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 October 22, 1988!
Ah, the days when Gene Hackman and Danny Glover were (barely) young enough to star in reality-based Vietnam War rescue dramas. It’s enough to bring a tear to your eye, isn’t it? Or maybe you’re just weeping for the lost commercial prospects of a solidly enjoyable movie saddled with a title that makes it sound like a sex romp about a vampire’s 21st birthday. (For the record, ”Bat Two-One” is the callsign of Hackman’s character’s plane, shot down during the waning days of the war.)
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A relic from the days when ”romantic comedy” didn’t mean ”insult to your intelligence,” this thoughtful little picture unites the winsome Amy Irving and Peter Riegert (as well as Yiddish theater legend Reizl Bozyk) in a story whose beats will be familiar to anyone who’s seen Moonstruck, but which nevertheless goes down easy. Watch this back-to-back with Made of Honor and make a list of all the ways we’ve gone wrong as a nation.
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8. A Fish Called Wanda
Personally, I prefer Fierce Creatures, the overlooked comedy that reunited its cast, but there’s no getting around the fact that A Fish Called Wanda was one of the year’s sharpest, silliest, funniest, and most successful comedies. You’ve no doubt seen it countless times, so you don’t need my two cents — and if you haven’t, stop reading this and go stream it at Netflix now.
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7. Mystic Pizza
More notable for its glimpses of young future stars (including Julia Roberts and Matt Damon, who appears in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it minor role) than its grosses, Mystic Pizza is the kind of small, quiet family dramedy that you used to see once or twice a year at the cineplex, but mostly goes direct to video these days. A shame, isn’t it?
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6. Without a Clue
A Sherlock Holmes picture starring Michael Caine and Ben Kingsley has to be great, right? Unfortunately, no — this broad spoof gives you Caine and Kingsley closer to their paycheck-cashing Jaws IV/Love Guru form than their award-winning finest. Without a Clue is okay for a rental, but check your brain at the door — and that isn’t really the point of a Sherlock flick, even if it’s a comedy.
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A lot of the movies in this week’s list are painful reminders of a time when Hollywood made room for grown-up movies that weren’t obvious blockbusters, and none more so than Gorillas in the Mist. Sort of a Schindler’s List for primates, Gorillas follows the amazing (and heartbreaking) story of anthropologist Dian Fossey, whose groundbreaking work pissed off all the wrong people. A movie of beauty and quietly mounting dread, Gorillas in the Mist probably wouldn’t be made today — and if it was, it’d probably star Hilary Swank and look like a Lifetime special.
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Before there was Funny People, we had Punchline, David Seltzer’s tragicomedy about the unexpectedly sad lives of stand-up comedians. The movie’s uneven, but Seltzer’s script is strong, and the cast is terrific, including Tom Hanks, Sally Field, and John Goodman. Plus, unlike Funny People, it isn’t the length of an HBO miniseries.
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3. Alien Nation
One of the more inventive buddy cop flicks ever made, Alien Nation also benefits from a pair of tremendously talented leads. James Caan stars as a racist LAPD cop whose partner’s murder leaves him saddled with an alien detective (Mandy Patinkin) he doesn’t trust. Will they work together to uncover a terrible conspiracy? Will the final act include an epiphany for Caan’s character? You know the answers even if you’ve never seen the movie — but even if its storyline is familiar, this one’s better-made than most.
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2. The Accused
Over the last decade or so, there’s been a lot of horseshit shoveled around Hollywood about how hard it supposedly is to turn ”women’s movies” into hits — but that’s just because the studios think they’re targeting women when they release Sex and the City and shitty Kate Hudson movies. Wonder what would happen if they made a return to smart, gripping, female-led fare like The Accused? Maybe we’ll find out when the inevitable remake is released.
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Six years after the Myers-less Halloween III put the franchise on ice, producer Moustapha Akkad brought Haddonfield’s stabbiest son back for more low-budget slasher antics. Unsurprisingly, The Return of Michael Myers kind of sucks when compared to the first two installments in the series, but it’s a damn sight better than the soggy mess that the Halloween franchise quickly became after Return’s $18 million gross unleashed a flurry of ever-shittier sequels. Has any film series outstayed its welcome more thoroughly? Cast your vote in the comments.
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Box-office rankings provided by Box Office Mojo.