ETPoster

Tracking the Decline in Original Films Through the Decades

Yesterday, SlashFilm put up an article noting that only 2 of the Top 30 highest grossing films of the past decade were Original (a film that is not an adaptation, remake or sequel of a pre-existing property). If that number is extended to the Top 50 films of the decade, we still only find 9 Original films.

But why stop with our current decade? I was curious to discover whether this was a slowly growing trend in the film industry or whether some switch went off in our heads with the new Will-enium.

As my analysis indicates (found after the jump), this wasn’t some slow growing trend. In fact, sequels actually experienced a decline in popularity during the 1990s. Instead, the recent sequel explosion can best be attributed to the growth in franchises. Between Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbean, Shrek, Transformers and Spider-Man, you’ve basically got your Top 20 grossing films of this decade.

If you wanted to put a positive spin on things, you could argue that this trend represents a growth in the power of books since the Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and Shrek franchises (which constitute 7 of the Top 10 films) originate from the literary world. Throw in Batman and Spider-Man (comics are literature too!) and you’ve got 8 of the Top 10 and 14 of the Top 20. Of course, you could also be a pessimist and argue that this trend is indicative of a decline in reading and an increased desire to see filmic representations of these stories.

In any case, let’s start with the 1980s and make our way forward through the Time Tunnel of Sadness.

The 1980s

This list was compiled by going through the Yearly Box Office charts at Box Office Mojo. Though my Top Ten films vary in order from the list at Wikipedia, the content is identical, so I’m willing to let it slide. Original films are listed in bold:

1. E.T. – The Extraterrestrial – $359,197,000
2. Return of the Jedi – $252,583,000
3. Batman – $251,188,000
4. Beverly Hills Cop – $234,760,000
5. Ghostbusters – $229,242,000
6. Back to the Future – $210,609,000
7. Raiders of the Lost Ark – $209,562,000
8. The Empire Strikes Back – $209,398,000
9. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – $197,171,000
10. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom – $179,870,000

11. Tootsie – $177,200,000
12. Top Gun, $176,786,000
13. “Crocodile” Dundee – $174,803,000
14. Rain Man – $172,825,000
15. Three Men and A Baby – $167,780,000
16. Fatal Attraction – $156,645,000
17. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? – $156,452,000
18. Beverly Hill Cop II, $153,665,000
19. Rambo: First Blood Part II, $150,415,000
20. Gremlins, $148,168,000

21. Lethal Weapon 2, $147,253,000
22. Look Who’s Talking – $140,088,000
23. Platoon – $138,530,000
24. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids – $130,724,000
25. An Officer and a Gentleman – $129,795,000
26. Coming to America – $128,152,000
27. Rocky IV, $127,873,000
28. Rocky III – $124,146,000
29. Good Morning, Vietnam – $123,922,000
30. On Golden Pond – $119,285,000

31. Back to the Future, II, $118,450,000
32. The Karate Kid Part II – $115,103,000
33. Big – $114,968,000
34. Ghostbusters II – $112,494,000
35. Twins – $111,938,000
36. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home – $109,713,000
37. “Crocodile” Dundee II, $109,306,000
38. Terms of Endearment – $108,423,000
39. Superman II – $108,185,000
40. Driving Miss Daisy – $106,593,000

41. Porky’s – $105,492,000
42. Nine to Five – $103,290,000
43. Stir Crazy – $101,300,000
44. Parenthood – $100,047,000
45. Dead Poets Society – $95,860,000
46. Arthur – $95,461,000
47. The Color Purple – $94,175,000
48. Flashdance – $92,921,000
49. When Harry Met Sally – $92,823,000
50. Back to School – $91,258,000

- 5 of the Top 10 movies are Original.

- 11 of the Top 20 movies are Original.

- 17 of the Top 30 movies are Original.

- 19 of the Top 40 movies are Original.

- 28 of the Top 50 movies are Original.

- There are only 7 adaptations of pre-existing properties – BATMAN (from the comic book), WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT (from the novel “Who Censored Roger Rabbit?”), THREE MEN AND A BABY (from the French film TROIS HOMMES ET UN COUFFIN), ON GOLDEN POND (from the stage play of the same name), TERMS OF ENDEARMENT (from the novel of the same name), DRIVING MISS DAISY (from the stage play of the same name), and THE COLOR PURPLE (from the novel of the same name).

- The other 15 films in the Top 50 are sequels. And with the exceptions of RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II, SUPERMAN II, and STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME, they are all sequels to Original films (i.e. properties that were originally created as films and not in another medium).

The 1990s

This list was pulled from the Wikipedia entry on the 1990s in Film. Original films are listed in bold:

1. Titanic – $1,835,300,000
2. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace 1999 $922,379,000
3. Jurassic Park – $919,700,000
4. Independence Day – $811,200,000
5. The Lion King – $783,400,000
6. Forrest Gump – $679,400,000
7. The Sixth Sense – $661,500,000
8. The Lost World: Jurassic Park – $614,300,000
9. Men in Black – $587,200,000
10. Armageddon – $554,600,000

11. Home Alone – $533,800,000
12. Ghost – $517,600,000
13. Terminator 2: Judgment Day – $516,800,000
14. Aladdin – $501,900,000
15. Twister – $494,700,000
16. Toy Story 2 – $485,700,000
17. Saving Private Ryan – $479,300,000
18. Pretty Woman – $463,400,000
19. The Matrix – $456,300,000
20. Mission: Impossible – $452,500,000

21. Tarzan – $435,200,000
22. Dances with Wolves – $424,200,000
23. Mrs. Doubtfire – $423,200,000
24. The Mummy – $413,300,000
25. The Bodyguard – $410,900,000
26. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves – $390,500,000
27. Beauty and the Beast – $378,300,000
28. Godzilla – $375,800,000
29. The Fugitive – $368,700,000
30. True Lies – $365,200,000

31. Die Hard: With a Vengeance – $365,000,000
32. Notting Hill – $363,000,000
33. There’s Something About Mary – $360,000,000
34. The Flintstones – $358,500,000
35. Toy Story – $358,100,000
36. A Bug’s Life – $357,900,000
37. Basic Instinct – 352,700,000
38. The World Is Not Enough – $352,000,000
39. GoldenEye – $351,500,000
40. Se7en – $350,100,000

41. Deep Impact – $348,600,000
42. Pocahontas – $347,100,000
43. Tomorrow Never Dies – $346,600,000
44. American Beauty – $336,000,000
45. Batman Forever – $335,000,000
46. Apollo 13 – $334,100,000
47. The Rock – $330,500,000
48. The Hunchback of Notre Dame – $325,500,000
49. Schindler’s List – $321,200,000
50. The Mask – $320,900,000

- 5 of the Top 10 movies are Original.

- 11 of the Top 20 movies are Original.

- 14 of the Top 30 movies are Original.

- 20 of the Top 40 movies are Original.

- 24 of the Top 50 movies are Original.

- Sequelitis appears to have slowed down during the 1990s, with only 9 sequels charting in the Top 50. 4 are sequels to Original films, while the remaining 5 (THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK, BATMAN FOREVER, and the 3 James Bond films) are sequels to adapted material.

- Meanwhile, remakes and reimaignings are the new hot trend (ALADDIN, TARZAN, THE MUMMY, ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, GODZILLA and THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME), as are adaptations of old television shows (MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, THE FUGITIVE, and THE FLINTSTONES).

- The remaining 7 films are adaptations of books and comics.

- One could argue that POCAHONTAS isn’t an Original film, but since it isn’t based on any existing book or film depiction of the Pocahontas story, it meets our standard.

- One could make an even stronger case that THE LION KING is an adaptation of KIMBA THE WHITE LION, the classic manga and anime by Osamu Tezuka. But since this claim has only been brought in the court of public opinion, we’ll let it slide.

The 2000s

This list was pulled from the Wikipedia entry on the 2000s in Film. Original films are listed in bold:

1. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King – $1,119,110,941
2. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest – $1,066,179,725
3. The Dark Knight – $1,001,921,825
4. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – $974,733,550
5. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End – $960,996,492
6. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – $938,212,738
7. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – $929,022,922
8. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers – $925,282,504
9. Shrek 2 – $919,838,758
10. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – $895,921,036

11. Spider-Man 3 – $890,871,626
12. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – $878,643,482
13. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs – $878,615,229
14. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring – $870,761,744
15. Finding Nemo – $864,625,978
16. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith – $848,754,768
17. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen – $833,229,011
18. Spider-Man – $821,708,551
19. Shrek the Third – $798,958,162
20. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – $795,634,069

21. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – $786,636,033
22. Spider-Man 2 – $783,766,341
23. The Da Vinci Code – $758,239,851
24. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – $745,011,272
25. The Matrix Reloaded – $742,128,461
26. Transformers – $709,709,780
27. Ice Age: The Meltdown – $655,388,158
28. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl – $654,264,015
29. Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones – $649,398,328
30. Kung Fu Panda – $631,736,484

31. The Incredibles – $631,442,092
32. Hancock – $624,386,746
33. Ratatouille – $623,707,397
34. The Passion of the Christ – $611,899,420
35. Mamma Mia! – $609,841,637
36. Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa – $603,900,344
37. Casino Royale – $594,239,066
38. War of the Worlds – $591,745,540
39. Quantum of Solace – $586,090,727
40. I Am Legend- $585,349,010

41. Iron Man – $585,133,287
42. Night at the Museum – $574,480,450
43. King Kong – $550,517,357
44. Mission: Impossible II – $546,388,105
45. The Day After Tomorrow – $544,272,402
46. Madagascar – $532,680,671
47. The Simpsons Movie – $527,071,022
48. Monsters, Inc. – $525,366,597
49. WALL-E – $521,268,237
50. Meet the Fockers – $516,642,939

- 0 of the Top 10 movies are Original.

- 1 of the Top 20 movies are Original.

- 2 of the Top 30 movies are Original.

- 5 of the Top 40 movies are Original.

- 9 of the Top 50 movies are Original.

- This chart depicts a pretty severe drop from days when at least 50% of the Top 50 grossing movies were Original. Even worse, of the 9 Original films, only 2 are live action and the rest are animated. Though I’m a huge fan of animated films, it does not bode well for people currently seeking to make adult-oriented films (especially since the American animation market isn’t particularly accepting of non-family fare).

- Meanwhile, 26 of the Top 50 films are sequels.

- The remaining 15 films are adaptations of existing properties (comics, books, musicals, amusement park rides), many of which spawned the sequels that proliferate this list.

- One could make an argument that the PASSION OF THE CHRIST should get a pass, but an adaptation of the Bible is still an adaptation.

- A similar argument could be made for PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL, but not even Johnny Depp’s delightful shenanigans as Jack Sparrow can make me forgive the fact that it’s based on a ride. Also, it holds a large degree of responsibility for Eddie Murphy’s HAUNTED MANSION movie, so that’s another black mark against it.

6 comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>