With the release of Avengers: Endgame nearly upon us, a friend of mine asked me where it would ranked on the list of my most anticipated movies of all time. When was the last time I was thishyped for a movie? It got me thinking and I came up with a list of 15 movies that I remember being in the range of how hyped I am for Avengers: Endgame.
Now, sadly, as this list will reveal, the hype and anticipation one feels for a movie does not have any bearing at all on the overall quality of the actual film. Most of these A handful of these movies I ended up being disappointed with; one in particular left me with a cinematic scar that will never fully heal. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve tried to manage my expectations for some movies, but the eternal appeal of anticipation is the hope that the finished product will somehow match or exceed your expectations for it, and those are the moments that make us love movies, right?
So, let’s get into the list!
15. Jurassic Park (1993) – This movie came out when I was 12. I wasn’t a regular moviegoer at the time, obviously dependent upon my parents or an adult to take me to the movies. But Jurassic Park coming out was a big deal. I think every kid has a phase where they’re at least mildly obsessed with dinosaurs. I made my mom take me to see this movie. Funny, somewhere along the way the raptors took center stage for everyone, but, at the time, the draw was seeing the reveal of the T-Rex.
14. Independence Day (1996) – I distinctly remember a family cookout on what must have been Memorial Day in 1996 and seeing a TV show about the making of Independence Day on the Discovery Channel or something like it. I was hooked. That ended up being a very long month waiting for July 4th weekend to come around to go see that with my friends.
13. Avengers: Infinity War (2018) – I was certainly plenty hyped for this movie last year, the only thing that keeps it lower on the list is that it was already known that the story had been split in two and so regardless of what happened there was going to be a year-long wait for the conclusion.
12. The Dark Knight Rises (2012) – Christopher Nolan’s conclusion to the Dark Knight Trilogy was always a little tainted by Heath Ledger’s death and the fact that there was no revisiting that character in any way that would work. Nevertheless, anticipation built for a solid four years as people speculated how Nolan would end the trilogy. On top of that, he had made Inception in the interim and so his stature as a director was even higher than after The Dark Knight. I sat in line for a few hours to catch a midnight showing of this one on the IMAX.
11. The Dark Knight (2008) – Batman Begins set the stage for a promising sequel by teasing the Joker. Reaction was mixed when Heath Ledger was cast in the role. But then two things happened. First, the marketing for the film started to kick in around May of 2007 with the “Why So Serious?” slogan, and culminated with the opening sequence (shot for the IMAX) being shown in front of I Am Legend. Then, tragically, Ledger died at the age only 28. And people started talking about his performance as iconic and surpassing Jack Nicholson’s from 1989’s Tim Burton Batman. Everything pointed toward a strange, unnerving performance, and it exceeded all expectations.
10. The Matrix Reloaded (2003) – The Matrix, a movie we discussed in depth on The Ripple Effect (shameless plug!) captured the attention of pretty much every movie fan in 1999. It was a visual revelation, it was innovative, and it blended a ton of influences to make it as intellectual-packed (yeah, there’s a reason that’s not a term) as it was action-packed. And so when not just one but TWO sequels were announced to be filming back to back and to be released in the same year, people lost their minds. The possibilities seemed endless given what seemed like cutting edge technology being used to make the movies as well as seeing Neo fly in the closing seconds of the first movie. Sadly, this was failed to deliver on the significant anticipation and The Matrix Revolutions was even more of a disappointment with audiences.
9. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) – I’m certainly not alone on this one, considering this movie came within shouting distance of breaking the $1 billion mark domestically. After being burned by the prequels like we were Anakin on Mustafar, it was refreshing to hear that sequels were being made, the old crew was getting back together, and that the franchise was being taken out of the hands of George Lucas, so the sequels wouldn’t revolve around trade wars and feature love-y dove-y dialogue about sand. Seeing Han and Chewy on board the MilleniumFalcon once again and then seeing it in action when the first trailer dropped still gets me jazzed.
8. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) – The only thing that had me more jazzed about the new Star Wars trilogy than The Force Awakens was the announcement that Rian Johnson was going to be directing the second installment in the trilogy. Johnson had been one of my favorite directors ever since I first discovered him in 2006 after his debut film Brick. As an early adopter of a new, talented director, to hear that he was being handed the keys to the single-most important franchise in movie history, it felt like the movie gods were making a Star Wars movie just for me!
7. Spider-Man 2 (2004) – If I thought it was hard to rank these movies up to this point, it’s getting even harder now. I make no qualms about the fact that Spider-Man is my comic book/superhero ride or die. I was over the moon that they’d made a successful Spider-Man movie (more on that in a bit), and so I could not wait for a sequel, especially one that involved Doc Ock. The world felt like my oyster with this movie coming out.
6. Avengers: Endgame (2019) – So here is Endgame. I had a hard time ranking this because it’s so hard not to be a prisoner of the moment, and I am very, very hyped for this movie. It’s a perfect storm of anticipation that Marvel has crafted. He MCU started 11 years ago, which was building to The Avengers in 2012, which then immediately started building toward Infinity War. Marvel killed it with movie after movie; there were a few misfires here and there, but nothing that is outright bad and unwatchable. They broke the story for Infinity War into two movies and ended the first movie on a gut-punch of an ending, and have spent the last year building the world into a frenzy over this movie. And it’s worked! The box office numbers are going to be huge opening weekend.
5. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) – It may be odd to some, but Fellowship of the Ring will not be on this list. I was plenty interested in seeing Fellowship when it came out, but nowhere near as hyped as I was for the two sequels because I hadn’t read the books. After being blown away by Fellowship, though, I immediately bought the books and plowed through them. It made for an interminably long year to wait for The Two Towers to come out the following December, and I basically became an acolyte for this movie when it was released on DVD in August. And then there was the glorious Extended Edition that came out to whet the appetite even further for The Two Towers.
4. Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) – The only thing more interminable than waiting for a year to see The Two Towers after seeing The Fellowship of the Ring? Having to wait TWO years to see The Return of the King after having finally devoured the books. I was so ready to see how Peter Jackson would bring some of the moments from the book to life. And even worse was the knowledge that whatever we got in the theaters would not be a finished product, because the Extended Edition DVD would have so much more goodness (yes, I am one of those people who believes the Extended Editions of these movies are the only TRUE versions of these movies).
3. Spider-Man 3 (2007) – Here is where the list gets darkest for me. I could make a case for Spider-Man 3 being #1 on this list. I was blindly loyal to Sam Raimi and his vision for this trilogy (or beyond) of the webslinger. I was almost completely in the bag for this movie, given my unabashed love for Spidey and that it was coming out on my birthday (Side note: My birthday is May 4th, and before Marvel decided to move up these last two Avengers movies, the weekend of my birthday was always prime real estate for the movie to kick off the unofficial summer season). What keeps me from putting it #1? There was always a small, little voice in the back of my mind wondering why Sam Raimi was making a movie with Venom in it when he was on record saying that Venom did not interest him as a character. Still, the hype for this movie was massive. And it was a massive letdown. I’ve never seen it from beginning to end since May 4, 2007. I just can’t. I must reference Fellowship of the Ring here; it is a wound that will never fully heal and I will carry it for the rest of my life.
2. Spider-Man (2002) – Now that we’ve covered the deepest pain, let’s talk about one of my biggest joys. Being the huge fan of Spider-Man that I was growing up, I was thrilled to find out that they were making a Spider-Man movie (finally!) and that it was coming out for my birthday that year (Happy birthday to me!). There was absolutely no way I wasn’t seeing it opening night. And not only that, the movie was actually good! And not only THAT, but it made a lot more money its opening weekend than anyone predicted, which meant that there were a lot of people out there just like me that wanted to see this movie! I still remember the weird mix of validation and satisfaction that something I loved as a kid was being embraced by everyone. It’s been eclipsed several times over in subsequent years, but Spider-Man was the first movie to pass $100 million in its opening 3-day weekend.
1. Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (1999) – It’s hard to put into words exactly how big of a deal it was when George Lucas announced he was making a prequel to his Star Wars trilogy. Star Wars was released in 1977 and Return of the Jedi was released in 1983 which meant that over 20 years’ worth of children had grown up on Star Wars but hadn’t had any new Star Wars in 16 years. Telling the story of how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader was enticing to pretty much everyone. Those were heady days, my friends; days before the way Jar JarBinks talked and trade federations. Instead, the only reactions we had were, “Hey, The Emperor! Whoa, Young Anakin and Young Obi-Wan are being introduced to one another for the first time!!! WHaT!?!?!?!? WHO IS THAT DEMON-LOOKING GUY AND OMG DOUBLE-BLADED LIGHTSABERRRRRRR AHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!” “New Star Wars” should have been enough of a selling point, but they also released special editions of the original trilogy in theaters in 1997 (Star Wars – Special Edition was the #8 movie of the year at the box office that year!) which only added fuel to the fire. The movie didn’t quite live up to the hype, but we were too blinded by having new Star Wars in our life to notice and to not go see it two or three times.