The summer of 1984 has become one of the temporal junction points for the space-time continuum of the modern film geek. Along with 1982, the titles from these seasons are notable for the films that took years to become classics as much as the ones that became instant phenomenons. One date in particular is notable for checking all the boxes as the perfect storm in cinema history — namely June 8, 1984, which saw the release of two beloved genre films from a pair of maverick directors that would go on to capture the imaginations of viewers for generations to come: Ghostbusters and Gremlins.
With that in mind, we decided to take a look back through the past several decades to see how frequently two classics opened to the general public on the same day. While we found plenty of instances when two noteworthy films shared the same release date, only a handful of them really blew us away, and we plucked 10 from the pack that we thought were particularly fun choices. Read on for the full list, beginning with the iconic pair that inspired it in the first place.
Date: June 8, 1984
While some folks were seeing Beat Street, most of the country was split between Ivan Reitman’s Ghostbusters and Joe Dante’s Gremlins. Opening atop the box office at $13.5 million and $12.5 million, respectively, the two films went on to become the second and fourth highest-grossing films of the year with $229 and $148 million each. It is actually rather rare to find two films that opened on the same weekend and enjoyed a similar level of success, since studios are often reluctant to challenge films preordained to be blockbusters. But sometimes history can change the tune of that strategy as films take on a life of their own, and sometimes you just get two phenomenal, groundbreaking movies in the same week that, even after three and a half decades have passed, still resonate with audiences new and old.
Date: June 4, 1982
A week before a boy named Elliott met his new alien friend, moviegoers had a choice between worms in ears or maggots in meat. The return of the Enterprise crew was challenged by their archenemy from the episode “Space Seed,” and it became what is considered to this day to be the definitive Star Trek adventure. Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist actually opened that weekend to less than half of what Khan grossed, but audiences kept it in theaters past that Halloween, and it became not just the eighth highest-grossing film of the year (Khan was sixth), but has endured as one of the classic horror films passed down to new generations.
Date: June 25, 1982
Even the most loyal genre enthusiasts may not have appreciated this date at the time. It was two weeks into the run of audiences falling in love with Steven Spielberg’s E.T. and a shift into darker, nastier science-fiction may not have been what they were in the mood for. Ridley Scott’s follow-up to Alien opened in fourth and John Carpenter’s grisly remake of The Thing (From Another World) was a distant eighth. Cut to decades of home video, cable, and revival screenings later, and they are now both considered irreplaceable, seminal examples of genre filmmaking.
Date: Mar. 13, 1987
While the sequel/remake to Sam Raimi’s cult horror classic was finding its audience in 330 theaters, Joel and Ethan Coen’s follow-up to their breakthrough, Blood Simple, was released in one theater and had one of the best per-theater-averages for a single screen release in the 1980s. No film did better in 1987 than Raising Arizona did in as few theaters ($22.8 million in fewer than 700 theaters), and Evil Dead 2 made nearly $6 million in no more than 310. No one would confuse their success in the moment with that of Ghostbusters or Gremlins, but the kinetic energy and wildly energetic performances in both films have been finding new fans for decades.
Date: July 15, 1988
After a decade defined by the muscle-bound heroes created by Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, a new action hero was born with John McClane in Die Hard. “Please God, don’t let me die,” said the average-Joe cop played by Bruce Willis, and an icon was born in a film that would be foolish to leave off any list of the greatest action films ever made. While McClane fought international bearer bond bandits, an English barrister by the name of Archie Leach was matching wits with American diamond thieves in A Fish Called Wanda, written by Monty Python’s John Cleese and directed by Ealing Studios’ Charles Crichton. It opened in limited release and found a broader audience three weeks later — a reminder that sometimes classics are right under your nose whether you realize it at the time or not. These films were the seventh and twelfth highest-grossing movies of 1988, but their cultural impact is priceless.
Date: July 12, 1991
Two vastly different visions of Southern California opened on the same day in 1991, and each struck a major chord in the zeitgeist for different reasons, and at different times. The recently passed John Singleton exploded onto the scene with the most potent cultural commentary on the African-American community since Do the Right Thing, and the success of Boyz N the Hood led to his becoming the youngest director nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director, not to mention the first African-American ever. Meanwhile, on the other side of street, Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves were surfing and robbing banks. Though it was hardly a major success at the time, Point Break has grown its following over the years, partly for Keanu’s newfound cult hero status, but also for the unmistakable technique (and commentary on Reagan-era action films) from Kathryn Bigelow, who 18 years later would become the first woman to win the Best Director Oscar.
Date: Oct. 14, 1994
After notable festival successes at Sundance and Cannes, two of the most influential films of the 1990s opened in theaters. Reservoir Dogs was Quentin Tarantino’s calling card, but Pulp Fiction was the movie that brought his unique blend of dialogue, violence, and cinematic homage to the masses. His fractured narrative became the most replicated style for the rest of the decade and beyond. Meanwhile, Steve James’ three-hour documentary about two Chicago basketball players opened in just three theaters, but thanks in part to extensive praise and coverage by Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, it became the second highest-grossing documentary ever (behind only Madonna: Truth or Dare) at the time and helped change the landscape for the format as a viable commercial entity.
Date: Nov. 22, 1995
Few likely remember the other Thanksgiving releases (Money Train and Nick of Time) that came out the same weekend Toy Story and Casino hit theaters. It isn’t just because they are forgettable films, but because the latter two marked a return to a familiar universe for one legend and the beginning of another in the world of animation. Pixar’s debut came in the midst of the Disney animated renaissance that peaked a year earlier with The Lion King. Toy Story introduced moviegoers to a revolutionary style of animation that, along with the friendship of Woody and Buzz and lessons in growing older, has endured through two sequels with a third on the horizon. Over in the next cinema, Martin Scorsese returned to the mob world for his tale of the end of their reign in Las Vegas. While some have seen Casino as treading some of the same water as Goodfellas, Scorsese has acknowledged it as a de facto sequel in respects, and the film continues to be reassessed by critics as an essential chapter in the filmmaker’s oeuvre of greed, hubris, and the collapse that follows.
Date: Dec. 15, 1995
After families flocked to Pixar’s Toy Story for three weeks, they then made Joe Johnston’s fantasy adventure the No. 1 film in the country, and it became one of just 10 films that year to gross $100 million. Jumanji has seen a resurgence after the passing of its star Robin Williams in 2014 and the immense success of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle in 2017, the sequel to which is scheduled to be released later this year. Adults, meanwhile, got the first face-to-face encounter between Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro in Michael Mann’s epic crime drama Heat. It functioned as a showcase not only for the two legendary actors, but also for the greatest moments from the films Mann made that nobody saw (particularly his TV film, L.A. Takedown). The gritty thriller has been celebrated by audiences for decades, and it’s now considered Mann’s most recognizable crime drama.
Date: Mar. 31, 1999
What Pulp Fiction did for crime narratives, The Matrix did for sci-fi and special effects. Keanu Reeves appears again on this list, putting his stamp on yet another seminal action extravaganza. The Wachowskis molded together cyberpunk, a little Terminator, and even some philosophy into a film that became the highest-grossing film ever released in March or April. Though the sequels split fans, the original endures to this day. 1999 was also a watershed year for teen movies, and The Matrix found itself competing against one of the defining films of that era. At the time, 10 Things I Hate About You failed to pull audiences away from the Wachowskis’ explosive adventure, and several others in its own genre proved more profitable that year (American Pie, She’s All That, Never Been Kissed, Varsity Blues, and Cruel Intentions all did better). But 20 years later, the film has outlasted that barrage and become celebrated as a seminal coming-of-age film for audiences of a certain age. Like Clueless four years earlier, 10 Things relied on classic literature for its inspiration and featured early work from a young powerhouse cast that included Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Julia Stiles, Gabrielle Union and, of course, the late Heath Ledger.
Date: Nov. 7, 2003
Before Ron Burgundy, there was Buddy the elf, and before Love Actually, there was no such thing as love. OK, maybe not exactly, but in their own ways, both Elf and Love Actually have become staples of Christmas viewing, perpetually programmed on television alongside other modern regulars like A Christmas Story and It’s A Wonderful Life. Will Ferrell had not had anything close to a success like this (out-dueling even The Matrix Revolutions), and to this day, it is still his highest-grossing live-action film. Richard Curtis’ film, on the other hand, was a more modest success at the time, but it has since been referenced in everything from proposals to parodies to politics. For a genre that is often replicated ad nauseum, this sprawling romantic epic has rarely been duplicated in the territory it covers.