Roll the List #7, Dalton’s Take

Top 5 Under the Radar Blockbuster Movies

We continue to roll contradictory categories. This time we rolled Under-The-Radar Blockbuster films. Under-the-radar films are usually not blockbusters. Blockbusters are often touted as big properties with big budgets with big success. Rarely do we get summer movies that expect little return and ended up getting a huge return. But it does happen. Sometimes it’s commercial success, sometimes it’s changing the way critics look at a certain genre, and sometimes it’s both. Let’s take a look at 5 films that ended up being surprise blockbusters.

5.The Italian Job

Few films have had such a surprising success at the box office that the production company re-released the film again in the same year. Such was the case with The Italian Job. It was such a huge commercial success in May of 2003 that Paramount released the film again in August of the same year. That’s a pretty cool fact to have in your film’s history, but beyond that I have little to say about the film that is too kind. I found the script to be awful and the acting from the script to be even worse. I usually enjoy Edward Norton’s work (Primal Fear, Fight Club), but in this film he seemed like he was forcing every line and he ended up being the tip of the iceberg of everything I disliked. Having said that, I respect the film for its surprise success and it deserves to be on this list.


Alien is 4th on the list not because of quality, but because of its relevance on this list. Horror films are rarely a genre that correspond with blockbuster movies. Alien‘s success, in itself, wasn’t really a surprise because there was quite a bit of hype for it before its release. What was a surprise was from a production perspective. A relatively unknown director attached to the niche genre of rated R scifi horror film. If anything was a surprise it was the fact that the film barely made any money, if any, for the company when all was said and done. But that didn’t stop Alien from kick-starting the careers of Ian Holm, Sigourney Weaver, and Ridley Scott, and adding life, substance, and creativity to a genre that was suffocating under the garbage of cliche, poor budget execution, and directionless chaos.

3.Minority Report

What was sold as a familiar scifi romp, Minority Report became a huge success and one of the highest rated films of its genre from this side of the 21st century. Spielberg delivered in usual fashion and Tom Cruise further instilled his prominence as the perennial scifi action hero. It helped to reinvigorate the original scifi genre by proving that even scifi films can bring a smile to grumpy movie critics. I believe that many scifi films we enjoy today would have struggled to find budgets if not for the commercial and critic success of Minority Report.

2. Lone Survivor

Labeled one of the best and most successful post-9/11 war dramas, Lone Survivor made its opening day what it was supposed to make its opening weekend. I usually have a good eye for films; what will be good, what will be bad. This does not always affect my decision on whether to go to the film, as I often enjoy “bad” films. I wanted to see this film, but I fully expected it to be a generic war movie with a feeble attempt to be impacting. Basically, any war movie since Saving Private Ryan. But, I underestimated this movie. It was sold out at the first two movie theaters I went to. I have to go pretty far out and on the other side of the parking lot in order to find a seat in a theater for this film. And the film itself wasn’t too bad either. It was rather touching to be honest and deserved its surprising release success.

1. District 9

On a $30 million budget, Neill Blomkamp directed a $210 million scifi smash hit that became a cornerstone for the original scifi genre in film. It has truly changed our perspective on what a film can be. That scifi can be a most pure and effective form of social and political commentary, able to truly impact the audience by using scifi elements to go further than would be politically-correct otherwise. Not only that, but the film’s success proved that lower budget, original scifi pieces can be major successes. What were once lowly scifi projects being tossed to the side are now being green-lit because of this movie. This movie changed things for a lot of Hollywood. It certainly changed the lives of Neill Blomkamp and Sharlto Copley, as both became household names amongst movie buffs and would team up on another excellent film, Elysium.

Overlap: Kyle and I had one overlap on this list: District 9. I am not surprised by this because I knew we both appreciated original, creative content with substance and entertainment value. The fact that it was a surprise success made it a surefire fit on both our lists.

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