The general public consensus of movies has changed over the years. It used to be that movies like Home Alone and St. Elmo’s Fire would be derided by the critics, and yet would become beloved classics in the public eye. But that was before the internet and the foundation of Rotten Tomatoes, which now dictates whether or not the entire world loves or hates a movie. Unless your movie is like The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 or something, a Rotten Tomatoes score below 30% won’t cut it. You can’t get bad reviews anymore, if you expect your movie to do well at the box office. And that’s not the only difference the internet has made. Now, you get updates on movies from the first announcement that they’re being developed to the casting to the shooting to the final press tour before the movie’s release. That’s a very long time for you to get some preconceived notions about the movie. The premise might seem stupid or the trailers might look goofy or the director might be the kind of person who usually makes crap, so you decide before you’ve even seen the movie that it’ll probably suck. This was the thinking with Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. It seemed like a reboot that was made shamelessly to cash in on Robin Williams’ legacy. But hey, the movie came out and it was great fun, so we were all dead wrong. Here’s 14 other cases of when that’s happened.
15. Edge of Tomorrow
Groundhog Day with aliens? Yawn. Edge of Tomorrow really didn’t seem like it would be any good from the information that led up to it. It was nabbed from some obscure graphic novel and produced under the odd, grammatically incorrect title All You Need is Kill. Plus, Tom Cruise – once the most popular movie star on the planet when he was in movies like Top Gun and Risky Business back in the glorious ‘80s – had found himself in a bit of a slump making lame popcorn sci-fi blockbusters and the premise of Edge of Tomorrow seemed silly. It could’ve been the final nail in his career’s coffin. And that’s exactly why the surprise of what an awe-inspiring, consistently entertaining, emotionally resonant movie he pulled out of the bag was so delightful.
14. Hotel Transylvania
There’s a general expectation that every movie starring Adam Sandler will more or less suck. There’s also a general expectation that every animated kids’ movie made by anyone besides DreamWorks or Pixar will more or less suck. But then came Hotel Transylvania, an animated kids’ movie made by Sony starring Adam Sandler, and it was actually pretty darn good. Sandler stars as a comedic Count Dracula, who owns a hotel where the likes of Frankenstein’s monster and the Mummy and the Wolfman and the Creature from the Black Lagoon come to spend their vacations. Despite the fact that Sandler’s Dracula sounds more like Borat than Bela Lugosi, this is a surprisingly funny, moving, and entertaining spot of animated delight that was well worth a watch.
Everything about Ant-Man made it look like it would be another Green Hornet. A strictly comedic actor from the Apatow camp (Seth Rogen in The Green Hornet’s case and Paul Rudd in Ant-Man’s case) was cast in a big budget adaptation of an obscure superhero that would be rife with humor, but might have scrimped on the action and spectacle, since the guiding creative powers knew nothing beyond the realms of comedy. The only thing that separated Ant-Man from The Green Hornet was Edgar Wright, the guy who’s never directed a movie that wasn’t completely awesome, but Wright left the project and was replaced by the relatively mediocre Yes Man director Peyton Reed. However, the movie came out, and it was a delightful superhero romp in the vein of Guardians of the Galaxy. Rudd carried the comedy of the movie as the new, younger, more roguish incarnation of Ant-Man, while the drama of the movie was carried by Michael Douglas, who delivered a typically brilliant performance as the older incarnation of Ant-Man. The result is a wonderful blend of comedy and drama, and the sequel and any further appearances of Rudd in the Avengers movies are much anticipated.
12. Tucker and Dale vs Evil
From its title and the premise of a pair of backwoods rednecks who live in a remote cabin and are mistaken by a group of vacationing teenagers for a pair of grisly serial killers, Tucker and Dale vs Evil was expected to suck by pretty much everyone. But to our surprise, the end result is actually one of the greatest horror comedy movies ever made. It’s spooky at times, often hilarious, and actually tells a story with an arc and a culmination and a satisfying climax at the end, rather than just being a series of slapstick gags. Who the hell saw that coming? Director Eli Craig and his co-screenwriter Morgan Jurgenson did the impossible and managed to make Tucker and Dale vs Evil work!
11. Lord of War
Nicolas Cage is, believe it or not, a terrific actor. His method and delivery style are so unique and interesting that he’s seriously a true artist. He’s not a bad actor – he’s just an outlandish actor. And the reason that all of his movies generally suck is that he picks all the wrong scripts. But they haven’t all been bad. Raising Arizona, Kick-Ass, Wild at Heart, Leaving Las Vegas, Matchstick Men, Con Air, Face/Off, Adaptation, The Croods, and Snowden were all great. Unforunately, given that he’s in about seven movies a year, this puts his terrible films still in the majority. But among the great ones is this crime opus. Lord of War is a crime saga in the vein of Goodfellas, but with a focus on the gun-running business instead of drugs. The movie has an important message, too – so important that it got an official endorsement from Amnesty International. It also got a special mention for excellence in filmmaking from the National Board of Review. Great flick.
10. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Captain America: The First Avenger was pretty lame, right? It was okay in that it introduced how Cap came into the Marvel universe as a genetically enhanced super soldier created by the Army to fight in World War II and ended up crashing a plane into ice to save the world and then got thawed out, years later, so that he could join the Avengers and save the world again, but in the present day. But it wasn’t great in the way that other superhero movies like Spider-Man 2 and The Dark Knight are great. So, just like with Thor: The Dark World, not much was expected from Captain America: The Winter Soldier – it was just one that you had to watch to get the rest of the Marvel movies. But damn, the Russo brothers really turned it around. All of a sudden, Captain America was an interesting character. We were watching a paranoid political thriller in the vein of The Parallax View, and Robert Redford was in it! Trust Junior from Black-ish. A girl he likes tells him that she thinks The Incredible Hulk is the best Marvel movie and he says, “Do we live in a world where Captain America: The Winter Soldier doesn’t exist?!”
9. The Grey
When Liam Neeson came out of nowhere as an action star with Taken and audiences fell in love with that version of him, the studios began greenlighting potential action-packed starring vehicles for the actor left and right. One of these was The Grey, whose premise sounds really dumb. Neeson plays an oil worker whose plane crashes in the wilderness of Alaska, where he and his co-workers must fight for their lives against the elements – and a vicious pack of wolves. But while the premise and the trailers made it seem like the whole movie would be a pointless affair where Neeson spends two hours beating up wolves in the snow, what we actually got was a deep, contemplative, and substantial drama about a depressed man who’s at a loose end and finds himself with no reason to live after losing the love of his life. Thrusting this character into a survival situation is infinitely more interesting than if he was just some guy. That goes to show what the power of genuine character development and emotional investment can do.
8. Sandy Wexler
There were a lot of groans and eye-rolls when Netflix appointed Adam Sandler to make four new movies exclusively for them. Ugh, people were thinking, four?!? Screw that! The first one came out in 2015, The Ridiculous 6, a western comedy about six long-lost brothers trying to find the father that they share, and it’s about as funny as a sock that got stuck in the dryer. And then came the abysmal action comedy The Do-Over, which is stuffed with twists and even worse than The Ridiculous 6 (which is no easy feat). So, not much was expected from Sandy Wexler, the third one in the deal, which was about a talent manager in 1990s Hollywood who falls in love with one of his clients. But to everyone’s surprise, it was one of the most genuinely funny and well-crafted Sandler movies ever made, which isn’t saying much, sure, but Sandy Wexler reaches Happy Gilmore heights of silly laughs, because for the first time in years, Sandler actually cares, because this movie acts as a tribute to his own manager, Sandy Wernick, who he based the character on. It’s a bit long, but compared to the low expectations, it’s really great.
7. Jurassic World
The original Jurassic Park was a masterpiece. Steven Spielberg pioneered some groundbreaking visual effects and also told a thrilling, fun, frightening, action-packed story that was so amazing that it became the highest grossing movie of all time. Naturally, sequels were coming. Spielberg directed the first one, The Lost World, which was overlong, overstuffed, inconsistent, boring, and most importantly, far inferior to the original. But it did pretty well at the box office, so Universal greenlit a threequel nonetheless. But after the disappointment of The Lost World, Spielberg was out and Joe Johnston was in. But the third Jurassic Park movie was both terrible and a financial disappointment, so it seemed like the franchise was dead in the water. No one expected much from the reboot, Jurassic World. But then it came out, and it was pretty awesome, mostly thanks to Chris Pratt, and it became the first film in cinema history to make over $500 million in a single weekend, mostly thanks to Chris Pratt. The sequel, Fallen Kingdom, will be released this summer – and expectations are high for that!
After the abomination starring Sylvester Stallone and Rob Schneider that totally botched the iconic 2000 AD comic book character by having him take off his mask, drop his gruff demeanor, and lighten the tone with some lame, gimmicky comedy, it didn’t seem that Judge Dredd would ever grace the big screen again. Based on 1995’s Judge Dredd, it looked as though God did not want there to be a Judge Dredd movie and by trying to make one, the filmmakers angered God, and so he sent down a plague that made it one of the worst and most misguided movies of all time. It was Dredd-ful (sorry). So, when a reboot was announced to star Karl Urban from a script written by 28 Days Later’s Alex Garland, nothing but bad things were expected. But they went all in. They perfectly struck the tone of 2000 AD perfectly, taking a no-holds-barred approach to the graphic violence and keeping the audience hooked from start to finish. Urban’s performance as the grumpy, seasoned law enforcer cleaning up a dystopian future citadel with violent methods was so accurate and true to the character that even though the movie failed at the box office, fans are begging to see more of him.
5. Spider-Man: Homecoming
Do we really need another Spider-Man reboot? That’s what everyone was thinking. The news elicited groans heard across the globe. In just fifteen years, we’d had six Spider-Man movies and three different people playing Spider-Man. Replacing Tobey Maguire with Andrew Garfield for a reboot five years after the first trilogy ended for yet another origin story was one thing, but replacing Garfield two years after the disaster that was The Amazing Spider-Man 2, that really seemed to take the cake. And yet, when Captain America: Civil War came out, we saw some potential in this Tom Holland guy. Perhaps this wouldn’t be such a bad thing after all. And then he got his own movie with Homecoming, a massively entertaining adventure that takes Spidey across the country, fighting the Vulture and pursuing his high school crush, and the audience was floored. Holland makes a great Peter Parker, conveying just how hectic and stressful it is to be a teenage superhero with a secret identity, and the plot twist near the end of the second act, well, that sealed it – Spider-Man: Homecoming was the new best Spider-Man movie!
4. The Lego Movie
A movie based on Lego? Hollywood had really sunk so low that they were just taking anything that children might recognize and cramming its name between the words “The” and “Movie” in the hopes that these kids would drag their parents to go and see it. It seemed really lazy, like there was no way it could work. But Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Jonah Hill, Will Ferrell, The Lonely Island, Channing Tatum, Morgan Freeman, and a bunch of other lovable, hilarious Hollywood talent put their brains together and created a movie whose humor, colorful characters, and emotional resonance were tantamount to the great heights of even Toy Story. If only the same could be said for the similar brand cash-in The Emoji Movie…
Really? He’s making his house fly with balloons? Come on, guys. From the initial trailers and premise, Up looked really silly. No one thought they would be able to suspend their disbelief in the absurd idea. But boy, were they wrong. Popcorn wasn’t the only thing we were all eating in the movie theater in the summer of 2009 – we were also eating a big plate of our words. Within eight minutes, your jaw has dropped, your heart has melted, there are tears in your eyes, and you’re hooked by the most beautiful and devastating love story ever put on screen. After that, you’re dying to see this guy get his house in the air, to fulfill Ellie’s final wish. What an astounding movie. The Pixar guys really know how to do a number on their audience.
2. Wonder Woman
The DC Extended Universe got off to a really crappy start. Man of Steel wasn’t that strong as it is – certainly not as strong as Iron Man – so the decision by Warner Bros. to force a whole shared cinematic universe on top of it, just in an attempt to copy what Marvel had been more successful in doing, was a poor one. So, next we had Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice trying to cram in a bunch of characters and Easter eggs and red herrings, and it turned out even worse than Man of Steel. And then we had Suicide Squad a few months later, which was even worse. And that’s why we all expected Wonder Woman to be so awful. And it’s also why we were so surprised when it turned out to be one of the greatest superhero movies ever made, period. The villain isn’t just a villain. He’s the God of War. He represents all the war and evil in the world. He actually stands for something in the real world. And the movie also empowers women, especially at a time when they were particularly oppressed. Setting Wonder Woman in World War I was a great idea. They took the strongest person in the world who happens to be a woman and introduced her to the world at a time when women weren’t even allowed to vote. In Wonder Woman, Chris Pine is the damsel in distress and Diana Prince is the gallant knight who swoops in to save him when he’s in danger. All in all, Patty Jenkins really pushed the boat out for a phenomenal, moving, exciting, and socially important blockbuster, and for that, she got shortlisted for Time magazine’s Person of the Year.
1. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
When it was first announced that there would be a new Jumanji reboot, shortly after the original movie’s star Robin Williams had committed suicide, it seemed pretty disgraceful. It looked like they were trying to cash in on the comedy icon’s legacy. It was too soon. But the movie suffered some delays and it ended up not being released until a few years after Williams had died. In that time, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Kevin Hart had become arguably the two biggest movie stars in the world, and the movie was probably always going to do well. But the trailer made the movie itself look really dumb and unnecessary. It looked like a bastardization of Jumanji. It’s a board game, not a video game! But hey, that’s a modernization. No one plays board games anymore. That could be excused. But what couldn’t be excused would be juvenile comedy, misogynistic views of women, and a crummy storyline. We didn’t want the name of the original Jumanji – by all accounts, a timeless classic – to be tarnished. But luckily, it wasn’t. Welcome to the Jungle did the original justice. The original was great because it was fun, exciting, funny – it was pure entertainment. Well, that’s exactly what this new reboot is. Karen Gillan’s costume was criticized when it was first seen in the trailers – no one would dress so scantily in the jungle. But in the movie, that’s justified. She herself points out how ridiculous it is. It’s a satire of the misogynistic view of women in that genre – in games like Tomb Raider and Mass Effect. And the hot girl becoming Jack Black as her avatar was a stroke of genius. It reminded us that Black is a hilarious guy who’s been out of the spotlight for far too long. His role in Jumanji, where he got to play a teenage girl swooning over Nick Jonas, was hysterical. And the girl herself started off as a stereotypical teenager – but by the end, she’s changed. She no longer obsesses over her phone. She’s a human being who lives in the real world and wants to explore the world. Even though the callous critics went into the movie with the preconceived idea that it would be an awful, churned-out Hollywood slop product, even the critics were able to praise Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle as a “pleasant surprise.”