I'm stealing the idea for this post from Tim Brayton over at the excellent Antagony & Ecstasy. I've spent the last few years trying to fill in the holes in my film knowledge by tackling the classics, but largely ignoring the films that most people have actually seen, when you use box office earnings as a rough proxy for number of tickets sold. So where are the gaps in my knowledge of modern popular movies? Let's take a look at the ten highest grossing films I haven't watched, and find out.
For the purposes of this exercise, I'm leaving out "The Hunger Games," at #14 and "The Lorax," at #107, which were only released in March, and which I fully intend to see when they hit DVD in a few more months. Also, I'm consolidating some of the film series I haven't seen into single entries.
#19. The Passion of the Christ (2004) $370,782,930 - Even my mother ended up in a theater for this one, but "Passion of the Christ" had its big cultural moment and then disappeared very quickly, so i never got swept up in all the hype. However, this is one of the only modern religious films that managed to make any impact on the American culture, so I am a little curious about it. There's a good chance I'll see it some day.
#21. Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011) $352,390,543 - I sat through the first two "Transformers" films in a state of increasing boredom and discomfort, both times because someone else wanted to watch them. I've managed to escape any social pressure to see the third entry, which I hear is better than the remarkably awful "Revenge of the Fallen," but I have no desire to go and confirm this. I'm done with "Transformers" until the reboot.
#40, 41, 52, 129. The Twilight Saga (2008-present) $1,071,212,372 total - I went through my high school vampire phase with "Buffy" and Anne Rice, and probably would have liked the "Twilight" books and movies if I were younger. However, I've picked up enough about "Twilight" from the media to know I wouldn't enjoy it as a grown-up. I'm glad for the success of the series because of the new opportunities it has created, but the films are not for me.
#53. Meet the Fockers (2004) $279,261,160 - I haven't seen "Meet the Parents" either. Modern comedy has been one of my blind spots, because I simply don't find a lot of the recent ones funny, and never connected with the major stars. Ben Stiller is tolerable, which is more than I can say for many of his colleagues, but I only tend to see his movies by chance. "Meet the Parents" and its sequels passed me by completely.
#82. Cast Away (2000) $233,632,142 - Another movie that everyone seemed to get caught up in at a certain point in time, that I just missed. I remember Tom Hanks being up for an Oscar for this, and Wilson the volleyball is a permanent pop culture fixture, but I wasn't curious enough to seek out "Cast Away" and find out what all the fuss was about. Given a choice, though, I'd pick this movie to watch over everything else on the list.
#91, 99, 291. Alvin and the Chipmunks Series (2007-2011) $570,823,098 total - Animation has always been a weakness of mine, and my go-to for brainless filler. I've seen all the "Ice Age" and "Madagascar" movies. Where I draw the line, however, is the reboots of old toons like "Alvin and the Chipmunks." I grew up with the 2D originals and I just can't get my head around the weird-looking CGI versions today's kids are watching.
#110. Wedding Crashers (2005) $209,255,921 - I had to Google to figure out who had starred in "Wedding Crashers" alongside Owen Wilson - it was Vince Vaughn. I've missed several of the primary Frat Pack movies, including "Old School," "Dodgeball," and "Anchorman," and I'm not very interested in catching up. This is not the kind of humor I enjoy, and frankly it still kinda mystifies me that Vince Vaughn is considered a comedic actor.
#122. Pearl Harbor (2001) $198,542,554 - One of Michael Bay's last stabs at serious filmmaking, if I remember right. The trailer was very impressive, but from the lugubrious bits and pieces of the actual movie I've caught from cable broadcasts, I was right to skip it. The film was notoriously loose with the historical record, and boasts a three hour running time, and then there's the Ben Affleck-Kate Beckinsale-Josh Hartnett love triangle. Oof.
#144. What Women Want (2000) $182,811,707 - This is the second Mel Gibson movie to appear, though I think it's more telling that this is one of three films from the year 2000 on the list, a point in time where I simply wasn't paying much attention to current movies. I'm sure "What Women Want" is a perfectly fine romantic comedy. The previews look fun and there was a recent Chinese remake. I think I also had this confused with "Dr. T and the Women."
#146. The Perfect Storm (2000) $182,618,434 - George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg starred in this? Really? I remember "The Perfect Storm" being a big summer disaster movie that was being pushed on the strength of its special effects, but it didn't seem to have much else going for it. And looking back, it has left almost no cultural footprint, no lasting impression on the cinema landscape. I take that as a good reason to keep ignoring it.
And for fun, here are my results when you adjust for inflation.
#34. Love Story (1970) $554,385,300
#39. Cleopatra (1963) $532,093,000
#42. Airport (1970) $523,601,400
#44. The Robe (1953) $518,400,000
#50. The Bells of St. Mary's (1945) $496,941,200
#55. The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) $475,200,000
#57. The Passion of the Christ (2004) $370,782,930
#81. It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) $426,693,300
#91. Duel in the Sun (1946) $404,081,600
#110. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921) $363,673,500