The Winners and Losers of 2009’s Record Setting Summer


Recognize: This year’s summer box office numbers are in! $4.17 billion bones, by our last count. Which also happens to be the entire United Nations Operating Budget. What am I saying? Dolla dolla bills, y’all. Dolla. Dolla. Bills.

Don’t tell me that global warming isn’t caused by the recession, or that price inflation isn’t melting our polar ice caps. That’s right. I went there. $4.17 billion dollars!

This Year’s Top Ten:
(click each title to read our review)

1. $399.4 mil: Transformers: Revenge of the the Fallen

2. $294.3 mil: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

3. $289.6 mil: Up

4. $270.2 mil: The Hangover (Record Breaker! Highest grossing R-rated comedy of all time.)

5. $256.7 mil: Star Trek

6. $193.3 mil: Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs

7. $179 mil: X-Men Origins: Wolverine

8. $176.5 mil: Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian

9. $160 mil: The Proposal (Record Breaker! Highest grossing summer rom-com of all time.)

10. $133.4 mil: Angels and Demons (Record Breaker! Only movie in the Top 10 Box Office Hits of Summer 2009 to likely be overtaken by G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra…in about two hours.)

Honorable Mention: G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra comes in at #11 (for now…), with $132.2 million, after four weeks in theaters.

In every summer movie season, there are winners and losers. Them’s the breaks:



CGI. Well over half of this summer’s top ten movies feature prevalent-if-not-prominent CGI and/or animation. Be it an entire animated picture, the vast and lonely universe, or possibly racist robots, computer generated imagery is the balls. If you’re looking to watch the facial lines of Sean Penn or Mickey Rourke’s pocked-up tan lines execute a beautiful story of the triumph of the human spirit, you’ve come to wrong rodeo. The unwashed masses have spoken, and it’s categorically true: 2009 will be known in cinematic circles everywhere as The Summer of Blowing Shit Up.


Sacha Baron Cohen. Although I thought it was hilarious, Bruno averaged like 11 cents per theater.



Escapism. Ah, summer. Time to suspend reality. Let the mind wander. Allow yourself to be unencumbered by the necessary plausibility of the harsher times of year…

No — fucking, seriously. Look at that list again. Absolutely none of these stories are remotely probable. Fighting robots? Eric Bana as a Romulan?  A vatican conspiracy with adamantium claws? I can handle that. But, why would Ryan Reynolds get even half a chub for Sandra Bullock? Fantastical! And who would have their bachelor party in Vegas?! Psh. I can see right through that one.


Actors Who Are Famous & Make Lots of Money. Will Ferrell’s movie bombed. Meryl Streep was a bit clownish, even for yet another one of her largely flawless performances. Tom Hanks’s vehicle will predictably fall out of the top ten. Adam Sandler/Judd Apatow’s Funny People – while funny – is limping by. I completely forgot about Jonny Depp’s Public Enemies until I just wrote this sentence. Get the idea?

While there will be some obvious exceptions to this rule, (Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds with Brad Pitt, for one. That oughta net some coin.)  some of the most iconic and memorable characters of this record-breaking summer are no-names, cameos, or simple character actors.

Is it more about the spectacle? Is it more about A-Lister’s summer movie role choices? Or is it more about the fact that I’d pay to see the closing credits of The Hangover ten times over and hey-there’s-that-guy-from-The-Office-oh-and-by-the-way-who-is-this-Bradley-Cooper-character? I don’t know. You tell me. Either way, if you’re considered an A-List actor, and you had a movie this summer, well…not so fast, anyone-but-the-Harry-Potter-kid. Don’t quit that work you’re doing for Oscar season just yet. Looks like you’re gonna need it.


And the Big Winner?

Franchise Films. Michael Bay made an overbearing, 149-fucking-minute movie about robots. Star Trek got a sexy 21st century reboot. Harry Potter continues to dominate the family-friendly/tween market. Ice Age once again pissed off creationists. Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Hank Azaria and friends continued to bogart the actual enculturation of today’s youth by making films that cost more than the price of museum admission. Even Angels & Demons managed to eke out a (however unsecure) spot in the top ten.

You know, we Americans truly are a simple people, asking only to come out of the hot sun and to be entertained with familiar story lines and delicious popcorn. Except in the case of The Hangover, we largely ask not to be bothered with learning new names, joke structures, plot lines, alternatives to a Leonard Nimoy reprisal, or catch phrases. We don’t want to craft truly new conceptions of zeitgeist, but only to be reminded, through countless permutations, that we are already hip to it. In other words, we just want to see what we’ve already seen before, but with just enough different and new so as to capture our attention and make us smile until it’s time to put the kids down for a nap/get handsy with our summer fling. Or movies based on books written at a 6th grade reading level or classic toys. We like those, Hollywood. We certainly like those.

What’s your top pick for Summer 2009?

Bethany writes about sex. Suck it, nerds. Follow her on Twitter:

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