Hype is a necessary part of the movie industry. Theatrical film releases have to compete with home theaters, tablets, and various other means of enjoying entertainment that are more convenient than driving to a movie theater, buying an overpriced movie ticket, and being treated like a criminal for wanting a snack that doesn’t cost three times what it does at a gas station across the street.
Studios have to get people interested in the movies they’re making and start building buzz. That’s why it’s so tempting to resurrect dead franchises and make endless sequels to successful films. It’s much safer than producing an onslaught of original content that has to start from scratch every time in terms of getting audiences’ attention.
A lot of times hype can be overdone, which is why it has such a bad name. You usually hear of movies being “overhyped” so they let people down when they finally see them.
Today I’m going to share 11 movies that managed to avoid the dangers of overhype and just be incredible movies that deserved every bit of hype they got. This is going to be the best list ever! Or maybe that’s hyping it up a little too much. Anyway, on with the list.
1. The Avengers (2012)
This movie was unprecedented. No one had ever attempted to make five movies about disparate characters and then combine them all in a single film. What is The Avengers? A sequel? A spinoff? A spin…in? Whatever it is, it’s an unbelievably great movie that surpasses all expectations. I wouldn’t call it the best comic book movie ever, but this movie proved the viability of a great team-up movie after the last few X-Men and Fantastic Four films had disappointed. And it portends great things to come with future installments.
2. Casino Royale (2006)
Die Another Day left most James Bond fans cold. It was supposed to be a celebration of the character’s evolution over the past 40 years. Unfortunately, it wound up being a farce and it ended Pierce Brosnan’s era on a sour note. Even though the film made a lot at the box office, the producers realized they needed to make a big change if they wanted to remain relevant, especially with the sudden popularity of Jason Bourne. Thankfully, this soul searching led to Casino Royale. You just have to see this movie. It embellishes the book in the best way, giving Bond badly needed dimensions. This was quite possibly the best Bond film until Skyfall arrived a few years later. At least they got the 50th anniversary film right.
3. The Dark Knight
There’s no denying Batman Begins is a solid movie. It restored dignity to the character and grounded Gotham City in reality. As the sequel, The Dark Knight, approached, many fans wondered what direction writer/director Christopher Nolan would go from there. The tragic death of Heath Ledger only served to heighten anticipation that the upcoming film would be something special and memorable. From the first scene, all expectations went out the window. Even if I had tried to imagine the perfect Batman movie, I never could have seen this coming. It is simply one of the best films ever made, and it only improves each time I see it.
4. The Empire Strikes Back
Star Wars seemed to come out of the blue, debuting with little fanfare in May 1977. But its popularity quickly grew until it became a full-blown phenomenon that still continues today. How do you top an iconic film like that? By deepening the story, expanding the universe, and fleshing out the characters in new and exciting ways. Basically, you make The Empire Strikes Back. I would argue this film tops the original in just about every area. While the first is innovative and grand, the second is richer and has just as many, if not more, classic scenes. It’s become the blueprint for just about every successful sequel, from Back to the Future Part II to X2: X-Men United.
5. The Godfather Part II
After The Godfather came out in 1972 and wowed audiences with its cautionary tale of lost innocence and brutal revenge, it seemed like there was nowhere else for the story to go. Michael Corleone was evil, pure and simple. But it turned out that his transformation into a monster was only the beginning of his story. The Godfather Part II is a perfect film for many reasons – chief among them is the fact that it improves the first one by telling the story that came before it and continuing the story after in a complementary way. It’s a flawless film that requires multiple viewings to appreciate its scale.
6. Plan 9 from Outer Space
Not every film has good hype to live up to. Some films, like Ed Wood’s 1959 “masterpiece” Plan 9 from Outer Space, earn a reputation for being the worst movies of all time. This film certainly lives up (or down) to that title. But it’s so sloppy and bizarre in its execution that you can’t help loving it. While some horrible movies are painful to watch, like Manos: The Hands of Fate, Plan 9 is an utter delight. It has inept policemen, arrogant yet ineffectual aliens, goofy science, not-so-special effects, and much more. This is the best bad movie you’ll ever see.
7. Raiders of the Lost Ark
I know I’ve teased this movie a little in the past, but the truth is I absolutely love it. It is wall-to-wall action blended perfectly with wonderful characters and an engaging story. What more could you want from an action film? But beyond all that, it has that special touch that only Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, in their prime, could bring to a film. Audiences rightly assumed that a team-up of the makers of Jaws and Star Wars could only create pure cinematic greatness. And they were absolutely right. Raiders of the Lost Ark is a quintessential example of brilliant minds coming together to make something that they couldn’t have done by themselves.
8. Star Trek (2009)
When I heard that they were rebooting the Star Trek series I was worried, especially when I started seeing footage from the film that looked like it belonged in a completely different franchise. But then I finally went to see it, and I was shocked at how good it was. By the end of the opening scene, I had been taken on an emotional rollercoaster, and the film was just getting started. The film isn’t perfect, but it more than made up for the disappointing last entry in the series, and it provided a much-needed jolt of creativity and fun to the franchise.
9. Superman: The Movie
“You’ll believe a man can fly” was the first Superman film’s tagline. In 1978, that was quite a promise. The filmmakers had to invent special effects left and right to make good on the tagline and show the world something they had never seen before. The results are stunning. Superman: The Movie holds up remarkably well because of its great story, dialogue, characters, and, yes, special effects. Some are a little dated, but you can still tell a lot of hard work went into making audiences believe a man can fly.
10. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
“I’ll be back,” the titular character says in the first Terminator film. After seven years of legal wrangling, a sequel was finally put into production to fulfill that promise. Audiences were excited to see Arnold Schwarzenegger back in the role that made him a star and to see if writer/director James Cameron had any new tricks up his sleeve. Terminator 2: Judgment Day blew past their expectations, giving us special effects that are still dazzling even by today’s standards. The story is basically the same as the first film, but with a superb new villain, a nice father-son relationship, and plenty of other things that distinguish it and raise it high above the first film in every category.
11. Toy Story 3
The Toy Story films just kept getting better. I didn’t think much of the first one when it came out because I thought the story lacked depth and the characters were too mean-spirited. So I went into Toy Story 2 with low expectations. But that movie blew me away, giving me exactly what I had wanted from the first film. I didn’t think it would be possible to top perfection. And when I first saw Toy Story 3 I came away uncertain what to think about it. I liked it, but I didn’t love it. After watching it several times since then, however, I can definitively say that it is the best of the series. It seems so effortless and natural. After 11 years, the characters are still the ones we grew up with, but they’re a bit older and sadder, thinking that their best years are behind them. Happily, though, their journey has just begun. I couldn’t ask for more from a series finale than this. They really went out on a high note, as Buzz Lightyear says.
What are some other films that lived up to their insane hype? Feel free to share your thoughts on the ones I included on this list, too.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
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Very nice article Rob. The Lord of the Rings movies would be another example to me. To embark on such an ambitious project based on such a beloved property was to invite the harshest of criticism. But as far as I know those films were received with almost universal adoration by Tolkien junkies and the uninitiated alike.
Another one that comes to mind for me is Watchmen, although I think that is one you have to have read the source material to appreciate.
Also, you’re forgetting the OBVIOUS . . . Twilight!!!!! 😉
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