2012 seems to be a big year for movies, the biggest that I can think of since the year 2001. Should the world end this year, Hollywood appears to be ready to go out with a bang. For decades, audiences have been anticipating the release of movies, and I believe there is truth in the fact that the anticipation is part of the fun. Perhaps it has mostly to do with our own personal interests, but you can’t deny the fact that advertising plays a big role in convincing us what to go out and see. This year is a great example; teaser trailers, tie-in merchandise, and media coverage beyond the norm all vying to get our attention towards 2012’s formidable lineup of big budget blockbusters. It feels like in today’s world it is more difficult than ever to step away from the saturation of media and advertising of movies, but that is what I am attempting to do with this list.

It is the joy of anticipation that makes it easy to list movies you are most excited to see. These movies have not come out yet and the media’s inundation is still fresh in your brain, pop culture magazines publish those lists all the time. No, this is a look at the most anticipated movies of all time. These movies, for whatever reason, were movies that people wanted to see far in advance, and not just because the TV or the radio told them so. These are movies that earned a following before they were ever seen. They earned that following and thus a lot of anticipation for many reasons; the merits of films that came before, the popularity of the source material on which it was based, the promise of something new and exciting that had never been seen nor attempted before. Regardless of the reason, these movies all had critics and average movie patrons a buzz before the first advertisement even came out. Of course, whether or not they actually lived up to those lofty expectations is another matter altogether….

The Runners Up (In No Particular Order):

  • Twilight (2008) – What list of most anticipated films would be complete without mentioning something from the Twilight universe? Well, here you go. It piggy-backed off of the success of the Harry Potter film adaptations, and that is why I didn’t rank it any higher, but you still cannot deny how much hype and craziness the first Twilight film created when it was announced. Legions of Twihards everywhere were eagerly awaiting  the film adaptation of their favorite preteen literature, and Hollywood finally obliged. If Harry Potter fans could have their own movie, when would Twilight fans get theirs? Did it live up to the hype? Yes, much to the chagrin of the rest of us, it gave fans of the book exactly what they wanted and paved the way for film versions of the rest of the books in the series.
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011) – The fact that this is the second film on this list from the Harry Potter franchise says a lot about how big that series of films was in the minds of movie-goers everywhere. The fact that this is the last film in the series says even more. This film was hugely anticipated, and ever since the first film came out audiences wanted to see how the series would end. What made it even more anticipated was the move by the filmmakers to break the last Harry Potter book into two movies. The only reason this film didn’t make the top ten is the fact that this is the 8th film in the franchise, and the majority of the people who were excited to see it would have been the fans of the book, people who had seen all the other films and would have seen this film no matter what. In other words, although hugely anticipated it did not bring any new fans to the franchise. Did it live up to it’s hype? Yes, I think it did. Read my review here to find out why.
  • The Godfather Part 2 (1974) – The Godfather was a monumental film. It changed Hollywood forever by showing that a controversial subject could make a good film subject, and for that reason I included it on my list of Most Important Movies of All Time. By itself, The Godfather was quite an achievement, which is why the announcement of a sequel at first took people by surprise. In today’s world it makes perfect sense, Hollywood wanted to cash in on the success and popularity of the first film. Back then though, Hollywood was different. Sequels were fairly rare, getting the same cast together to make another movie would cost more money that it did before (that’s the cost of success), and the film maker’s reputation would be put on the line. In other words, it was a huge gamble, and the stakes were very high. People were intrigued, it’s not often that one of the greatest movies ever made gets a sequel. Did it live up to it’s hype? Yes, many critics even thought that it was superior to the first film. It also won more awards and made the franchise more popular than before.
  • Waterworld (1995) – At the time of it’s release, Waterworld was the most expensive movie made to date. With the birth of the summer blockbuster in 1993 with Jurassic Park, movie studios started taking bigger chances and pushing for more. Audiences too started expecting more from their popcorn flicks. More action, more special effects, more excitement. Waterworld was the attempt at Hollywood to answer those needs. Waterworld, it seemed, would be the mother of all movies. It starred Kevin Costner, who was an A-list celebrity having found huge success both in front of and behind the camera. Plus, just knowing how expensive this movie was filled audience’s minds with huge anticipation. This movie was supposed to raise the bar of big-budget cinema. Did it live up to it’s hype? No. This movie was a huge failure, one of the worst of all time. Audiences did not connect to the story and the huge budget was wasted. Poor reviews flooded in and Kevin Costner’s career started its decline.
  •  The Simpsons Movie (2007) – The Simpsons has been a mainstay on TV since 1987. The fact that the animated series had been on TV so long began making people ask when they would hang it up. It was long rumored, even coming from creator Matt Groening himself, that the series would culminate in the release of a Simpson’s movie. That anticipation began 10 years before the actual movie came out. And when the movie did come out, the series continued on. Therefore, The Simpsons Movie was a hugely anticipated event; the millions of fans that it had garnered over the course of it’s 20+ year time on television only added to that hype. Did it live up to it’s hype? Yes, the film was liked by fans and critics both, and even though the series went on it in essence completed the cartoon family’s invasion into seemingly every medium available.
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) – The Harry Potter phenomenon was the first in a long list of similar pop culture happenings that was based on a series of books intended for children/young teens. Far before the movie had even been announced, the craze had invaded schools and households everywhere. The fact that this was a book not intended for children made it even more amazing, but also proved to Hollywood the economic power that the new younger generation had on pop culture. The decision to make a film franchise based on the popular books was made because this younger generation now had the influence to make it popular. Hence the reason for other franchises taking a similar leap (Twilight, I Am Number 4, The Hunger Games). Thus, this film’s release was highly anticipated, not just for the children that had read the books and would drag their parents to see it, but also for the Hollywood executives who were witnessing a new pattern in pop culture. Did it live up to it’s hype? Yes, the film satisfied those who had read the book, and was financially successful, which meant that the franchise would continue on.

10. Heaven’s Gate (1980) – In 1979 Michael Cimino was the prince of Hollywood. His fame came from his 1978 film The Deer Hunter, which had won the Academy Award for best picture (among numerous other awards) and has received universal praise. His rise was meteoric and he became a hot commodity. Audiences and critics were eagerly waiting to see what he would do next. A-list stars lined up for the opportunity to audition, as it seemed that his next film would be a ticket to an Academy Award nomination or win. Everyone wanted to be a part of this movie, and the public was waiting eagerly. After you come out of nowhere and make a movie of such high caliber as The Deer Hunter, it’s understandable that the expectations are high. But this wasn’t all. The studio’s felt so highly that this movie would be a success that they gave the mostly inexperienced Camino full reign on his next film. He could do whatever he wanted and that made this movie so hotly anticipated. It seemed like there was no limit to his talent, and without the studio standing in his way prohibiting his creativity, this film was supposed to be one of the best ever made. Did it live up to it’s hype? No, in fact, this film was a complete disaster, more so than Waterworld. Many critics site this film as the biggest flop of all time, and then killed Camino’s career forever (the rest of the films that he made also bombed, but mostly because people hated him so much they would not go see any film he made because of Heaven’s Gate)

9. Gone With the Wind (1939) – Gone With the Wind was based on a novel that was written in 1936. The novel went on to win the coveted Pulitzer Prize, and as a result it was widely enamored and sold well. The film adaptation is a perfect example of the right movie being released at exactly the right time. The film was actually created in secret, and only once audiences had a preview screening did it widely become apparent what this film was. News spread like wildfire, and fans of the book were eagerly awaiting the release of the film. The book had been released in the heart of the Great Depression, and it was the romantic, escapist literature that the nation was craving at the time. When people heard that the movie was coming out, they flocked to the theaters in droves. This was exactly the right type of film for audiences at the time. Did it live up to it’s hype? Yes. Widely considered one of the best films of all time, it is a perfect example of the sentiments of American culture at the time. Audiences everywhere loved it.

8. Goldfinger (1964) – The early James Bond films were another example of the right movies being released at the right time. They featured all the romance and excitement that the new younger generation of the time was craving. This new generation didn’t want the stodgy and stuffy epic movies that their parents had coveted so much. They wanted flash, they wanted sex, and they wanted violence. That momentum peaked in 1964 with the release of Goldfinger. The third film of the series was so highly anticipated that a mob broke out at the premiere, causing damage to the theater and delaying the showing. Sure, the series’ popularity continued on for decades, but Goldfinger was the highlight. Ever since Dr. No reached theaters in 1962, studios around the world were scrambling to put their own spy movies out, in an attempt to cash in on the craze. There was no substitute for the real thing though, and Goldfinger promised to be more exciting, more sexy, and more flashy than its predecessors had been. Did it live up to it’s hype? Yes, this film is widely considered the best in the entire franchise, and it was a huge commercial success. If anything, it only fueled audiences’ thirst for more, and the series continued.

7. Jurassic Park III (2001) – If Jurassic Park had invented the summer blockbuster formula, it’s sequel, The Lost World: Jurassic Park raised the bar. Here we had a movie series that gave audiences everything they wanted. Excitement, awesome special effects, great actors, and a good story. When it came time for the third in the series, the success of the first two films had churned the pot of audience anticipation into a fervor. The first two films had been good, and with the same film makers returning it seemed like the third entry into the series would be just as fulfilling. Plus, the fact that this film was to be the first one in the series not based on a book made it even more highly anticipated. The film makers could do anything they want, and it seemed that since each of the first two films had raised the bar as far as summer blockbuster experiences, the third installment would do the same. Did it live up to it’s hype? No. Despite breaking box-office records at the time for opening weekend, Jurassic Park III did not live up to the high standards set by its predecessors. The scope of the film seemed to be much smaller than the other two, and the audience was expecting more, not less, and hence the reason the fourth film has been delayed for so long.

6. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) – Although Spielberg had originally anticipated making more than 3 Indiana Jones films, the third film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, was intended to be the last one. I guess in the last 20 years he had the opportunity to reconsider. He pulled a few switches at Fox and got the okay to go ahead with the fourth installment. I considered putting one of the first two sequels on this list, because they were both highly anticipated. However, looking back it is quite rare that a successful film franchise puts out a sequel so long after its heyday. As a result, the kids that watched the original films in theaters have had kids of their own, and because the films were so universally enjoyable, this new generation has grown up with Indiana Jones cemented in their upbringing. Therefore, the anticipation was high not only from those who remember seeing the original films in theaters for the first time, but also all the younger generations since then who have grown up with Indiana Jones cemented as a pop icon in their minds. For this reason, with both new and old fans waiting anxiously, I decided that the fourth film deserved a spot on this list. Did it live up to it’s hype? No. The film was commercially successful, and it delivered the excitement we were used to from the first three films, but it failed overall to feel like anything more than an attempt by Hollywood to squeeze out more money from a revered pop culture mainstay.

5. The Avengers (2012)  – How could The Avengers not be on this list? Entire movies were made to provide back story to the main characters. And it’s not like the studios have been quiet about their intentions. Ever since X-Men: The Last Stand it was known that an Avengers movie was on its way. Plus, the superhero craze that started with the second X-men movie is still going strong. With a tough economy, it seems like superheroes are what audiences want to see. They want to escape and that’s what Hollywood has been delivering. The Avengers only takes this to the next level. This isn’t just one superhero, this is multiple. All joining up together to fight. And with years of comic books and action figure material to draw from, fans new and old are all waiting to see if the new super superhero movie will be able to pull it off. Did it live up to it’s hype?  We’ll have to wait and see. Review coming soon….

4. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) – A Lord of the Rings movie has been rumored for decades. J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel has been an inspiration for all types of creative pieces, from music to books and movies. The books have since gained a huge following and everyone had expected that a film version would have already been made. But, as we all know, the translation from book to screen is a difficult one. Many film makers contemplated the possibilities of making their own adaptations, but all of them stepped down. The task was just too daunting. There was too much material, and the longer they waiting the more cemented the books became in our culture. It was one thing to make a movie adaptation based on your own perspective of the books, but it was another thing to have that interpretation match that of the millions of fans around the world who would see the movie. In short it was too much of a risk, both financially and in terms of a film maker’s reputation. Peter Jackson, though, took that risk. His commitment to his vision made the films come to life, and as a result all those years of waiting for all those millions of fans came to an end in 2001. Did it live up to it’s hype? Yes. Peter Jackson brought back the fantasy genre from the brink and was able to make a film that was loyal to the book while being exciting enough and easy enough to follow for viewers that hadn’t read the book.

3. Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983) – Star Wars is perhaps the biggest movie franchise of all time, even if it didn’t start that way. To say that the original film’s success was a surprise is true, but more importantly, it fueled a craze in movie making. Now audiences wanted more, and their expectations were higher. The sequel, The Empire Strikes Back was highly anticipated (as expected), but the fact that the film was also high quality fueled fan’s enthusiasm even more. The quality of the franchise had improved, and to do the series any justice, the finale had better been up to the task. Star Wars merchandise flew off the shelf, and people waited in lines for days. Return of the Jedi was arguably the cinema event of the 1980’s, and it seemed everyone wanted to see it. Did it live up to it’s hype? Yes. The film was able to maintain the quality of the first two in the series while adding to the excitement and drama. It also ended the franchise in a way that left fan’s content and cemented Star Wars in pop culture infamy.

2. The Dark Knight (2008) – By itself, The Dark Knight had a lot of hype. It’s predecessor had done several things right; it had made us forget about those awful Batman sequels of the late 90’s, it had freshened the familiar story for the new millennium, it had shown that Christopher Nolan would be a directing tour de force in mainstream cinema, and it had successfully cashed in on the superhero craze. All of these successes made  The Dark Knight a film that many people wanted to see. When Heath Ledger unexpectedly died it creates an entirely new level of anticipation that few movies ever experienced. Ledger was a popular actor adored by many fans, and even before he died they wanted to see this film for his performance. After his death it made the film all the more a must-see. It was a double-whammy of anticipation. Did it live up to it’s hype? Yes. The movie and Ledger’s performance received praise, and both delivered what the audience wanted to see.

1. Star Wars : Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999) – If Return of the Jedi had huge anticipation, multiply that by ten to understand the type of anticipation for the first Star Wars prequel. Much like Indiana Jones, over time Star Wars had embedded itself in pop culture. Three generations of movie-lovers had grown up watching the original Star Wars movies, and now, finally, George Lucas had decided to come out with the prequels. Star Wars seemed like a sacred subject, the first three films were so ingrained in the minds of die-hard and casual fans alike that any change or addition would be considered blasphemy. But George Lucas planned to change all that. He was a wizard of special effects, and in the span of 30 years since the release of the first film, special effects had come a long way. Indeed, much of the excitement from the first films came from the excellent special effects. Therefore, even though the though of adding a new chapter to the story gave many people reservations, they were still curious about what type of visual magic would take place on screen. They lined up in droves at the theaters, many in costume, and many waiting for days. This was arguably the movie event of the century and certainly millions of people around the world had been waiting for it for decades. Did it live up to it’s hype? No. Although the film’s visuals were indeed special and indeed carried on the spirit of the original films, The Phantom Menace‘s characters and story did not resonate with audiences. Regardless, the film was a commercial success and paved the way for two more sequels.

My previous review: Rated: The Skin I Live In (2011)

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