Lonely (and Raunchy) at the Top: The Eleven R-Rated Comedies That Have Been Top-Five Box Office Grossers
The Hangover, Pt. II has grossed over $254 million since it was released on May 26, making it the third-highest grossing (domestic only) film of the year to date, wedged in-between Transformers: Dark of the Moon ($348 million) and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides ($240 million). (Bridesmaids is #7, with $167 million.) As you can probably guess, the Hangover sequel is a rare R-rated comedy swimming in an unoriginal pool of children’s movies and big-budget action films, making 2011 not unlike pretty much every other year. In fact, over the past three decades plus, only 11 movies that someone under 17 would need a parent or adult supervision to accompany them to the theater have cracked the top-five highest grossers of their respective year. With much thanks to Box Office Mojo, after the jump you’ll see the complete list, full of Eddie Murphy, Riggs and Murtaugh, and semen jokes galore.
1980, Stir Crazy ($101.3 million, #3)
If you asked 500 film critics what the second highest-grossing R-rated comedy between 1980 and 1984 was, not a single one would correctly answer Stir Crazy. That’s not a slight, either (especially because of the extremely specific nature of the question)—it’s actually kind of amazing, and much deserved, that the Gene Wilder- and Richard Pryor-starring movie made that much. It’s, sadly, Gene Wilder’s only great post-Young Frankenstein role, and last to date. Historically speaking, it was also the first movie directed by an African-American (Sidney Poitier) to gross over $100 million.
1981, Stripes ($85.2 million, #5)
The second film of Ivan Reitman’s unbeatable non-trilogy (sandwiched in-between Meatballs and Ghostbusters), Stripes not only introduced the world to Judge Reinhold, but it also worked as John Candy’s coming out party to Americans who weren’t cool enough to have seen SCTV. Stripes was released June 26, two weeks after Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (top grosser of 1981) and Clash of the Titans (#11) and a week after Superman II (#3) and The Cannonball Run (#6). In a packed summer season, for Stripes to have made $85 million, is a testament to its word of mouth buzz.
1982, Porky’s ($105.4 million, #5)
According to Wikipedia, Porky’s is “the second-highest grossing Canadian-produced film in history behind Resident Evil: Afterlife.” Hm, I would have guessed Blood and Donuts or maybe Flesh Gordon Meets the Cosmic Cheerleaders. Never would have gotten Porky’s. Bob Clark’s teen-sex romp, which made more than 25 times its $4 million budget, was probably so successful because it had everything anyone could want in a movie: nudity, stereotypes, revenge, a funny title that reminded people of pigs, vulgar language, more nudity, teen drinking, and lastly, Kim Cattrall-nudity.
1983, Trading Places ($90.4 million, #4)
Trading Places starred two former-SNL’ers, Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd, and has become such a part of culture that in 2010, Commodity Futures Trading Commission chief Gary Gensler (as if I needed to tell you his title) mentioned the film while testifying before Congress. Gensler said, “In Trading Places…the Duke brothers [played by Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche] intended to profit from trades in frozen concentrated orange juice futures contracts using an illicitly obtained and not yet public Department of Agriculture orange crop report.” More congressional hearings should reference Eddie Murphy movies. “Why no congressmen,” he said. “I didn’t Norbit myself to make a profit.”
1984, Beverly Hills Cop ($234.7 million, #1)
Have you noticed a trend yet? In the 1980s, Saturday Night Live ruled the box office. So far, there’s been Stripes (Bill Murray), then Tootsie (Murray again) then Trading Places (Murphy and Aykroyd), and now, with Beverly Hills Cop, more Murphy (and if you include the PG-rated Ghostbusters, second highest grosser of 1984, more Murray, and more Aykroyd). Beverly Hills Cops was the biggest box office hit of 1984, topping a top-ten that included Gremlins, Footloose, and Splash. It is the only #1 R-rated comedy since 1980, with one of the best theme songs, too.
1987, Beverly Hills Cop II ($153.6 million, #3); Good Morning, Vietnam ($123.9 million, #4)
Originally, after the success of the first film, Beverly Hills Cop was going to be made into a TV series, but when Murphy refused and said he would only return for a sequel, well, a sequel was made. And he returned to it. Beverly Hills Cop II wasn’t nearly as good as its predecessor (in his review for the film, Roger Ebert wrote, “What is comedy? That’s a pretty basic question, I know, but Beverly Hills Cop II never thought to ask it”), but it made a lot of money because Eddie Murphy was an A-list star—as was Robin Williams, who headlined 1987’s other popular comedy, Good Morning, Vietnam, as U.S. Air Force DJ Adrian Cronauer, a role that led to Williams being cast as the Genie in Aladdin five years later (it’s a Touchstone thing).
1988, Coming to America ($128.1 million, #3)
And yet another Eddie Murphy movie. Coming to America is the final unquestionably bright spot in Murphy’s career as a headliner (with the possible exception of the very rewatchable Bowfinger). Soon after would come the underwhelming sequels Another 48 HRS and Beverly Hills Cop III, followed by The Nutty Professor in 1996 and Mulan in 1997. Over the past 15 years, Murphy has turned into a children’s movie star, and seems quite comfortable voicing Donkey until the end of time. What the world really needs, however, is the follow-up to 1993’s Love Alright, because really, is it?
1989/1992, Lethal Weapon 2 ($147.2 million, #3)/Lethal Weapon 3 ($144.7 million, #4)
The Lethal Weapon and Mad Max series are the only films that have escaped the Starring Mel Gibson: Do Not Watch list, since the world learned how much of a racist, sexist, Anti-Semitic drunk asshole Gibson really is. The sequel (the best of the franchise) swapped out the original’s Gary Busey (playing the tastefully named Mr. Joshua) for Joe Pesci, a win-win situation, while the third film is a runaway train of a bloated mess. Not unlike Gibson nowadays, actually. In 1998, a fourth movie was released, but it finished #11 for the year, one slot below Patch Adams, the ultimate insult.
1998, There’s Something about Mary ($176.4 million, #3)
Although it hasn’t aged well (with the exception of Cameron Diaz’s wonderful performance, which seems more and more like a fluke with every lackluster, unfunny subsequent role), There’s Something About Mary felt like a gross-out revelation in the summer of 1998. It made Ben Stiller into the comedy mega-star he is today (The Cable Guy was widely hated when it was released), and the Farrelly brothers are still costing on their vulgar reputation from the film, and to a lesser extent, Kingpin. Many films tried to replicate its success, and almost all of them failed. Before the two Hangovers and Wedding Crashers, Mary was the highest-grossing R-rated comedy of all-time.
(For what it’s worth, the top domestic comedy, money-wise (adjusted for inflation), of any rating is The Sting at #16, or in a more strict comedy-sense, Ghostbusters at #32. Non-inflation, it’s Home Alone, all the way down at #48, then The Hangover at #51. Worldwide: Men in Black, at #66.)
Josh Kurp would like to point out that the lowest-grossing film of 2011 so far is the hilariously-titled No One Killed Jessica