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 ten films of December 10, 1984!
10. Falling in Love (distributor: Paramount; release date: 11/21/84; final domestic gross: $11.1 million)
In 1978 Meryl Streep appeared in her second film, which just so happened to be Michael Cimino’s Best Picture winner, The Deer Hunter, starring Robert De Niro. By the time the two actors reunited for 1984’s Falling in Love, they were both two-time Oscar winners. Streep continues to earn an Oscar nomination or two every single year, while De Niro has gravitated toward hosting Saturday Night Live as if he’s being forced at gunpoint whenever he has a Meet the Parents sequel to promote. (Fun fact: Little Fockers, the latest sequel, reteams De Niro and Harvey Keitel, who first appeared together on-screen in Falling in Love. Feel free to discuss this exciting bit of trivia in the comments section below.)
9. Amadeus (Orion; 9/19/84; $51.5 million)
Starring Tom Hulce as the world’s first rock star, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and F. Murray Abraham as his murderous rival, Antonio Salieri (both were nominated for the 1984 Academy Award for Best Actor; Abraham won), Milos Forman’s adaptation of the Peter Shaffer play was Orion Pictures’s first Best Picture winner but not its last — it also won for Platoon in ’86 and released Dances With Wolves and The Silence of the Lambs, the respective ’90 and ’91 winners, within three months of each other. Unfortunately, the little studio that could was already in financial straits by ’91, and in December of that year, just a few months before Silence swept the Oscars — no small feat considering it came out more than a year before the 1992 ceremony — Orion filed for bankruptcy.
8. Oh, God! You Devil (Warner Bros.; 11/7/84; $21.5 million)
How Jerry Falwell managed to not grab a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his performance in the second sequel to Oh, God! (1977) remains a mystery to me.
7. Supergirl (Tri-Star; 11/21/84; $14.2 million)
After bottoming out with Mommie Dearest in 1981, Faye Dunaway must have figured playing a villain in 1984’s Supergirl would be a safe bet for a hit. Alas, Superman III was a box office disappointment in ’83, and Supergirl did nothing to lift the franchise’s fortunes by branching out to focus on the Man of Steel‘s cousin, played by 20-year-old newcomer Helen Slater (The Legend of Billie Jean, Ruthless People). Still, you have to give credit to executive producer Ilya Salkind, who also produced the first three Superman movies, for opening up his wallet for the sake of casting: Peter O’Toole takes the Great Actor Phoning It In slot occupied by Marlon Brando in the original Superman (1978), and Mia Farrow apparently had some downtime between Woody Allen films. And look, it’s FOBOF (Friend of Box Office Flashback) Hart Bochner as the token sex object! (Don’t try to be a hero in bed, Hart — let Supergirl take the lead.)
6. Night of the Comet (Atlantic; 11/16/84; $14.4 million)
I guess some people were pretty freaked out about Halley’s Comet’s impending 1986 drive-by when Night of the Comet was conceived. This cheesy (but fun) sci-fi/horror film imagines a scenario in which a comet either vaporizes people or turns them into zombies after it streaks across the sky. The lesson: NEVER GO OUTSIDE. I stuck by that golden rule as a child, and although I am a zombie now, it’s because I watched too much bad TV growing up, not because I was exposed to some stupid comet.
5. Missing in Action (Cannon; 11/16/84; $22.8 million)
This Chuck Norris action flick (I realize that’s redundant since he’s never starred in any Merchant-Ivory costume dramas) was filmed back to back with Missing in Action II, which hit theaters just four months later. According to Wikipedia, the Cannon Group, the bargain-basement studio that financed the series (as well as 1987’s Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, which definitively killed that franchise), ripped off James Cameron’s 1983 script treatment for Rambo: First Blood Part II, which wasn’t scheduled for release until the summer of ’85, in the hopes of stealing some thunder from Sylvester Stallone’s MIA-rescuing supersoldier. Nice try, Cannon, but Rambo earned $150 million at the box office, while the combined total for all three Missing in Action films (the third one came out in ’88) was an underwhelming $39 million.
4. The Terminator (Orion; 10/26/84; $38.3 million)
Speaking of James Cameron, he directed a low-budget movie in 1984 about an Austrian serial killer who preys on women named Sarah Connor. The killer also happens to be a cyborg from the future. Geez, with a twist like that, it’s no wonder this film became a footnote to film history. Cameron and the film’s star, Arnold Schwarzenegger, were never heard from again. (If you know of their whereabouts, please discuss them in the comments section underneath all the comments telling me that Mean Streets was in fact the first movie Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep appeared in together.)
3. City Heat (Warner Bros.; 12/7/84; $38.3 million)
Greenlighting a Prohibition-era action-comedy starring Burt Reynolds and Clint Eastwood, the two biggest box-office stars of the ’70s, was probably a no-brainer for Warner Bros. But then Blake Edwards, City Heat‘s director, was fired and replaced with My Favorite Year director Richard Benjamin (he retained a screenplay credit under the pseudonym “Sam O. Brown,” the initials of which offer a clue as to how Edwards felt about his firing), and by 1984 Reynolds’s stock was quickly dropping because of bombs like Stroker Ace, Cannonball Run II, and Edwards’s The Man Who Loved Women. The Georgia-born actor (and director — Gator, The End, and Sharky’s Machine have their admirers) was also hurt by rumors that he had AIDS after he lost 30 pounds during the filming of City Heat while on a liquid diet — his jaw was broken when a chair hit him in the face during a take.
2. 2010 (MGM; 12/7/84; $40.4 million)
Writer-director Peter Hyams‘s sequel to 2001 (1968) isn’t considered a classic like Stanley Kubrick’s film — both are based on the novels by Arthur C. Clarke — but it’s entertaining nonetheless, especially if you found yourself dozing during parts of 2001. But you know what? I’ve now lived through 2001 and most of 2010, and neither one remotely resembled what’s on display in those movies! Where are my space stewardesses? Why hasn’t Jupiter turned into a second sun already? Why do I never see fetuses floating around in the Milky Way when I look through a telescope? And why hasn’t a talking computer tried to kill all of us yet? (Osama bin Laden, as far as I know, is not a talking computer. And Sarah Palin doesn’t seem bright enough to be a Schwarzenegger-like cyborg in disguise, but if she gets her way in two years, look out.) If I’d wanted science fiction I would’ve read the Bible, thank you very much.
1. Beverly Hills Cop (Paramount; 12/5/84; $234.7 million)
Originally written as a vehicle for Sylvester Stallone, minus the comedy — rent Rhinestone if you want to see Sly gunning for laughs in 1984 — Beverly Hills Cop cemented Eddie Murphy’s status as an A-list movie star, and he was still only 23 years old. It was followed by two sequels: 1987’s Beverly Hills Cop II, which was a big hit, and 1994’s Beverly Hills Cop III, which was not. In May 2008 Daily Variety reported that Murphy had approached Paramount about resurrecting the franchise for a fourth installment, with Brett Ratner (the three Rush Hour movies, the third X-Men) attached to direct. Though Murphy and Ratner are currently filming the action-comedy Tower Heist, set for release next November, initial plans for a summer 2010 release of “Beverly Hills Cop IV” have obviously fallen by the wayside. (I won’t blame Arthur C. Clarke for that one.) Is it because Ratner has had trouble convincing Murphy that he shouldn’t put on tons of latex makeup to play Judge Reinhold, John Ashton, and Ronny Cox’s characters in the fourth film? Or is it because Murphy keeps insisting that Axel Foley should have a kid now who teaches him how to not swear or be funny anymore? We may never know.