(Alternate) Box Office Blockbuster Tourney – Odd Numbered Conference Round One

Experiencing some déjà vu?  It’s because if you follow this blog regularly, this post will look very familiar.

It’s because as I explained at the championship to our recent Box Office Blockbuster Tourney, it was drawn to my attention that all my judges in that competition were men, and someone said they’d be interested in seeing how things would have turned out if the voters were women instead. So now I’m running this Alternate Box Office Blockbuster Tourney.

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The overall idea is that I’ve taken all the movies from the last 32 years (1987-2018) which were the US Box Office champions of their year, divided them into conferences based on whether they came out in odd- or even- numbered years, and seeded them using Rotten Tomato scores (and in the event of ties, Metacritic ratings).  Now I’m going to pit them against each other in an elimination tournament (best of three votes) until we have an undisputed Champion. How will things be different than the original version?  Let’s find out!

First, let’s review the films:

Odd-Numbered Years Conference

1. Toy Story (1995)
2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (2011)
3. Lord of the Rings:  Return of the King (2003)
4. Terminator 2 (1991)
5. Star Wars Episode VII:  The Force Awakens (2015)
6. Star Wars Episode VIII:  The Last Jedi (2017)
7. Jurassic Park (1993)
8. The Hunger Games:  Catching Fire (2013)
9. Titanic (1997)
10. Avatar (2009)
11. Star Wars Episode III:  Revenge of the Sith (2005)
12. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (aka Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone) (2001)
13. Three Men and a Baby (1987)
14. Batman (1989)
15. Spider-Man 3 (2007)
16. Star Wars Episode I:  The Phantom Menace (1999)

Even-Numbered Years Conference

1. Toy-Story 3 (2010)
2. Black Panther (2018)
3. Aladdin (1992)
4. The Dark Knight (2008)
5. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
6. The Avengers (2012)
7. Spider-Man (2002)
8. Shrek 2 (2004)
9. Rain Man (1988)
10. Rogue One:  A Star Wars Story (2016)
11. Forrest Gump (1994)
12. American Sniper (2014)
13. Home Alone (1990)
14. Independence Day (1996)
15. Pirates of the Caribbean:  Dead Man’s Chest (2006)
16. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

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Next, let’s meet our new judges.  Three of them are “film” people, who have all worked in film-related enterprises in one fashion or another, and who have each seen all or most of the movies themselves (none of the guys had seen all the movies).   They are the ones doing most of the votes.  The other two are “laypeople”–more “normal” fans who watch movies, but aren’t particularly connected with film in any special way–I thought it’d be interesting to get them to vote on a couple of the films each round as well.  And one of them is wife!

Here they are:

Beth is young enough to know who Billie Eilish is but old enough to have been emotionally scarred by Return to Oz as a child. She worked for many years as a protectionist at a failing cinema chain only realising later in life that that would be the cushiest job she’d ever have. Her favourite movie is The NeverEnding Story. I’d most like to win: Home Alone

Box-Office Blockbuster that she’s hoping will win:  Home Alone

Kim is an American living abroad with her husband and son in New Zealand, working as a Visual Effects Line Producer at Weta Digital. She’s most recently worked on the films Avengers: Endgame, Justice League, and Valerian. Her hobbies include watching films, reading historical fiction, and illustrating. One of her most favorite films is Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Box-Office Blockbuster that she’s hoping will win:  Forrest Gump, with Jurassic Park as a runner-up

Liesbeth is born in the Netherlands, but grew up in Australia. She is married to Ben, is the mother of three, and works in Christian missions, where she uses her training as both a nurse and a teacher. She’s seen plenty of movies, but doesn’t always remember them so well.  She doesn’t have a favorite movie necessarily, but thinks the Indiana Jones films are classics, and likes The Empire Strikes Back, and the 1995 TV series of Pride and Prejudice.

Box-Office Blockbuster that she’s hoping will win:  The Avengers, Force Awakens, or Jurassic Park.

(Note:  Lies gave me her votes verbally, rather than in written form, so they might read a bit differently then the others).

Loey lives in Kansas City, where she has been a film critic since 1997. She isn’t necessarily proud of how many movies she’s seen from this list. She doesn’t have one favorite movie, so let’s just say Pulp Fiction this time.

Box-Office Blockbuster that she’s hoping will win:  She’d love to see Return of the King win

Robin, wife and mother of 4, identifies as CanAussian:  fully Canadian but is fully immersed in Australian culture. Although she enjoys watching movies with friends, the majority of films she’s watched over the last 16 years have been Disney or Pixar. Her favourite all time movie would be Home Alone.

Box-Office Blockbuster that she’s hoping will win:  Home Alone

(My apologies to Robin–I accidentally sent her a bunch of extra movies to vote on, beyond what I had her scheduled for)

Lord of the Rings Return of the King.jpg

Whoa…two of our judges listed Home Alone as their preferred winner!  I did not see that coming.

Anyway, let’s get into the Odd-Numbered Years Conference, Round One!  In general, I’m listing votes here in the order that I received them.

1. Toy Story (1995)

vs.

16. Star Wars–Episode I:  The Phantom Menace (1999)

Kim:  Toy Story has some of the most beloved characters in animated history like Woody and Buzz Lightyear, while Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace has maybe the most despised animated character in film history (Jar Jar Binks). Toy Story has a beautiful story arc and was so masterfully crafted together. Also, the Toy Story soundtrack is so delightful.

My Vote: Toy Story

Liesbeth: Oh dear. Well, where do you begin? Star Wars Episode 1—that’s got to be the winner of the “biggest let-down of the most awaited film” award. We all were just so waiting for another Star Wars film, and this just was not it. It was just so bad (shakes head in disbelief).  Jar Jar Binks—you kind of felt like Who Framed Roger Rabbit fell into the Star Wars universe…like, what happened? The whole 21 year old queen—it’s just ridiculous. She doesn’t carry any Queen or Screen presence. She just feels fake, like a very one dimension character who doesn’t seem like a real person and doesn’t carry any sort of political weight. She doesn’t even seem like the “girl around the corner”, she just seems like a completely unbelievable character.

Whereas, Toy Story is not pretentious, and is a really fun film with heart-felt moments, great comedy, and not so long that it becomes an ordeal. It’s just a really fun film—and this is from someone who can no longer watch cartoon movies. I’d rather watch three animated movies then sit through Star Wars Episode 1 again.

My Vote:  Toy Story

Loey: Seeing Toy Story for the first time was a truly magical experience. It didn’t just change animation – it elevated it, bringing incredible wit and emotion with its groundbreaking visuals. The special effects in Phantom Menace have aged better, but it has no soul.

My Vote:  Toy Story

The Winner: Toy Story

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8. The Hunger Games:  Catching Fire (2013)

vs.

9. Titanic (1997)

Beth:  Though I saw Catching Fire at the height of my obsession with J-Law, Titanic is clearly the better movie. The scope of Cameron’s production – not to mention the meticulous research and details he heaped into it – set it apart from the (admittedly) best of the Hunger Games films. Also, that gross spit chain when Peta and Katniss kiss by the electric fence is a big turn off.

My Vote:  Titanic

Loey: I like the Hunger Games movies, but I don’t anticipate rewatching any of them. Even with its shaky script, Titanic is a stunning achievement. From the moment that ship hits the iceberg, James Cameron brings you inside the tragedy, in all its epic, heartbreaking scale. I can watch and be amazed by that over and over again.

My Vote:  Titanic

Robin: In 1997, I was 16 years old. Leonardo. Enough said.

My Vote:  Titanic

The Winner: Titanic

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

vs.

12. Star Wars–Episode III:  The Revenge of the Sith (2005)

Kim:  Hands down Episode VII is the better film. Rey is such a terrific character and the movie is great story-telling. Episode III was a sad story Star Wars fans had imagined and waited for knowing the inevitable end and it just fell flat.

My Vote:  Star Wars–Episode VII:  The Force Awakens

Beth:  Revenge of the Sith is the best of the prequel trilogy and The Force Awakens will probably be the best of the sequel trilogy. On its own, Force Awakens is better BUT it’s not on its own. It was quickly spat on by Rian Johnson and so, became a cruel reminder of what the trilogy *could* have been. Revenge of the Sith on the other hand, bookended two deeply lame moviesm and, due to its comparative superiority, restored hope to the galaxy.  A new hope…you might say.

My Vote:  Star Wars–Episode III:  Revenge of the Sith

Loey: Revenge of the Sith is easily the best of the Star Wars prequels, but that’s a pretty low bar to clear. The Force Awakens finally gave us a story we didn’t already know, bringing back characters we’d missed for years and introducing a new generation of heroes. Even when J.J. Abrams tracks too closely to A New Hope, he does so with the same affection he knows the audience shares.

My Vote:  Star Wars–Episode VII:  The Force Awakens

The Winner: Star Wars–Episode VII:  The Force Awakens

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4. Terminator 2  (1991)

vs.

13. Three Men and a Baby (1987)

Kim: Terminator 2: Judgment Day is the better movie, but Three Men and a Baby does have its charm. While Three Men and a Baby offers laughs and heartfelt emotion, the unbelievable story and a derailed drug-smuggling subplot make the film just ok. Terminator 2 is one of the few films where the sequel is even better and more savory than the first Terminator.

My Vote:  Terminator 2

Beth: Three Men and a Baby is excellent and Steve Guttenberg is a national treasure. But this movie opened the door for Look Who’s Talking, Look Who’s Talking Too and Look Who’s Talking Now. Unforgiveable.

My Vote:  Terminator 2

Robin: Three Men and A Baby. I was very small when I first saw this movie. Maybe 6 years old. Was it appropriate? I don’t know. It was the 80’s. It’s one of those movie titles that when I hear it, it brings on a full rush of nostalgia.

My Vote:  Three Men and a Baby

The Winner: Terminator 2

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6. Star Wars–Episode VIII:  The Last Jedi (2017)

vs.

11. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, aka Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001)

Kim: Both films are part of two great franchises and fictional worlds that can spur off a number of new films and subplots for years to come. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was a film that was pretty faithful to the original novel, and I feel that Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi may have been a departure for some of the beloved characters of 30+ years. Though both films are great fun to watch, Harry Potter is the superior film in terms of story.

My Vote:  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s / Philosopher’s Stone

Loey: The first Harry Potter film is the weakest, so this one is easy. The Last Jedi upended expectations in ways some people found frustrating. I found it exciting, and I’m looking forward to where the series goes next. It has its problems (Porgs, Leia’s space Force moment), but it never lost me.

My Vote:  Star Wars Episode VIII:  The Last Jedi

Beth: Honestly, they’re both objectively terrible. The acting in The Sorcerer’s Stone is embarrassing and the story in The Last Jedi is so bad, everyone’s hoping JJ can undo it. But while the Sorcerer’s Stone is the first film of the Harry Potter empire, The Last Jedi is the 9th (counting Rogue One) in the Star Wars canon. After 40 years of practice, the studio should have known better.

My Vote:  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s / Philosopher’s Stone

The Winner:  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s / Philosopher’s Stone

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

vs.

14. Batman (1989)

Kim:  Oh Batman, Batman, Batman! I love this Tim Burton film. Jack Nicholson is great as the Joker. Though The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King will be a favorite for many, and maybe rightfully so as the story might just be superior, it just can’t beat Tim Burton’s Batman in my opinion. Call it nostalgia, but I will always remember how exciting watching Batman for the first time was for me.

My Vote:  Batman

Beth: I saw ROTK three times in cinema and I literally joined Billy Boyd’s (Pippin’s) fan club. Power to Tim Burton for creating an excellent production design but all the glory to Peter Jackson for making me fall in love with a Scottish hobbit.

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

Loey:  I love Tim Burton’s vision of Gotham and its weirdos, but I want to live inside Peter Jackson’s Middle-Earth. Batman is a blast, a fun summer blockbuster with a swirl of darkness at its core. Return of the King is transcendent, bringing the beauty and drama of Tolkien’s creation to vivid life. It’s the one that makes me smile, cry, and wish I could move in.

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

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

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7. Jurassic Park (1993)

vs.

10. Avatar (2009)

Kim: Avatar is just a super expensive knock-off of FernGully. It’s a classic example of how James Cameron has continually used the same formula to manipulate audiences with a thin love story and a battle of classes. Though Avatar is in a league of its own for visual effects, Jurassic Park is a true classic and movie magic gold. It has this incredible cast, and you have to love all the classic one-liners too–“Hold on to your butts!”

My Vote:  Jurassic Park

Beth: Sing the Jurassic Park theme song. Good job. Now sing the Avatar theme song. Is that the sound of crickets chirping? Yes. Yes it is.

My Vote:  Jurassic Park

Loey: Jurassic Park carried the same initial thrill as Toy Story. Here was something we’d never seen before, brought to life by a master entertainer. You never forget the great moments in Steven Spielberg’s adventure. Avatar looks great (especially in 3D), but who remembers anything, except maybe that floating island sequence? More importantly, who cares?

My Vote:  Jurassic Park

The Winner: Jurassic Park

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2. Harry Potter and the Curse of the Deathly Hallows part two (2011)

vs.

15. Spider-Man 3 (2007)

Kim: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2 is 100% the superior film. Although I enjoy the Tobey Maguire spider-man films, Topher Grace as Venom was a poor choice. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2 is scary, it has twists and turns, and a rewarding ending that finishes that story in a satisfactory manner.

My Vote:  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2

Beth: Spider-Man 3 single handed ruined Tobey Maguire’s career. Deathly Hallows, on the other hand, was pretty satisfying and gave me enough closure to be able to move on from the wizarding world of Harry Potter and ignore the pointless existence the Fantastic Beasts franchise.

My Vote: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2

Loey: The Harry Potter series went out with a proper, satisfying bang that actually justified the decision to split the book into two movies. There was time to breathe and take one last fond journey with our friends at Hogwarts. Spider-Man 3 is a mess, with too many villains and a messy, half-hearted script.

My Vote:  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2

The Winner: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2

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And there we go!  Mostly, the results are the same as from the Original Version of this stage of the Tournament (see them here) with one notable exception:  this time around Jurassic Park absolutely trounced Avatar.  Will that be enough to shift the final results?

Round One of the (Alternate) Even-Numbered Years Conference will be up soon!

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