As the latest round of would-be blockbusters lines up at a theater near you, Popdose looks back at the box office totals of yesteryear. This week, we revisit the Top 10 films of July 9, 1983!
10. The Survivors
Michael Ritchie directed The Candidate and The Bad News Bears in the ’70s, but by 1983, he’d fallen on hard times, slumming his way through turkeys like The Island and Student Bodies. On paper, teaming Robin Williams’ cocaine-fueled jackassery with Walter Matthau’s dry wit must have looked like a home run, but Survivors went down as one of the year’s biggest duds, limping its way through a pitiful gross and savage reviews (Roger Ebert called it “aimless,” “self-indulgent,” and “confusing”). It’s a shame, but really, what else could anyone expect from a movie featuring Robin Williams being fired by a parrot and shrieking “honky mofo”?
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At 13 weeks, Flashdance was the longest-running movie on this week’s top 10 — and it was also the only one that improved upon its gross from the previous week, posting a whopping 18.5% increase. Those are some healthy legs…and so were these:
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8. Stroker Ace
The horror. It’d be hard to build a case for any of Burt Reynolds’ good ol’ boy comedies as great films, but he made plenty of fun, successful movies; Stroker Ace, in sad contrast, was neither. A stale pimento loaf of “wacky” antics (Burt in a chicken suit!) and “sexy” interludes (Loni Anderson in her undies!), Stroker kicked off a string of wretched Reynolds flops that included The Man Who Loved Women and Rent-a-Cop. He enjoyed a limited comeback in the late ’90s, but his career would never be the same.
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7. Twilight Zone: The Movie
For anyone who was around when it was released, the words “Twilight Zone: The Movie” conjure reminders of the awful helicopter crash that killed Vic Morrow and a pair of child actors on the set. Which is understandable, obviously, but still sort of a shame, because even if it didn’t come close to capturing the spine-tingling spirit of the series, the ’83 Zone — which united the directorial might of John Landis, Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante, and George Miller — definitely had its moments.
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6. Porky’s II: The Next Day
It didn’t quite live up to its title, but Porky’s II: The Next Day came close, arriving a little over a year after its predecessor earned a surprisingly robust $111 million. Sadly for Pee Wee, Meat, and their Balbricker-busting pals, the sequel went limp at the box office, bringing in less than half of the original. Of course, that didn’t stop Porky’s Revenge from arriving two years later…
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In spite of its suggestive title, the 13th Bond movie represented more of the same for the aging franchise — it earned respectable reviews, and pulled in healthy numbers at the box office, but it was telling that its earnings barely squeaked past Never Say Never Again, the “unofficial” Thunderball remake starring Sean Connery that was released a few months later. Roger Moore’s next Bond film, 1985’s A View to a Kill, would be his last.
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Now we’re talkin’. Despite playing in under 1000 theaters, WarGames vaulted into the Top Five in its sixth week of release, thanks to a pair of immensely likable young leads (Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy, both of whom would go on to make a hit movie or two) and timely subject matter (trendy computers plus nuclear paranoia equals box office gold!). Sure, it’s terribly dated now — but it’s aged better than you might think.
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3. Superman III
After earning positive reviews and piles of cash by making a pair of Superman action dramas, Warner Bros. naturally decided to add great gobs of campy humor to the mix for Superman III. A painful mess involving a twitchy computer programmer (Richard Pryor) who synthesizes fake Kryptonite (using cigarette tar!) that turns Superman into a horny vandal, III weakened a once-proud franchise, setting it up for the knockout blow of 1987’s heinous Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.
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2. Trading Places
It’s often thought of as a Christmas movie, but Trading Places was actually a summer hit — because when you have Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd in their early ’80s prime, you don’t wait until the holidays to get the movie to theaters, do you? Goddammit, remember when anything these guys did could make you laugh?
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1. Return of the Jedi
Yeah, yeah. Ewoks puppets sappy ending blah blah blah. For kids of my generation, Return of the Jedi was a goddamn masterpiece — which is why we made our parents take us to see it again and again and again, sending it to the top of the box office charts for pretty much the entire summer of 1983. Jedi‘s $12 million haul this week might not seem terribly impressive today, but it was nearly double Trading Places‘ one-week gross, and its seven-week total of $170 million dwarfed all competitors. My pulse still races when I watch the trailer:
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Box-office rankings provided by Box Office Mojo.