By: Jeff Otto
Fandango turns 10 this month and we’re celebrating by taking a look back at happenings in the movie world over the past decade, first by looking at Fandango’s Top 10 Sellers of the aughts—interestingly, they don’t necessarily correspond with the top 10 box office earners of the decade. We’ve got superheroes, vampires, wizards, Jedis, hobbits, pirates, a biblical epic and, of course, those new blue kings of the world.
10. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)
If Spider-Man and Batman Begins legitimized the comic movie genre, Pirates of the Caribbean legitimized the “based on a ride” category. Few could have predicted the blockbuster success of the first Pirates, thanks largely to Johnny Depp, who finally found box office glory to accompany critical acclaim as everyone’s favorite wobbly pirate, Captain Jack Sparrow. By the time the first of two sequels arrived in 2006, anticipation was palpable. Dead Man’s Chest burst out of the gate to the tune of $135 million and never looked back during its 22-week run.
Walt Disney Studios
9. Spider-Man (2002)
The Evil Dead guy is directing Spider-Man? Fanboys loved the idea, but Sam Raimi wasn’t exactly the expected choice to helm a $140 million Sony summer blockbuster. A confirmed Spidey fanatic since childhood, Raimi injected the project with exactly the right level of fan enthusiasm comic book movies had been crying out for. It was a runaway success, spawning two sequels and creating a new trend whereby studios seek out passionate directors for tentpole genre releases instead of just going with the usual hired guns (well, at least for the most part).
8. The Passion of the Christ (2004)
Mel Gibson had already been written off as nuts. Funding the project largely out of his own pocket, Gibson wrote, produced and directed this biblical epic about the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. When word leaked that it was being filmed in the dead language of Aramaic, eyes collectively rolled across America. But when audiences turned out in droves, all was forgiven, at least until a well-publicized brush with the law a few years later. For the time being, Gibson’s gamble had paid off beyond all expectations to the tune of a staggering $611 million take worldwide.
New Market Films
7. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)
Good old Harry, star pupil of Hogwarts and ticket seller extraordinaire. Six films in, Potter hasn’t missed a beat at the box office, earning him the distinction of the only series to appear twice on Fandango’s list of top ten sellers of the first decade. The second Potter flick directed by David Yates, Half-Blood Prince became the second movie in the series to cross the $300 million mark domestically.
6. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
The culmination of Peter Jackson’s sprawling translation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy classic was a massive success from every angle. Fans loved it, critics loved it and even the Academy finally fell to the spell of Jackson and Tokien’s immersive world of Hobbits, Orcs, Wizards and, of course, that creepy and yet, kinda cute, Gollum.
New Line Cinema
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
The second Twilight might have sold more tickets than any single Harry Potter film, but whether those pale vamps can match the longevity of these young wizards remains to be seen. As Harry and cohorts Ron and Hermione headed into their fourth year at Hogwarts Academy, the series showed no signs of slowing down. Directed by newcomer to the series Mike Newell, Goblet opened to $102 million domestically en route to an $895 million worldwide take.
4. Star Wars: Episode III- Revenge of the Sith (2005)
Fans will surely debate the quality of the Star Wars prequels until the end of time, but what cannot be denied is Lucas’s continuing reign as Sith Lord of the box office. Drawing the strongest reviews of the prequels, Sith delivered the moment everyone had been waiting decades for, when Anakin would finally become the world’s most evil asthmatic, Darth Vader.
20th Century Fox
3. The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009)
Teenage girls and their spending power should never be underestimated. In just a few short years, Stephenie Meyer’s androgynous vampires have gone from bookshelf bestsellers to rule the box office on two feature films and a third to hit this summer. Although the reviews weren’t stellar and some were disappointed by the choice to bring in a new director, New Moon sunk its teeth into a $142 million opening weekend. By the time it finally drew its last theatrical breath, Twihards had propelled Moon to $296 million domestically, over $100 million more than its predecessor.
2. The Dark Knight (2008)
In 2005, Batman Begins set the bar for what a comic book movie should be. Hitting that high mark again was no small challenge. The untimely passing of Heath Ledger, who drew buzz for his demonic turn as The Joker months before release, brought an added focus to the project. Dark Knight handled the pressure with class, delivering in spades on all levels. Bigger, darker and arguably better, Knight had it all, even earning Ledger a posthumous Academy Award. Nolan again made audiences completely forget they’re watching a movie about a guy in a bat suit.
1. Avatar (2009)
It’s not exactly news that the all-time box office king is also Fandango’s biggest ticket seller ever. What is surprising is that Avatar actually lived up to the hype. After years of speculation and hoopla surrounding the seemingly endless production and massive budget, James Cameron delivered a mind-blowing sci-fi epic that broke new ground visually and finally proved the 3D medium could be much more than a cheesy gimmick. Avatar captivated audiences and set a new standard for immersive theatrical experiences.