Twenty years ago this week, Demi Moore invaded movie theaters as the first female Navy SEAL with G.I. Jane and Harrison Ford was our nation’s president in Air Force One. A look back at the Hollywood box office for the weekend of Aug. 22, 1997.
1. G.I. JANE
Directed by Ridley Scott
Weekend gross (weeks in theaters): $11,094,241 (1)
Refresher: While having a real-life female Navy SEAL has yet to become a reality, a lot has changed for women in the military since Ridley Scott’s gritty thriller starring Demi Moore as a tough-as-nails recruit hoping for equal opportunity glory.
What we said then: “G.I. Jane, directed by Ridley Scott, is a grimly inspirational basic-training epic that glorifies the new power of women. Recruited as a high-profile test case by a feisty U.S. senator (Anne Bancroft), Jordan undergoes the grueling rituals of the Navy SEALs, a torturous regimen that, if the film is to be believed, makes the infamous basic training of the Marines look like a round of patty-cake.” B-
Final gross: $48,169,156
Where to stream: Google Play, Vudu, Playstation (all for purchase)
2. MONEY TALKS
Directed by Brett Ratner
Weekend gross (weeks in theaters): $10,654,369 (1)
Refresher: Over the years, we’ve seen odd-couple buddy comedies soar (Rush Hour, also with Chris Tucker) and crash, as evidenced by this jokey misfire starring Charlie Sheen and a post-Fifth Element Tucker.
What we said then: “As Ruby Rhod, the ambisexual DJ in The Fifth Element, Tucker, swanning around in Jean-Paul Gaultier’s mad couture, seemed regal, outsize. But in Money Talks (New Line), he looks surprisingly small — an imp with a mouth like an Uzi. … Money Talks has been slapped together with all the flair and wit of a bad Damon Wayans comedy.” C+
Final gross: $40,922,619
Where to stream: iTunes, Fandango Now, Vudu (all for purchase)
3. AIR FORCE ONE
Directed by Wolfgang Petersen
Weekend gross (weeks in theaters): $7,870,403 (5)
Refresher: In 1997, the prospect of Russian-aligned terrorists — here led by a terrifyingly on-point Gary Oldman —infiltrating the president’s flying fortress seemed the stuff of Hollywood movie fodder. In 2017, however, the premise of this movie might actually be uncomfortably close to home.
What we said then: “Harrison Ford as the President of the United States is such a perfect piece of casting that it’s at once a fantasy and a joke: The joke is how perfect the fantasy is. As President James Marshall, the hero of the richly tense and satisfying new hijack thriller, Air Force One (Columbia), Ford is the chief executive as red-blooded liberal superjock — a Bill Clinton who served in Vietnam and has never waffled since.” A
Final gross: $172,956,409
Where to stream: Google Play (for purchase)
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Weekend gross (weeks in theaters): $7,818,208 (1)
Refresher: Back when few had heard of Guillermo del Toro (outside of horror fans who loved his 1993 vampirical masterpiece Cronos), this inventive urban creature-feature turned your fear of creepy crawlies up several notches. This was a good year for Mimic’s lead, Mira Sorvino: she also starred in the just as memorable (for different reasons) Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion.
What we said then: “Guillermo del Toro, the director of Mimic, appears to have absorbed all there is to learn about the low-down art of manipulating an audience. He knows exactly how long to hold a shot, how to orchestrate the whooshes, clanks, and roars on a soundtrack so that we’re held in a constant state of kinesthetic anxiety… The real stars of Mimic are, of course, the bugs: ominous, razor-limbed beasts that flutter through the subway tunnels with lightning abandon. If only the trains moved that fast.” B+
Final gross: $25,480,490
Where to stream: HBO Go/Now, YouTube, Google Play (info here)
5. CONSPIRACY THEORY
Directed by Richard Donner
Weekend gross (weeks in theaters): $7,355,476 (3)
Refresher: This paranoid slow-cooker played on some of the more wild and esoteric societal fears out there, ones that would soon find their ideal home: the then-still-nascent internet.
What we said then: “Conspiracy Theory is a plot to make you buy the idea of attractive Lethal Weapon star Mel Gibson as a cabbie (“Where to, pal?” he asks a passenger much too politely to make it in NYC). That way you’re set up for when director Richard Donner switches the movie from a really interesting, jittery, literate, and witty tone poem about justified contemporary paranoia (and the creatively unhinged dark side of New York City) to an overloaded, meandering iteration of a Lethal Weapon project that bears the not-so-secret stamp of audience testing and tinkering.” B-
Final gross: $75,982,834
Where to stream: Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu (all for purchase)
6. COP LAND
Directed by James Mangold
Weekend gross (weeks in theaters): $7,318,628 (2)
Refresher: Twenty years after Rocky, Sylvester Stallone was looking for a way to be taken seriously in Hollywood again — and it seemed like Cop Land was his best bet. Packing pounds on to his action-hero frame and teaming up with Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel, he was clearly aiming for some prestige cred. Little did Sly know, it would be another 18 years before the Academy took note of him again, in Creed, for once again playing Rocky Balboa.
What we said then: “Stallone does a solid, occasionally winning job of going through the motions of shedding his stardom, but the wattage of his personality is turned way down — at times, it’s turned down to neutral. And that pretty much describes Cop Land, too. Dense, meandering, ambitious yet jarringly pulpy, this tale of big-city corruption in small-town America has competence without mood or power — a design but not a vision.” B-
Final gross: $44,862,187
Where to stream: iTunes, Amazon, Google, YouTube, HBO Go/Now (info here)
7. EVENT HORIZON
Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson
Weekend gross (weeks in theaters): $4,357,366 (2)
Refresher: An intergalactic haunted house movie that gets better with repeated viewings, Event Horizon surprised moviegoers with its high-concept and gory content, giving us a genre mash-up that recalled Alien and a cavalcade of slasher movies.
What we said then: “Just when you’ve written off this deep-space nightmare as a late-summer melange of Alien, Fantastic Voyage, The Shining, and a dozen more forgettable otherworldly thrillers, it unleashes some of the most unsettling horror imagery in years.” B-
Opening weekend gross: $26,673,242
Where to stream: FandangoNOW (info here)
8. LEAVE IT TO BEAVER
Directed by Andy Cadiff
Weekend gross (weeks in theaters): $3,252,450 (1)
Refresher: Oh, 1997, when reboots were still few and far between. Beaver actually had its work cut out: How do you update perhaps the most wholesome American family ever for modern audiences? Judging from the film’s 21 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the filmmakers are probably still wondering how to answer that question.
Final gross: $10,925,060
Where to stream: Apple Movies, Google Play, Vudu, Playstation (all for purchase)
9. GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE
Directed by Sam Weisman
Weekend gross (weeks in theaters): $3,144,601 (6)
Refresher: Scratch what we said about reboots being few and far between in 1997. The silly Tarzan spoof managed to almost double its production budget at the office, but perhaps the most surprising thing about this Brendan Fraser vehicle is how well it did critically — it would seem even film critics are not immune to kids’ humor.
What we said then: “The Disney George, conceived as yet another postmodern live-action interpretation of a nostalgia-inducing animated TV cartoon, doesn’t have quite the avant-garde edge of the old stuff (slamming into trees isn’t nearly as funny when there’s a real face squashed against the bark, no matter how ‘safely’ stylized).” B-
Final gross: $105,263,257
Where to stream: Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, Playstation (all for purchase)
10. MEN IN BLACK
Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld
Weekend gross (weeks in theaters): $2,881,113 (8)
Refresher: It’s been 20 years since this imaginative, franchise-launching entry from Barry Sonnenfeld (Addams Family). Along with Independence Day the year prior, MiB cemented Will Smith’s place in the blockbuster firmament. Take our quiz to test your knowledge of the movie here!
What we said then: “Blockbusters used to take us by surprise. Not anymore. The popularity of to-day’s summer-movie blitzkriegs is all but preordained by marketing onslaughts, media coverage, and advance word of mouth that effectively turns the audience into an extension of the advertainment-hype complex. When the picture itself arrives, it’s with all the spontaneity of a national holiday.” C+
Final gross: $250,690,539
Where to stream: Fandango Now, Where to stream: iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, Playstation (all for purchase)