No show gets better ratings than the Super Bowl. Between Super Bowl parties, going out to the bars or watching your favorite team at home, everyone watches the big game. Unfortunately, this leaves little room for movie going. The box office usually takes quite a dip on Super Bowl Sunday. This poses an interesting issue for studios. Many have their films steer clear of this weekend. Others use it as a dumping ground. The more savvy people release strong counter-programming to the game. For example, “Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour” grossed $31 million over Super Bowl weekend. This marks a record for the weekend and also for movie concert films.
In honor of counter-programming for the Big Game, let’s take a look at the 10 best movies to open against the Super Bowl.
10“Birthday Girl” (2002)
Nicole Kidman’s career is defined by risk-taking roles and a fierce commitment to character. However, even her legendary career has more than a few oddballs. “Birthday Girl” comes at an interesting time in her career. Despite coming out after her movie star 2001 (“Moulin Rouge!,” “The Others,” divorcing Tom Cruise), “Birthday Girl” feels like a pre-Renaissance Kidman. “Birthday Girl” finds lonely bank clerk John (Ben Chaplin) order a Russian mail-order bride to be his companion. Enter Nadia (Kidman), barely speaking English, bringing nothing but a few possessions and some “cousins” with dubious intentions. The movie straddles multiple lines between thriller, romance and even comedy (both intentional and unintentional). It doesn’t succeed at any of them. However, it creates an odd camp piece that is only stranger when placed among Nicole Kidman’s filmography.
9“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” (2016)
Pairing Jane Austen and brain-eating zombies was always a strange combination. However, this mashup made for a very popular trend in books. As for movies, the trend did not catch on. Yet, that’s not to say the film isn’t without charms. Casting the Bennett sisters as trained zombie assassins is a joke not lost on the film. It manages to make them both butt-kicking and funny as they fight for survival and love. Additionally, as we saw with “Cinderella” and “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again,” Lily James is a star. She headlines the film with great conviction and sells through the even more outlandish elements. Sure, no one has any chemistry. Yet, there’s lots of fun kitsch throughout this oddity.
8“Sugar & Spice” (2001)
Speaking of odd genre pieces, “Sugar & Spice” carries one of the most bonkers loglines. After teenagers Jack (James Marsden) and Diane (Marley Shelton) get pregnant, Diane enlists her fellow cheerleaders to rob a bank. The movie makes very little sense and has quite a low bar for a taste. However, it excels when it understands what makes it offbeat and grotesque. The poster alone touts this with the creepy, soulless masks the girls choose. Moments like this appropriately parody the heist genre. It also applies an acerbic wit that doesn’t always work. Yet, when it does, it recalls stronger cult comedies, such as “Drop Dead Gorgeous.” Writer Mandy Nelson and Director Francine McDougall have more interesting thoughts on contrasting the image of cheerleaders with bank robbers. If only they had taken it further, we might still be talking about “Sugar & Spice” today.
7“The Wedding Planner” (2001)
Jennifer Lopez is and has always been, a movie star. More specifically, Lopez excels at being a rom-com queen. “The Wedding Planner” pairs her with “pre-McConaissance” Matthew McConaughey, sporting a haircut that seemed designed by 12 studio executives. Their chemistry never fully takes off. What does is Lopez’s immense charms. Lopez stars as Mary Fiore, the best wedding planner around. Her business is thriving as she gives couples their dream day. However, things start going wrong on her latest job when she starts falling for the groom, Steve Edison (Matthew McConaughey). Rom-coms are the staple of Super Bowl counter-programming. “The Wedding Planner” may not be the best rom-com, but it’s a great time suck on a rainy day.
6“Spice World” (1998)
There’s something almost avant-garde about “Spice World.” Yes, the film serves as an extended commercial for the pop band Spice Girls. Yet, once you strip the commercialism from the premise, you’re left with a bizarrely entrancing, glitter overloaded spectacle. It makes no sense and zips every which way in terms of plot and tone. However, it’s also a camp classic that encapsulates the 90s better than almost any other film. The film boasts no discernible plot as the Spice Girls roam around London in their double-decker bus performing. In some ways, the best reading of the film is as a PG-rated rock documentary. What if this was what life was like for the Spice Girls in the 90s – vaguely magical, totally freeform and always fabulous.
Who knew an oft-delayed action-thriller that almost went straight to DVD would relaunch Liam Neeson. Audiences turned out in droves to watch Oskar Schindler himself beat up countless numbers of Eastern European baddies. The plot of “Taken” couldn’t be more simple. Dad’s daughter gets kidnapped while on a European vacation. Dad flies to Europe and beats up everyone in sight until he gets his daughter back. The easy to convey plot made “Taken” such a runaway hit. Once the plot gets going, the action never stops. Refreshingly, “Taken” knows exactly what people want from a movie like it. Boy, it delivers.
4“The Perfect Score” (2004)
Going through the SATs is stressful. One test carries such weight on your collegiate prospects and future. So what’s the perfect crime? Stealing answers to the test. A “Breakfast Club” type gang assembles to do just that in this 2004 flop. Much like “Sugar & Spice,” Super Bowl weekend seems to be a great time to release your oddball teen heist movies. What “The Perfect Score” gets right is the overwhelming pressure to succeed. It’s a heist motivated by opportunity rather than greed. Plus, we award bonus points for “Avengers” stars Scarlett Johansson and Chris Evans together long before the MCU.
3“She’s All That” (1999)
“Was I a bet? Was I a ****ing bet?” With that line delivery, Rachael Leigh Cook unleashed our collective teenage hormone frustrations. “She’s All That” defines and checks off all the boxes of a 90s teen rom-com. First, there’s Freddie Prinze, Jr., the patron saint of pooka-shell necklace jocks from the 90s. He plays popular guy Zack Siler, who can get any girl he wants. Yet, his fellow douchey friend, Dean Sampson (Paul Walker, rest in peace), dares him to ask “ugly duckling” Laney Boggs to prom. Zack bets he can turn Laney into the belle of the ball. As he gives her a makeover, the two fall in love. The premise is beyond problematic. However, Rachael Leigh Cook makes Laney such a strong, artistic misfit, one can’t help but love her. Plus, there’s lots of falling in love on a beach and 90s nostalgia.
2“Hail, Caesar!” (2016)
After all the “so bad they’re good” oddball films that have been featured, its shocking to see a Coen Brothers movie on the list. However, the prestige filmmakers chose Super Bowl weekend to release their ode to Old Hollywood. The results may not have been profitable for the film. However, it gave moviegoers a perfect, zany antidote to the testosterone-fueled game. Movie star Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) gets kidnapped and it’s up to studio fixer Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) to find him and make sure the show goes on. Everything stops once Channing Tatum performs “No Dames,” a wonderfully gay tap number in full navy uniform. As great as that moment is, best in show belongs to Alden Ehrenreich as Hobie Doyle, a wide-eyed western star thrust out of his comfort zone into a period drama.
Who would’ve expected one of the best superhero movies to come on Super Bowl weekend? Josh Trank’s low budget superhero experiment looked like another attempt to make shaky cam happen. However, the gimmick has never been used better. Three high schoolers go off a beaten path and discover something that gives them superpowers. Jocks Matt (Alex Russell) and Steve (Michael B. Jordan) use their powers to goof off and have fun. Yet, the more reserved Andrew (Dane DeHaan in his best role), wields his powers with a much more sinister aspect. “Chronicle” uses the pillars of a superhero origin story to examine the effects of child abuse. There’s a lot more to the simple log-line of the film. Not only that, but all three of the central actors really shine and create lived-in chemistry.