a Jewish teenaged girl in their home. It’s also up for Best Picture in this year’s Oscars race.

It’s a high-wire act mining jokes out of World War II, and when the film came out there were immediate and mostly favorable comparisons to Jojo‘s forebears like Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator, To Be or Not to Be, Life Is Beautiful, and the original The Producers. And speaking of Mel Brooks, he lends his wisdom for documentary The Last Laugh, which explores the boundaries of humor in the face of human horror and catastrophe. Meanwhile, Train of Life is just as funny as any of the movies mentioned so far, and remains criminally underseen.

Using a child’s perspective to explore the origins and horrors of World War II is an evocative yet risky technique. If successful, it creates empathy in the viewer. When it fails, critics and audiences will deem it exploitative. Come and See is arguably the most memorable of this type of film, but be warned it is not a comedy and will mess you up. It’s also a masterpiece. Forbidden Games and Au Revoir Les Enfants are gentler classics, and just about as affecting and powerful. If you’re not a blubbering mess by the end of those and want even more World War II movies from kids’ point of views, try The Tin Drum, The Diary of Anne Frank, or The Boy In the Striped Pajamas.

Beyond World War II, there have been a lot of great films as seen through the eyes of youth that unearth truths for people across all ages. Peter Brook’s adaptation of The Lord of the Flies explores how authoritarian tendencies develop organically when left unchecked. Pan’s Labyrinth uses fantasy to help a young girl engage with and escape the darkness of reality. Beasts of the Southern Wild, Where the Wild Things Are, and The Florida Project all use the power of imagination to create better worlds for their young heroes.

And if you’re just looking for a rousing adventure of young lovers on the run (and also in scouting uniforms), see Moonrise Kingdom by Wes Anderson. Waititi shares the same comedic sensibility and timing as Anderson, as seen in Jojo Rabbit and his earlier efforts, Boy and Hunt for the Wilderpeople.

#20
Adjusted Score: 69507%
Critics Consensus: A touching and haunting family film that deals with the Holocaust in an arresting and unusual manner, and packs a brutal final punch of a twist.
Synopsis: During World War II, 8-year-old Bruno (Asa Butterfield) and his family leave Berlin to take up residence near the concentration... [More]
Directed By: Mark Herman

#19

Train of Life (1998)
64%

#19
Adjusted Score: 63423%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: After hearing accounts of Nazis herding Jews onto trains, an isolated shtetl deports itself, by rail, to safety.... [More]
Directed By: Radu Mihaileanu

#18
#18
Adjusted Score: 83276%
Critics Consensus: Some may find its dark tone and slender narrative off-putting, but Spike Jonze's heartfelt adaptation of the classic children's book is as beautiful as it is uncompromising.
Synopsis: Feeling misunderstood at home and at school, mischievous Max (Max Records) escapes to the land of the Wild Things, majestic... [More]
Directed By: Spike Jonze

#17
#17
Adjusted Score: 81246%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In Nazi-occupied Holland in World War II, shopkeeper Kraler hides two Jewish families in his attic. Young Anne Frank (Millie... [More]
Directed By: George Stevens

#16
#16
Adjusted Score: 84627%
Critics Consensus: Benigni's earnest charm, when not overstepping its bounds into the unnecessarily treacly, offers the possibility of hope in the face of unflinching horror.
Synopsis: A gentle Jewish-Italian waiter, Guido Orefice (Roberto Benigni), meets Dora (Nicoletta Braschi), a pretty schoolteacher, and wins her over with... [More]
Directed By: Roberto Benigni

#15

The Tin Drum (1979)
84%

#15
Adjusted Score: 85675%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Oskar Matzerath (David Bennent) is a very unusual boy. Refusing to leave the womb until promised a tin drum by... [More]
Directed By: Volker Schlöndorff

#14
Adjusted Score: 93739%
Critics Consensus: Beasts of the Southern Wild is a fantastical, emotionally powerful journey and a strong case of filmmaking that values imagination over money.
Synopsis: Six-year-old Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) lives with her father, Wink (Dwight Henry), in a remote Delta community. Wink is a stern... [More]
Directed By: Benh Zeitlin

#13

Boy (2010)
88%

#13
Adjusted Score: 89269%
Critics Consensus: Boy possesses the offbeat charm associated with New Zealand film but is also fully capable of drawing the viewer in emotionally.
Synopsis: A New Zealand youth (James Rolleston) finds that his father (Taika Waititi) is a far cry from the heroic adventurer... [More]
Directed By: Taika Waititi

#12

The Producers (1968)
90%

#12
Adjusted Score: 98651%
Critics Consensus: A hilarious satire of the business side of Hollywood, The Producers is one of Mel Brooks' finest, as well as funniest films, featuring standout performances by Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel.
Synopsis: Down and out producer Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel), who was once the toast of Broadway, trades sexual favors with old... [More]
Directed By: Mel Brooks

#11
#11
Adjusted Score: 91602%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Amidst a nuclear war, a plane carrying a group of schoolboys crash lands on a deserted island. With no adult... [More]
Directed By: Peter Brook

#10

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
93%

#10
Adjusted Score: 104515%
Critics Consensus: Warm, whimsical, and poignant, the immaculately framed and beautifully acted Moonrise Kingdom presents writer/director Wes Anderson at his idiosyncratic best.
Synopsis: The year is 1965, and the residents of New Penzance, an island off the coast of New England, inhabit a... [More]
Directed By: Wes Anderson

#9
#9
Adjusted Score: 97766%
Critics Consensus: Charlie Chaplin demonstrates that his comedic voice is undiminished by dialogue in this rousing satire of tyranny, which may be more distinguished by its uplifting humanism than its gags.
Synopsis: After dedicated service in the Great War, a Jewish barber (Charles Chaplin) spends years in an army hospital recovering from... [More]
Directed By: Charles Chaplin

#8

Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
95%

#8
Adjusted Score: 104443%
Critics Consensus: Pan's Labyrinth is Alice in Wonderland for grown-ups, with the horrors of both reality and fantasy blended together into an extraordinary, spellbinding fable.
Synopsis: In 1944 Spain young Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) and her ailing mother (Ariadna Gil) arrive at the post of her mother's... [More]
Directed By: Guillermo del Toro

#7

Come and See (1985)
97%

#7
Adjusted Score: 99510%
Critics Consensus: As effectively anti-war as movies can be, Come and See is a harrowing odyssey through the worst that humanity is capable of, directed with bravura intensity by Elem Klimov.
Synopsis: The invasion of a village in Byelorussia by German forces sends young Florya (Aleksey Kravchenko) into the forest to join... [More]
Directed By: Elem Klimov

#6
#6
Adjusted Score: 118912%
Critics Consensus: The Florida Project offers a colorfully empathetic look at an underrepresented part of the population that proves absorbing even as it raises sobering questions about modern America.
Synopsis: Set in the shadow of the most magical place on Earth, 6-year-old Moonee and her two best friends forge their... [More]
Directed By: Sean Baker

#5
Adjusted Score: 108699%
Critics Consensus: The charmingly offbeat Hunt for the Wilderpeople unites a solid cast, a talented filmmaker, and a poignant, funny, deeply affecting message.
Synopsis: A boy (Julian Dennison) and his foster father (Sam Neill) become the subjects of a manhunt after they get stranded... [More]
Directed By: Taika Waititi

#4
#4
Adjusted Score: 99266%
Critics Consensus: Louis Malle's autobiographical tale of a childhood spent in a WWII boarding school is a beautifully realized portrait of friendship and youth.
Synopsis: In 1943, Julien (Gaspard Manesse) is a student at a French boarding school. When three new students arrive, including Jean... [More]
Directed By: Louis Malle

#3
#3
Adjusted Score: 100310%
Critics Consensus: A complex and timely satire with as much darkness as slapstick, Ernst Lubitsch's To Be or Not To Be delicately balances humor and ethics.
Synopsis: Acting couple Joseph (Jack Benny) and Maria Tura (Carole Lombard) are managing a theatrical troupe when the Nazis invade Poland.... [More]
Directed By: Ernst Lubitsch

#2

The Last Laugh (2016)
98%

#2
Adjusted Score: 99612%
Critics Consensus: The Last Laugh takes a fresh -- and unexpectedly funny -- approach to sensitive subject matter, uncovering affecting insights about the nature of comedy along the way.
Synopsis: Comics, actors, filmmakers and concentration camp survivors discuss the ramifications and ethical dilemmas of using the Holocaust as a topic... [More]
Directed By: Ferne Pearlstein

#1

Forbidden Games (1952)
100%

#1
Adjusted Score: 101735%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Orphaned after a Nazi air raid, Paulette (Brigitte Fossey), a young Parisian girl, runs into Michel (Georges Poujouly), an older... [More]
Directed By: René Clément

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Sundance 2009

Spike Jonze‘s eagerly-anticipated adaptation of Maurice Sendak‘s Where the Wild Things Are was initially supposed to use entirely practical effects, but the director soon realised he’d need more sophisticated computer trickery to bring the seven ’emotionally complex’ (read: grumpy) Wild Things to life. That’s where London’s Framestore came in, the effects house needing to seamlessly animate all the monsters without compromising Spike Jonze’s naturalistic vision for the project. RT went to visit them this week at their Soho headquarters, where Animation Director Michael Eames and Director of VFX Tim Webber told us how they did it, and shared some exclusive behind-the-scenes shots.

Buried


Tim Webber, Director of VFX:

With Wild Things, I think they started shooting hoping they would be able to make it with these very heavy animatronic masks – mechanisms attached to heads. But Spike realised that it was impractical, and that he couldn’t get anything like the levels of performance that they wanted. So he talked to a few people about the approaches and this seemed the best way of getting what he wanted.

This project is a great amalgamation of three different techniques. First of all, the voice actors, they physically acted the scenes, on a set. Tapes were then made of the performances. Spike then used these to rehearse with the suit performers on the set to recreate the actors’ work. Then having got those we came in with the animation, and the results that we managed to get were so much for having those stages done before.


The Extra Man


Tim Webber, Director of VFX:

Framestore got involved pretty late on in the film, considering how long the movie has been in development. We begun work on it for the last out of five years of development. It was terrifying, because it was so much work! The animation technique we used should logically take less time but it isn’t really the case.

The process is the ‘re-projection’ technique. You take the thing that’s photographed in camera on set – in this case the creatures – and you effectively warp an image in 2D to create the facial expression, even though its 3D. Then you re-project it back onto what you’ve shot. This — in simple terms — means that because you’re working with real footage the amount of distortion you can create is very limited. So the difficulty was in getting the extremity of emotion in the performances. For example one of the characters — Carol — has a scene where’s he’s crying and is incredibly upset, there’s a limitation to how much facial expression we can animate.


Four Lions


Michael Eames, Animation Director:

Personally I’ve always thought that the best approach is to do a mix of different kinds of effects – and this movie is a great example of this. The guy in the suit is a practical thing, and we’re doing the face – it’s using each bit for what it’s best at.

I’m quite a believer in — even when we’re doing CG — giving it qualities that make it real, rather than creating creatures who don’t obey the laws of physics and can just fly around. With this technology, you can do anything with your camera and your creature, but you don’t want to because then it wouldn’t look real. As soon as you do something that doesn’t feel possible the audience knows it’s computer generated and then becomes uninterested. I think it’s important to stay on the physical borders of what is real.


Hesher


Tim Webber, Director of VFX:

It was totally important that the animation we did looked as much like practical effects as possible. That’s what Spike was after, he made it perfectly clear. One of the difficulties for example were the characters of Carol and K.W.; both had very large mouths which is difficult because characters with big mouths look like Muppets. Spike didn’t want that, he wanted humanistic, subtle emotion. Our starting point with them was the eyes – we hoped to distract viewers away from the mouths and focus on the eyes.


Michael Eames, Animation Director:

The single most unique challenge was the depth and level of the animation that was required. Most visual FX stuff is either creatures, or its cartoony animation, but with this — the intensity of the emotion that Spike was after was unique. He wanted audiences to be able to be able to feel the emotion and on a fairly human and subtle level, however unhuman the characters were. That was the hard bit — to get those thought processes on screen.

Howl


Michael Eames, Animation Director:

Spike would say things like: “That character is sounding quite confident here, but I want you to show in the eyes that they’re not quite as confident as they’re sounding.” There were layers of emotion and feeling going on he wanted to capture. I guess it’s also unusual for animated characters to have the sort of dialogue that the Wild Things have. It’s much more natural, and therefore they absolutely have to have that level of natural animation.

He was really great to work with, and that’s not just the standard thing that everyone says in interviews. He was very exacting, he’d worked on this film for 5 years and he really, really knew what he wanted, and so that was quite a difficult target to hit. The thing with Spike is that everything he does is a little bit different, but actually he understood the process really well. It’s also pretty rare to work that closely with directors in visual effects. For a start you’re not normally creating 7 of the lead characters of a movie. This was a bit different in that sense; we needed that close interaction.


Where the Wild Things Are is out now.

It has taken Being John Malkovich and Adaptation director Spike Jonze more than five years to bring Where the Wild Things Are to the big screen. Maurice Sendak, the writer and illustrator of the best-selling children’s book (which has sold upward of 20 million copies), identified Jonze as the only man he trusted enough to render his story on film. That story focuses on Max, the boisterous boy in wolf pyjamas who, when sent to his room for bad behaviour, journeys in his imagination and travels to the realm of the Wild Things, a gaggle of hairy monsters who proclaim him king. The book contains only a few hundred words, and yet Jonze has created a full feature film, as wild as the source and as dark and brooding as any ancient fairy tale. The director joins Maurice Sendak and some of his key collaborators to explain exclusively to RT how they shaped the world of Where the Wild Things Are on the big screen.


Maurice Sendak, author and illustrator:

Maurice SendakWhen I started working on the book back in 1960, I didn’t really know why I’d written it. I think the inspiration came from a lot of our family’s relatives who used to come from the old country to visit, and they were really unkempt, they didn’t speak English, their teeth were horrifying, their hair all crazy and they’d pick you up and hug you and kiss you and would say ‘Arrghhh, we could eat you up.’ And my brother and sister and I knew that these people really would eat anything, so I decided to render them as Wild Things.

Where the Wild Things Are


Spike Jonze, writer/director:

Spike JonzeI had gotten to know Maurice about 15 years ago. We worked on a movie that didn’t happen and through that became friends. One day he talked to me about doing Where The Wild Things Are. I was excited by it but also really nervous about it because the book is so short but I didn’t want to add some storyline or some plot. I’d look at it and say, ‘How could you add to this?’ And anything I felt like adding would just sound cheesy. But over the years, as I started thinking more about the book, I suddenly thought that the Wild Things could be wild emotions. Suddenly out of that everything tumbled and it felt like I could build from inside the book.


Dave Eggers, co-writer:

Dave EggersSpike wanted to make sure that what he remembered feeling through his childhood corresponded with what kids think today. He interviewed lots of kids of Max’s age, and it really confirmed that they all deal with very deep emotions. So with the screenplay, the Wild Things embody those emotions. The film really is about childhood. It’s about what it’s like to be eight or nine years old and trying to figure out the world, the people around you, and emotions that are sometimes unpredictable or confusing.

Where the Wild Things Are


Spike Jonze:

We never set any rules about whether it would be a movie for kids or for adults. Maurice Sendak didn’t consider himself a children’s author; he wrote about what it felt like to be a kid. So it was really important that we got the main character right. For Max I wanted a real kid, not necessarily an actor that was going to give a typical ‘movie-kid’ performance. I wanted someone who was going to give a real, emotional performance, and after a very long search I found Max Records. He really is the heart of the movie, and he has such depth to him as a person. It doesn’t feel as though he’s acting at all. It’s such a natural performance.


Max Records, actor (Max):

Max RecordsOne of my favourite scenes is the dirt clod scene, where the Wild Things and Max are chucking all this dirt at each other. I had a scene where I had to run through the forest and it was like a minefield with all these dirt clods exploding everywhere. That was maybe my favourite scene. My favourite moment was sliming Spike. There’s a scene where I get licked by a Wild Thing and covered in all this goo. So I got our revenge by covering Spike with goo, too!

Where the Wild Things Are


Catherine Keener, actor (Max’s Mom):

Catherine KeenerObviously Max and I didn’t know each other when we arrived on set, and I had to show him that he could trust me. I tried to play quite hard with Max, and encouraged him to really let loose. It’s funny, I have a young son who was on set and he asked me why Spike didn’t live with his mum and dad. I said it was because he was an adult, but that says a lot about Spike.


Catherine O’Hara, voice actor (Judith):

Catherine O'HaraSpike is very much in touch with the child within. In fact, even more so than the man without! No, seriously, we had a wild time on this movie. We improvised with this wonderful dialogue everyday and had such terrific fun. We’d do a lot of childish things and go really nuts. Which was just what Spike wanted.

Where the Wild Things Are


Spike Jonze:

The Wild Things are such a strange invention of Maurice’s and it’s weird to think that at some point they did not exist in the world. For me, since I knew it as a kid I knew thes designs, I knew these characters, and it is as though they always existed in this strange surreal dream-like way. Maurice had tapped into some primal thing when he created them. They are furry and cuddly but giants with teeth and nails, and they’re dangerous. But then they have the proportions. Their heads are half the size of their body so they are baby-like in that way. And they’re hairy. They have really captured something. It is creativity at its best. They are as close as you can get to creating something that really is magic.


Forest Whitaker, voice actor (Ira):

Forest WhitakerWe didn’t get inside the suits — they had other actors for that — but we did the voices and Spike captured our facial expressions to layer onto the body suits, to get the facial expressions and so forth. Once, he even interviewed us as characters, to build a little back-story for us, so we could get a better handle on who were and how we viewed our universe.

Where the Wild Things Are


Spike Jonze:

When we first screened the movie to the studio they were a bit freaked out. They thought it was too scary for kids. But we didn’t make this movie just for kids. This is a movie about childhood; for everyone. Thankfully, though, they learned to love our movie. The kids weren’t scared, it was just the executives that were scared. I think kids are just like us. They see something that’s honest and they are attracted to it. Kids are attracted to things that are funny but I think all of us are also attracted to things that are true.


Maurice Sendak:

No one could have guessed that when I created the Wild Things they’d have such a hold over people, even today. Lots have people have wanted to make the movie, but I only wanted Spike to make it. He’s crazy and whacked out and wild, but he’s so gifted, creatively and dramatically. I think he’s done a wonderful job bringing my book the screen. I’m so pleased that I pursued him.

Where the Wild Things Are is out in the UK this weekend.

Cold Souls

It’s one of 2009’s most anticipated films — director Spike Jonze’s adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s kids’ classic, Where the Wild Things Are — and it’s almost, at long last, about to arrive in cinemas.

To celebrate, Rotten Tomatoes and Roadshow Films are giving one lucky reader the chance to own a one-of-a-kind prize: a Where the Wild Things Are poster (like the one at left), signed by Spike Jonze, star Max Records, Forest Whitaker, Catherine Keener and Paul Dano.

To win, simply tell us in 25 words or less why you want this poster hanging on your wall. The best answer will win. Easy, no? Send your reply, along with your mailing address, to: Where the Wild Things Are Poster Giveaway.

Entries close Friday, December 4. The winner will be notified by mail. Please note that the contest is open to Australian residents only.


Where the Wild Things Are is released nationally on December 3.

Moviegoers poured into multiplexes to see a wide range of appealing films powering the box office to the biggest October weekend in history. Leading the way was the new adventure pic Where the Wild Things Are which bowed at number one followed by an exceptionally strong debut for the action entry Law Abiding Citizen in second. The most impressive performance came in third with the national expansion of the indie thriller Paranormal Activity which delivered the best average of any film. The four new wide releases kicked in a stunning $86M powering the Top 20 to $135M, a new record high for the month.

Audiences rushed out to see Where the Wild Things Are making the adaptation of the popular kids book the top film with an estimated $32.5M in ticket sales. Averaging a ferocious $8,693 from 3,735 theaters, the PG-rated pic scored the eighth biggest October opening ever and the third highest for a kidpic during the month trailing only Shark Tale ($47.6M in 2004) and High School Musical 3 ($42M in 2008). It was also the second widest launch during the month after Shark Tale‘s bow in 4,016 locations.

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While the opening weekend was undoubtedly powerful, the long-term outlook is not as clear. Friday began with a potent $12.1M debut but Saturday inched up only 2% to $12.3M. Family-oriented films during the school year typically see large Saturday jumps in sales thanks to the target audience being more available. In recent weeks, Friday-to-Saturday increases on opening weekend for kidpics Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and the Toy Story double feature were 62% and 69%, respectively. Wild Things seems to be playing more to an adult audience appealing to those who read the book as a kid and to hipsters who enjoy director Spike Jonze’s unique style of filmmaking.

Jonze took a nine-sentence book, stretched it into a 100-minute movie, and added plenty of new material including names and backstories for all the Wild Things and a deeper look into the home life of the nine-year-old boy at the center of the story. Reviews have been mixed with critics having a wide range of feelings for the film. Warner Bros. invested heavily into the marketing of Wild Things hoping to appeal to the broadest possible audience since the movie is not the typical family film that Hollywood churns out. The $75M production unspooled in 145 IMAX locations which accounted for $3.1M, or nearly 10% of the weekend tally.

[rtimage]MapID=10008827&MapTypeID=2&photo=45&legacy=1[/rtimage]

Liam Neeson isn’t the only actor from across the pond to hit it big with a revenge thriller this year. Gerard Butler enjoyed a surprisingly potent bow for the action drama Law Abiding Citizen, also starring Jamie Foxx, which grossed an estimated $21.3M from 2,890 theaters for a stellar $7,353 average. The R-rated story of a man that plots a series of assassinations from jail to get back at those responsible for the killings of his wife and daughter played to a broad audience with males slightly outnumbering females. Neeson’s kidnapping thriller Taken was an unlikely blockbuster last winter when it bowed to $24.7M over Super Bowl weekend on its way to a $145M final.

Butler and Foxx are certainly no guarantees at the box office. The former’s action pic Gamer opened to just $9.2M last month while the latter’s The Soloist debuted to a weak $9.7M in April. But the actor combo, the appealing storyline, and an aggressive marketing push helped to make it the biggest opening ever in Overture’s short history easily beating the $16.3M of last fall’s cop drama Righteous Kill with Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. Citizen should have no problem beating Kill‘s $40.1M total to become the distributor’s top grosser too.

[rtimage]MapID=1198026&MapTypeID=2&photo=36&legacy=1[/rtimage]

Paramount expanded its micro-budgeted horror hit Paranormal Activity nationwide this weekend following three weeks of limited play and saw sales nearly triple to an estimated $20.2M. Freaking out moviegoers in 760 theaters, up from 160 last weekend, the R-rated spookfest averaged a sensational $26,530 per location matching almost to the dollar the $26,528 average of The Blair Witch Project when it went nationwide during the summer of 1999. That indie overachiever shot up to number two on the charts in its third weekend when it expanded from 31 to 1,101 theaters grossing $29.2M.

In its first day of wide release on Friday, Paranormal took in $6.7M, then rose 15% to $7.7M on Saturday. The studio is projecting a slim 25% dip on Sunday to $5.8M. The total now stands at $33.7M with another expansion set for this Friday as it goes head-to-head with the opening of the latest installment of the horror industry’s top franchise Saw VI which attacks 3,000 theaters. Still, with the much-talked-about ghost story continuing to add theaters, and Halloween two weeks away, Paranormal Activity has the potential to finish with at least $75M.

Continuing to use out-of-the-box marketing tactics to generate excitement (and sales), the studio has launched a contest that will reward the first ten theaters that sell out their midnight shows this Thursday night with a special party. This promotion is just the latest technique that keeps fans involved with the film’s release as it further infiltrates pop culture. To date, the marketing and distribution campaign has been executed with military precision.

[rtimage]MapID=10010502&MapTypeID=2&photo=3&legacy=1[/rtimage]

Last weekend’s top choice Couples Retreat suffered a rocky second outing dropping 48% to an estimated $17.9M despite not having any new comedies enter the marketplace. With a solid $63.3M taken in over ten days, Universal should find its way to a final domestic tally of $100-110M making it only the second film of the year to join the century club for the troubled studio. Fast & Furious grossed $155.1M last spring. Vince Vaughn’s 2006 Universal relationship trouble flick The Break-Up, which like Retreat he also produced, witnessed an identical 48% plunge in its sophomore frame.

Sony’s latest horror film The Stepfather had a lukewarm $12.3M debut in fifth place, according to estimates. The PG-13 thriller averaged a decent $4,499 from 2,734 locations and skewed towards young women. Studio research showed that 54% of the audience was female and 55% was under 21 for the $19M production. Sony usually does better with its mid-October fright films. Last year, Quarantine bowed to $14.2M, 30 Days of Night debuted to $16M in 2007, and The Grudge 2 opened to $20.8M in 2006. The added competition from Paranormal Activity made an impact.

[rtimage]MapID=1207147&MapTypeID=2&photo=23&legacy=1[/rtimage]

The animated comedy Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs broke the $100M mark on Thursday in its 28th day of release and added an estimated $8.1M to its total over the weekend. That gave the Sony hit a slender 30% decline and a new total of $108.3M which is remarkable for a fall pic. Meatballs is only the fourth September release of this entire decade to cross the century mark joining Remember the Titans ($115.6M in 2000), Sweet Home Alabama ($127.2M in 2002), and Eagle Eye ($101.4M in 2008).

The studio claimed the next spot too with the horror-comedy Zombieland with an estimated $7.8M, down 47%, resulting in a cume of $60.8M. Disney extended the limited run of its double feature Toy Story & Toy Story 2 (3D) beyond its planned two-week period and grossed an estimated $3M in its third round. Tumbling 61%, the dynamic duo raised the sum to $28.6M in 17 days.

[rtimage]MapID=1207888&MapTypeID=2&photo=23&legacy=1[/rtimage]

Rounding out the top ten were Buena Vista’s Surrogates and the Warner Bros. pic
The Invention of Lying
with an estimated $1.9M each. The Bruce Willis actioner dropped 55% and has grossed $36.3M to date while the Ricky Gervais comedy fell 43% lifting the cume to $15.5M.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $126.9M which was up a stunning 59% from last year when Max Payne opened in the top spot with $17.6M; and up a staggering 75% from 2007 when 30 Days of Night debuted at number one with $16M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, Box Office Guru

This week, we’ve got a wild rumpus (Where the Wild Things Are, starring Max Records and Catherine Keener), a legal skirmish (Law Abiding Citizen, starring Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler), and unconventional parenting (The Stepfather, starring Dylan Walsh and Sela Ward). What do the critics have to say?



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Where the Wild Things Are

Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are is one of the most beloved classics of modern children’s literature, but the brief text doesn’t necessarily lend itself to feature-length cinematic treatment. Critics have largely praised Spike Jonze for maintaining the spirit of the book while adding some visually daring touches to bring it to life; however, some feel the narrative is a little thin. Max (Max Records) is a troubled youngster who disappears into a fantasy world of his own making, populated by fluffy monsters who symbolize the various facets of his personality. The pundits say Wild Things may be a little too creepy for the wee ones, and it lacks a strong plot. However, the images Jonze crafts are so wondrous that older kids — and adults — will find the film to be a fascinating, poignant dreamscape.



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Law Abiding Citizen

Nobody says that a thriller needs to be completely plausible to be watchable. However, staying somewhere within the bounds of believability is generally required, and on this count, and several others, critics say Law Abiding Citizen fails. Gerard Butler stars as a man whose family has been murdered; he becomes enraged when the prosecutor (Jamie Foxx) makes a plea deal with the killer, and goes about exacting revenge. The pundits say Law Abiding Citizen isn’t just outrageously contrived; worse, it lingers a little too long over some gruesome violence under the guise of making a political statement about the judicial system. (Check out our interview with director F. Gary Gray, who shared his Five Favorite Films with RT.).



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The Stepfather

It appears the folks behind The Stepfather are being a little too strict with their baby, as it wasn’t screened for critics prior to release. A remake of the 1987 cult classic of the same name, the movie stars Dylan Walsh as a man who’s so perfect for Sela Ward that he must be hiding a dark secret. Kids, guess that Tomatometer!.


Also opening this week in limited release:

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