", "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
," and "The Dark Knight
" all joined the $300 Million Club this year, swelling its membership to 29 films.
The films in this select group are made up of big-budget action extravaganzas, animated new classics and even some prestige pictures that touched a nerve with a wide audience. Whatever the movie may be, once it hits the triple-century mark, it's a bona fide smash and destined to become a classic.
This milestone is not always a sign of quality; however, as many films that become so popular simply stink. It also isn't even a sign of the film's being beloved: Many films in this exclusive group have faded from moviegoers' memories after being replaced by their often inferior successors' that thusly gain too high a place in the heart of the film fan.
The following is a list of the most overrated and underrated movies to gross more than $300 million domestically.
5. "Iron Man" (2008)
It's only been out a few months, but it's already underrated. A movie that premiered to huge box office, buzz and great reviews has become an afterthought, swept away by a black cape. It seems everybody forgets how great this movie is. From Robert Downey, Jr.'s
rock star-level performance to its statements about our ever-growing military-industrial complex, this is much more than comic book superhero movie. Strange, that's exactly what they're saying about a slightly inferior movie that premiered later this year.
4. "Spider-Man 2" (2004)
Amazingly, this movie never quite earned the caché of the original despite its being the superior movie, and maybe the best comic book movie ever made. "2" journeys deeper into the world of Peter Parker, examining the sacrifices of heroism. It's also just plain exciting with some of the best action sequences ever filmed. The train scene doubles as both: a brilliantly thrilling action piece and a demonstration of how the public would protect such a hero. Despite this, it's often less discussed than the original.
3. "Finding Nemo" (2003)
Pixar's best and highest-grossing movie never gets the respect it deserves. It's recently been washed away amid the critical gushing for films like "Wall-E
" and "Ratatouille
." "Nemo" is better than both as it's the Pixar film that best appeals to kids and the adults that brought them to the movie. It's a fantastic underwater adventure complete with the trademark inside humor, but unlike most Pixar films the adult jokes never distract from the kid-friendly sections of the picture. Somehow, it's almost been forgotten. In fact, there are two Pixar films on the Entertainment Weekly
list of the Top 100 Movies of the Last 25 Years, "The Incredibles
" and "Toy Story
", both inferior to "Nemo." How did the biggest Pixar movie ever become its least respected?
2. "Independence Day" (1996)
This is the movie that started the new wave of summer blockbusters. Action comedies with a sci-fi bent leading to "Men in Black
", and the new wave of superhero films. The bevy of imitators has never surpassed this movie's scope or sheer delight it elicits. It has all the elements of the perfect blockbuster, big star (Will Smith
), steady actor hits big (Bill Pullman
), goofy supporting characters (Randy Quaid
and Jeff Goldblum
), and a hot chick (Vivica A. Fox
). It's also worth noting that this is Will (the biggest movie star in America) Smith's highest-grossing movie. Despite all it has going for it, and the fact that many of us saw it multiple times in the theater, when's the last time you heard anybody mention it?
1. "Jurassic Park" (1993)
Guess where this ranks on the same Entertainment Weekly
list that disrespected "Nemo? The same list that has the "Lord of the Rings
" trilogy number two. Twentieth? Fiftieth? You can keep going forever and never get it right: "Jurassic Park" is not on the list at all. How did this happen? How did arguably the most popular movie of the 90s not even get a mention? It's not like it's a bad movie either. This was an epic directed by the skilled hand of Steven Spielberg
before he jumped the shark after "Schindler's List
." Its special effects were a revolution at the time and its story filled all viewers with a sense of wonder in a way only a truly remarkable film can. "Jurassic Park" was such a film, yet its respect went away after two horrible sequels and the advances in CGI to follow. It's a shame, because the original is the perfect example that Hollywood can produce huge special effects pieces that have an impact beyond the superficial.
5. "The Dark Knight" (2008)
It's only been out for a few weeks, but this movie has already scaled the ranks of the overrated. Give it a few more months, and it may lay claim to the top spot. The buzz for this film inescapable and almost entirely misplaced. It's a very good movie, a fun action piece that attempts to explore bigger themes. Its problem is that it doesn't do a great job of exploring those themes with a complete mishandling of the film's most important character, Harvey Dent. If this had just tried to be an eye-popping action piece it would have succeeded completely, but as it stands, it's a beautiful failure, one that's still perched atop the IMDB "Top 250 Films of All Time."
4. "Spider-Man" (2002)
It made more money and has become more beloved than its far superior sequel. "Spider-Man" is a completely misguided movie that struggles to find its voice as it attempts to balance higher themes with comic book action. The villain is less than great, and the special effects a bit too cartoonish. This movie's only real claim to quality is that it set up the incredible sequel. Instead, it's been looked upon as the best comic book movie ever, until "The Dark Knight" that is.
3. "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" (2006)
The only truly awful movie on the list. This horrific sequel has every bad sequel cliché in the book: It's bigger, louder, has less plot, and exhibits few of the characteristics of the original. Really, it's just the same movie on an endless loop. Captain Jack gets into mischief, which leads to fight, which leads to an escape. That happens about four-hundred times to the extent that those with firing neurons wonder nothing more than when the film will end. Despite all this, the movie became a big hit, and fans of the original hailed it as a worthy sequel, a great movie even. This is a sad example that fans of a particular movie will fall in love with the sequel no matter how bad it is.
2. "E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial" (1982)
Lost in all the talk about how this movie captures the child-like sensibility in us all and it being a true personal statement from its normally blockbuster-obsessed director is the fact that "E.T." is kinda boring. It develops the relationship between Elliot and the alien over several hours with hijinks available on countless home movies. Plus, there's little dialogue from ET at first. Eventually the movie unfolds into an exciting and heartwrentching conclusion, but it's hard to call it a perfect film when it just plods along for the first couple acts. This is a pretty good movie that has become so overrated it led Rotten Tomatoes to call it "The Best Science-Fiction Film of All Time." I guess "The Empire Strikes Back
" didn't count?
1. "Titanic" (1997)
"Dead Man's Chest" may be the only truly awful film on the list, but "Titanic" comes incredibly close to that status, despite winning more Oscars than any other movie in history. Sure, the climactic shipwreck is a harrowing marvel, but it comes after about nineteen hours of the most treacly, hackneyed love clichés ever filmed. The leads have no chemistry, Leonardo DiCaprio
hadn't learned to act yet, and it's set at a pace that sloths find too deliberate. Somehow, this lust-driven teenage romp has evolved into the seminal love story of our time. In reality, it's a poorly-written grocery store romance set upon the most famous ship ever. Worst of all, its success caused the brilliant James Cameron
to not make a movie since. Now that's overrated.
Check in next week for most overrated and underrated TV shows presented at Comic-Con 2008.
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Story by Andrew Payne
Starpulse contributing writer