(Photo by Weinstein Company LLC/Courtesy Everett Collection)
If there ever was a life-or-death need to pick a Hollywood it-girl to define the 2010s, Jennifer Lawrence would surely be the one chosen to save our hides. She started the decade with the star-making Winter’s Bone, the rural mystery that marked only her third feature film appearance, nabbing a Best Actress Oscar nomination in the process. 2011 and 2012 came and it felt like Lawrence was everywhere, across blockbusters like X-Men: First Class and The Hunger Games, along with Silver Linings Playbook, for which she finally (“finally” meaning five years into a film acting career) won the Academy Award.
Sequels and franchising were the name of the game in the 2010s, so of course she stuck around as Mystique in every X-Men sequel, all the way to the bitter end with Dark Phoenix. Likewise, Hunger Games completed its dystopic story with Lawrence in the lead. In-between, she collaborated twice more Playbook director David O. Russell (Joy, American Hustle), worked with 2010s it-dude Chris Pratt (Passengers), and released against-type material like mother! and Red Sparrow.
In 2020, Lawrence signed up for Adam McKay’s Netflix comedy Don’t Look Up; she and Cate Blanchett will play astronomers who go on a media tour to convince people a meteor will destroy the Earth in six months. Until that comedy shows up in your streaming queue, we’re looking back on all Jennifer Lawrence movies ranked by Tomatometer!
(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. Thumbnail: Jasin Boland for ©Warner Bros. Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures Entertainment/Courtesy Everett Collection)
There’s only one place where you can get clones, time travel, simulated realities, irradiated and irritated giant lizards, and space fights and beyond. (Maybe not all at once, but we can dream.) Anything’s possible in this creative nebula known as science fiction, and with its long and historic association with cinema, we present our choices of the greatest science-fiction movies ever: The 150 Essential Sci-Fi Movies!
As they do with horror, filmmakers use science fiction to reflect our aspirations, terrors, and issues of the times. Through genre lens, we can consider our impact on the environment (Godzilla, WALL-E), technology gone berserk (The Terminator, Ex Machina), identity (Blade Runner, The Matrix), and societal breakdowns (Children of Men, A Clockwork Orange). We might even check-in on the current state of the human condition (Gattaca, Her).
Or, maybe we just want to see giant ants wreak havoc across the neighborhood. There may not be a lot of subtext in a big monster movie like Them!, or even crowd-pleasing masterpieces like Star Wars or Back to the Future, but they speak to the one thing that attracts us to movies in the first place: escapism. Science-fiction movies are our tickets to planets far-away (Star Trek, Avatar, Starship Troopers), or a quick hop to a local joint in the solar system (The Martian, Total Recall). They take us just above the atmosphere (Gravity), deep down to the bottom of the ocean (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Abyss), and into the human body (Fantastic Voyage). Limited only 2020by imagination, sci-fi inspires wonder, awe, terror, and hope for alternative mindsets and better futures.
Sci-fi spreads across subgenres, all represented here: the monster movie (Cloverfield), space opera (Serenity), cyberpunk (Ghost in the Shell), and post-apocalyptic (Mad Max: Fury Road) and more. Or it can fuse onto traditional genres like drama (Donnie Darko, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), comedy (Repo Man, Idiocracy), and action (Predator, Demoliton Man). Wherever the destination, these movies — each with at least 20 reviews — were selected because of their unique, fun, and possibly even mind-blowing spins on reality.
It’s time to strap in and cue the Theremin for some of the best science-fiction films created: Time to launch the 150 Essential Sci-Fi Movies!
(Photo by Murray Close/©Lionsgate/courtesy Everett Collection)
Following in the footsteps of older brothers Luke and Chris, the youngling Hemsworth got his big break in 2010, starring with future tabloid flame Miley Cyrus in The Last Song. 2012 was also a breakthrough year, as he appeared in The Hunger Games as potential Katniss love interest Gale, and opposite Stallone (and a whole lotta other big guys) in The Expendables 2. Liam survived Hunger Games through three sequels, before jumping franchises with Independence Day: Resurgence.
His 2019 included showing off more of his comedy chops in Isn’t It Romantic, and his dark side with Killerman. With his latest releases, we’re ranking all Liam Hemsworth movies by Tomatometer!
In 2019, Rotten Tomatoes turns 21, and to mark the occasion we’re celebrating with a series of features that look back at the brightest moments on screen of the past two decades – and one year – and the things that have us excited for the future.
They’re the lines you’ve worn on T-shirts and Photoshopped into memes. They’re the lines you’re maybe a little sick of, but can’t stop loving. Before they were famous, though – before they were parodied on SNL and printed onto ironic mugs – they were words on a page and then words in a movie you were hearing for the first time, and they stuck. Maybe they were hilarious (poor Gretchen, “fetch” never happened), or maybe they were chilling (“I see dead people”). Maybe they were delivered just right (“Why… so… serious?”). Here, we’re looking back at the 21 most memorable lines from the movies since August 1998, the year that Rotten Tomatoes came into this world. If we missed a favorite of yours, let us know in the comments.
Neither M. Night Shyamalan nor Haley Joel Osment knew that the intensely whispered “I see dead people” would become the center of Disney’s marketing push for The Sixth Sense – and the subject of parodies for decades. Talking recently to Rotten Tomatoes, Osment said he was just thankful Twitter hadn’t been invented at the time the film came out, when he was 11.
When you pair America’s sweetheart with Britain’s reigning rom-com king, you have to bring your A-game, and writer Richard Curtis did just that for Notting Hill. With this heartbreaking line, he manages to somehow get us rooting for one of the world’s richest and most glamorous movie stars, and screaming with frustration at the regular “fairly level-headed bloke” whose love she’s asking for.
Paul and Chris Weitz’s surprisingly sweet teen sex comedy gave us one of the late ’90s most indelible movie images (the pie!), and chased that up with one of the decade’s most memorable movie lines. And one that’s got a sex-positive ring: “What?” asks Alyson Hannigan’s Michelle flatly after revealing where she sometimes puts her flute. “You don’t think I know how to get myself off?”
From Chuck Pahalniuk’s pen to Brad Pitt’s mouth and into the minds of college students all over the country…
It was only appropriate that this cult spoof of Star Trek and its legion of Trekkie fans would have its own live-long-and-prosper–style catchphrase. It is delivered with Shatnerian levels of cheese and determination by Tim Allen, playing Jason Nesmith, who’s playing Commander Quincy Peter Taggart.
We could run through an entire stack of Post-Its writing down our favorite lines from Mike Judge’s cult favorite, but this chipper, grating, morning greeting wins out – an encapsulation of the deep, smiley rage suppression that gives Office Space its kick.
When Ed (Albert Finney) asks Julia Roberts’ Erin Brockovich, “What makes you think you can just walk in there and find what we need?”, she fires off this line and a look that says, Seriously, you need to ask? The resourceful real-life Erin Brockovich has said she did use the line with the real-life Ed – probably more than once.
Some consider it blasphemy that Peter Jackson added this line as a climax to Gandalf’s defiant verbal smackdown of the fiery Balrog; in the original Tolkien book, Gandalf only says “you cannot pass” (which he also says, though less iconically, as he starts his speech in the film). Jackson’s addition became one of the best “f—k yeah!” moments in the original movie trilogy and went on to spawn thousands of memes.
Denzel Washington won an Oscar for playing corrupt narcotics cop Alonzo in Atonine Fuqua’s Training Day, and it might have been his delivery this line – puffed-up and chest-pounding as he realizes power is slipping away – that got any hesitant Academy voters across the line.
It’s unfair to say that Edna Mode (voiced by Incredibles writer-director Brad Bird) steals Pixar’s superhero smash – there are too many awesome elements and characters for one to dominate – but she comes very, very close. She’s full of one-liners and shady zingers, but it’s her golden rule (“No capes!”), and the various anecdotes that led to it (R.I.P. Thunderhead), that people remember most fondly.
Mean Girls (2004)
Mean Girls’ Regina George (Rachel McAdams) is the queen bee of her group, and this was perhaps her sharpest stinger. Irony is, while “fetch” didn’t happen, this line caught on in a big way.
On paper, there’s nothing particularly special about this line – it’s kinda just a statement of fact (it is Sparta, after all – not Athens or Thermopylae, and definitely not madness, nor blasphemy). But coming out of Peak Gerard Butler’s mouth as a kind of gravelly scream for the ages, and accompanied by that iconic slow-mo kick, it’s gone down in film history. Watching this moment, we are all Sparta (even those of us without six packs).
This greeting of the Wakandan people, and the accompanying gesture, infiltrated popular culture following the release of mega-hit Black Panther in February 2018. (The film’s stars were asked to do the gesture so frequently on red carpets and during interviews, memes began to circulate showing a bored-looking Chadwick Boseman – who plays the titular hero – giving a perfunctory version of the cross-armed symbol.) Interestingly, the most memorable use of the phrase might come in Infinity War, and not Black Panther, when T’Challa shouts the phrase as he leads his Wakandans into battle against Thanos’s forces.
When Jake Gyllenhaal said these words to Heath Ledger while shooting Brokeback Mountain, he probably had no idea what a life they would go on to have: first as a wrenching moment between their characters, Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar; then as a source of parody and a meme (mostly among those too immature to cope with the film); finally, and most recently, as a shorthand for the film itself, and what it meant to the LGBTQ community to see a gay couple portrayed authentically and without judgment in a major release.
There are plenty of action-packed, effects-enhanced, and completely thrilling moments throughout the Hunger Games franchise, but few are as simultaneously inspiring and terrifying as the quiet scene in which Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) steps forward to take her young sister’s place in the Games. The line is lifted directly from the same scene in first book of Susanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy.
You may not recall the insane hype around Snakes on a Plane in the lead up to its release – an irony-fueled internet buzz-wave that stemmed, essentially, from the absurdity of its premise-capturing title. You may not even remember much of the film itself. But there is no way you forgot this line, spoken by profanity wizard Samuel L. Jackson in one of those legendary B-movie inspiration speeches he’s so masterful at delivering. (Fun fact: The line has aired on FX as the more-safe-for-work “monkey-flying snakes on this Monday-to-Friday plane.”)
It was in 2009, while in his mid 50s, that Liam Neeson discovered a very particular set of skills – gravelly line-readings, a death-stare for the ages, and a capacity for rapid-fire action – that would launch a whole new chapter of his career: Liam Neeson, Action Star! And while the past decade has been littered with Neeson action programmers (right up to 2019’s Cold Pursuit), none have matched Taken for its intensity, impact, and the power of that oft-quoted bedroom scene.
Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning turn as the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s second Batman film might well have given us the best comic-book movie villain ever. The character’s most famous line – “Why so serious?” – became iconic even before the film’s release, centering one of the most effective marketing campaigns of recent decades.
Speaking of Oscar winners… This rather surprising analogy for oil drainage, spoken by Daniel Day-Lewis as Daniel Plainview, was inspired by real-life words to congress from then Secretary of the Interior, Albert Fall, spoken during a 1920s Congressional investigation. Or so Paul Thomas Anderson has said – the original quote has not been found.
The best stupid movie of the past 21 years? Maybe. (Step Brothers would give it a definite run for its money.) But Zoolander is probably the most quotable, thanks to brilliant bites of silliness like this.
The Furious franchise has evolved greatly over the years, shifting gears (sorry!) from smallish-scale Point Break-alike to globe-trotting stunt spectacular, each entry one-upping the other in terms of scale and ludicrousness. What keeps the whole thing grounded, and provides the through-line from 2001 right through to this year’s Hobbs and Shaw? Family, of course, but also the dedication to awesome cheese perfectly encapsulated by this line/mantra/religion. Us too, Dom, us too.
Photos courtesy of Buena Vista, Universal, Twentieth Century Fox, DreamWorks, Warner Bros., Walt Disney, Paramount, Marvel Studios, Focus Films, Lionsgate, Paramount Vantage.
Hollywood doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to creating female characters, routinely giving them smaller parts and less screen time according to research collected by resource center Women and Hollywood. But what they do with that screen time? That is increasingly becoming more interesting. From Danai Gurira’s fierce Okoye tossing her wig so that she can better fight the enemy in Black Panther to Gal Gadot’s Diana Prince not thinking twice about entering No Man’s Land in Wonder Woman (or just some sassy lip service from old Hollywood greats like Mae West and Katharine Hepburn), there are quite a few moments of women in film that make us say “f–k yeah.” So we rounded up a few of our favorites for this list.
With her sultry purrs, swaying hips, and mastery of the double entendre, Mae West could easily take up 90-percent of the spots on this list. But the sheer moxie of her role in 1933’s I’m No Angel is an inspiration to us all. “When I’m good, I’m very good, but when I’m bad, I’m better,” she flaunts to Cary Grant’s wealthy Jack Clayton in director Wesley Ruggles’ salty romp. Here’s hoping HBO is still working on that biopic about West because the world needs her right now.
Never underestimate the cunning of a determined heiress. In this famous hitchhiking scene from director Frank Capra’s screwball comedy, Claudette Colbert’s headstrong Ellie Andrews shows Clark Gable’s washed-up reporter Peter Warne a much more effective way to stop traffic than the old waving thumb routine. The film – the first of three movies to win all of the five major Academy Awards – is adored by cinephiles and continues to be celebrated in current popular culture (perhaps you might remember it referenced in the modern-day cinematic classic, Sex and the City 2?).
Many old Hollywood films suffer from the virgin vs. temptress depiction of women, but Katharine Hepburn was not typically one for such simplicities. This film was her first big hit and the one that cemented the public’s knowledge of her unmistakable mid-Atlantic accent. “Dexter, would you mind doing something for me? Get the heck out of here,” she demands as shuts down her ex-husband, played by Cary Grant, who is intruding upon the celebration for her upcoming second marriage. (Because this is a 1940 romantic comedy, he will also become her new husband by the time the credits roll.)
This film adaptation of the Cole Porter play (itself an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew) was a celebration of female independence disguised as a cheery musical comedy. Take, for example, the bluntly titled solo “I Hate Men,” which is meant to represent one character’s complete and total side-eye to the concept of courtship. Lines like, “of all the types I’ve ever met within our democracy / I hate the most the athlete with his manner bold and brassy!” make it seem like not much has changed since the show hit Broadway in 1948 and then, eventually, theaters in 1953.
Never judge a movie by its title and never underestimate the craftiness of a buxom bombshell. There are so many great moments in director Howard Hawks’ musical comedy, but we love the way that Marilyn Monroe’s showgirl, Lorelei Lee, doesn’t raise her voice an octave above her trademark whisper when she tells off her intended’s disrespectful father, who dismisses her as another gold-digger. “Don’t you know that a man being rich is like a girl being pretty?,” she says. “You wouldn’t marry a girl just because she’s pretty, but my goodness, doesn’t it help?” Well, we do all lose our charms in the end …
It takes a lot of gumption to stand up to the King of Siam. After all, all you risk losing is a little self respect (and balance) if you agree to squat lower than his height whilst wearing a hoop skirt. But Anna (Deborah Kerr) did it, and she got through to the hard-headed monarch played by Yul Brynner. It eventually led to some pretty remarkable dancing and romance (with a clear understanding that this kind of thing can happen, of course).
A #MeToo moment long before the hashtag went mainstream, Audrey Hepburn’s bookshop owner and budding philosopher Jo Stockton is quite clear that teaching Fred Astaire’s older fashion photographer, Dick Avery, about empathy doesn’t mean that she wants to be kissed – “by you or anyone else.” They do lock lips at the end of the Stanley Donen-directed film, but by then it’s a mutually agreed-upon action.
With a flash of fuchsia ruffles and some fancy footwork, Rita Moreno’s Anita and her gal pals offer a piece of hope during the dance number for Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s song “America” in directors Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins’ 1957 film adaptation of the popular musical. This moment isn’t just for immigrants to this country with dreams of success (or just having your own washing machine); it symbolizes the ability to stand up to the bothersome men who might be holding you back.
So much of the legacy of outlaw Bonnie Parker is tied up in Faye Dunaway’s Oscar-nominated depiction of her in director Arthur Penn’s 1967 film: A bored young girl from a nowhere town who jumps at a chance to break from the rulebook that fate set out for her — even if it means going whole hog into a life of crime. The way she taunts this power and revels in the danger of it by telling Michael J. Pollard’s C.W. Moss that “we rob banks” is so brazenly anti-heroine that it makes even the most stringent pearl-clutchers pause and consider adding some excitement to their lives.
Maybe the world needs more vigilantes like Pam Grier’s eponymous crime fighter in writer-director Jack Hill’s 1973 blaxploitation film. A nurse who is sick of seeing her neighborhood (and, specifically, her own sister) destroyed by drug use, Coffy goes rogue to take down any and all responsible parties – especially the ones who double-cross her. Car-jacking, faking a drug-induced stupor, and the killing of corrupt cops ensue.
Carrie Fisher’s Leia Organa may be a princess, but she for sure isn’t a damsel waiting to be rescued. In the first few minutes alone of the 1977 Star Wars movie, A New Hope, she acts quickly to hide the blue prints for the Death Star space station, is so over the threat of an uber-villain like Darth Vader, and mouths off to Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter Cushing), even though she seems headed for certain death. Luke Skywalker and Han Solo could never.
Sometimes all it takes is one woman who is willing to risk it all. Sally Field’s Oscar-winning turn in the role inspired by union activist Crystal Lee Sutton brought increased public attention to the need for safe and healthy working conditions. In the film’s stressful climax, we see her strongly and silently stand on her work table and hold up a sign with a single, solitary message: UNION. It works, even if she is hauled off to jail.
With all the workplace revenge fantasies about lecherous bosses that have been made, we really could just name director Colin Higgins’ seminal film and be done with it. But let’s concentrate on Dolly Parton’s fed-up Doralee Rhodes. Sick of being sexually harassed and gossiped about by her boss, Franklin Hart, Jr. (Dabney Coleman), she takes advantage of his current moment of immobility (he’s been kidnapped and tied up) to make him think she’s willing to change him from a “rooster to a hen in one shot” of her gun.
Apparently messing with fate is just asking to get your head squashed. By the end of director James Cameron’s first Terminator movie, Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) has embraced her inner badass and is ready to finish the job that resistance fighter Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) was sent from the future to do: Take down the killer robot played by Arnold Schwarzenegger and save humankind. How does she do this when pipe bombs aren’t enough? Flattening its head in a hydraulic press and uttering one obvious-but-mighty catchphrase (“you’re terminated, f—er!”).
There is so much pain and suffering in director Steven Spielberg’s 1985 period drama (and Alice Walker’s novel, which serves as its basis), but the idea of a woman encouraging a man to abuse another woman? That is squashed in one wrenching scene. “All my life I had to fight … but I ain’t never thought I’d have to fight in my own house!,” the hardened Sofia (Oprah Winfrey) challenges her step mother-in-law Celie (Whoopi Goldberg), who had herself become weak and submissive after a lifetime of abuse.
There comes a time when a woman can no longer handle the put-downs and harassments; a moment when she (hopefully) dares to prove her naysayers wrong and that she can (and will) amount to something without them. For Angela Viracco (Faith Prince), that moment came when she accepted that her lousy, kidnapping crook of a boyfriend Eddie (Chris Murney) was more interested in his own ego than her feelings. She calls him a “misguided … asshole” before walking out for “elocution class.”
“Get away from her, you bitch!” The phrase that will be forever associated with Alien franchise star Sigourney Weaver also works for so many of us who have never had the pleasure of battling an alien queen while wearing an exo-suit (try it the next time you’re at a club, a grocery store, or a dog park when someone gets inappropriately close to your friend). To her credit, Weaver has said that she thinks she got the line in one take. You better just start dealing with it, Hudson.
Burned out by life and distrustful of everyone and everything? Shirley MacLaine’s Ouiser understands. At this point in director Herbert Ross’ 1989 film adaptation of Robert Harling’s play, Ouiser has zero qualms about telling Julia Roberts’ Shelby that, in no uncertain terms, she does not want to be fixed up with some seemingly kind-hearted widower. Don’t take it personally, though. As Ouiser says, “I’m not crazy. I’ve just been in a very bad mood for 40 years.”
Even though Murray (Donald Faison) would eventually school Dionne (Stacey Dash) about the cultural significance of street slang in Clueless, Regina King has zero time for the vernacular in her breakout role as Shalika in director John Singleton’s 1991 coming-of-age dramedy Boyz n the Hood. As she blatantly puts it during a party, she “ain’t no ho.” All the respect for my future Oscar winner.
Meow. The battle of wits between Batman (Michael Keaton) and the Penguin (Danny DeVito) was getting kind of droll before Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman Simone Bileses her way into it in all her red-lipsticked glory. They would also soon learn that she’d turned the department store behind them into a powder keg (after lassoing guns out of the hands of two underpaid night security guards). Because that’s how you make an entrance.
Domestic abuse is so often a hidden crime, and it’s not something we should celebrate. But Tina Turner’s brave admittance of her own suffering (and Angela Bassett’s Oscar-nominated depiction of it in director Brian Gibson’s 1993 biopic) did wonders for mainstreaming a previously taboo topic. The scene where she fights in a limo, after so many people ignored her pain because of Ike Turner’s power, resonated with an unfortunate number of audience members.
The ’90s ultimate Final Girl, played by Neve Campbell, finally puts an end to Billy (Skeet Ulrich) and Stu’s (Matthew Lillard) murder spree when she shoots the former square between the eyes. Warned that the killer always comes back, our heroine – who would go on to survive three more movies and a total of seven killers overall – pulls the trigger and declares, “Not in my movie.” Sidney Prescott: Breaking horror-movie rules since 1996.
Female empowerment sing-alongs are a trope in and of themselves. But a group of middle-aged women played by Bette Midler, Diane Keaton, and Goldie Hawn who have been wronged by love and life rocking out in three-part harmony to a Lesley Gore staple in matching white suits? Yes, we would very much like to be invited to that party. We promise not to tell them what to do, what to say, and we will certainly not put them on display.
In the future, combat is still clearly required to survive. Milla Jovovich’s Leeloo, a humanoid reconstructed by scientists in 2263 from remaining cells in a sarcophagus, isn’t always sure if she likes people and the harm that they’ve done to the planet, but she is quite good at protecting us – especially when the bad guys come at her. She also made a collection of ‘90s mall rats (well, me) want red hair and white midriff tops.
Disney heroine Mulan (who is voiced by Ming-Na Wen) accomplishes quite a feat in directors Barry Cook and Tony Bancroft’s 1998 animated hit. Not only is she brave enough to masquerade as a man and enlist in the Chinese army in the name of sparing her father, a great warrior who is now in weakened health, but she and her trusty sidekicks are able to save the emperor from a bloody attack by the Huns – and get the entire city to put sexism aside and bow down to her.
Before Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman entered No Man’s Land or Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen braced for the Hunger Games arenas, Carrie-Anne Moss’ Trinity was bending the rules of time and space without breaking a sweat in her Latex for the Wachowskis’ cyber-punk dystopian thriller. She came with quite an introduction, after all. In the beginning few moments of the first Matrix, we see her sail onto rooftops, take down a fleet of police officers and stare death in the face as she gets out just in time. A role model to us all.
It’s easy to hate Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon) in writer-director Alexander Payne’s 1999 adaptation of novelist Tom Perrotta’s political farce. She is a Type-A grating perfectionist and, chances are, she reminds you of some obnoxious overachiever who went to your high school. But she deserves her success and, in a spectacular art of verbal emasculation during one scene, you can see why: Matthew Broderick’s otherwise beloved high school teacher, Jim McAllister, thinks he’s cornered her into admitting she destroyed a rival candidate’s election campaign posters while implying that his true frustration with her is that she had an affair with his married, adult friend. Tracy goes on the attack and you instantly end up rooting for her.
Much of the beginning of director Steven Soderbergh’s 2000 biopic sets up why polite society should hate Julia Roberts’ Oscar-winning portrayal of the eponymous heroine. She’s got kids from different dads, has street smarts instead of framed diplomas, and used to be a beauty queen (“Oh, the horror!” to all of the above). But Erin’s able to get answers that others can’t by playing up her other, ahem, assets. “They’re called boobs, Ed,” she smirks when her boss (Albert Finney) asks how she acquired such necessary and privileged information.
Even if martial arts isn’t your thing, it’s hard not to ignore the beauty in director Ang Lee’s Oscar-winning film. The 2000 movie is also a feminist mantra, as it concentrates on fighting techniques traditionally employed by women. No matter if you’re rooting for Michelle Yeoh’s skilled warrior or Zhang Ziyi’s governor’s daughter who secretly trained in the art of Wudang fighting, it is empowering to see them duel each other in one of the most thrilling sequences of the film, as it demonstrates exactly how deadly each of these ladies is.
Does Michelle Rodriguez’s Letty really look like someone who isn’t prepared to burn rubber in a drag race? Nope. And the opposing driver should have heeded her advice to “hit Hollywood Boulevard” if he was looking for a hook-up. All she was willing to offer him was an “adrenaline rush” and a chance to lose a chunk of change. She made good on both of those.
Reese Witherspoon’s pink-partial Elle Woods showed that one could care about the law and time-consuming hair and beauty regimens in director Robert Luketic’s brightly-colored comedy. All she had to do to get her client (Ali Larter) off the hook for murdering her husband is prove that the prosecution’s star witness’s alibi that she wasn’t around to see the gun go off was a bit frizzy at the ends (perms take a couple days without shampooing to set, don’t ya know?).
It’s complicated to watch the Kill Bill movies now, in the wake of star Uma Thurman’s allegations that Quentin Tarantino mistreated her on set. But, the writer-director’s 2003 ode to martial arts films still has a message about a woman’s revenge plot to take down her former colleagues and mentor/boss. The climax in the first movie happens after she murders a nemesis’ young protégé (after begging the girl to leave her be) and involves the epic, bloody slaying of a menagerie of swordfighters and knife throwers in suits. Hell hath no fury …
While condoning violence should not be encouraged, it’s easy to understand why Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) felt the need to punch the “foul, loathsome, evil little cockroach” Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) in the nose. The sniveling little rich brat had it coming; he’d just got an innocent hippogriff sentenced to death because he’d lied to his powerful father about why the animal attacked him.
It’s not difficult to be badass when you possess the ability to control blue fire, and Selma Blair’s Liz Sherman from the Hellboy films proved more than once that she was a force to be reckoned with. Sure, she came close to burning down a hospital (not her fault, really), but who comes to Hellboy’s aid when he’s being overwhelmed by demon pups? Liz flames on and incinerates the beasties — and fries a few demon eggs in the process — proving that behind every good man (or Hellboy), there’s an equally good woman.
The only true way to survive The Hunger Games’ eponymous cruel, futuristic gladiator arenas isn’t to kill a bunch of other teenagers – it’s to outsmart the people who forced you into them and then changed the rules at will so that the odds were never going to be in your favor. When killing her ally (and budding crush) Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) seems to be the only option for survival, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) bets big and pivots to suggest a double suicide pact on national television. It works, and they’re safe – for a while.
Who says a princess has to have a suitor? Tearing her constricting dress, Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald) shows she’s a better shot than all of the “eligible” bachelors fighting for her hand in an archery contest. Much like her bouncy red curls that flow in all their glory, this medieval Scottish princess from directors Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman’s 2012 animated Disney film cannot be contained.
Sometimes the pressure is too much and you have to roar with all your might. This is especially true if you’re a little girl in the Louisiana bayou and you desperately want to please your father. Quvenzhané Wallis received an Oscar nomination for playing Hushpuppy, the six-year-old who is mighty enough to find her own means of survival as her world crumbles around her in director Benh Zeitlin’s 2012 drama.
It’s one thing to kill your deranged, megalomaniac captor. It’s quite another to do it during a dusty, gritty car chase in a post-apocalyptic action film, like director George Miller’s 2015 OScar-winner. Here, Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa finally destroys Hugh Keays-Byrne’s Immortan Joe after his years of abuse and horrendous crimes on her community, particularly the five women he’s kept for “breeding.”
Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) was one of the smartest mathematicians at NASA. She knew she had to choose her words carefully when her boss, Kevin Costner’s Al Harrison, asked her why she kept disappearing during her shift in front of co-workers who didn’t really trust her that much already. The answer to her problem was a simple enough one; she just needed someone else to solve it – in the still-segregated building, she needed a lavatory she was allowed to use to be near her office. And she got it.
Timid-seeming Elisa (Sally Hawkins) gets “moments” aplenty in Guillermo del Toro’s Oscar-winning The Shape Of Water: a gorgeous dance sequence, a wonderfully matter-of-fact masturbation scene, a dreamy underwater awakening. But the one that had audiences cheering – and still does – is the scene in which she tells Michael Shannon’s cartoonishly awful Colonel Strickland “F–k you” in sign language.
As Charlize Theron’s MI6 field agent Lorraine Broughton deadpans to her interrogators in a debriefing, if she knew she’d be walking into a police ambush when she searched their dead colleague’s apartment, she would have “worn a different outfit.” Instead, she takes on a group of thugs like a real-life game of Whac-A-Mole – if, of course, that arcade game was traditionally played in over-the-knee black boots, a miniskirt, and a white trench coat.
It isn’t so much that Daisy Ridley’s Rey is able to hold her own in a fight with armed guards after Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren chooses her over his master, Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis). Everyone knew that was coming. It’s when she realizes that Kylo still hasn’t come back to the light side of the Force and they battle for Anakin Skywalker’s lightsaber so hard that it splits in two that things really get interesting.
Sometimes you want to emphasize with the villain – especially when she’s played with such vindictiveness as Cate Blanchett plays Thor’s big sister, Hela. And like so many other older siblings, she took away her brother’s favorite toy (his hammer!) when he refused to obey her. Sorry, Thor (Chris Hemsworth). You can’t win them all. But at least you still have chiseled arms and pretty blonde hair.
Well, they did call it No Man’s Land. Gal Gadot’s Diana Prince doesn’t care that soldiers haven’t been able to get the Germans to retreat from this bloody war zone. She only cares that people are suffering and they need her help. The scene, which some called the best superhero moment of the year when director Patty Jenkins’ film came out in 2017, showed a fearless, determined heroine courageously throw herself into battle in the name of protecting the innocent.
Danai Gurira’s Okoye can fight in an evening gown, but in a major act of toppling the patriarchy she feels more comfortable going into battle without her wig. This no-nonsense moment is both practical (why hold onto anything that’s a liability when things are about to get real?) and also an educational tool to teach mass audiences a lesson about Black womens’ hair.
Because one female superhero is great but three is even better, there’s this moment of comradery in Anthony and Joe Russo’s 2018 comic-book film: Danai Gurira’s Okoye had just gotten used to fighting with Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow when Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch descended from the skies to help them finish the fight. Okoye does ask an important question, though: “Why was she up there all this time?”
Want to prove your loyalty? Then don’t allude to the things better left unsaid. Emma Stone’s Abigail learned this lesson well when she attempted to bond with her cousin, Sarah (Rachel Weisz) over some casual bird shooting in the lawn belonging to their mistress, Olivia Colman’s Queen Anne. Given Sarah’s not-so-veiled threats, perhaps Abigail should have waited to have this conversation at a place where firearms weren’t involved.
The clacking of the mahjong tiles. The two random ladies who don’t appear to speak English. The unflinching courage of Constance Wu’s economics professor Rachel Chu in the face of her most fearsome adversary: Michelle Yeoh’s Eleanor Young, the stoic mother of her love, Nick (Henry Golding). This battle of wits at the end of director John M. Chu’s smash 2018 rom-com, Crazy Rich Asians, displays so much deep-seated aggression. But if you think this is about which side Henry will choose, you’re only seeing half the picture.
Lock and load. By the end of director John Krasinski’s 2018 horror film, Emily Blunt’s Evelyn Abbott has lost her husband, given birth in a tub as monsters stalked her, and just watched her deaf daughter’s hearing aid make another monster explode while also sending out the signal for more of them to come. No wonder she’s ready to take charge and survive.
In this futuristic dystopia, there’s no room for love or mercy when you’re a Hunter-Warrior (or bounty hunter). So why should cyborg Alita (Rosa Salazar) show mercy to Jackie Earle Haley’s nefarious Grewishka when she finally gets the upper hand after he sliced up her body? As she tells him in director Robert Rodriguez’s 2019 action thriller, “F–k your mercy.”
Oh, mother! With Red Sparrow taking flight this week, we’re looking back on Jennifer Lawrence’s 10 best-reviewed movies!
(Photo by Sebastian Mlynarski/Roadside Attractions)
Aside from hardcore fans of The Bill Engvall Show, not many people knew who Jennifer Lawrence was in 2009 — but that all changed the following year with the release of Winter’s Bone, writer-director Debra Granik’s harrowing portrayal of a teenage girl who embarks on a perilous effort to locate her missing father in order to save her disabled mother and younger siblings from being evicted from their meager Ozarks home. Bleak stuff for sure, but limned with a subtle, yet resolute hope — not to mention the ferocity of Lawrence’s Oscar-nominated performance. “Winter’s Bone is a genuine triumph,” wrote Bill Goodykoontz of the Arizona Republic, paying it the ultimate compliment by adding that it’s “a great movie with astounding performances so natural, so genuine, that you forget it’s a movie.”
(Photo by Francois Duhamel/Columbia Pictures)
Wigs and prosthetics are often a dead giveaway that an actor (or a movie in general) is trying way too hard to make a sale, and David O. Russell’s American Hustle is full of ’em. Fortunately, all that artifice stops on the surface. David O. Russell’s ’70s period piece, about a real-life FBI sting operation that used a pair of con artists (played by Christian Bale and Amy Adams) to target corrupt politicians, lays the garish hair and wardrobe on thick, but it makes sense in context, and it’s all backed up by a wall of solid performances; just about the entire cast was nominated for Oscars, including Lawrence for her work as Bale’s unstable wife. Perhaps most importantly, it’s a lot of fun: as Colin Covert wrote for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, “Even at two hours and 20 minutes, the movie doesn’t wear you down. It carries you along with heedless momentum, giddy and exhilarated at its all-American ambition and scam-artist confidence.”
(Photo by JoJo Whilden/Weinstein Company)
How do you make a seriocomedy about mental illness without coming across as obnoxious or insensitive? It’s obviously easier said than done (just ask anyone who’s seen Mixed Nuts), but David O. Russell found a way with 2012’s Silver Linings Playbook, starring Lawrence and Bradley Cooper as a couple of bruised souls who meet cute after enduring terrible personal tragedies and somehow manage to nurture a connection in spite of the many emotional and circumstantial obstacles between them. While a few critics certainly questioned the wisdom of trying to wring any sort of comedy from such a serious subject, the vast majority applauded Playbook‘s deft treatment of sensitive material, and the Academy agreed — the movie picked up eight Oscar nominations, with Lawrence taking home Best Actress. “It’s Lawrence who knocked me sideways,” wrote David Edelstein for New York Magazine. “I loved her in Winter’s Bone and The Hunger Games but she’s very young — I didn’t think she had this kind of deep-toned, layered weirdness in her.”
(Photo by Murray Close/Lionsgate)
Why settle for starring in one blockbuster franchise when you can topline two? Already a prominent part of the rebooted X-Men movies, Jennifer Lawrence took the lead for Lionsgate’s adaptation of The Hunger Games, author Suzanne Collins’ bestselling YA book series about a dystopian future in which boys and girls are forced to fight to the death for a nation’s amusement. Starring as the archer Katniss Everdeen, Lawrence helped bring the books’ rather grim story to life with a soulful performance that went a long way toward setting the Hunger Games films apart from the many likeminded movies that have followed in their wake — and winning consistent praise from critics like the Houston Chronicle’s Amy Biancolli, who wrote of the first installment, “It features a functioning creative imagination and lots of honest-to-goodness acting by its star, Jennifer Lawrence, who brings her usual toughness and emotional transparency to the archer-heroine Katniss.”
(Photo by Alan Markfield/20th Century Fox Film Corp.)
A year after scoring her breakout role in Winter’s Bone, Lawrence committed herself to several films’ worth of CGI action sequences (and slinking around in little more than a blue bodysuit) when she signed on to play the new Mystique in X-Men: First Class, the first installment in the freshly rebooted X-Men series. An Oscar winner by the time she returned for 2014’s Days of Future Past, Lawrence found herself at the center of a complex time-travel storyline that used her character as the emotional fulcrum for the franchise’s most ambitious attempt yet to place thought-provoking questions of prejudice against an action-fueled blockbuster backdrop. The end result blended sheer popcorn thrills almost seamlessly with the sociopolitical subtext the X-Men comics have always been known for; as the Wall Street Journal’s Joe Morgenstern marveled, “Everything is of a piece, and it’s dazzling.”
(Photo by Fred Hayes/Paramount Pictures)
Anyone who’s ever attempted a long-distance relationship knows they can be hell, and writer-director Drake Doremus knows that pain more intimately than most — as evidenced by Like Crazy, the winsome romantic drama he and co-writer Ben York Jones weaved out of their real-life long-distance broken hearts and turned into a starring vehicle for Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones. When the movie opens, he lives in L.A. and she’s a visiting British exchange student, and although falling in love is easy, their permanent addresses aren’t — especially after she overstays her student visa and is exiled to the U.K., driving the couple apart long enough for him to start a new relationship with someone who doesn’t live across the Atlantic (Jennifer Lawrence). While the story’s broad contours may be familiar, Doremus and his sharp cast handle the formula with aplomb; the result is what the Washington Post’s Ann Hornaday deemed “A serious, deeply felt romance for an audience Hollywood most often bombards with raunchy sex comedies and video-game adaptations.”
(Photo by Paramount Pictures)
Truly challenging mainstream cinema is typically in short supply regardless of the era, and in our current franchise-driven times, that’s arguably truer than ever. So no matter how it ended up being received by critics, writer-director Darren Aronofsky’s mother! offered a wide release worth celebrating in 2017 — a story that dared to challenge, and outright provoke, audiences while offering little in the way of traditional narrative compensation. Starring Lawrence as a woman whose seemingly bucolic existence with her husband (Javier Bardem) is upended by the arrival of some mysterious guests (Michelle Pfeiffer and Ed Harris), the movie was greeted with some of the most wildly divisive reactions of the year — although most critics were more than happy to be baffled, Aronofsky-style. The end result, as Glenn Kenny argued for RogerEbert.com, functions as “A hallucination that’s also an angry cry about the state of this world, but most importantly, a cinematic experience of unique proportions.”
(Photo by Summit Entertainment)
In the years after his fall from public grace following several bouts of bizarre and generally offensive and/or ill-advised behavior, Mel Gibson needed a project that could help regenerate a little goodwill by taking him out of his dramatic wheelhouse and reminding audiences that he could still act — and he got one in the form of The Beaver, a directorial effort from Gibson’s friend Jodie Foster that gave the Lethal Weapon star the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play a guy who responds to a series of horrible personal setbacks by developing what appears to be an alternate personality channeled through a beaver puppet on his hand. It’s the kind of left-field premise you have to see to believe, especially given that Foster rounded out her cast with likable pros like Anton Yelchin (as Gibson’s embarrassed son) and, of course, Jennifer Lawrence(as the classmate he’s afraid to get too close to because of his weirdo dad). Destined for the commercial margins and dismissed as too tonally disjointed by some critics, The Beaver was nevertheless hailed as a dam fine film by the majority — including Lisa Kennedy of the Denver Post, who wrote, “The film is amusing, then melancholy, then weirdly funny, then not. It’s a quiet, measured work.”
(Photo by 20th Century Fox Film Corp.)
Jennifer Lawrence and David O. Russell worked Hollywood magic together with Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, so you can hardly blame them for reuniting again — especially to film the stranger-than-fiction real-life story of Joy Mangano, the entrepreneur who became a self-made millionaire after inventing the Miracle Mop. Lawrence and Russell’s undeniable rapport, brought to bear on a classically uplifting story with a postmodern twist, made Joy look like an awards contender — as did the rest of the movie’s terrific cast, rounded out by fellow Russell vets Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper. With all those top-shelf ingredients, the lukewarm reaction to the movie couldn’t help but feel disappointing; still, Lawrence fans shouldn’t come away disappointed by her performance, which drew applause even when the film around her didn’t. “In the end, Joy is more slender and inconsequential than Russell probably intends it to be — it wears its ideas rather than embodying them,” wrote Stephanie Zacharek for Time. “But Lawrence keeps the channels of communication open, every minute, with the audience.”
(Photo by Phase 4 Films courtesy Everett Collection)
Lawrence picked up her first major film role in The Poker House, a grim drama marking Tank Girl star Lori Petty’s debut as a writer-director. While few saw it at the time, there’s no denying Petty’s great taste in casting — aside from Lawrence, playing the oldest of three sisters subjected to deplorable living conditions by their deeply troubled mother (Selma Blair), House also features an early appearance from Chloe Grace Moretz, as well as a disturbing turn from Bokeem Woodbine as the mother’s reprehensible pimp. “The Poker House is one of the most personal, wounded films in years,” wrote John Wheeler for L.A. Weekly. “That it is also one of the most confused reflects how deeply it springs from the psyche of its director.”
It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to sign up for a sci-fi action thriller in which you’ll pursue something called a Zeo Crystal while wearing a form-fitting green shell — which is exactly what Elizabeth Banks is up to in this weekend’s Power Rangers movie. In honor of Banks’ bravery, we decided to dedicate this week’s feature to a fond look back at some of the brighter highlights from her filmography, and you know what that means…it’s time for Total Recall!
Elizabeth Banks is no stranger to big-budget filmmaking, but even after breaking through to the A list, she’s continued to seek out parts in smaller-scale productions. Case in point: 2010’s Lovely, Still, in which she plays a woman whose neighbor (Martin Landau) pursues a relationship with her mother (Ellen Burstyn) — thanks in part to some encouragement from his boss (Adam Scott). It’s the type of setup that often leads to overly aggressive tugs at the heartstrings, but critics credited debuting writer-director Nik Fackler with largely resisting cheap sentiment while imparting poignant observations on aging and the human condition. As Prairie Miller wrote for NewsBlaze, “It was Bette Davis who said ‘growing old ain’t for sissies.’ And this film reiterates that notion from which no human being lucky enough to survive that long is exempt, framing old age as perhaps the greatest superhero screen manifestation of all.”
He isn’t a household name, but Vince Papale is a legend among hardcore football fans — particularly in Philadelphia, where he overcame the odds to earn a spot on the Eagles’ roster and became one of the oldest rookies in the history of the NFL — as well as a living embodiment of the team’s scrappy, blue-collar image. That legend was brought to life in 2006’s Invincible, starring Mark Wahlberg as Papale, Banks as his eventual wife Janet, and Greg Kinnear as Eagles coach Dick Vermeil. The movie’s fairly boilerplate arc — fully embraced by the Disney execs bankrolling the film — might have prompted a few eyerolls from more cynical critics, but the end result still enjoyed a sweaty leg up on the many inspirational sports dramas in theaters at the time. “There’s a sugar coating to the way Papale’s story unfolds,” admitted the Chicago Tribune’s Michael Phillips, “but not so much that you’ll spoil your dinner.”
A romantic comedy with a twist, Definitely, Maybe finds its protagonist looking back on the love affair that led to marriage and a child — by telling the story to his young daughter, with some names changed and facts adjusted, while in the midst of a divorce. Thanks in part to those narrative curveballs, most critics applauded Maybe — and even if it still ultimately traced a rather familiar arc, it was difficult to find too much fault with a resolutely charming production that made smart use of a likable ensemble cast that included Banks, Ryan Reynolds, Abigail Breslin, Isla Fisher, and Rachel Weisz. “As the movie is about a character’s growing into his own truth rather than discovering some preordained truth, Definitely, Maybe is hard to outguess,” wrote Mick LaSalle for the San Francisco Chronicle. “For once in a romantic comedy, you won’t be able to tell after five minutes who will end up together.”
The horse took top billing, but Banks played a pivotal role in Gary Ross’ Oscar-nominated biopic about the Depression-era thoroughbred racing sensation, appearing as Marcela Zabala, whose wedding to Charles S. Howard (Jeff Bridges) turns Howard’s life around before he enters the horse-racing world. Part of an ensemble that also included Chris Cooper as expert trainer Tom Smith and Tobey Maguire as scrappy jockey Red Pollard, Banks helped round out the cast responsible for one of the year’s bigger critical and commercial successes, and an inspirational drama that managed to transcend its easily predictable (albeit fact-based) arc. “[It] may be too airbrushed for its own good,” wrote David Ansen for Newsweek, “but in the end nothing can stop this story from putting a lump in your throat.”
Strictly speaking, the world probably didn’t need yet another comedy about grown men acting like children when Role Models came along — yet there’s no denying Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott made the most of this 2008 comedy’s fairly standard story about a couple of knuckleheads sentenced to community service. Along those lines, there’s certainly been no shortage of disapproving girlfriend roles in these movies over the years, and it’s a part that doesn’t necessarily call for someone with Banks’ estimable talent — but her presence brought a little extra depth to the movie, not to mention added dimension to what could have been a shrewish one-note character. “A formulaic movie can be lifted out of its built-in rut by making it look like it invented the formula,” argued Dave White for Movies.com. “Almost everything works here.”
The blockbuster adaptations of Suzanne Collins’ bestselling Hunger Games books arrived at a moment in which a flood of YA novels were being made into movies, but this saga differentiated itself on a number of key fronts — including acting, thanks to a powerfully talented cast that included Jennifer Lawrence in the central role and a supporting ensemble that included Banks (as the outlandishly garbed Effie Trinket), Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Julianne Moore, and Stanley Tucci. Acting under garish makeup and a series of distracting wigs, Banks acquitted herself admirably — and saw her character take on an expanded role in the penultimate film, Mockingjay Part 1. “Book’s good. Movie’s better,” wrote the Boston Globe’s Ty Burr after the second installment, Catching Fire. “Wait, what?”
Technically, Judd Apatow’s The 40 Year-Old Virgin didn’t feature every comedy star to come out of the woodwork over the next decade — but watching the Steve Carell-led hit now, it can definitely feel that way. Banks shows up here in a supporting role as Beth, the bookstore employee whose flirty banter with Carell’s sexually inexperienced protagonist leads to some unexpectedly raunchy shenanigans — and making her mark in the midst of an expertly assembled ensemble that also included Paul Rudd, Seth Rogen, Jane Lynch, Kat Dennings, and Kevin Hart. “If you’re looking for a successor to There’s Something About Mary and American Pie, look no further. It has arrived,” decreed James Berardinelli for ReelViews. “And, if I may be so bold, this is more enjoyable than either of them.”
There’s nothing like a good creature feature — at least partly because solidly entertaining entries in the genre can seem like they’re so few and far between. Years before his work on Guardians of the Galaxy gave him name recognition with mainstream audiences, writer-director James Gunn wowed genre fans with Slither, a smartly written thriller about a car salesman (Michael Rooker) who becomes infected with a sluglike alien and passes it along to his mistress (Brenda James) before beginning his final transformation — and setting his sights on his wife (Banks), who’s turned to the local sheriff (Nathan Fillion) for help. If this sort of thing is your bag, you’ll find Slither hard to resist — and even if it isn’t, you may be compelled to agree with the Chicago Reader’s Jonathan Rosenbaum, who wrote, “Gross-out horror comedy is my least favorite genre, but this movie’s so skillful I have to take my hat off to it.”
The Brian Wilson biopic Love and Mercy tells the story of the mercurial Beach Boys co-founder’s often tortured journey, but it’s also a love story — one poised on the fulcrum of Wilson’s relationship with Melinda Ledbetter, who entered his life in 1986 and was part of the lengthy process of getting Wilson away from controversial therapist Dr. Eugene Landy. And although director Bill Pohlad’s film earned a lot of attention for the way it divided Wilson’s life into two discrete arcs — one in which he’s played by Paul Dano, and another starring John Cusack — Banks shouldered a lot of responsibility with her performance as Ledbetter; for the movie to work as more than a standard redemption story, the people on screen needed to feel more like their real-life counterparts than characters. “Love & Mercy might not go as deep, or as dark, as it could,” admitted the AP’s Lindsey Bahr, “but it’s a commanding and artful film, that’s full of excellent and worthy performances whether you’re a student of Brian Wilson or just a curious tourist.”
The Rotten Tomatoes staff, we could’ve been contenders. Could’ve gone to the Olympics. But instead of becoming world-class athletes, we trained and followed our other true calling: aggregating things on the internet.
But with the 2016 Summer Olympics here, we can’t help but think, “What if…?” Let’s say Rotten Tomatoes were a sovereign nation. Here would be the 24 movies and shows we’d send to Brazil to show who’s boss, while the staff sits in office chairs adding mean reviews of Suicide Squad.
Though the hold was impressive, Part 2 is still running 12% behind last year’s Part 1 which had banked $225.7M at the same point. Look for the final Katniss flick to break $200M on Monday and finish its North American run with about $300M. That would be the lowest total in the franchise, but still it is extremely rare for a movie franchise to boast $100M+ openings and $300M+ finals for each of four installments.
International weekend grosses brought in an estimated $62M with all major markets playing now. Cume rose to $242.4M putting the worldwide tally at $440.7M and the entire Hunger Games franchise at $2.7 billion since 2012.
Lionsgate has owned the turkey session over the past five years with its Twilight and Hunger Games sequels which all opened huge on the weekend before Thanksgiving and then held the top spot again over the holiday frame. But the Harry Potter franchise hopes to reclaim its territory next year with the release of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them on November 18 which will try to stay on top for at least two weekends.
The Pixar brand is not bulletproof after all. The computer animation leader saw its latest entry The Good Dinosaur open in second place with some of the worst numbers in company history launching to an estimated $39.2M over the Friday-to-Sunday span and $55.6M over the long five-day holiday frame. The last 13 Pixar films all generated bigger opening weekends across the last 16 years. The only ones to debut smaller were the company’s first two films in the 1990s – Toy Story and A Bug’s Life – and both of those sold more tickets than Dinosaur did.
Reviews were not as glowing as for recent original Pixar films, but they were still very strong. The CinemaScore grade was a solid A so those who did come out and buy tickets enjoyed the product they got. In a first, Pixar released two films in the same year as The Good Dinosaur followed June’s Inside Out which bowed to a much more muscular $90.4M over a standard three-day weekend. Dinosaur‘s look and feel were more kid-oriented too so some of the non-family crowd – which Pixar films do great with – skipped this time around contributing to the deficit. The last seven consecutive films from the toon giant all opened north of $60M.
Disney still has plenty of time ahead. With good word-of-mouth, Dinosaur should continue to play as it faces no competition over the next two weeks. Historically, Thanksgiving kidpics with positive buzz can finish with three times their 5-day openings or more. Of its 15 movies over two decades, Pixar’s lowest grossing film ever is 1998’s A Bug’s Life with $162.8M. Reaching that mark is not guaranteed right now for The Good Dinosaur.
Overseas openings were also softer for The Good Dinosaur. Compared to the debuts for Inside Out, Mexico was down 59%, the U.K. fell 61%, France was down 39%, Argentina was off 33%, and Russia was down 73%. Many key markets will open after Christmas.
Now in its fifth decade, the Rocky franchise offered a new installment with the spinoff film Creed which delivered a terrific opening grossing an estimated $30.1M over the Friday-to-Sunday span and $42.6M over five days. With Michael B. Jordan playing the son of Apollo Creed and Sylvester Stallone back as the Italian Stallion, this PG-13 entry catered to long-time Rocky fans plus wider audiences too.
At the core of the success is a very strong product. Both reviews and word-of-mouth from moviegoers are off the charts and that bodes well for the weeks ahead. Creed averaged a stellar $8,848 from 3,404 locations with older males powering the sales. Studio data showed that men made up 66% of the crowd and 62% were over 25. Thanksgiving weekend 30 years ago was ruled by the record opening of Rocky IV which featured the death of Apollo Creed (spoiler alert!) Now, that character’s son is hoping to reach the highest gross ever in franchise history.
Another decades-old franchise having good luck in November is James Bond and its latest installment, SPECTRE, claimed fourth place with $12.8M over the Friday-to-Sunday span. The 15% dip was almost identical to Skyfall’s 14% slide when it was a holdover on Thanksgiving weekend in 2012. The new 007 has banked $176.1M domestically making it the second biggest Bond ever, but is also running 28% behind the pace of Skyfall. Powered by sensational numbers in China and the U.K., SPECTRE has climbed to more than $750M worldwide which is also second best for the long-running franchise.
With a new toon in the marketplace, The Peanuts Movie slipped 27% to an estimated $9.7M in its fourth round. Fox’s cume to date is $116.8M. Sony’s raunchy comedy The Night Before followed with an estimated $8.2M dropping only 17% in its sophomore session. Total is $24.1M.
Julia Roberts and Nicole Kidman saw their crime drama The Secret In Their Eyes fall 32% to an estimated $4.5M in its second weekend. It was the second biggest drop in the top ten behind Mockingjay and STX has collected just $14M.
Awards hopefuls filled up the rest of the top ten. The critically acclaimed Spotlight expanded and boosted its theater count by 50% going from 598 to 897 locations and grossed an estimated $4.5M for a good $5,011 average. Fox Searchlight’s period piece Brooklyn widened from 111 to 845 locations and climbed up to ninth place with an estimated $3.8M and $4,535 average. Totals are $12.3M and $7.3M, respectively.
Spending an incredible ninth straight weekend in the top ten, The Martian dipped only 13% to an estimated $3.3M pushing the cume up to $218.6M for Fox. It’s the second biggest hit ever for Matt Damon and still has a shot at surpassing The Bourne Ultimatum thanks to great legs.
The horror adventure Victor Frankenstein was utterly rejected by audiences over Thanksgiving. The PG-13 pic starring James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe grossed an estimated $2.4M over the three-day span and just $3.4M across the five-day holiday weekend. That gave Fox a puny $840 average over three days from 2,797 locations. Reviews were negative and there was never any consumer demand for this one. The five-day holiday gross did not even reach half of the $8.6M opening weekend for last year’s I, Frankenstein which bowed over a standard three-day period. Darker fare has always struggled over cheery holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas and it was no different this year.
Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne saw a good start for his attempt at winning back-to-back Best Actor trophies as The Danish Girl bowed to an estimated $185,000 from four theaters for a strong $46,250 average. Reviews have been good, but not stellar for the Focus release. The R-rated drama will now face the same challenge as so many other art films from recent months – selling to audiences outside of the safety zones of New York and Los Angeles. The Danish Girl expands on December 11 and will continue to widen throughout the Christmas season.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $167.7M which was up 11% from last year’s Thanksgiving when The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 stayed at number one with $57M; but down 12% from 2013 when Catching Fire remained in the top spot with $74.2M.
The PG-13 actioner opened 17% below the $121.9M of Mockingjay Part 1 and 36% below the $158.1M of Catching Fire. All the Hunger Games sequels opened on this same November frame over consecutive years. Audience erosion has been at play across these films with many fans that lined up for the first two chapters deciding to skip one or both of the final ones. Still, these are hefty grosses that make for profitable films on a worldwide scale.
Reviews were about even with Part 1’s from last year. But the declining grosses are in sharp contrast to the way the Harry Potter and Twilight franchises concluded. All were based on wildly popular books and featured the final book divided into two films in order to grab more cash from the pockets of fans. As with Hunger Games, the final Twilight films (Breaking Dawn) launched on the weekend before Thanksgiving in November but Part 2‘s opening actually enjoyed a slight uptick from Part 1 with fans gathering together for the finale. That was not the case for the Jennifer Lawrence series as interest and excitement deflated steadily.
The new Mockingjay‘s weekend kicked off with a $46M opening day Friday which included $16M from Thursday night pre-shows starting at 7:00pm. Saturday fell 27% to $33.8M and Sunday is projected to drop another 37% to $21.3M. That is the same Sunday decline as last year’s chapter. IMAX was part of the fun this time with 371 screens for Part 2‘s opening unlike last year when Interstellar already locked them up leaving Part 1 with other PLF screens.
Recent Katniss sequels had the same calendar and achieved 36-37% of their domestic finals on opening weekend. A similar road for the new installment would put it on course to end in the $270-280M neighborhood.
Overseas markets saw good launches for Mockingjay Part 2 with the foreign total reaching $146M from 87 markets which was slightly below the $152M from 85 markets for Part 1 a year ago which did not even include China which opened much later. So Americans are not the only ones losing interest in Katniss.
China was part of the first weekend of markets on Part 2 and delivered $16.4M which was second behind only the $17.1M from the U.K. Germany was the only other territory to break double digit millions with $14.4M. Openings dipped from Part 1’s numbers in many key markets like the U.K., Russia, Australia, Mexico, and Brazil. To date, the Hunger Games films have collectively grossed $2.56 billion worldwide and may reach the $3 billion mark for a remarkable average of $750M global per pic.
The latest James Bond film Spectre took a hit in its third round falling 57% to an estimated $14.6M pushing the domestic total up to $153.7M. With massive cumes in China and the U.K., Sony’s global tally shot up past $670M.
Kidpic The Peanuts Movie dropped 47% in its third weekend to an estimated $12.8M putting Fox at $98.9M overall. The long Thanksgiving holiday frame will open the doors for more families to come out and see Snoopy and friends, however the opening of Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur will make for some hefty competition.
Seth Rogen’s new raunchy comedy The Night Before debuted in fourth with mild results making an estimated $10.1M from 2,960 locations for a so-so $3,412 average. Sony plugged the film into this weekend as counter-programming against Katniss hoping to lure in young men and hopes word-of-mouth will be good enough to take it into the turkey frame. The opening was in line with past Rogen comedies with no other big stars. The CinemaScore was a good A- and reviews were decent.
Stars of yesteryear Julia Roberts and Nicole Kidman failed to draw in audiences for their new crime thriller The Secret In Their Eyes which bowed in fifth with an estimated $6.7M from 2,392 locations for a weak $2,780 average for STX. A PG-13 remake of an Oscar-winning film from Argentina, Secret was panned by critics and ticket buyers were not pleased either as the CinemaScore was a lousy B-. Appeal was limited to mature women who had better options.
With bad reviews and lukewarm audience buzz, the Christmas comedy Love the Coopers did not see the type of good hold many holiday films see this time of year. The CBS pic fell 53% in its second frame to an estimated $3.9M lifting the total to a modest $14.9M. Fox’s The Martian enjoyed its eighth weekend in the top ten grossing an estimated $3.7M, off 45%, for a new cume of $213M.
Unlike many awards hopefuls this fall, the investigative journalism drama Spotlight fared well in its national expansion grossing an estimated $3.6M from 598 locations for a solid $6,025 average. Open Road widened the critically acclaimed pic from 60 theaters into only moderate national play this frame and will go wider over the crowded Thanksgiving session. Cume is $5.9M and with its strong audience buzz, this one could play well over the weeks ahead with upscale adults.
The mining disaster flick The 33 tumbled 61% in its sophomore frame to an estimated $2.2M giving Warner Bros. a terrible $9.9M. Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies clung to the top ten in its sixth round with an estimated $1.9M, down 54%, putting Disney at $65.2M. It remains on course to end as one of the famed director’s lowest grossing wide releases ever.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $160.6M which was down 13% from last year when The Hunger Games — Mockingjay Part 1 opened at number one with $121.9M; and down 25% from 2013 when The Hunger Games: Catching Fire debuted in the top spot with $158.1M.
This week at the movies, we’ve got Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Julianne Moore), some party-hearty bros (The Night Before, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen), and a dogged detective (Secret in their Eyes, starring Chiwetel Ejioforand Julia Roberts). What do the critics have to say?
The Hunger Games franchise has helped make Jennifer Lawrence a household name, and critics say her assured performance as Katniss Everdeen is the best thing about The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2, a satisfying — if occasionally overly grim — conclusion to the series. This time, Katniss leads a guerilla army to eliminate the despotic President Snow (Donald Sutherland) — and discovers that some within the rebellion may have agendas of their own. The pundits say Mockingjay – Part 2 is bleak and a little too long, but it’s also rousing, jolting, and intelligent, which befits a saga that has done much to alter the action movie landscape.
When Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and director Jonathan Levine last joined forces, the result was 2011’s 50/50, a funny, heartfelt dramedy that was as moving as it was funny. Anthony Mackie joins them in their latest collaboration, The Night Before, and critics say the result is a surprisingly warm holiday bromance, even if its drug-fueled humor sometimes misses the mark. Boyhood buddies Isaac (Rogen), Ethan (Gordon-Levitt)
Not every American remake of a foreign language film is doomed to failure; some, like Best Picture winner The Departed, have equaled or surpassed the originals. Unfortunately, critics say Secret in their Eyes (based upon the Oscar-winning 2009 Argentinian film of the same name) never justifies its own existence, despite the best effort of an A-list cast that includes Chiwetel Ejiofor, Julia Roberts, and Nicole Kidman. Ejiofor stars as a former FBI agent who has resumed his investigation into the murder of a colleague’s daughter after discovering new information — but solving this mystery may uncover even darker secrets. The pundits say Secret in their Eyes lacks the specific political context that made the original so chilling, and what’s left is little more than a decent police procedural.
The Man in the High Castle is unlike anything else on TV, with an immediately engrossing plot driven by quickly developed characters in a fully realized post-World War II dystopia.
Jessica Jones builds a multifaceted drama around its engaging antihero, delivering what might be Marvel’s strongest TV franchise to date.
Into the Badlands is loaded with off-kilter potential that’s left largely unfulfilled — although its well-choreographed action sequences should satisfy martial arts fans.
Also Opening This Week In Limited Release
This week’s Ketchup includes development news stories for such movies as The Hunger Games (Part 5?), Neighbors 2, and new films from directors Ang Lee and Robert Zemeckis, as well as new roles for Bryan Cranston and Brad Pitt.
Author Suzanne Collins may have been able to finish up The Hunger Games with a trilogy of books (so far), but it’s sounding like Lionsgate may not be quite done with the franchise yet, even as we await the fourth film later this year. That’s right: this week, Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer told financial analysts that he’s “actively looking at some development and thinking about prequel and sequel possibilities” for the Hunger Games franchise. That simple statement is pretty much all we know about this “story,” but it’s certainly enough for anyone familiar with the books or movies to speculate about. Many writers are doing what we’re going to do, and just set aside the idea of a “sequels” because, well… what would the point of sequels be? Prequels, however, do seem like they have story potential, since there’s decades of “world building” that led up to the moment Katniss Everdeen volunteered as a tribute. This would include the forming of the districts (and what led to it), the first ever Hunger Games, and the various games which were won by characters from Catching Fire, such as Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), Beetee (Jeffrey Wright), Johanna Mason (Jena Malone), and Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin) (some of whom would obviously have to be recast because of age). As for a reason Lionsgate might want to keep making Hunger Games movies, as the saying goes, Lionsgate probably sees 2,267,444,367 reasons.
Brad Pitt’s name came up three different times this week, associated with completely different films (only one of which he will actually be “starring” in, dramatically). That film is an untitled “sweeping romantic thriller” which is also described as being “epic”, and that’s about all we know, except that it will be directed by Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Flight, and the upcoming The Walk). Well, that, and that it is based upon a story idea by screenwriter Steven Knight (Eastern Promises, Locke, Dirty Pretty Things). Brad Pitt will also narrate the 40 minute IMAX version of a documentary called Voyage of Time from director Terrence Malick, based on filming he first did for the film The Tree of Life (which Pitt also starred in). There will also be a feature length version of the movie, but it will feature completely different narration from actress Cate Blanchett. Finally, Brad Pitt was represented this week as a producer in the news that Charlie Hunnam has replaced Benedict Cumberbatch in the long-in-development adaptation of The Lost City of Z, about British explorer Percy Fawcett, who disappeared while searching for a legendary civilization in the Amazon jungle. Robert Pattinson and Sienna Miller will also costar in the film.
The effort to popularize HFR projection hit something of a stumbling block three years ago when Peter Jackson’s first Hobbit movie was released in the format (which presents images at twice their normal speed), and the reaction was mixed, both popularly and critically. This sort of thing has, however, happened in the past. New advances in film technology are not always instantly embraced (in fact, they rarely are), with sound, color, 3D, and computer animation all now widely accepted techniques, after years or decades of development. The latest director to pick up the HFR banner from Peter Jackson is Ang Lee, who has announced plans to use a new format called Ultra HFR 3D for his next film. Instead of the boxing movie previously expected to be Lee’s next film, the director is now focusing on an an adaptation of a novel by Ben Fountain called Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, about a harrowing battle during the Iraq War. Ang Lee is wasting no time, with an April filming start date expected. The next step is for Ang Lee to find his young star, and for the job, he’s considering four fresh faces who are currently nearly unknowns (at least by name). That quartet includes British TV actors Joe Cole and Billy Howle, American/Irish actor Jack Treynor (Transformers: Age of Extinction), and Taron Egerton, the star of the upcoming action film, Kingsman: The Secret Service.
When the frat boy comedy Neighbors finished 2014 with a $268 million worldwide box office (currently ranked at #30 for the year), it was probably an obvious certainty that Universal Pictures would pursue a sequel, and quickly. That was confirmed this week by the news that Universal Pictures has scheduled a release date of May 13, 2016 for Neighbors 2, which currently puts the sequel in between Captain America: Civil War (5/6/16), and the video game adaptation Angry Birds (5/20/16). Director Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, The Five-Year Engagement) and stars Zach Efron, Seth Rogen, and Rose Byrne are all expected to return for the sequel. There are currently no known details about the sequel’s premise, but an easy guess would be that the married couple again find themselves in some sort of situation where they are directly conflicted by the same fraternity, or possibly alumni of the fraternity. Rose Byrne also made the news this week because her character, Moira MacTaggert, has been confirmed to be returning in next year’s X-Men: Apocalypse.
Following recent news that Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) and Tatiana Maslany (TV’s Orphan Black) had also auditioned for the role, we learned this week who is now in negotiations for the female lead in the first Star Wars spinoff film. That role is expected to instead go to Felicity Jones, who is now in negotiations with Lucasfilm and Walt Disney Pictures. In addition to costarring in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (as a character widely believed to be Black Cat), Felicity Jones is probably best known for costarring in the recent Stephen Hawking biopic, The Theory of Everything. We don’t know the premise or title of the spinoff yet, but we do know that it will be directed by Gareth Edwards (Monsters, Godzilla), from a script by Chris Weitz (Antz, About a Boy, Down to Earth), and that Disney has already scheduled the film for December 16, 2016.
Apparently coincidentally, this past week saw news stories emerge about two separate live action adaptations of franchises best known for their portrayals as Japanese anime TV shows. One of them is the long-in-development project at Warner Bros to produce a movie based on Robotech, which is remembered by many as a TV series imported to the U.S. in the 1980s about the efforts to fight back alien invasions using giant “mech” robots. Past efforts at Warner Bros have included personalities like Tobey Maguire and Batman and Robin writer Akiva Goldsman, but the new producers hope to attract the interest of Mama director Andy Muschietti (though he isn’t signed yet). Meanwhile, the Australian production company Animal Logic (which provided the animation for The LEGO Movie, most famously) is now developing a live-action adaptation of the classic Japanese manga and anime franchise Astro Boy. This announcement comes just six years after the 2009 CGI movie Astro Boy proved to be both a box office and critical disappointment. Animal Logic is currently looking for screenwriters to start work on adapting Astro Boy as a live action film.
One of the first announcements to come out of this year’s Berlin film market concerns the English-language remake of the 2011 French crime thriller Sleepless Night. Jamie Foxx and Michelle Monaghan will star in the remake, which will be produced and distributed by Open Road Films (picked up out of turnaround from Warner Bros). Jamie Foxx will play a police detective whose plans to rip off a gang of drug dealers goes horribly wrong when they respond by kidnapping his son. The Sleepless Night remake will be directed by Baran Bo Odar, who made his debut with the critically well-received 2013 film The Silence.
This is definitely a very debatable story which someone else could interpret differently, which is totally what the comments section is great for. This week, after nine years as chairperson of Sony Pictures (and 27 years total at the studio!), Amy Pascal stepped down from her position to focus instead on a new production company based at the studio. This news comes just a couple of months after Amy Pascal was a central figure in the hacked Sony Pictures e-mail leaks, in which Pascal and producer Scott Rudin traded messages joking about what movies President Barack Obama might like. Reasons to consider Pascal’s departure a “Rotten Idea” include the highlights of her career, such as the reboot of the James Bond franchise, the heights of the Spider-Man franchise, the two 21 Jump Street movies, and such acclaimed films as The Social Network, Moneyball, and Zero Dark Thirty. There’s also the most obvious distinction, which is that Amy Pascal is/was the only female executive at any major studio, and with her departure, the conversation now turns to which white male executive will be her replacement. On the other hand, the argument can also be made that “progress” means that a person who should step down because of mistakes does so, regardless of gender (or race). And, finally, there’s also the most obvious reason for Pascal’s departure, which is that in recent years, Sony has been having trouble competing with other studios, especially in the realm of “big blockbuster tentpoles.” That issue may also ultimately decide who lands the job as Pascal’s replacement.
James Franco is continuing his prolific second career as a director with an adaptation of one of John Steinbeck’s less famous novels, In Dubious Battle, about a union strike by fruit pickers in the 1930s. James Franco will also star in the film, along with Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), Selena Gomez (who costarred with Franco in Spring Breakers), Vincent D’Onofrio, Robert Duvall, Ed Harris, and Danny McBride (Franco’s frequent costar in movies like Pineapple Express, Your Highness, and This is the End). The critical reactions to most of Franco’s directorial efforts have been Rotten to date.
Considering the popularity of HBO’s Game of Thrones, it was inevitable that other stories written by George R.R. Martin would eventually be adapted as movies. Surprisingly, there has never been a movie based on one of Martin’s works (though the Wild Cards superhero anthology epics that he edited and contributed to have been in development since the early 2000s). This week, from out of Berlin’s annual film market, we learned that Milla Jovovich is now in talks to star in a movie called In the Lost Lands, which is indeed based upon three of George R.R. Martin’s fantasy stories (that have nothing to do with Westeros). In the Lost Lands will be a German production, and will be written, produced, and directed by Constantin Werner, who most recently directed the 2009 Czech fantasy The Pagan Queen, which has no RT reviews, but received a “very negative” critical reception in the Czech Republic. Add in the fact that only one of Milla Jovovich’s last eight films received a Fresh rating, and that’s pretty much all the reason you need for this to be the week’s Most Rotten Idea.