Box Office Blockbuster Tourney: Round Two

So as explained before, we are playing a seeded tournament-style elimination game amongst each of the US domestic box office champion movies from the last 32 years.  Seeding was done via Rotten Tomatoes scores, with ties broken with Metacritic scores.  Three of our six judges will vote on each match-up of two films, with the winner advancing to the next round and the loser skulking off into obscurity, until we have our overall Champion!

Toy Story 3

We are now in Round Two–having reduced our movies to the Top 16 entries.  Of those 16, the oldest movie is Rain Man from 1988, whilst the newest is Black Panther from 2018.  The lowest ranked is Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s / Philosopher’s Stone, which was #11, and defeated the more highly rated The Last Jedi to keep it’s place in these championships.  You can read the full voting from Round One here and here.

As before, victory is decided by the best of three votes from a pool of six judges, including me.  Whenever I’m voting, I made a point of writing up my votes before reading anyone else’s.  I tended to list the other votes in the order that I received them, except sometimes I’d mix it up if the voting wasn’t unanimous in order to preserve the suspense.

Odd-Numbered Years Conference

1. Toy Story (1995)


8. The Hunger Games:  Catching Fire (2013)

Ben: I find this difficult.  Obviously, Toy Story is the more significant film, establishing Pixar as a new leader in Hollywood animated films.  But, it is not my favorite Toy Story film, and may even be my least favorite (at least so for)–although I’m not sure, I’ve only seen Toy Story 3 once.  On the other hand, Catching Fire is probably my favorite Hunger Games film.  It didn’t represent any sort of watershed moment in the history of cinema or anything, but it’s a well done film and the series’ best treatment of the best part of its storyline.  I feel kind of weird voting for it over Toy Story, but if I’m honest with myself, I’d rather watch Catching Fire again if I had to, so I’m going to go ahead and go with instinct on this decision and let the chips fall where they may.

My Vote:  The Hunger Games:  Catching Fire

Josh M: An interesting Apples vs. Oranges question. Two good, solid, enjoyable movies, neither one the strongest of their respective series. But Toy Story did change the face of animated filmmaking, and twenty-four years later is still one of the best examples of the computer animation genre.

My Vote:  Toy Story

Bruce: I remember my wife and I talking after leaving the theatre of Catching Fire. We hadn’t read the books or really knew much about any of it aside from some family members praising them. But I couldn’t help think how horribly wrong this kind of story could go with today’s need to one up the graphic nature of the bang and the boom factor. It had been suggested author Suzanne Collins spawned the idea from one of a few things–most importantly for the sake of this writing, Kinji Fukasaku’s popular and crazy violent Battle Royale film, which is what turned me away from ever wanting to see these movies in the first place. I was pleasantly surprised at the reserved expression in the details of the violence.  But I say all that to say none of these violent teenagers stand a chance in the ring with Woody, Buzz and the rest of our friendly toys. Classic storytelling, memorable moments, lovable characters and I love watching them with my kids for the smile and laughter. 

My Vote:  Toy Story

The Winner: Toy Story



4. Terminator 2 (1991)


5. Star Wars–Episode VII:  The Force Awakens (2015)

Ben: Similar to my comments above, I know that Terminator 2 is probably the more “important” film, in terms of how it impacted action movies and made CGI and especially “morphing” kind of a prerequisite for any science fiction film that wanted to be taken seriously.  But I actually don’t like it that much, and consider it a big step down from the original Terminator, even if it was a bigger production.  Meanwhile, The Force Awakens was a derivative film to be sure, taking so many of its cues so blatantly from the original Star Wars movies.  But the truth is that it turned out to be legitimately a rockin’ good time that had me wholeheartedly loving my childhood favorite for the first time in years.  So that’s where my vote is going.

My Vote:  Star Wars Episode VII:  The Force Awakens

Bruce:  Can I just say Terminator 2 and put the mic down? There’s so many things that bug me about The Force Awakens I won’t bore you with too much detail. I just couldn’t break loose from the feeling the whole thing was made to pander the fanboys and is basically a remake of New Hope. Terminator was an absolute blast that kept me on the edge of my seat, awed me with its effects and even managed a few laughs. Arnold did his best work with director Cameron and should have signed a lifetime contract.

My Vote:  Terminator 2

Josh L:  The tension in Terminator 2 is brilliantly crafted and highly effective, the film ultimately being one long chase scene.  But the linear nature of it and the comparative lack of character development sees my vote going to the other epic. I’m a sucker for the hero’s journey and The Force Awakens ticks all the boxes for a nourishing filmic experience.

My Vote:  Star Wars Episode VII:  The Force Awakens

The Winner: Star Wars Episode VII:  The Force Awakens



3. The Lord of the Rings:  The Return of the King (2003)


11. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s / Philosopher’s Stone

Josh M: Sorcerer’s Stone is a fun, if safely by-the-numbers adaptation of a delightfully whimsical children’s fantasy. Return of the King is the epic conclusion to a pretty solid adaptation of the greatest work of fantasy literature.

My Vote:  The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Pete: Despite needing to have seen the previous two films (if you haven’t read the books that is) before putting Return of the King on the screen, the winner is Return of the King. It’s Return of the King, of course it’s winning.

I can’t help feel sorry for Philosopher’s Stone, as it does have its own merits in abundance. But it definitely has nothing that measures up to the Charge of the Rohirrim, which is only one incredible sequence.

My Vote:  The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Rod: Not a competition. Of the three LOTR films, I actually like this one the least. But it’s still great, despite a few flaws. It’s so many levels above Potter 1. Forget about it. Return of the King wins easily.

My Vote:  The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

The Winner: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King


2. Harry Potter & the Curse of the Deathly Hallows part two


10. Avatar (2009)

Rod:   Jurassic Park lost to Avatar in the first round. Had it made it this far, it would have beat PottertheLast easily. What is wrong with the world…?  Alas, therefore I’m faced with a choice….end this Avatar-charade and put Potter through, or admit that Avatar should probably win because at least it’s a coherent story that doesn’t require seven other movies to be watched, some of which are really not that good.

I don’t care. Avatar is one of the most overrated films of all time. It is mind-bogglingly stupid at times. It started the 3-D craze which was annoying and expensive. It is not a good movie. Potterthelast is fine–even slightly inspirational once you realise Harry is a Jesus allegory. Controversy:  Potter wins.

My Vote:  Harry Potter & the Curse of the Deathly Hallows part two

As much as I found Deathly Hallows: Part 2 fairly ‘meh’, it didn’t infuriate me like Avatar. I might even watch back through the Potter films soon, but I’ll never watch Avatar voluntarily.

My Vote:  Harry Potter & the Curse of the Deathly Hallows part two  (or really, Subjectivity)

Ben M: Just like in the last post, it turns out that we have a match up here where only two people have seen both films, and I’m not one of them (indeed, I haven’t seen either of these guys).  I was going to start looking for a third judge to step in, but then both Pete and Rod told me which way they were voting and I realized I didn’t have to worry about it.  So there you are.

My Vote:  –Abstained–

The Winner:   Harry Potter & the Curse of the Deathly Hallows part two



Even-Numbered Years Conference

1. Toy Story 3


9. Rain Man

Josh M: Rain Man is probably the least memorable film on this list, aside from Dustin Hoffman’s award-winning (did he win an award? Or was he just nominated? I can’t even remember that.) performance. And Toy Story 3 is probably the least memorable of the Toy Story franchise — which actually still sets it at a pretty high bar.

My Vote:  Toy Story 3

Bruce:  Rain Man is a great story about one brother learning to love another as he is instead of what he might be or might give him. Hoffman “definitely” gave us a performance for the ages, while he and Cruise give us an important lesson about the importance of family. Toy Story 3 bookends our favorite toy box franchise with the deepest darkest adventure yet. Much of the humanity angle is replaced with the pitfalls of failure for laughs, and it lacks much of the feel good nature to the first two chapters. I enjoyed it but not nearly as much. 

My Vote:  Rain Man

Rod: I felt like my brain had been cooked after coming out of Toy Story 3-D. Yikes…a long film that I think overdoes the mellow drama. Rain Man…admittedly I haven’t seen it in a long time, but I remember the acting being excellent. I also saw this film as a preteen (I think I was 11 or 12). I hadn’t grown up in a family that was very aware or savvy when it came to autism or related issues. I get it that Rain Man can mislead people as to what autism is actually like, but there’s value in the fact that at that time (late 80s) it made people a lot more aware. And for 12 year old me, it took away a lot of the stigma and even fear about the kids “on the short bus.” That may sound very politically incorrect these days, but I don’t really care. I think the movie is quality and had a lot moral value, especially during that era. Rain Man wins for me.

My Vote:  Rain Man

The Winner: Rain Man



4. The Dark Knight (2008)


5. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Bruce:  The “Rumble in the Jungle” of heavy weight titans. Both could be seen as simple blockbuster haymakers. And both could be seen for the emotional frailties of the human mind. It either draws us towards the good qualities of the human race or spins us out of control with fear and all the worst parts of what we are capable of. Saving Private Ryan is stacked with a cast of top notch performances due to a director who offers every opportunity to buy in to this critical point in history and the importance of why these men fight this evil. Meanwhile The Dark Knight isn’t just a simple tale of good versus evil. Many comics I grew up reading were given such framework. But Nolan and company have crafted a master work of poetic dialogue, stunning visuals that never outshine the performances and pose difficult moral questions the audience can’t help but take with them afterward. And all this might not still be enough to take down Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan, but then comes Heath Ledger (playing The Joker) with the last sick cackling laugh and burns it to the ground and win for Team Nolan. 

My Vote:  The Dark Knight

Josh L:  Saving Private Ryan has some tense moments and a formidable antagonistic force but The Dark Knight takes both these elements to a level rarely seen. The Joker’s chaotic genius and unpredictability coupled with Han Zimmer’s single-note score keeps you in genuine anguish as ‘masked’ maniac plays Gotham and Batman like a chess game. Genius.

My Vote:  The Dark Knight

Pete: While I am still bitter that Home Alone didn’t win against The Dark Knight, and despite the incredible and often talked about beach scene in Saving Private Ryan, The Dark Knight more than deserves this victory. It’s pretty much the same level of craft as Spielberg’s beach scene, just stretched to over two hours.

I also blame Vin Diesel for letting down the Private Ryan squad by putting in a very mediocre performance and subjecting society to horrible, ‘mid 00’s-aesthetic’, self-serious motivational posts via Facebook for roughly a decade.

My Vote:  The Dark Knight

The Winner: The Dark Knight



3. Aladdin


6. The Avengers (2012)

Ben: There’s no real contest here.  I like Aladdin, it was good fun with engaging characters and nice songs and an absolutely stellar vocal turn by Robin Williams.  But I really like The Avengers, which of course was the movie that Marvel was really going to be able to pull of its whole grande Cinematic Universe experiment.  Even though I love comics, I’m not a particular Marvel or Avengers fan, but seeing all those characters doing their thing and fighting side by side in one movie was a tremendous treat that has only given way to even bigger things (as the recent Endgame testifies to).  Avengers managed to not only handle all those characters, it was able to make them all iconic and cool, and for that it gets my vote.

My Vote:  The Avengers

Josh L:  I was impressed with how Avengers brought the team together in an authentic way (even though I feel like this has now been eclipsed by Infinity War) and I enjoyed seeing such different characters interact with one another.  But I feel like I’m betraying my childhood if I didn’t vote for Aladdin. Such Disney musical gold!

My Vote:  Aladdin

Josh M: The Avengers had a great, sharp, witty script by Joss Whedon, and it launched the most ambitiously epic comic-book movie franchise ever (which, as of this writing, I’ve not yet seen the conclusion to but I trust it is as epic as everyone says it is). Aladdin … has Robin Williams. Which actually makes this a closer call than one might expect. But the strong ensemble piece edges out the one-man show.

My Vote:  The Avengers

The Winner: The Avengers



2. Black Panther (2018)


7. Spider-Man (2002)

Rod:  Time to really be politically incorrect: Black Panther is overrated. So overrated. You can’t deny that it was a financial phenom but that does not make it a quality film. It was a by-the-numbers superhero origin story with some decent acting and people riding CGI rhinos. And if people could take their blinders off, they may one day come to see it as a mildly racist film. I mean, it makes Wakandan culture, for all its technological brilliance, look primitive and silly (for starters, their leadership is decided by an MMA fight…I could go on…and they ride to battle on rhinos). Not the worst MCU film, not the best. This movie could have been better…but it wasn’t.

Spider-Man has exactly one serious flaw…they put Willem Dafoe in a stupid helmet. And he was so awesome and scary out of that helmet. Not the best Peter, but he still felt like Peter (Tom Holland > Tobey Maguire > Andrew Garfield). Otherwise, this film shattered any view that a superhero film couldn’t transcend a niche market. This movie was a huge success and was just awesome in so many ways. Not a perfect film, but it does plenty to beat Black Panther.

My Vote:  Spider-Man

Josh L:  I love the way Stan Lee threw so much conflict at Peter Parker and I think that translates well in the film, but my main issue with the Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man was the obvious disconnect between when he was in the suit and when he was outside the suit. I didn’t believe he was the same guy. Although Black Panther has a few loose story points I really enjoyed it and how refreshingly different it was from the rest of the Marvel Universe.

My Vote:  Black Panther

Pete: Spider-Man is good fun that I enjoy–it’s well made, risk-taking fun. It’s definitely flawed, and while the pacing from scene to scene is brisk and satisfying most of the time, it definitely lulls in places. Spider-Man is good fun, fun that I love, but that’s all it really is.

Even though Spider-Man is very enjoyable to watch, arguably more so than Black Panther, I don’t spend 15-20 minute stretches zoned out thinking about it.

Black Panther, despite it’s genre, (Disney™), and the fact that I’ve only seen it once when it was released, is still making me drift off in thought, almost dropping down manholes and walking into poles. So despite the danger to my well-being, I’ve gotta go with old mate Panther.

My Vote:  Black Panther

The Winner: Black Panther


And another Round is finished!  Definitely some surprises here, with Rain Man, seeded #9, beating Toy Story 3, which was second highest ranked movie of them all.  Also, even though I voted against it, I’m sort of glad I don’t have to feel responsible for knocking out the original Toy Story in favor of a Hunger Games movie.  I’m disappointed that Black Panther won, I’m glad to see the back of Terminator 2, and I’m pleased to see The Dark Knight and The Avengers both continue on.  And Josh M, yes–Dustin Hoffman did win an Academy Award for Rain Man.

The next set of match-ups will be our Elite Eight, and are as follows:

Odd-Numbered Years Conference

1. Toy Story vs. 5. Star Wars–Episode VII:  The Force Awakens

2. Harry Potter & the Curse of the Deathly Hallows part two vs. 3. The Lord of the Rings:  The Return of the King

Even-Numbered Years Conference

4. The Dark Knight vs. 9. Rain Man

2. Black Panther vs. 6. The Avengers

Bring it on!


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