(Photo by Scott Garfield/©Paramount Pictures)
While Avengers: Endgame and Avatar recently duked it out for bragging rights as the all-time highest-grossing movie, 2021 surprised everyone — to an extent — with the success of Spider-Man: No Way Home, which blew everyone away, setting new records and entertaining fans all over the world even as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to wreak havoc on the industry. With No Way Home landing at No. 6 and Disney’s absorption of what used to be 21st Century Fox, Disney now occupies seven of the 10 top box office rankings of all time worldwide (eight, if you count its joint ownership of Titanic with Paramount).
But even after the release of would-be juggernauts like The Batman, Jurassic World Dominion, The Batman, and a pair of Marvel movies in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and Thor: Love and Thunder, only one film has managed to crack this list in 2022, and boy was it a big one. Tom Cruise suited up again to play ace pilot Pete “Maverick” Mitchell in Joseph Kosinski’s three-and-a-half-decades-later sequel Top Gun: Maverick and delivered what was easily the biggest movie of the summer (and probably the entire year), landing at N0. 13 in the worldwide box office rankings. Who would have thought?
For the list below, we’ve included global box office performance, as well as domestic, and release date. We included dollars earned in re-releases, and in each of our descriptions, we look at where the film stood record-wise at the time of its run, and dive into things like critical and audience reception. We’ll be here to track the progress of new blockbusters and regularly update this list of top box office performers. So keep your eyes here, and check in with our weekly weekend box office wrap-ups.
The world had to wait some 12 years for James Cameron to follow up the biggest film of all time with what would become the new biggest film of all time. Nobody believed he was going to surpass Titanic’s numbers with this tale of an alien planet and the paraplegic Marine who teams up with its inhabitants in the battle for Unobtanium. But he did. At the peak of a 3-D reemergence, aided by the filmmaker’s usual technological gamesmanship (and higher ticket prices), Avatar‘s seven straight weekends at number 1 led to over $595 million at the North American box office. Then, two days later on Feb. 2, 2010, its 47th day of release, the movie became the highest domestic earner ever. Avatar held that record for five years and eleven months and went on to become the only film ever to earn $2 billion outside of the U.S. and Canada, making it the world’s highest grosser at the time. It held onto its impressive global record for nearly 10 years, until Avengers: Endgame came along and snatched the crown. But with Avatar 2 coming soon, the now Disney-owned-and-rebranded 20th Century Studios decided to remind everybody the franchise existed, re-releasing the film in China in March of 2021 and, whether intentional or not, pushing it back into pole position.
Avengers: Endgame (2019)
The journey that began in 2008 with Iron Man was coming to an end – at least for some of the characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Audiences that had been holding their breath for an entire year after perhaps the biggest cliffhanger since Empire Strikes Back could not wait to buy their tickets – and did they ever buy those tickets when they finally could. Opening weekend for Avengers: Endgame in April 2019 surpassed Infinity War’s year-long record by nearly $100 million. In just eight days, the film had grossed a half-billion domestically. On day 10 it was over $621 million. One by one the records fell, leading many to ignore the words “if” and “can” and focus instead on “when” Avatar’s previous record ($2.787 billion) as the highest-grossing movie would fall. But Endgame began to show signs early in its run that its impressive sprinting start might not be enough for it to ultimately come out ahead of James Cameron’s epic; it only had the second-biggest second weekend ever and the fourth-best third weekend. In the era of the modern blockbuster, even a record-breaker can be front-loaded and only spend three weeks atop the charts. It really all came down to a final dash near the finish line. After just six weeks of release, Endgame was about $73 million away from dethroning Avatar – substantial ground to make up. But then Marvel and Disney re-released the film on June 28 with new goodies over its end credits. And then, over the weekend of July 19, 2019 – its 13th week of release – when another Disney release would begin its run for the top 10 all-time earners (hello, Lion King), Endgame squeaked ahead. It may not have been able to catch The Force Awakens for the all-time domestic leader, but by the time summer was over, it would pull in front of Avatar and become the king of the world… at least for a while. With a 2021 re-release in China, Avatar did ultimately take back the crown, but it doesn’t diminish the incredible achievement of Endgame.
James Cameron makes expensive movies. The Abyss, Terminator 2, and True Lies were all the most expensive movies of their time upon release. In 1997, Cameron blew out the budget again and this time there was worry he may have gone too far. Though delayed from July until December, Titanic nevertheless became a global phenomenon the likes of which the box office had never seen at the time. After 15 straight weeks at number 1, 14 Oscar nominations and 11 statuettes, Titanic, its stars and its song were ingrained in the hearts and tear ducts of the world, and the movie would hold the all-time box office record for 12 years – until Cameron would eclipse himself once again with Avatar.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
Twelve years after the completion of the Star Wars prequel trilogy, J.J. Abrams was tasked with making Episode VII – a monumental undertaking, and a risky one. Were people still interested after the prequels? Were they burnt out? The approach was to mix the old and the new, and it worked. Abrams gave a brand-new cast of characters the chance to interact with the original trio of Luke, Han, and Leia, and generations of fans were so ready for the adventure that they gave the film the highest opening weekend in history ($247.9 million). In just under three weeks, The Force Awakens became the all-time domestic champion, passing Avatar and joining the $2 billion club within 54 days. It still remains the highest-grossing domestic release of all time.
Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Just shy of 10 years since it began, the Marvel Cinematic Universe gathered nearly every one of its characters for a galaxy-wide showdown with the series’ Big Bad, Thanos. The movie featured one of the gutsiest cliffhangers in any franchise’s history, leaving audiences to wait in shock for an entire year to discover how Phase 3 of the epic series would end. The film bested The Force Awakens’ three-day opening weekend record with $257.6 million, and hit the $2 billion mark in 48 days. Domestically, it would ultimately come up just short of Black Panther, which was released two months prior.
Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)
Speaking of gathering Marvel characters for an epic showdown, 2021 provided an unexpected box office champion that would swing triumphantly into the top 10. That is to say, the success of
Spider-Man: No Way Home wasn’t unexpected because of the film itself, which was an ambitious, multiverse-expanding entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that brought together some of the most beloved characters in the web-slinger’s big-screen history in a funny, heartbreaking, thrilling spectacle. No, it was unexpected because it managed this herculean feat even as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to keep audiences largely at home. If there was one movie in all of 2021 — or, hell, even going back as far as 2020 — that moviegoers were willing to risk going to the theater for, it was absolutely No Way Home, and boy did they ever show up. The film became not only the highest-grossing Spider-Man movie ever made, but also the most successful movie ever released by Sony Pictures en route to dominating 2021 and settling into the top 10 here. The future of Tom Holland’s Peter Parker is still up in the air, but he has earned himself a rather secure spot on the all-time box office list.
Jurassic World (2015)
Twenty-two years after Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park became the Jaws for a new generation, it was time for that generation’s kids to have their own version of dinosaur mayhem. The second-best–reviewed film in the Jurassic series (72% on the Tomatometer vs. the original’s 91%), Jurassic World trampled a competitive summer full of Avengers, Minions, and inner feelings, and became just the third film since Titanic in 1998 to pass $600 million in domestic box office.
The Lion King (2019)
Having found success with its live-action re-imaginings of The Jungle Book and Beauty and the Beast, Disney tripled down in 2019 with three “new” remakes. Dumbo was a bit of a bust, Aladdin was a success, but The Lion King truly roared. That made sense given that the 1994 original, at the time, was one of the studio’s most successful films in the middle of its rebirth, and director Jon Favreau’s CGI-fueled version traced it for a new generation. The result is the highest-grossing domestic release to receive a Rotten score on the Tomatometer, at 53%. But its $191 million opening was the eighth highest of all time and it became the 14th film to pass a half-billion domestically and just the ninth film to rack up $1 billion overseas.
Marvel's the Avengers (2012)
Want proof that Avengers work best together? Consider that the first combined outing for Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America bested the $1.4 billion that their origin stories had made combined. Five films into the MCU (including Edward Norton’s The Incredible Hulk), the team was finally assembled for a singular battle against Loki and his inherited army. Joss Whedon’s movie became the first ever to make over $200 million in a single weekend and was Marvel’s first entry into the Billion Dollar Club, which had just 12 members at the time.
Furious 7 (2015)
What started out as a Point Break derivative – with cars! – became one of the unlikeliest mega franchises ever. Vin Diesel’s return in the series’ fourth film is what really got the Fast and Furious franchise engines revving, and Dwayne Johnson’s addition in the fifth film added some humor and helped get the critics on board. But it was the full embrace of the series’ now-signature bombast, as well as the untimely death of Paul Walker, that brought the combo of curiosity and tribute that helped make James Wan’s Furious 7 the franchise’s most successful entry. It hit with audiences – the opening weekend haul of $147 million was almost $50 million more than any previous entry – as well as with critics (it’s the highest-rated movie in the series at 81% on the Tomatameter).
Frozen II (2019)
When a film becomes not just a global phenomenon but the highest-grossing film in your canon of animated entertainment, a sequel is inevitable. While not quite as well-received as the first film critically (77% vs. 90% on the Tomatometer), Frozen II virtually demanded that parents bring their children for a second adventure. It began with the third-highest opening weekend for an animated film (after Pixar sequels Incredibles 2 and Finding Dory) – $130.26 million – and then became the highest-grossing film over the five-day Thanksgiving holiday, which was all the more impressive given it had opened the prior weekend. In its fourth weekend of release, it became Disney’s sixth billion-dollar film of 2019, pushing Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle out of the Top 50 on the same weekend that its sequel The Next Level opened. Now, the movie has overtaken the original Frozen to become the highest-grossing animated film of all time.
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
If any film in the top 10 could be considered both a success and a disappointment it would be Joss Whedon’s Avengers sequel. Coming up shy of the first film’s record-breaking opening weekend – note that it was still the second-best opening of all time when it was released – the movie never matched its predecessor in dollars or affection. With a 75% Tomatometer rating, it doesn’t even rank among the top 10 Tomatometer scores of the MCU – though we think there’s a case to be made for reassessing its virtues – and it lost the summer of 2015 to the dinosaurs of Jurassic World. Still, it was just the 16th film ever to cross the $400 million line domestically in its initial run.
Top Gun: Maverick (2022)
Tony Scott’s fighter pilot movie Top Gun topped the box office in 1986 with a domestic gross of $176.8 million (it tallied $357.3 million worldwide), so it was no slouch by any means, and it went on to become a celebrated cult classic. But no one could have reasonably predicted that, more than three and a half decades later, its sequel would earn more than that in the US alone, moving it all the way up to No. 7 on the domestic charts, and enter the top 20 earners worldwide at No. 13 with over $1.3 billion in receipts. Part of that was likely thanks to Tom Cruise reprising his role as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, but director Joesph Kosinski also utilized some strategically deployed fan service and specially developed, state-of-the-art IMAX cameras for stunning action sequences to deliver the biggest crowd-pleaser of Summer 2022.
Black Panther (2018)
After an introduction in Captain America: Civil War, T’Challa got his own film in February of 2019. Audiences were hungry for representation on screen and looking for a thrilling re-introduction to the character, and in Ryan Coogler’s action-packed, beautiful-looking epic, they got both. The movie became the fifth film in history to have a $200 million opening weekend, and just the third film ever to gross over $700 million in North America, outlasting even Avengers: Infinity War that summer. Why isn’t it even higher in the list? Because it remains the only post-Avengers film in the MCU to make less money internationally than domestically.
Fans of J.K. Rowling’s fantasy series got to see its characters (and the actors who played them) grow up in front of their eyes. The culmination of the journey that began in 2001 also ushered in a new trend of splitting final chapters in halves. The back half of the Potter finale set the new record for an opening weekend at the time with $169.1 million, and its $960 million international haul ranked only behind Avatar and Titanic. By the end of its run, the eight Harry Potter had films grossed a combined $7.72 billion.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)
One of the more controversial entries in the Star Wars series – don’t get anyone started on the casino planet sequence! – Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi took the standard dip that had afflicted other middle films in the franchise. The Empire Strikes Back made 31.9% less than A New Hope, Attack of the Clones made 34.6% less than The Phantom Menace, and The Last Jedi fell 33.8% off The Force Awakens. Still, Johnson’s film joined Episodes IV, V, and VII in the 90%+ realm on the Tomatometer and may end up being the ultimate bridge to the next generation of Star Wars fans.
J.A. Bayona’s follow-up to Colin Trevorrow’s continuation of Steven Spielberg’s series received the weakest Tomatometer score of the franchise to date (48%) and, following the path of many “second” entries in franchises (even if it’s technically the fifth), dropped 36% from Jurassic World in overall domestic box office. But it was still good enough for 23rd all-time in North America and 13th in overseas dollars. It was also the second-highest-grossing domestic film of the 2018 summer season, behind the #17 film on this list.
The Oscar-winning song that has tortured parents for nearly a decade was just part of what made Frozen the highest-grossing animated film in history. The story of two sisters searching for happily-ever-after with each other rather than the standard gentlemen suitors also won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature and bested 2012’s Ice Age: Continental Drift for the highest international haul for an animated film ever ($875.7 million compared to $715.9 million), a record it holds to this day despite challenges from Minions and Incredibles 2. (If you consider the new Lion King animated though, this is one crown the Arendelle princesses no longer wear.)
Beauty and the Beast (2017)
Speaking of Disney soundtracks, it was the 2017 live-action redo and not the Best Picture-nominated animated Beauty and the Beast from 1991 that really broke the bank and remains in the record books. Bill Condon’s version of the tale as old as 1991, starring Emma Watson, was not the first of Disney’s splashy re-imaginings, but it certainly was the most successful at the time, becoming the seventh film to cross a half-billion in North America and the 16th to pass three-quarters of a billion overseas.
Incredibles 2 (2018)
Brad Bird’s The Incredibles debuted a full four years before the MCU began, a time when the Pixar brand was as close to a guarantee of success (and quality) as the industry had. Fourteen years later and deep into the superhero cinematic explosion, Bird’s sequel more than doubled the original’s box office and became the highest-grossing animated film ever at the domestic box office. It was the ninth film to cross the $600 million mark in North America and remains in the top 10 all-time earners domestically.
The Fate of the Furious (2017)
A half-billion dollars was put into the production of the seventh and eighth chapters of this franchise and they made a combined $2.75 billion globally. F. Gary Gray’s film was a bit of a comedown from the highs of James Wan’s Furious 7. It even fell behind the sixth Furious film domestically, but did incredibly well abroad: it was the sixth film ever to make a cool billion outside the U.S. and Canada alone. Though still Fresh (67% on the Tomatometer), it was the lowest-scored Fast and Furious movie among critics since the fourth film.
Iron Man 3 (2013)
The first Marvel film released following the massive success of Joss Whedon’s The Avengers was also the most successful of the individual Iron Man films. Robert Downey Jr.’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang director, Shane Black, took over for Jon Favreau and put a twist on some comic-book lore in ways that still draws out disappointment from some fans. The general moviegoing public ate it up, though. Iron Man 3 was just the 13th film to reach $400 million domestic in its initial run, and is the highest-grossing non-Avengers film in the MCU overseas with over $805 million. (And, if you are are keeping track, it is the 12th Disney property in the top 20.)
After two successful Despicable Me films it was time to give Gru’s kooky supporting yellow folk their own story. Smart move. Minions had the largest opening for Illumination Entertainment ever, earning $115.7 million on its first weekend. Though it came up shy domestically of Despicable Me 2 ($336 million vs. $368 million) it can still boast the second-best overseas return for any animated film ($823.4 million), behind only Disney’s Frozen, and stands as the company’s biggest global success to date.
Captain America: Civil War (2016)
It was not officially an Avengers film, but Civil War may as well have been. Thor and Hulk were AWOL, sure, but Spider-Man received his welcomed introduction into the MCU, as did Black Panther. The movie’s run kicked off with the fifth-highest opening in history, earning $179.1 million on opening weekend (that’s now the 11th-highest opening). Another $745 million internationally made this the fourth MCU film to reach $1 billion. Another fun fact: Anthony and Joe Russo are one of only two filmmakers/filmmaking pairs on this list to have three films in the top 50
How could the DCEU get to $1 billion? Adding Batman into their Superman storyline couldn’t do it. Wonder Woman’s solid domestic numbers were nearly matched internationally, but even those figures came up short of Suicide Squad – and the goal. It would take Aquaman to crack the $1 billion mark for the DC Extended Universe. James Wan’s second billion-dollar film on the list may have had the second-smallest opening weekend of the Universe, but its prolonged success through the holiday season and beyond – the movie made nearly five-times its opening – was greater than any DC property since Tim Burton’s Batman in 1989.
Peter Jackson’s (first) epic trilogy unfolded over three straight holiday seasons and its finale was rewarded in every fashion: Return of the King historically won all 11 Oscars that it was nominated for, including Best Picture and Best Director; it was one of the best-reviewed films of the year (Certified Fresh at 93%); and it became the fourth-highest domestic grosser of all time behind just Titanic, The Phantom Menace, and Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man film. It was no slacker overseas, either: When Return finished its run, only Titanic had a greater number outside of the U.S. and Canada.
Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
No wonder Disney and Sony made up: 2019’s Spider-Man: Far From Home, which might have been the end of their association had they not moved past their impasse, is Sony’s highest-grossing film of all time. Six of the studio’s eight highest-grossing films ever have involved Spider-Man (or Venom), but this was the first Sony flick to cross the $1 billion line, and the ninth film in the MCU to do it. (Spider-Man appeared in four of the MCU’s other members of the $1 Billion Club). It was also the fifth stand-alone Spider-Man film (live-action or animated) to register at 90% or higher on the Tomatometer – critics love their web-slinger.
Captain Marvel (2019)
After getting tag-teased at the end of Infinity War, Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers made her debut in the MCU as the universe’s first headlining female superhero in 2019’s Captain Marvel. Outgrossing DC’s Wonder Woman around the world and at home, the breakthrough film was embraced by critics (though its Certified Fresh score of 78% ranks 18th out of the MCU’s 23 films). The space epic was only one of two films in 2018-19 to spend 10 straight weeks in the top 10 (the other being Black Panther), and was the seventh MCU film to reach $1 billion at the box office globally.
The only Transformers sequel under the direction of Michael Bay to rank higher than 20% on the Tomatometer (a whopping 35%!) is not the series’ biggest domestic or international earner. But combined it remains the champion overall in worldwide gross (and bonus for the studio: it had one of the series’ lowest budgets). Only the final Harry Potter chapter could beat it in the summer of 2011, when they were the only films to pass $300 million domestic.
The James Bond franchise got a boost with Pierce Brosnan and an even larger one with Daniel Craig. But there was no bigger boost to the long-running franchise than Craig’s Skyfall, the first film to cross $300 million domestically and $1 billion globally. A series that has existed for 50-plus years is going to get a little help from inflation – Goldfinger, Thunderball, and You Only Live Twice would have been $300 million grossers today – but we’re not doing inflation here. Skyfall was also a gold standard for Bond beyond the box office: It stands amongst the series’ top five scores on the Tomatometer, Certified Fresh at 92%.
The Transformers series was beginning to show its age in North America in 2014, but around the world it was more popular than ever. Shia LaBeouf was replaced with Mark Wahlberg as the franchise’s central hero, and the fourth film from Michael Bay approached a near three-hour running time at 165 minutes. But even as it dipped below $300 million for the first time at home, its $858 million international haul was still the sixth-highest total for any movie outside the U.S. and Canada at the time. (It is now 16th.) Bay’s fifth film of the franchise, The Last Knight, fell 47% in overall domestic and nearly 45% internationally. At 18% on the Tomatometer, Age of Extinction has the lowest Tomatometer score of the top 50 biggest films at the worldwide box office.
Jurassic Park (1993)
Before James Cameron owned the top two spots in all-time domestic box office (for a period), it was Steven Spielberg who had pulled off that feat. His adaptation of Michael Crichton’s novel, Jurassic Park, was a return to the revered popcorn blockbusters he made his name on and it replaced the previous year’s Batman Returns as the top opener ever with $47 million and went on to gross over $357 million that summer. That was just a couple million dollars shy of his 1982 classic, E.T., but re-releases in 2-D and 3-D over the years have put the film over $400 million domestic and $1 billion worldwide.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
The conclusion of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy gave us Bane, Catwoman, and even a surprise along the way. By the end of that summer only four films had grossed more domestically in their initial runs than The Dark Knight Rises: Avatar, Titanic, The Dark Knight, and Marvel’s The Avengers, which was the only film to eclipse Rises in all of 2012. When all was said and done, Nolan’s trilogy had grossed over $2.46 billion worldwide.
The director of The Hangover films wanted to make an origin story out of Batman’s most infamous nemesis. The project was met with skepticism, and then it began a run on the festival circuit. Venice awarded the film its top prize in the Golden Lion; some critics were hailing it a masterpiece. Though its Tomatometer score is among the lower scores in the Top 50 (69%), Todd Phillips’ Joker had the highest-opening ever in the month of October (passing the previous years’ Venom) and ultimately became the highest-grossing film ever released in that month in North America, surpassing Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity domestically. The film has just taken over Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Jurassic Park, Finding Dory, The Phantom Menace, Aladdin, and Warner Bros’ The Dark Knight on this list, and also earns a place as one of its most profitable films of all time.
The final chapter of the Skywalker saga may have broken the trend set by the other third entries in the franchise’s trilogies (each outgrossed the middle episodes), but it will become record that we may never see broken again. During the week of January 12, 2020, it became the seventh film released by Disney in 2019 to break the $1 billion barrier – it reached that marker in 28 days, whereas The Last Jedi did it in less than three weeks. That will be remembered far longer than having the 12th-highest opening of all-time – The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi were numbers one and two until Avengers: Infinity War opened – or that it had one of the lowest Tomatometer scores among the nine films. Nevertheless, it puts a capper on a nine-episode series from 1977-2019 that grossed (with re-releases) a collective $8.71 billion.
Toy Story 4 (2019)
When the fourth entry of Pixar’s signature series opened to “only” $120 million, many labeled it “a disappointment.” Some had expected Toy Story 4 to have the studio’s biggest opening ever, and the film was then written off – by some – as part of a string of failed sequels in the summer of 2019. Well, Woody and the gang proved them all wrong. The movie went on to outgross the third film by over $12 million domestically. Even if it came up a bit short internationally, it still became the fourth billion-dollar grosser in Pixar’s history and their third-highest–grossing film overall.
Toy Story 3 (2010)
We all assumed it was the end for Woody, Buzz, and all their toy friends – that bittersweet finish was just so perfect. The series would have gone out with a box-office bang, too. The first summer release for the Toy Story franchise turned into the first $100 million opening weekend for Pixar as well as the studio’s first $400 domestic tally and first worldwide haul of $1 billion. For almost two years it was the second-highest–grossing domestic release in Disney’s history; by 2019 it was 16th.
Everyone mocked the concept of Disney turning one of their classic rides into a feature-length film. Well, some $300 million and an Oscar nomination for Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow later, we were looking at a franchise with a modicum of respect. At least, for a little while. Critics went from disdain for the concept before the first film was released to disdain for its epic-length and earnestness in the space of just two films, with the original movie’s score of 79% dropping to 53% on the Tomatometer for the sequel. But audiences went the other direction, giving Dead Man’s Chest a 38.6% boost in domestic earnings and an 84.2% boost internationally. It was Disney’s first $100-plus million opening ($135 million to be precise), and the studio has had 20 more since then. From 2006 until Toy Story 3 was released in 2010, Dead Man’s Chest was the highest-grossing domestic release in Disney’s history.
The Lion King (1994)
For 25 years, this film has remained relevant in pop culture through an acclaimed stage show, direct-to-video sequels, spinoffs, television series, and that mammoth re-imagination. The original Lion King was the second-highest–grossing film of 1994 behind Forrest Gump, which was – at the time – third only to the initial runs of E.T. and Jurassic Park at the all-time domestic box office. That made The Lion King the fourth highest-grossing film ever (not counting re-releases) and the number 1 domestic animated release of all time, a title it held for nine years until Finding Nemo.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
A year after J.J. Abrams launched the record-breaking continuation of George Lucas’ Skywalker saga, audiences were given a go-between tale to help fill in the gaps that led to the destruction of the first Death Star. The Magnificent Seven-like story was an instant favorite for some and an average side-trip for others. It became just the seventh film to clear a half-billion dollars in domestic box office. A nearly-equal international haul filled in the other half needed for Rogue One to join the $1 Billion Club, a goal that Solo: A Star Wars Story came up more than $600 million short of.
Aladdin wasn’t always a sure bet: A blue Will Smith was mocked in early reveals of his Genie character and Tim Burton’s live-action Dumbo proved to be a bust just two months before Aladdin‘s release. But Guy Ritchie’s new version of the beloved 1992 animated film took advantage of other 2019 summer under-performers like Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Dark Phoenix, and Men In Black International, gobbling them all up and staying in the top five at the box office for seven straight weeks. Its international haul was only $70 million less than 2017’s Beauty and the Beast, and was even higher than several films above it on this list including Black Panther, Incredibles 2, and numbers 29-32.
After Gore Verbinski’s Pirates trilogy grossed a combined $2.68 billion worldwide, Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer were not about to let the series sail into the sunset. The third film’s bloated length of 168 mins was roundly criticized (its Tomatometer score is just 45%), and this fourth film fared even worse with reviewers (33%), but it did the job at the box office. Domestic audiences showed up for the revamped outing with Jack Sparrow, just not in the expected droves, and a mammoth international total ($804.6 million) kept Stranger Tides in the record books.
Despicable Me 3 (2017)
Though the third film in the Despicable Me franchise made just $13 million more than the original at the domestic box office, internationally the Despicable Me films had a 164% increase from the first film ($543.1 million) to the third ($1.035 billion). Released in 4,529 theaters, Gru’s third chapter did manage to have the largest launch in film history in North America until Avengers: Endgame came along. Four other films during the summer of 2019 also exceeded its one-time-record theater count.
Finding Dory (2016)
Thirteen years after Finding Nemo became Pixar’s first $300 million domestic grosser and its biggest hit, the sequel focusing on Ellen Degeneres’ beloved memory-challenged sidekick reclaimed the throne, becoming again the animation house’s highest domestic grosser ever. The movie bested Toy Story 3 by over $71 million at home – even if it came up a bit short of that film internationally – and showed Pixar’s sequel business was really starting to thrive.
George Lucas returned to the director’s chair after more than two decades to give fans what they thought they wanted 16 years after the release of Return of the Jedi. Fans certainly turned over their money but many left with a sense of disappointment that would help taint the prequel trilogy for decades to come. Phantom Menace was the highest-grossing film domestically to earn a Rotten score 55% (until 2019’s The Lion King came along). The $431 million earned in its initial run was enough to make it second only to Titanic all-time in North America; it took re-releases to push it over $1 billion globally. In 1999, it was the first film to clear $100 million in five days, beating the previous record holder, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, which earned $98.6 million in the same amount of time.
Alice in Wonderland (2010)
Among the first five attempts Disney had made to bring its classic cartoons to life by 2010, Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland was by far the most successful. Its $116.1 million start was the sixth-largest movie opening ever at the time and the second-highest for Disney behind the second Pirates film. It was Burton’s seventh collaboration with Johnny Depp and the director has not had a film gross as much domestically in total as Alice made in its first three days since – not even with his attempt to replicate the success with Dumbo in 2019, which grossed a total of $114.7 million. But back in 2010, only Avatar, Titanic, and The Return of the King had made more money outside of North America than Alice did.
To this day, Zootopia remains the second-highest–grossing animated Disney film not connected with Pixar. Since Frozen spent 16 straight weeks in the top 10, only three films have come as close, with 13 straight weeks in that top 10: Black Panther, La La Land, and yes, Zootopia. Its $682 million overseas is the sixth-best ever for an animated film, the second-best for any Disney animated film, Pixar or otherwise. Also, it is just one of four films on this list to receive a Tomatometer score of 97%.
Four years after the publication of J.K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter book, Chris Columbus brought it to the big screen and its legions of fans turned up in record numbers. A $90.2 million opening weekend crushed the previous title holder from four years earlier, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, by over $18 million. The Sorcerer’s Stone‘s final domestic total ranked sixth all-time behind the initial runs of Titanic, The Phantom Menace, E.T., Jurassic Park, and Forrest Gump. That total remained the highest of the series until Deathly Hallows: Part 2 in 2011.
Almost a decade after wrapping up his landmark Lord of the Rings trilogy, Peter Jackson returned to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien to give audiences the Bilbo Baggins tale. A planned two-parter turned into a full-blown trilogy and critics were feeling the bloat: While Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films all scored over 90% on the Tomatometer, the Hobbit films never rose above 74%, with the first film right in the middle with 64%. Audiences were not tired just yet, though, even if this was the last of the Middle-earth series to hit $300 million domestic and $1 billion worldwide. On the glass-half-full side, Jackson’s first four Tolkien films grossed a combined $3.938 billion globally.
The Dark Knight (2008)
The untimely passing of Heath Ledger in January 2008 was a gut punch, but it made anticipation for what would become his iconic, Oscar-winning portrayal of Batman’s arch-nemesis, the Joker, even more feverish. It was the central piece of what is considered one of the greatest comic-book films ever made. The movie’s $158 million opening weekend broke the previous record-holder, Spider-Man 3, by more than $7 million, and Dark Knight held the record for nearly three years to the day until the final Harry Potter chapter was released. The opening is still 17th all-time and the movie’s domestic total haul is the 12th-highest ever.
Thumbnail image courtesy ©Sony Pictures Releasing, Scott Garfield/©Paramount Pictures, ©Warner Bros.
(Photo by Warner Bros./courtesy Everett Collection)
The Harry Potter film franchise ruled the box office for a decade, but it also managed the uncommon feat of earning Certified Fresh status for every single one of its installments. It remains one of the most successful movie sagas of all time, and it’s even spawned a spinoff series. But while the first Fantastic Beasts continue the Certified Fresh streak, the second became the first Rotten entry in this cinematic Wizarding World. The third Beasts film, The Secrets of Dumbledore, released April 2022. Now, we’re ranking all Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts movies by Tomatometer! —Alex Vo
(Photo by WB/ courtesy Everett Collection)
Everyone came into the Wizarding World through the Harry Potter books and movies, which introduced us to a gifted 11-year-old, his friends Ron and Hermione, and their hallowed school of magic, Hogwarts. Watching the Harry Potter movies in order, seeing the story unfold chronologically in-universe, used to be as easy as finding the one where Daniel Radcliffe looks youngest and starting from there.
But the series has expanded now with the Fantastic Beasts movies, set some 70 years before The Sorcerer’s Stone. So to watch the Harry Potter movies in order, your journey now begins with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, set in 1926 and starring Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scarmander. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is set in 1927. The third Fantastic Beasts intends to release July 2022, with two more movies to close out the Scarmander and Grindelwald saga.
Then the story of Harry himself begins, starting with Sorcerer’s Stone and concluding in the second-part of The Deathly Hallows, for eight Certified Fresh movies in a row. There’s also a Harry Potter series early in development for HBO Max. For now, see our guide below on how to watch all Harry Potter movies in order. —Alex Vo
(Photo by Marvel Studios / Disney, 20th Century Fox, Miramax, TriStar)
For their bravery, wit, general badassery, and unbroken spirit in the face of enormous challenges (be they gender discrimination or acid-hissing aliens), we pay tribute to 87 Fearless Movie Women Who Inspire Us.
How did we arrive at our top 87? With the help of a fearless panel of women critics made up of some of the best writers in the industry, including a few on the Rotten Tomatoes staff. Starting with a long list of candidates, they whittled down the list to an initial set of 72 amazingly heroic characters and ordered them, crowning the most fearless woman movie hero in the process. Want to know more about the ladies who voted? We included their bios at the end! Then, in addition to their contributions, which make up the bulk of the list, we also added a handful of more recent entries chosen by the RT staff.
The final list (you can watch every movie in a special FandangoNOW collection) gives compelling insight into which heroes have resonated through the years, women whose big-screen impact remains even as the times change. We have the usual suspects along with plenty of surprises (Working Girl, your day has come!), and the only way to discover them all is reading on for the 87 fearless women movie heroes — and groups of heroes — who inspire us!
(Photo by 20th Century Fox Film Corp.)
#1One of the appeals of science-fiction is the luxury to comment on modern issues and social mores, or even eschew them completely. Take a look at the diverse space crews in Star Trek, Sunshine, or Alien, where people are hired based on nothing but competence, and none have proven their competence under extreme pressure as well as Ellen Ripley. She’s tough, pragmatic, and cunning in Alien. Journey with Ripley into Aliens and we get to see her in a new light: mothering and nurturing with hints of deep empathy (Sigourney Weaver was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for this performance), which only makes the Xenomorph-stomping side of her even more badass.
(Photo by 20th Century Fox Film Corp.)
#2And on the other side of the Sigourney spectrum, Weaver here plays Katharine, a particular kind of woman who’s nasty to the competition: other women. The object of her scorn is her secretary, Tess McGill (played by Melanie Griffith), who has her great ideas stolen by Katharine. The plucky Tess in turn pretends to be her boss’s colleague, and proceeds to shake things up in this corporate Cinderella story. Who doesn’t dream of one day suddenly arriving in a higher echelon of society? Of course, it’s what you do once you get there that’s important, and the glowing and tenacious Tess makes the most of it.
(Photo by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Marvel)
#3Hard-drinking, ass-kicking Valkyrie makes no apologies for her choices and draws solid boundaries. Sure, she’s flawed, but that’s what makes her successes so sweet. That she’s played by Tessa Thompson doubles the fun.
(Photo by Marvel/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
#4Letitia Wright proved that a sister doesn’t have to sit in the shadow of her sibling simply because he’s king. Her Shuri has the smarts and the sass to cut her own path, making her technical genius essential not only to the Kingdom of Wakanda, but also the Avengers’ recent efforts to take down the tyrant Thanos.
(Photo by Fox 2000 Pictures)
#5Don’t ask us to choose a favorite among Hidden Figures’ Space Race heroines: Taraji P. Henson as Katherine G. Johnson, Octavia Spencer as Dorothy Vaughan, and Janelle Monáe as Mary Jackson. The Oscar-nominated drama tells the story of a real-life team of female African-American mathematicians crucial to NASA’s early space program.
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(Photo by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Lucasfilm Ltd)
#7Daisy Ridley gave girls everywhere – and full-grown women, in truth – a fresh new hero to adore when she debuted in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Of humble origins, scrappy Rey overcomes her circumstances living as an orphan in a harsh environment to become an essential component in the Resistance. It helps, of course, that The Force is with her.
(Photo by Clay Enos/Warner Bros. Pictures)
#8Despite her superpowers and privileged background, Gal Gadot as Diana – princess of Themyscira and the Amazons, daughter of Queen Hippolyta and King of the Gods Zeus – retains her humility and a genuine care for humanity. She’s also the most rock solid member of DC’s boys club of Justice League superheroes.
(Photo by 20th Century Fox)
#9Come on…she’s Princess Leia. She leads the Rebel Alliance. She saves the galaxy again and again (with a little help from Luke, and Han, and Chewy). She eventually becomes a revered general, but from the very start – when she first confronts Darth Vader at the beginning of Episode IV – A New Hope – she shows a defiant, fiery nature that never dims. In her defining film role, Carrie Fisher brings impeccable comic timing to this cosmic princess.
(Photo by Roadside Attractions)
#10Before she was Katniss, Jennifer Lawrence was Ree, the role that made her a star and earned her the first of four Oscar nominations. A no-nonsense teenager, Ree dares to brave the dangers lurking within the Ozark Mountains to track down her drug-dealing father and protect her siblings and their home. With each quietly treacherous encounter, she shows depth and instincts beyond her years, and a willingness to fight for what matters.
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#11You can’t have any fear when you’re going up against Hannibal Lecter – or at least you can’t show it. He’ll sniff it out from a mile away. But what’s exciting about Jodie Foster’s Oscar-winning portrayal of the young FBI cadet is the way she works through her fear, harnessing that nervous energy alongside her powerful intellect and dogged determination. Clarice Starling is a hero for every little girl who thought she wasn’t good enough.
(Photo by Universal Pictures)
#12Julia Roberts won a best-actress Oscar for her charismatic portrayal of this larger-than-life, real-life figure. Erin Brockovich is repeatedly underestimated because of the flashy way she dresses and the brash way she carries herself. But as a single mom who becomes an unlikely environmental advocate, she’s a steely fighter. What she lacks in book smarts, she more than makes up for with heart. Steven Soderbergh’s film is an inspiring underdog story.
(Photo by 20th Century Fox)
#13Jane Craig is the toughest, sharpest, most prepared woman in the newsroom at all times, but she isn’t afraid to cry to let it all out when the pressure gets too great. Writer-director James L. Brooks created this feminist heroine, this workplace goddess, but Holly Hunter brilliantly brings her to life. She’s just so vibrant. Even when she’s sitting still (which isn’t often), you can feel her thinking. And while two men compete for her attention, no man could ever define her.
(Photo by MGM Studios)
#14It would be easy to underestimate Marge Gunderson. Sure, she’s in a position of power as the Brainerd, Minnesota, police chief. But with her folksy manner – and the fact that she’s so pregnant, she’s about to burst – she’s not exactly the most intimidating figure. But in the hands of the brilliant Frances McDormand, she’s consistently the smartest and most fearless person in the room, and she remains one of the Coen brothers’ most enduring characters. You betcha.
(Photo by Marvel/Walt Disney Studios)
#15Danai Gurira plays Okoye, the leader of the Dora Milaje who specializes in spear fighting and strategic wig flipping. Of late, Okoye has been seen keeping company with Avengers.
(Photo by Miramax Films)
#16Things Bridget Jones is prone to: accidents, fantasizing about sexy coworkers, worrying about her weight, and running mad into the snow wearing tiger-print underwear. All totally relatable things, so it’s no surprise she’s the highest-ranked romcom heroine on this list. It also doesn’t hurt that, at their best, Bridget’s movies are what romantic comedies aspire to: They’re fun, cute, and just when it feels like everything’s about to fall apart, there’s the exhilarating little twist at the end that leaves watchers feel like they’re floating on air.
(Photo by Paramount Pictures)
#17It’s true that Cher is a little oblivious to the world at large, but she’s just so earnest and she tries so hard. She discovers a passion for doing good after successfully matchmaking a pair of teachers, and after a series of difficult lessons learned, she makes an honest effort to escape her privileged bubble and become a better person. Like we all should.
(Photo by MGM Studios)
#18Thelma and Louise, best friends who stick by each other no matter what. And when their girls’ getaway weekend quickly turns from frivolous to frightening, they find even deeper levels of loyalty to each other. Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon have an effortless chemistry with each other, and Ridley Scott’s intimate and thrilling film never judges these women for the decisions they make — or for the lengths to which they’ll go in the name of freedom.
(Photo by Warner Brothers)
#19Enduring racism, misogyny, and emotional, physical, and sexual violence, Celie (Whoopi Goldberg in her film debut) transcends her traumatic life in the rural South, finding friends, strength, and her own voice.
(Photo by Sony Pictures Classics)
#20As a transgender waitress, Marina constantly endures cruelty and confusion from the ignorant people around her. When the one man who loves her for who she truly is dies unexpectedly, she finds herself in the midst of an even more emotional, personal fight. Transgender actress Daniela Vega initially was hired as a consultant on Sebastian Lelio’s film; instead, she became its star, and A Fantastic Woman deservedly won this year’s foreign-language Oscar.
(Photo by TriStar Pictures)
#21Sarah Connor makes many want to be a better mother – or at least get to the gym and work on our triceps. The once-timid waitress crafts herself into a force of nature, a fearsome and visceral manifestation of pure maternal instinct. Played most memorably by Linda Hamilton in the first two Terminator movies, Sarah may seem unhinged, but she’s got laser-like focus when it comes to protecting her son, John, from the many threats coming his way.
(Photo by Miramax Films)
#22The return of blaxploitation queen, Pam Grier! What’s not to love? Especially in Quentin Tarantino’s killer love letter to South Bay Los Angeles. As Jackie Brown, Grier exudes classic cool with a tough exterior.
(Photo by Richard Olley/Columbia Pictures)
#23Jessica Chastain has made a career of playing quick-witted characters with nerves of steel. Nowhere is this truer than in her starring role in Kathryn Bigelow’s thrilling depiction of the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Maya is obsessively focused in her pursuit of the al Qaeda leader. She’s a confident woman who has to be extra prepared to survive in a man’s world. But when the mission is over and she finally allows some emotion to shine through, it’s cathartic for us all.
(Photo by Warner Brothers/ Everett Collection)
#24She’s the smartest kid in the class, regardless of the subject. The hardest worker, too. And she’s proud of those qualities, making her an excellent role model for girls out there with an interest in math and science. But Hermione isn’t all about the books. Over the eight Harry Potter films, in Emma Watson’s increasingly confident hands, Hermione reveals her resourcefulness, loyalty, and grace. She’s a great student but an even better friend.
(Photo by Columbia Pictures/ Everett Collection)
#25Howard Hawks’ celebrated screwball comedy benefited from a not-so-small change to the stage play it was based on: In the original The Front Page, Hildy Johnson was a male. But thanks to Rosalind Russell’s lively performance, as well as a few script changes she personally insisted upon, the character blossomed into an early icon of the independent working woman who’s not only just as effective at her job as her male counterparts, but also equally adept with a witty comeback.
(Photo by Walt Disney/ Everett Collection)
#26Elastigirl takes on all the trials of motherhood: She’s got hyper kids, a bored husband, and has to witness certain parts of her body unperkify. Elastigirl also just happens to be a superhero, with the fate of the world resting on her shoulders.
(Photo by Universal/courtesy Everett Collection)
#27Fans of the short-lived but beloved Fox sci-fi series Firefly were already familiar with Gina Torres‘ badassery as Zoe Washburne in Serenity. A veteran of the Unification War and second in command of the ship, Zoe is a strong and loyal ally who rarely pulls punches, whether she’s stating a controversial opinion or engaged in a literal fistfight. With her free spirit and deadly skills, it’s no wonder she became a fan favorite.
(Photo by 20th Century Fox Film Corp./courtesy Everett Collection)
#28Dolly Parton is a national treasure, and 9 to 5 allows her to light up the screen with her sparkling, charismatic personality. But while Doralee may seem like a sweet Southern gal, she’s got a stiff backbone and a sharp tongue, and she isn’t afraid to use them when she’s crossed. When she finally stands up to her sexist bully of a boss alongside co-workers Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda, it’s nothing short of a revolution – one that remains sadly relevant today.
(Photo by Columbia Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection)
#29The story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League is one that deserves to be told, and it’s Geena Davis‘ Dottie Hinson who grounds this fictional account. She’s a talented local player who becomes the star of the Rockford Peaches, and it’s her quick thinking that brings publicity to the sport. When her decision to play in the World Series leads to a spectacular finish, she also demonstrates a very human vulnerability, making her a strong but relatable heroine.
(Photo by Focus Features/courtesy Everett Collection)
#30Jane Austen’s classic heroine Elizabeth Bennet jumps off the page in the 2005 film starring Keira Knightley, who gives audiences an intelligent, down-to-Earth, sometimes literally dirty, but uncompromisingly steadfast leading lady.
(Photo by Everett Collection)
#31Never underestimate a sorority girl. They are organized and they know how to get what the want. In the case of Elle Woods, she goes after her law school goals with a smile on her face, a spring in her step, and an impeccably coordinated wardrobe. Reese Witherspoon is impossibly adorable in the role, with a potent combination of smarts and heart to shut down the naysayers who are foolish enough to judge her simply by her looks.
(Photo by Warner Bros./Courtesy Everett Collection)
#32Talk brashly and carry a big sword. As Tom Cruise’s character unravels a complex time travel sci-fi story, a constant in his fluctuating world is Rita Vrataski aka the killer Angel of Verdun. But Emily Blunt gives life to Rita beyond burgeoning love interest. She takes the lead and makes the movie just as much her’s.
(Photo by Marvel Studios)
#33When Nick Fury sent that mysterious intergalactic text message right before disappearing into dust at the end of Avengers: Infinity War, eager fans knew what was in store. As played by Brie Larson, Captain Marvel is one of the most powerful superheroes in the MCU — if not THE most powerful — and she’s in such high demand that she spends most of her time battling evil on other planets. She shows up when it counts, though, and she can rock a mowhawk like nobody’s business.
(Photo by Paramount /Courtesy Everett Collection)
#34Though hit hard by tragedy and seemingly insurmountable odds of surviving an alien invasion, mother and daughter duo Evelin and Regan Abbott prove their mettle in A Quiet Place.
(Photo by Paramount Pictures / Courtesy: Everett Collection)
(Photo by 20th Century Fox Film Corp./courtesy Everett Collection)
#36Who can stand up to Hugh Jackman’s fierce Wolverine without flinching? His cloned daughter X-23. Dafne Keen imbued the preteen mutant, a.k.a. “Laura,” with a volatile mix of anger, despondency, obstinance, and hope – that we would very much like to see more of.
(Photo by 20th Century Fox Film Corp./courtesy Everett Collection)
#37She’s Buffy. She slays vampires while juggling cheerleading and the SATs. But while Kristy Swanson gives the character a satricial bent, it’s the legendary TV adaptation that gives this character a lasting legacy. But the movie ain’t a bad place to start.
(Photo by © Warner Bros.)
Do you like your Harry Potter films light and frothy – like the early years? Or do you prefer your Wizarding World all broody and dark – like the later years? Perhaps your Potterverse sweet spot is in the middle films, like Goblet of Fire, which expertly blend both, capturing Harry, Hermione, and Ron at a time when they’re still innocent enough to be awed by the magic around them, and when He Who Must Not Be Named is moving from lingering threat to fully formed strange-nosed wand-swinger.
Whichever way you lean Potter-wise, you’re likely to have some strong thoughts about our ranking of the Harry Potter films.
Our list orders the movies by their Tomatometer score, which reflects the percentage of critics that gave the films a thumbs up. Not surprisingly, all eight Harry Potter movies score very well according to the Tomatometer, with each earning a Certified Fresh score of 77% or above. (It is the Ravenclaw of movie franchises.) Final film Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 comes in at number one with a whopping 96%, with fan fave Prisoner of Azkaban close behind on 90%; in last place is Deathly Hallows – Part 1, which suffered – according to critics – from an inevitable feeling of being unfinished.
In the latest episode of our new podcast, Rotten Tomatoes Is Wrong (A Podcast from Rotten Tomatoes), we’re going big. Like, troll-rampaging-in-a-boarding-school-bathroom big…. Or giant-spider-getting-freaky-in-the-woods big. For the first time, we’re tackling not just one or two films, but an entire series, asking whether our ranking of each movie in the Harry Potter franchise passes the sniff test with lovers of the series. Joining hosts Jacqueline Coley and Mark Ellis for this Triwizard Tournament-level task is Syfy and Syfy Wire’s Jackie Jennings, host of the “Who Won the Week” podcast and Potter-head who definitely thinks we’re wrong on this one. Will you agree?
Check in every Thursday for a new episode of Rotten Tomatoes Is Wrong (A Podcast From Rotten Tomatoes). Each week, hosts Jacqueline and Mark and guests go deep and settle the score on some of the most beloved – and despised – movies and TV shows ever made, directly taking on the statement we hear from so many fans: “Rotten Tomatoes is wrong.”
If you have a suggestion for a movie or show you think we should do an episode on, let us know in the comments, or email us at email@example.com.
Meet the hosts
Jacqueline Coley is an editor at Rotten Tomatoes, with a focus on awards and indie coverage but with a passion for everything, from the MCU to musicals and period pieces. Coley is a regular moderator at conventions and other events, can be seen on Access Hollywood and other shows, and will not stand Constantine slander of any kind. Follow Jacqueline on Twitter: @THATjacqueline.
Mark Ellis is a comedian and contributing editor for Rotten Tomatoes. He currently hosts the Rotten Tomatoes series Versus, among others, and can be seen co-hosting the sports entertainment phenomenon Movie Trivia Schmoedown. His favorite Star Wars movie is Jedi (guess which one!), his favorite person is actually a dog (his beloved stepdaughter Mollie), and – thanks to this podcast – he’s about to watch Burlesque for the first time in his life. Follow Mark on Twitter: @markellislive.
It’s the Super Bowl of fantasy series showdowns in the latest edition of Vs., in which we’re pitting the Lord of the Rings movies against the Harry Potter films – including, for both franchises, the prequels. (And no, this does not help either side on the scoreboard.) Do Peter Jackson’s big-screen takes on J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels walk all over the movie adaptations of J.K. Rowling’s books like so many Ents stampeding through a forest? Or does the Boy Who Lived snatch up victory as if it were some quick-darting Golden Snitch? Find out as Rotten Tomatoes Contributing Editor Mark Ellis breaks down each franchise by Tomatometer and Audience Score, box office, heroes and villains, and one special wild card category.
Thumbnail images by Universal courtesy Everett Collection
As we all settle in to stay at home and socially distance ourselves, the planet has been given a unique resource not often afforded in the modern world: time. With no place to go, what shall we do with this new abundance of free hours? Time to finish that book you have had on your bedside table? Maybe take an online French class or learn to play an instrument? Time to binge every series that ever was? Or perhaps, like us, you’re thinking of all the films you wished you’d seen but never had the time to before.
Maybe one of those epic movie franchises that seemed too daunting to jump into late in the game – don’t ever admit you’ve never seen an MCU movie, ever – or a series of which you’ve caught a few entries but want to fill in the gaps. Fear not – we have you covered with our Epic Franchise Movie Binge Guide. Read below as we break down some of the most beloved long-running movie franchises – like The Lord of the Rings, Mission Impossible, or the granddaddy of them all, the Marvel Cinematic Universe – and tell you the best way to approach watching them, how long the binge will take, and which titles you can skip. Because hey, even all the time in the world may not be enough time to make you sit through A Good Day to Die Hard.
Disagree with our picks or have a suggestion for a franchise movie binge? Let us know in the comments.
What is it: The film adaptations of the fantasy novels by J.R.R. Tolkien, set in ”Middle-earth,” the fictitious medieval land where elves, men, dwarves, wizards, and hobbits co-exist, often not so peacefully. Over the course of several films, we follow hobbit Bilbo Baggins and later his young heir Frodo Baggins as they go on adventures and battle against the forces of evil.
How many hours: Extended editions: 20 hours 30 minutes; Theatrical cuts: 17 hours and 12 minutes.
Starts with: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)
Ends with: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
Best way to watch: Some would argue the second trilogy – though the first by story chronology – from Peter Jackson was an unnecessary and bloated cash grab that should be avoided at all costs, but we have a better suggestion. We suggest you begin with the LOTR animated film from 1978, which will give you all the events of the films in a quicker and to-the-point format. Then, if you are compelled to see the best of The Hobbit live-action series, we would say check out the standard edition of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, which is the best of the three. We would also suggest you try to watch the extended editions of the original live-action LOTR series – they are more than worth it for the extra content. This recommendation would make for a shorter, 16-hour watch, which could be broken up easily over two days.
What is it: The 23-film saga that chronicles the epic adventures of various superheroes, based on the comics first distributed by Marvel and its subsidiaries.
How many hours: 50 hours and 3 minutes.
Starts with: Iron Man (2008)
Ends with: Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
Best way to watch: Not surprising for a franchise that grossed over $22 billion at the global box office, but Marvel Studios’ 23-film, decade-long opus is quite watchable as is. Some folks would have argued in 2010 that Avengers: The Age of Ultron is a skippable mess, but as we detail here, it is essential viewing to truly appreciate the first four phases of the saga that culminated with Avengers: Endgame. Sorry for those looking for a shortcut, but watching it all is worth it. Viewing all 23 movies straight through, without breaks, however, is not the way to do it.
Instead, we suggest you go in release order and complete each day as follows: day one after Avengers; day two after Ant-man; day three after Black Panther; and finish on day four with Spider-Man: Far From Home. If you’ve previously watched the MCU and are looking to watch it in a new way, use our guide here to watch in chronological order based on the events of each film. If the thought of 50 hours of superheroes is still too intimidating for you, but you want to understand enough to get by, watch these character introduction films (Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Ant-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy) and these team-up films (Civil War, Winter Soldier, Avengers, Ultron, Infinity War, Endgame). Once you have finished that, check out our Oral Histories of the MCU, in which the directors, producer, and casting director who worked on the epic franchise break down all the behind-the-scene secrets.
Where to watch: FandangoNOW, Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, GooglePlay. All of the films save The Incredible Hulk and the Spider-Man films are streaming on Disney+. The Avengers: Infinity War and The Avengers: Endgame are streaming on Netflix; and Captain America: The First Avenger, The Avengers, and Thor are streaming on Amazon Prime.
What is it: Follow John McClane, a police detective who seems to be a magnet for maniacal criminals no matter which city/structure he is in, and proves to be a tough man to kill.
How many hours: 10 hours and 14 minutes.
Starts with: Die Hard (1988)
Ends with: A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)
Best way to watch: The original Die Hard is so beloved that many argue it’s the greatest action film ever made – or maybe the greatest Christmas movie, but that is a debate for another day. The film and its follow-ups have a loyal fanbase, and though the second and third entries pale in comparison to the first, we still say they’re worth a watch. The fourth film, Live Free or Die Hard, is a true return to form and, frankly, it’s where you should stop unless you are a true completist. The series’ most recent film, A Good Day to Die Hard, is the only PG-13 entry on the list, and without McClane’s iconic “Yippee-ki-yay, motherf–ker,” there’s really no point pushing play.
Where to watch: FandangoNOW (Discounted Bundle), Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, GooglePlay. Die Hard and Die Hard with a Vengeance are streaming now on CinemaxGo; Live Free or Die Hard is streaming on the Starz app.
What is it: Follow Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew, which he calls his family, as they shift from illegal street-racing criminals to heist experts and then finally emerge as a new crime-fighting unit that tackles the world of espionage.
How many hours: 15 hours and 57 mins.
Starts with: The Fast and the Furious (2001)
Ends with: Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (2019)
Best way to watch: As Dom and everyone in the Fast franchise says – quite often – this is about family. So, if you’re looking for something to skip, it’s hard to imagine who you’d want to kick out one of the family – though, let’s be honest, 2 Fast 2 Furious is definitely not Dad’s favorite. Without Vin Diesel, that entry can barely call itself a Fast and Furious movie, and the 2009 series soft reboot, Fast & Furious, is not much better and an easy call to skip, as well. We would caution against skipping third entry Toyko Drift; its charms are significantly more than its 37% Tomatometer score would suggest (something we wax about in our book Rotten Movies We Love). Not to spoil anything, but when we finally get Fast 9 in 2021, you’ll need to have seen Tokyo Drift to understand everything fully – check out #JusticeForHan after you finish the series, and you will understand.
What is it: Follow Philly underdog boxer-turned-champion, Rocky Balboa, as he battles various fighters in the ring, as well as his own issues outside of it, and later trains the next generation of champions.
How many hours: 14 hours and 55 minutes.
Starts with: Rocky (1976)
Ends with: Creed II (2018)
Best way to watch: This one’s real simple: trust us and skip Rocky V. Just pretend it didn’t happen; we’re pretty sure Sylvester Stallone did.
What is it: The franchise based on JK Rowling’s phenomenally successful novels follows the adventures of Harry Potter, an orphan-turned-famed wizard, the evil He Who Must Not Be Named, and the Wizarding World they inhabit.
How many hours: 24 hours and 6 minutes.
Starts with: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)
Ends with: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001)
Best way to watch: As this is a British series, allow us to put this as politely as possible: Fantastic Beasts is simply not quite on form. The first entry is saved by Eddie Redmayne and mesmerizing magical effects; the second entry is the first and only Rotten flick from the Wizarding World and very skippable at this stage. The original seven films are near perfect, but if you wanted to pass over The Chamber of Secrets you wouldn’t miss much – you won’t be too confused later in the series. (Though if watching as a family, this is one the kids tend to like.) If you follow that suggestion, you can finish the entire series in one day.
Starts with: X-Men: First Class (2011)
Ends with: Logan (2017)
How to watch: The critics will tell you that both X-Men: The Last Stand (the third of the original films) and X-Men: Apocalypse (the third of the rebooted, second-gen films) are shells of their brilliant predecessors. And with the last X-Men film to enter theaters, Dark Phoenix, disappointing on the Tomatometer and at the box office, you should essentially skip any film that has anything to do with Jean Gray’s Dark Phoenix. X-Men Origins: Wolverine is admittedly a hard watch to suffer through, but you kinda have to just to appreciate the brilliance of Deadpool and its sequel, if only for what they did differently with the character. Every film that character is in after Origins highlights why Ryan Reynolds was born to play the “Merc with a Mouth.”
Watching in the order of events is the best way to approach things if you don’t want to be confused by the time travel that happens later in the series. That order is: First Class, Days of Future Past, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, X-Men Apocalypse, Dark Phoenix, X-Men, X2, X-Men: The Last Stand, The Wolverine, Deadpool, Deadpool 2, Logan. If you leave off the aforementioned weakest entries (The Last Stand, Apocalypse, Dark Phoenix) you can complete the entire series in one day.
Where to watch: FandangoNOW (Discount Bundle), Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, GooglePlay. X-Men: Days of Future Past and Deadpool are streaming on FXNow; X-Men Origins: Wolverine is available to stream on the Starz app.
What is it: In these films, we welcome you to Jurassic Park, a theme park – and eventually various associated islands, mansions, West Coast cities – where dinosaurs have been genetically recreated to walk the Earth alongside humans. Over the course of series we watch as that combination invariably doesn’t work out well for the humans.
How many hours: 10 hours and 1 minute.
Starts with: Jurassic Park (1993)
Ends with: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)
Best way to watch: This was a subject of contentious debate among the RT staff: some thought the Jurassic World part of the franchise is unwatchable, while others had strong takes on Jurassic Park 3 and The Lost World. As this is only a five-film series so far, we compromised: Watch them all and make your own determinations. Either way, we all agreed that the original Jurassic Park is a bona fide classic, and if you haven’t seen it, please remedy this injustice as soon as possible. It only takes a day to watch them all.
What is it: Watch secret agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his crew of talented spies as they battle the world’s most dangerous criminals along with the bureaucracy of his own organization, the IMF. The films are based on the 1960s television show.
How many hours: 13 hours and 3 minutes.
Starts with: Mission: Impossible (1996)
Ends with: Mission: Impossible -- Fallout (2018)
Best way to watch: It’s apparent after six films (with a seventh on the way): Tom Cruise really likes playing Ethan Hunt. And with every film, Cruise looks to top the jaw-dropping stunts from the last. Still, there is a stark contrast between the first three films and the rest, in regards to quality and scope. Many will tell you the second film, directed by John Woo, and the third, directed by J.J. Abrams, are the weakest of the set, but they’re still thoroughly enjoyable and feature some truly astonishing stunts – so we suggest you watch them all. And thankfully this is not – yes, we’re gonna say it – impossible to do in one or two days.
Where to watch: FandangoNOW (Discount Bundle), Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, GooglePlay. Mission Impossible: Fallout is streaming on Amazon Prime and Hulu; Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation are streaming on FXNow.
What is it: James Bond, MI6 intelligence officer and international playboy, charms women, thwarts terrorist plots, and sips a shaken martini in well-tailored suits. Based on Ian Fleming’s iconic novels.
How many hours: 55 hours and 11 minutes.
Starts with: Dr. No (1962)
Ends with: Spectre (2015)
Best way to watch: For completists, we recommend you start with the Connery films on day one, then do a day of Timothy Dalton, David Niven (the satire Casino Royale from 1967), and George Lazenby’s films, adding one or two of Roger Moore’s. Finish with Moore on day three, then do a full day of Pierce Brosnan for day four, and end the series on day five with Daniel Craig. If that’s a bit too daunting, you can break up the films we suggested for one day across two days instead. If you’re looking for a few to skip, we’d suggest A View to Kill and Octopussy. We’d also suggest you skip Never Say Never Again, as it is a shadow of Connery’s older work; Moonraker is only enjoyable for how laughable it is; and there’s not enough vodka on earth to make The World is Not Enough a good time. Quantum of Solace is another one you can miss, but at least watch the opening scene – it’s fantastic.
Where to watch: FandangoNOW (Discount Bundle), Amazon, Itunes, Vudu, GooglePlay. Goldeneye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World is Not Enough, and Die Another Day are streaming on Netflix; Quantum of Solace and Casino Royale (1967) are streaming on HBONow.
What is it: These are the stories of the USS Enterprise, crafted for the silver screen. Watch Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and later Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) as they lead their crews to the furthest reaches of the universe on a peacekeeping mission to discover new worlds. The films are based on the Star Trek television series and its subsequent spin-offs.
How many hours: 25 hours and 17 minutes.
Starts with: Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
Ends with: Star Trek Beyond (2016)
Best way to watch: At the risk of angering the original series Trekkies, the first film – Star Trek: The Motion Picture – is simply not very good (it’s 42% on the Tomatometer). The same can be said of The Final Frontier. When we shift into The Next Generation part of the franchise, the series starts off strong but fizzles with Star Trek: Nemesis. We suggest you should skip those four. When you start the reboot franchise, some would advise you to skip Star Trek: Into Darkness, which was much maligned by the fandom but which we say is worth seeing for Benedict Cumberbatch, if nothing else. As far as ordering your binge, watching the series as the films were released is the way to go. Begin with the first set of films featuring the original series characters, followed by the films centering on the cast of The Next Generation, and finish with the reboot films that started in 2009. If you are skipping films following our advice, the new order is original series (The Wrath of Khan, Search for Spock, The Voyage Home, Undiscovered Country), followed by the Next Generation films (Generations, First Contact, Insurrection), and finishing with the 2009 reboot films (Star Trek, Into Darkness, Beyond).
Where to watch: FandangoNOW (Discount Bundle), Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, GooglePlay. Star Treks 1-6, First Contact, Insurrection, and Generations are streaming Amazon; Star Trek: Into Darkness is streaming on FXnow; and Star Trek Nemesis, First Contact, Generations are streaming on Crackle.
Thumbnail image: yParamount, Paramount, courtesy of the Everett Collection
(Photo by courtesy of HBO)
As this year’s Marvel’s Spider-Man proved, games based on popular film and television properties are best served when they don’t attempt to retell the same stories we’ve already seen on the big and small screens. Following in Spidey’s spandex footsteps, a number of new and upcoming games have adopted similar approaches, cleverly expanding on existing universes rather than retreading them for the interactive entertainment medium.
From blockbuster film franchises (Fast & Furious) to streaming serial hits (Game of Thrones), more and more of our favorite fictional universes are offering fresh, original opportunities for fans to interact with their characters, live in their worlds, and even shape their stories.
Whether you’re a gamepad-clutching Potter fan, a Ghostbusting smartphone geek, or a virtual reality enthusiast with a superhero complex, these 12 titles include some that should keep you busy between TV binge sessions and movie marathons this holiday season, a few great video games to give as gifts for Christmas, and others that you can look forward to in 2019.
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Systems: iOS, Android, Steam
Release Date: Available now
Game of Thrones doesn’t return to HBO until next year, but winter has already come in the latest game based on the Seven Kingdoms-conquering series. Offering a fun twist on the high-fantasy franchise, Reigns: Game of Thrones puts players under the capes and crowns of would-be rulers — from Sansa and Tyrion to Cersei and Daenerys — and lets them live out potential alternate futures and fates based on Melisandre’s mysterious visions.
Developer: Next Age
Publisher: FourThirtyThree Inc.
Systems: iOS, Android
Release Date: Available now
A new take on the location-based, augmented-reality genre that saw millions of players capturing Pokemon in their local park, Ghostbusters World puts players behind a Proton Pack. Well, fans will actually wield their smartphones, but they’ll barely notice the difference once they’re using the smart-devices to suck up Slimer, battle the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man in their backyard, and bust hundreds of other ghosts in real-world locations.
Developer: Wolf & Wood
Publisher: Fun Train
Systems: PlayStation VR, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift
Release Date: Available now
Thanks to the immersion-cranking effects of virtual reality, The Exorcist: Legion VR subjects fans to scares more terrifying than those that defined the classic horror franchise. Beneath the reality-ratcheting headset, players assume the role of a demon-hunting detective who — over the course of five nerve-fraying episodes – explores creepy tombs, investigates ritualistic killings and, of course, raises a few crucifixes in the face of demonic possession.
Systems: PlayStation VR, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift
Release Date: Available now
Based on the rejuvenated Rocky franchise, Creed: Rise to Glory isn’t just another mindless, button-mashing boxing game. Brought to face-pummeling life in virtual reality, the experience not only puts you in the gloves of Adonis Creed — while training with the Italian Stallion himself — but its physical gameplay offers a workout that’d make Ivan Drago break a sweat.
Developer: Sanzaru Games
Publisher: Oculus Studios
Systems: Oculus Rift
Release Date: Available now
Marvel fans who’ve dreamed of smashing foes from behind Hulk’s fists or webbing-up baddies with a flick of Spider-Man’s wrists will want to suit-up for Marvel Powers United VR. A fan-pleasing mix of virtual reality and Marvel’s massive roster of heroes and villains, the game lets players unleash all the powers and weapons — from Thor’s hammer and Cap’s shield to Deadpool’s katanas and Wolverine’s claws — from a first-person perspective that feels incredibly real inside the Oculus Rift headset.
Developer: TT Games
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Systems: Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PS4
Release Date: Available now
Whether you’ve adventured through the LEGO Harry Potter games a hundred times or you’re a newcomer looking to bust some bricks in the Wizarding World, this definitive, remastered edition provides the absolute best way to kick Voldemort’s block-y butt. This Hagrid-sized compilation, which features both games and spans all eight films, includes enhanced graphics, environments, and visual effects, as well as a pair of magic-expanding DLC packs.
Developer: DIGIT Game Studios
Publisher: Scopely/CBS Interactive
Systems: iOS, Android
Release Date: Nov. 29, 2018
With Star Trek: Discovery prepping to beam up for its second season and Jean-Luc Picard’s return confirmed, there’s never been a better time to be a Trekkie. The fan service continues with Star Trek Fleet Command, a multiplayer mobile offering that combines role-playing elements and real-time battles to deliver story-driven, deep-space skirmishes that should please fans of any faction.
Developer: SMG Studios
Publisher: Universal Games, Digital Platforms
Systems: iOS, Android
Release Date: Late 2018
The next Fast & Furious film has been delayed a year, but fans needn’t wait till 2020 to satisfy their need for speed. Fast & Furious: Takedown puts players behind the wheel of 60-plus licensed rides, including favorites from the films — like Dom’s Dodge Charger and Hobbs’ tank-like truck — before letting them tear up the blacktop in missions guided by the movies’ popular cast of speed limit-breaking characters.
Developer: Blue Giraffe
Publisher: FTX Games
Platforms: iOS, Android
Release Date: Late 2018
This mobile-game take on the long-running CBS crime drama puts fans behind the case-cracking skills of a Behavioral Analysis Unit agent. Alongside favorite characters Rossi, Prentiss, Reid, J.J., Garcia, Lewis, Alvez, and Simmons, players race against the clock to profile suspects, analyze crime scenes, and follow the clues that’ll ultimately help the BAU team put the country’s most twisted criminal minds behind bars.
Publisher: Universal Games, Digital Platforms
Systems: iOS, Android
Release Date: Early 2019
Ahead of next year’s How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World from DreamWorks Animation, fans are invited to reunite with their favorite fire-breathers in a match-3 mobile offering based on the animated fantasy franchise. Titan Uprising puts a fresh spin on the popular genre, challenging players to build the ultimate team of winged creatures by hatching, nurturing, and creating powerful dragon hybrids to conquer nearly 800 puzzle battles.
Developer: WB Games, Niantic
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Systems: iOS, Android
Release Date: 2019
The clever folks behind the Pokemon GO phenomenon are applying their augmented-reality magic to a new, Wizarding World–themed take on the genre. Of course, it’s the fans who will be casting spells, as they wield their smart-devices like wands in the real/muggle world to interact with the Potterverse and its populace of menacing creatures and mysterious characters.
With Space Jam 2 headed to the big screen, it’s the perfect time for Looney Tunes fans to reacquaint themselves with their favorite friends and foes from Warner Bros.’ stable of animated stars. Looney Tunes: World of Mayhem invites players to do just that, as they build a dream team of toon brawlers, from Yosemite Sam and Sylvester to Tweety and Taz, to take on opponents in epic, explosive, over-the-top displays of cartoon violence.
It’s been seven years since Rupert Grint played Ron Weasley, but it could be 70 and Harry Potter fans won’t forget him. So when Grint found himself filming the second season of his Crackle series Snatch in Costa del Sol, Spain, he met Harry Potter fans unlike any he’d met before.
“[They’re] touching, quite tactile,” Grint said. “Hugs are a big thing down there.”
The hands-on fans didn’t hold up filming at all, however. Most of the scenes in Snatch occur in remote beachfront settings. And when the crew ventured into the city proper, Grint was impressed by the Harry Potter devotion he’d see — plenty of fans he encountered had their HP love inked on their bodies.
“The most classic tattoo I see is the Deathly Hallows symbol,” Grint said. “It was nice. They’re quite passionate fans over there. It’s kind of big in Spain. It really sparked something in that culture, I guess.”
Grint shouldn’t have been too surprised, since the off-the-grid actor — he’s not on social media at all — still gets snail mail from fans, many of them located in Spain. But hugs, tattoos, and fan mail are the closest Grint gets to Harry Potter these days. The movie franchise has moved on to Fantastic Beasts, Grint has pretty much ruled out a return. By the time the timeline catches up with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Grint would be old enough to play a Hogwarts teacher.
“I’ve kind of really closed that book, I think,” Grint said. “I mean, I never say never. I saw the play a few years ago, and it was very strange seeing someone else embody a character that you know so well. I’m very emotionally connected to that character so it was a very strange experience.
“If they made a film about The Cursed Child, I don’t know how I’d feel if I saw someone else play Ron,” Grint continued. “That’d be quite weird. A weird experience.”
(Photo by Crackle)
With 20 total hours of Snatch over two seasons, Grint has racked up about as much screen time as Charlie as he did as Ron Weasley. Although the Hogwarts crew reunited every year to make another film, they had the job security of seven books to assure them they were coming back. Season 2 of Snatch was more of a gift.
“This was a little bit more unexpected,” Grint said. “With Potter we always knew that was coming around the corner. It was a much more intense process. Plus I was in school as well, so it was a whole other kind of thing. It’s a very similar experience on Potter really, really getting to know one character you can grow over a long period of time. I really enjoy that.”
The second season of the Crackle series was delayed, and its location was changed several times before the details came together. Series creator Alex De Rakoff considered seasons in Colombia, Fiji, and the Dominican Republic, and each would have told a different story. But something about Spain just made the most sense.
“That is a perfect place to set Snatch, I think: the Costa del Sol,” Grint said. “A lot of British criminals, it’s their first port of call when they leave the country. They go to the Costa Del Sol and hide out. You can really feel that in the air. This place is probably, at that very moment, hiding a lot of bank robbers.”
Season 2 reveals that, after the gang sailed away from England with the money at the end of season 1, hijackers attack the boat on the way to Spain and make off with the score. The group washes up on the beach and subsequently attempts to go straight by running a beachside bar. Albert (Luke Pasqualino) especially wants to run a legitimate business, but it’s not long before the life of crime comes calling again.
(Photo by Sony Crackle)
This restart means it’s a perfect entry point for people who didn’t see season 1.
“The first season is rarely referenced really,” Grint said. “I think it helps to know these characters but it’s a good point because we have nothing. We have to start again. Now Albert is in control, and he’s telling us all what to do, which is kind of great for Charlie.”
Charlie isn’t necessarily made for the criminal life, which made him a very difficult character for Grint to wrap his head around.
“He’s a very strange character,” Grint said. “You never really know where it’s going to go. He is kind of an illusion. Charlie’s just not a very natural fit for this kind of world. He’s just not made for this. He hates violence. He hates guns, which is kind of a problem with this vocation. It’s quite interesting watching him struggle.
“I think in this season he’s very much desperate to take charge,” Grint continued. “That’s why he and Albert butt heads a lot. They’ve got very different strategic plans.”
(Photo by Sony Crackle)
Adapting to the Spanish lifestyle was a major task for both the actors and the characters of Snatch — style included. Charlie still wears suave suits, but they’re much more colorful and bright.
“It’s something I’d never wear myself,” Grint admitted. “It wasn’t the most practical thing to wear in this really hot season, but it was fun. There was a light blue one that was quite cool. The cravats were a new thing as well. Quite an accessory. Whenever you can get as much costume as you can possibly get, it’s more layers, the more of a mask to escape into.”
Even less comfortable was the fake tan they painted on Grint to simulate having spent months luxuriating on the beach.
“They’ve bronzed me up, because he’s supposed to be there for six months, and I am the most palest, transparent person,” Grint said. “They used a lot of fake tan.”
Television has been a fruitful place for the former Hogwarts class. Tom Felton did Murder in the First, an arc on The Flash and the upcoming Origin. Even Daniel Radcliffe has the upcoming comedy Miracle Workers. While separate careers have kept them apart, Grint says the Harry Potter cast will always have a bond.
“We all experienced such a unique way of growing up, there’ll always be a bond there,” Grint said. “Whenever we do see each other, it’s very quick and very easy to reconnect, just like we never left. It was a mad, mad time in our lives, and I think it’s been nice to do new things and unwind from that. We’re still very proud to be a part of it. It’s great to see it live on in lots of different ways.”
Snatch season 2 hits Crackle on Thursday, September 13.
The Harry Potter film franchise ruled the box office for a decade, but it also managed the uncommon feat of earning Certified Fresh status for every single one of its installments. It remains one of the most successful movie sagas of all time, and it’s even spawned a spinoff series — currently in progress — with the Fantastic Beasts franchise. With all of that in mind, we decided to take a look back at every Harry Potter movie ranked, Total Recall style!
(Photo by Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros. courtesy Everett Collection)
After struggling for years to trim J.K. Rowling’s increasingly unwieldy books down to feature length, Warner Bros. decided to split the final installment, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, into two films — a controversial move that was applauded by those who felt it would give the filmmakers an opportunity to spend more time fleshing out the story, and derided by others, who saw it as a money-grubbing move by the studio. Whatever the reasons for the split, it meant that Deathly Hallows, Part 1 would end roughly in the middle of the book, which finds Harry, Ron, and Hermione on the run from Voldemort and his minions while they struggle to find and destroy the Horcruxes — bits of the Dark Lord’s soul, magically preserved in a series of artifacts, granting him immortality as long as they exist. It all adds up to a film that couldn’t help but feel like a setup for the final chapter, which had a definite dampening effect on some critics’ enthusiasm. For others, though, the penultimate Potter stood on its own merits: “Even though it ends in the middle,” argued the New York Times’ A.O. Scott, it “finds notes of anxious suspense and grave emotion to send its characters, and its fans, into the last round.”
(Photo by Warner Bros.)
As the curtain rises on the fifth Potter film, the wizarding world is in a tizzy over Lord Voldemort’s return, split between two factions: those who believe Harry’s contention that He Who Must Not Be Named is back for vengeance, and those who think the whole thing is nonsense. Unfortunately, Hogwarts’ newest professor, Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton), falls squarely into the latter camp — and when Harry, Ron, and Hermione take it upon themselves to lead a group of students through secret self-defense courses, she makes it her mission to keep them in line by any means necessary. New director David Yates and incoming screenwriter Michael Goldenberg had their work cut out for them when it came to whittling down the 870-page book, and ultimately, plenty of fans and critics felt Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix suffered in its screen translation — at 78 percent on the Tomatometer, it’s the worst-reviewed in the series. But even if it wasn’t quite on par with its predecessors, Phoenix was enough for critics like Desson Thomson of the Washington Post, who said Yates and Goldenberg “have transformed J.K. Rowling’s garrulous storytelling into something leaner, moodier and more compelling, that ticks with metronomic purpose as the story flits between psychological darkness and cartoonish slapstick.”
(Photo by Warner Bros.)
By 2001, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books were a worldwide phenomenon, with the first four installments in the series selling millions of copies and helping reignite the market for young adult literature along the way — but that was still no guarantee that filmgoers were going to turn out when the Hogwarts gang showed up on the big screen. Of course, we all know what happened next: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone kicked off our ten-year cinematic infatuation with Ron, Hermione, and the Boy Who Lived, grossing nearly $975 million while doing an impressive job of managing the nearly impossible balancing act between staying true to the book and offering a reasonably streamlined film. It entertained audiences while piquing the curiosity of critics like Jonathan Rosenbaum of the Chicago Reader, who wrote, “I hear the J.K. Rowling books are great, and on the basis of this 2001 movie I’m ready to believe it.”
(Photo by Warner Bros.)
After setting up the war between Harry and Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) with Sorcerer’s Stone, the Potter series set about untangling the mysteries of the Dark Lord’s past with Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, which posed a crucial riddle (Tom Riddle, to be exact) regarding the evil wizard’s true identity while foreshadowing Harry’s eventual romance with Ginny Weasley. Along the way, Chamber served up a deft blend of comedy and drama, plenty of magical thrills, and a terrific supporting cast that included John Cleese and Kenneth Branagh. “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is superior to its predecessor in every way,” wrote Terry Lawson of the Detroit Free Press, calling it “more thrilling, more entertaining and, yep, more magical.”
(Photo by Warner Bros.)
For most of the Harry Potter films, Voldemort lurked in the peripheral darkness, gathering his forces and getting ready to strike — but after the climactic battle that closed The Order of the Phoenix, everyone was aware of his return, and all bets were off. As Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince opens, Voldemort’s campaign of terror has begun in earnest, and his army is everywhere — even within the hallowed halls of Hogwarts, where Harry and Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) are working overtime to thwart a plan involving Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) and Harry’s nemesis, Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton). Calling it “the franchise’s best so far,” David Germain of the Associated Press praised Prince for “blending rich drama and easy camaraderie among the actors with the visual spectacle that until now has been the real star of the series.”
(Photo by Warner Bros. courtesy Everett Collection)
At a whopping 734 pages, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire nearly doubled the length of Prisoner of Azkaban, leaving screenwriter Steve Kloves the more-difficult-than-usual task of pruning away all but the most essential bits of story for the film. The final result clocked in at more than two and a half hours, but still skipped over or condensed quite a bit of the book. Fortunately, the story that remained — an account of an underage Harry’s surprise entry in the Triwizard Tournament, his struggles to overcome the challenges of the contest, and his first showdown with an ever-more-powerful Voldemort — was more than enough for filmgoers, who shelled out more than $895 million at the box office, as well as critics like Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times, who wrote, “It’s not until Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire that a film has successfully re-created the sense of stirring magical adventure and engaged, edge-of-your-seat excitement that has made the books such an international phenomenon.”
(Photo by Warner Bros.)
In Harry Potter’s world, things are often not as they seem — whether they’re magical train stations, flying cars, talking paintings, or even the legends of long-lost family friends who have been locked away in wizard prison for murdering one’s parents. It’s a lesson Harry learned in Prisoner of Azkaban, which introduced filmgoers to the menacing Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), a shapeshifting convict whose escape is of grave importance to Harry and his friends — but not for the reasons they might think. The recipient of the Potter films’ best reviews (until Deathly Hallows, Part 2 came out, anyway), Azkaban found things getting mighty dark for our young wizards — and gave Alfonso Cuarón a turn in the director’s chair, taking over after Chris Columbus handled the first two installments. As far as Salon’s Stephanie Zacharek was concerned, it was “The first true Harry Potter movie — the first to capture not only the books’ sense of longing, but their understanding of the way magic underlies the mundane, instead of just prancing fancifully at a far remove from it.”
(Photo by Warner Bros.)
After teasing all that pent-up demand for the final showdown between the Boy Who Lived and He Who Must Not Be Named, there was a lot riding on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 — and director David Yates delivered with aplomb, using Hallows‘ halved structure to leave himself more than two hours to play with in an action-packed final chapter. Everyone knew it was going to be a hit long before it arrived in theaters, but few would have dared predict just how successful Part 2 would be on a critical level: at 96 percent on the Tomatometer, it outpaced every other entry in the series, sending the franchise out on a triumphant high note. “It has been extraordinarily fun, and now the decade-long saga has reached its grand finale. The best,” wrote Claudia Puig for USA Today, “has been saved for the last.”
Thor: Ragnarok only needed to get a 67% on the Tomatometer to improve upon The Dark World‘s score. Looks like all this franchise needed was some new zeal and New Zealand director Taika Waititi because Ragnarok is currently scoring way higher than that, which inspires this week’s gallery of 24 most improved movie sequels by Tomatometer!
(Photo by Matej Divizna/Getty Images)
Alan Rickman, whose dramatic breadth and distinctive vocal delivery made him a legend among cinematic villains and a versatile supporting player in a long list of critically acclaimed films, has passed away at the age of 69 after a battle with cancer.
Born in the Acton ward of London’s Ealing borough, Rickman gained his first acting experience as a teenager, although his working-class background prevented him from immediately seeking it out as a profession. Initially pursuing a career in graphic design, he eventually auditioned with the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, earning a spot among the student body and winning several awards during his tenure at the school.
Initially focusing his efforts on the stage, Rickman picked up some early TV credits — including an appearance in the 1982 BBC program The Barchester Chronicles — but his first taste of widespread acclaim came courtesy of his Tony-winning portrayal of the Vicomte de Valmont in Les Liaisons Dangereuses, a role he held during the play’s 1985 Royal Shakespeare Company run and reprised when the production moved to Broadway in 1987.
Rickman’s first major film appearance arrived in 1988’s Die Hard, in which he played Hans Gruber, the delightfully snide terrorist whose takeover of a Los Angeles high rise is foiled by the indefatigable efforts of New York cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) — but not before hero and heavy engage in a battle of wits and one-liners that spawned several sequels and a legion of countless action-thriller imitators. It was followed by a number of memorable roles that included eminently loathable bad guys (like the Sheriff of Nottingham in 1991’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves), comedic turns in films such as Dogma and Galaxy Quest, and several appearances as Severus Snape in the Harry Potter franchise.
Along the way, Rickman continued to compile a varied list of stage and television credits. He moved into directing, helming The Winter Guest (1995) and A Little Chaos (2015). His voice could be heard in episodes of King of the Hill and Back at the Barnyard. He won a Golden Globe Award, an Emmy Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award for his work in the 1996 HBO movie Rasputin: Dark Servant of Destiny — and as a recent testament to his range, in 2013, he portrayed Ronald Reagan (in The Butler) as well as legendary club owner Hilly Kristal (in CBGB).
One of Rickman’s most frequent collaborators, Emma Thompson, was among the first to pay tribute after news of his passing broke, sharing that she’d “just kissed him goodbye” and offering a tender eulogy filled with fond memories of their relationship. “He was the ultimate ally. In life, art and politics,” wrote Thompson. “I trusted him absolutely. He was, above all things, a rare and unique human being and we shall not see his like again.”
Touted as the first great horror movie of the year, The Witch offers a visceral exploration of black arts and superstition in a bloody tale set within 17th century New England. The film inspires this 24 Frames gallery of the most iconic witches from movie history.
One of the busiest and most recognizable British character actors in movies, Timothy Spall cuts a unique figure of comedy and menace that’s seen him play everything from Winston Churchill in The King’s Speech to the nefarious Wormtail in the Harry Potter series. Along the way, Spall has worked for the likes of Clint Eastwood, Tim Burton, Ken Russell and Bernardo Bertolucci, while his collaboration with longtime friend Mike Leigh yielded an acclaimed lead performance in the director’s Secrets & Lies. This week, Spall makes an appearance alongside Donald Sutherland and Christian Slater in the action thriller Assassin’s Bullet, and we had the chance to chat with the very charming actor about his career and five of his favorite movies.
A Matter of Life and Death (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, 1946; 95% Tomatometer)
I’ll tell you what my favorite film is. I think it goes like this: A Matter of Life and Death, by Pressburger and Powell. Do you know that film?
I do indeed. It’s funny, one of your “peripheral” Harry Potter co-stars — Daniel Radcliffe — picked that as one of his all-time favorites.
Isn’t that interesting? It’s a great, great film. It’s marvelous.
One of my favorite films of all time has got to be Mary Poppins.
Oh that’s curious. How does Mary Poppins come to be on your list? Is that a favorite from your childhood?
Well I was old enough to remember it when it came out, but I don’t think I saw it in the cinema, I think I saw it when it eventually came on television. In those days, you had to wait about six or seven years before a film got from the f–king cinemas to the television, and it being Disney, they never actually released their films. It was a very clever policy: They just re-released them every 10 years. I think it’s one of those movies. I was having a very depressing time recently working on a job. I was feeling particularly bad and I put the television on on a Sunday afternoon, and Dick Van Dyke was singing “Chim Chimney” — it just lifted my spirits. Everybody criticized his Cockney accent — and even at the time I probably joined in — and you can criticize his Cockney accent, but you cannot criticize his brilliant comic dancing. It’s f–king wonderful. Oh, it’s wonderful. And the quality of the work: The beauty of that film, the simplicity of it and the way it was made and directed; the charm. The way it appeals to people — it’s the old cliché, you know: Eight or 80. It’s a wonderful piece of work. And it’s magical. It’s one of those films, you know, that you can dip into. If you’re ever feeling low, stick it on and you’ll feel much better. If you haven’t got any illegal drugs, put that on and you’ll be alright. [Laughs]
Today’s lesson for the kids: Don’t take drugs, do watch Mary Poppins.
[Laughs] Yeah. Say “no” to drugs but “yes” to Mary Poppins.
You’ve sung on film a few times yourself, of course — in Sweeney Todd, in Gothic, in Topsy-Turvy—
Oh god. [Laughs]
I especially enjoyed your duets with Alan Rickman.
Well that’s very nice of you, thank you. That’s probably one of the most repulsive characters I’ve played in my life.
But what a lovely voice.
[Laughs] Well it was a joy to manifest such a greasy, disgusting little man. But I don’t regard myself as a singer. I never ask to do it but I can sometimes just about hold a tune, as long as it’s all part of the character. I’m not about to start jumping about on the West End stage in a musical. But it’s nice to be involved in a film that’s got a bit of singing in it and manage to acquit yourself without too much embarrassment — that’s always an achievement.
I would definitely then have to say Fargo. I love the Coen brothers.
What’s that one… the one with Marlon Brando and Anna Magnani, from the Tennessee Williams script. It had several titles. It was called Orpheus Descending, the [original] script…
The Fugitive Kind — is that the one?
Yeah, that’s it! The Fugitive Kind. It’s f–king brilliant, I love it. Anna Magnani and Brando.
One more… I think it’s gonna have to be Naked by Mike Leigh.
You don’t wanna say Secrets & Lies?
[Laughs] Well look, why don’t you say Naked/Secrets & Lies? I didn’t want to be self-congratulatory in any way. [Laughs]
You can pick your own movie.
Well not only is it a great film, it was very important for me because I was very ill just at the time it won the Palme d’Or. So the fact that I didn’t die and the film had gone around internationally and won all these awards… not only did I not die, I had a film career when I woke up. I was very pleased about that. [Laughs]
Not dying, that’s always a good result.
Yeah, I was very ill. But thankfully I got over it, and that’s why I have a very joyous, lunatic relationship with life — ’cause it can easy go, you know.
Next, we chat to Spall about Harry Potter infamy and his favorite career moment.
I have to ask the obligatory Harry Potter question: Do kids always recognize you as your character, Wormtail?
Timothy Spall: Well I more often than not get sort of slightly frightened-looking children looking at me and wondering if I might be that person in restaurants. And occasionally I get six- or seven-year-olds coming up with a piece of paper [to be signed] with looks of horror on their face, being pushed towards me by their older brothers or sisters. [Laughs]
[Laughs] So you inspire a kind of low-level fear in children?
Well yeah. [Laughs] I take that as a compliment, any recognition. I’m not stupid enough to think that, being that young, they’ve seen my work with the Royal Shakespeare Company from the 1970s — [laughs] — so I make the assumption that it must be for Harry Potter, or Enchanted as well.
Now that’s a good film, Enchanted.
Isn’t that a good film? I’m glad you said that. I think it’s a good film, very much in the vein of a Mary Poppins-type thing. I’m really pleased with that film. Again, it’s one of those ones — and without going on about ones I’ve been involved in — it’s one of those films that you know will be around for a long time and people will like it.
I liked that Disney had a bit of fun with their legacy on it.
Yeah, yeah. It does poke fun at itself, which is good. I was very pleased to do that.
Looking over the list of some of the directors you’ve worked with — there’s Mike Leigh, Tim Burton, Kenneth Branagh, Cameron Crowe, Bertolucci, Clint Eastwood, Ken Russell—
[Laughs] That is pretty impressive, isn’t it?
Now that I’ve it read to you, huh?
Is there a particular experience that will always stand out for you?
Yeah. I mean, the thing is, I cherish the experience with these chaps and the people that I work with. But you know, given that I’d say Clint Eastwood. About 20 years ago when I did my little part in White Hunter Black Heart, I remember walking on to set and thinking “Oh my god, I’m just about to be directed by Clint Eastwood.” Because I didn’t meet him in the interview — I did the interview on tape in London, and they sent the tapes over and he cast me from the tapes. So we’re doing this scene and it was the opening and he said “Hi Tim, it’s great to see you. I’m gonna give you a shot…” — and I can’t remember the film director’s name — but he said “…it’s like Charles Laughton in the film The Beachcomber.” And I realized that not only am I working with one of the icons of Hollywood, but two things: He was being very charming and helpful and complimentary, and he knows films back to front. To know some obscure Charles Laughton film from the 1930s was very impressive. So — and I must have been in my early thirties then — I was thinking, “This is all right.”
You chose the right job.
Yeah. Or he picked me, in this case, which was very nice. My career, you know, I’ve been around a bit now, and I’ve been very fortunate to work with all these great people. I have to say — and it’s not fibbing — it never ceases to thrill me that I end up working with the people I admire. It’s a joy and a great privilege. Long may it carry on. Long may I be tolerated by the people I admire!
[Laughs] And we look forward to tolerating more of your work.
[Laughs] Oh that’s very nice of you to say.
Assassin’s Bullet is out this week.