A Century of Film
TriStar Pictures

The Studio

Victor Kaufman is the father of TriStar Pictures.  The name came about because Kaufman convinced Columbia Pictures (where he worked), CBS and HBO to combine to form a new film production and distribution company.  In at least one sense, it was the first major film company formed in Hollywood since RKO in 1928.  The reason Columbia was involved, in spite of already producing their own films, was to form a relationship with HBO which had become extremely powerful in terms of dealing with the majors (You can read more about this and the state of the industry in the early 80’s in History of the American Cinema 10: A New Pot of Gold: Hollywood Under the Electronic Rainbow, 1980-1989, Steven Prince.  The story of the formation of TriStar begins on page 25).  By 1984, TriStar had produced its first film (The Natural), although Where the Boys Are ’84 (which was only a TriStar distribution, not a TriStar production) beat it into theaters by just over a month, debuting on 6 April 1984.  But 1984 wasn’t that profitable (“in its first year of operation Tri-Star gained only a 5 percent share of the domestic theatrical market” (Prince, p 31) and by the end of 1986, CBS has sold their shares to Columbia and Time (the parent company of HBO) had sold them half of its shares as well.  A note here on the name: it was spelled with the hyphen until 1991 and was then dropped.

I apologize for the next couple of sentences because on one level, it’s total bullshit, but if you can read through it, Prince really does hit on what was going on in Hollywood at the time: “In this regard, the formation of Tri-Star heralds the inexorable movement throughout the decade toward greater concentrations of media ownership and control of interlocking markets.  By the time Tri-Star was formed, other high-profile mergers and acquisitions had occurred (Marvin Davis’s 1981 purchase of Fox, TransAmerica’s 1981 sale of UA to MGM, Coca-Cola’s purchase of Columbia).  But Tri-Star’s heterogeneous makeup was the most explicit demonstration thus far in the decade (and many more were yet to come) of the industry’s growing concentration as it pursued synergies in filmed entertainment markets.”  (Prince, 31-32)

The Natural was the studio’s first hit, making almost $50 million and it stayed their biggest hit through their first year and was still among their five biggest films as late as the Spring of 1990.  The next major development came the next year when Tri-Star started distributing films for Carolco, an independent production company that had teamed with two huge action stars: Sly and Arnold.  The first Carolco film released by Tri-Star was Rambo: First Blood Part II, which grossed $150 million, the studio’s first smash hit and still the third biggest film ever released by the Tri-Star (second when accounting for inflation).  They had already started producing award winners (Places in the Heart, the 8th film released by the studio, was Oscar nominated for Best Picture and famously won Best Actress because you liked her, you really liked her).  But, after Places, it would be five years before TriStar would even be in the Oscar race again (with Glory) and not until 1991 would they receive another Best Picture nomination (Bugsy).  And while they had a lot of mid-level success, they wouldn’t have another $100 million film (or even $55 million film) until Look Who’s Talking, also in 1989.  But, the success in 1989 of Talking, the commercial and critical success of Steel Magnolias and the investment in Glory showed that artists could work at the theater and be successful.  But, at the same time, Sony bought Columbia and TriStar, while still existing, began to take a back seat.  Over the next eight years, they would have box office success with films like Total Recall, Terminator 2, Sleepless in Seattle, Jerry Maguire and Godzilla and critical and awards success with films like Bugsy, The Fisher King, Philadelphia and As Good as It Gets.  But it was being increasingly seen as only the independent arm of Columbia rather than a separate entity.  Indeed, in 1996, Jerry Maguire was lauded by Hollywood as the only studio product to earn a Best Picture nomination.  For all intents and purposes, TriStar simply became part of Columbia in 1998, folded into one of its wings.  From 1999 to 2008, only 28 TriStar films were released and only two of those made more than $27 million.  After the double whammy of Godzilla and The Mask of Zorro in the summer of 1998, they had simply stopped producing big budget films.  But then came District 9 and its massive critical success (and solid commercial success).  For more on this story, see the bottom.

Unlike with genres where I can’t definitively say how many films have ever been released and thus what percentage I have seen, there are a couple of ways to track films by studio.  Going by BoxOfficeMojo, there are 210 films from TriStar.  Wikipedia provides a list that includes 231 films.  Either way, I have seen between 56 and 62% of all the TriStar films.  The ones I haven’t seen earned no award nominations and none of them earned more than $48 million.  They are a mish-mash of dumb Comedies (Look Who’s Talking Too, Beverly Hills Ninja, High School High), weak Kids films (Madeline, Baby Geniuses, Santa Claus: The Movie) and bad Horror films (Premonition, Silent Hill, Urban Legend) and appalling sequels (Weekend at Bernie’s II, Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo, 3 Ninjas Kick Back, Universal Soldier: The Return, Meatballs Part II).  When I talk about the history of the studio, I am talking about the films I have seen, though, since I have all the award nominees and top box office films, those lists are still definitive.

The Directors

Though there are TriStar films I haven’t seen, of what I have seen, there are only three directors who made more than two films at the studio.  One of them made a bad film then two very good ones, one made the best film the studio ever produced in between two mediocre ones and the third made three very popular films (their #10, 11 and 20 all-time) with greatly diminishing returns on quality.

Barry Levinson

  • Films:  3
  • Years:  1984 – 1991
  • Average Film:  73.3
  • Best Film:  Avalon
  • Worst Film:  The Natural

Over the years, several Best Picture / Director winning directors have directed films at TriStar.  What makes Levinson different is that he directed his first film at TriStar before he won the Oscar, though he then returned and made two more afterwards.  His The Natural was the first film ever produced by the studio and it was a solid hit for them, both commercially and at the awards circuit (no awards but 6 total nominations across three groups).  But, after Rain Man, Levinson returned to TriStar for his next two films, both of which earned critical acclaim but fell short at the Oscars (Avalon was expected to contend for Picture and Director but earned nominations for neither while Bugsy had the most Oscar nominations but failed to win any major awards).

Ed Zwick

  • Films:  3
  • Years:  1986  –  1994
  • Average Film:  73.0
  • Best Film:  Glory
  • Worst Film:  About Last Night

After making some television films, Zwick made his feature film debut with TriStar, directing the play that had become famous in his hometown of Chicago, though changing the title from Sexual Perversity in Chicago to About Last Night.  Though it only made $38 million, that was enough, two years into the studio’s history, to be its fourth biggest film to that point.  Zwick then started making thirtysomething but returned to TriStar to make Glory, his critical hit (though not a big financial hit) that ultimately faltered at the Oscars, failing to earn the major nominations, though it somewhat made up for that by winning three Oscars.  After leaving for his critically panned third film (Leaving Normal), Zwick returned for his next big epic, Legends of the Fall.  It, like Glory, did well at the Globes but fell big at the Oscars (though, again, it did win Cinematography).

Paul Verhoeven

  • Films:  3
  • Years:  1990  –  1997
  • Average Film:  61.0
  • Best Film:  Total Recall
  • Worst Film:  Starship Troopers

Verhoeven’s Total Recall was the biggest opening film in TriStar’s history when it opened to $25.7 million in June of 1990 though it only ended up their third biggest grossing film to that point, getting up to $119 million.  But two years later, with controversy feeding it, Basic Instinct became the sixth biggest film in the studio’s history.  It was entertaining if not nearly as good as his previous film.  Next came Starship Troopers which was a critical disaster and though it made over $50 million actually lost money at the box office (until the international grosses came in).

The Stars

Arnold Schwarzennegar

Arnold’s work with TriStar began in 1987 with The Running Man, the first of several Sci-Fi films he would make with the studio.  But the collaboration was really cemented because of the deal that TriStar had made with Carolco Pictures, who made films that TriStar would then distribute.  Arnold’s next film for TriStar was a Carolco film, Red Heat.  Both films had been modest hits for the studio.  Then came Total Recall in 1990, the biggest opening TriStar had ever had and one of their biggest (and best) films.  Then, to take things even higher, Carolco bought the Terminator rights and they produced and TriStar distributed the hit sequel Terminator 2: Judgment Day.  In spite of over 25 years of inflation, it it still the biggest film that TriStar has ever released and is easily one of the studio’s best.  That puts Arnold in a unique position because unlike the other two biggest stars that TriStar made use of, Arnold actually made some really good films for the studio and not just successful films.
Essential Viewing:  Total Recall, Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Sylvester Stallone

First Blood had been made in 1982 by Carolco Pictures and distributed by Orion Pictures.  It had been by far the biggest hit, critically and commercially, in the history of the small independent studio.  By the time the sequel was ready, Carolco used it as the first film in a distribution deal with TriStar that would last for almost a decade.  Rambo: First Blood Part II is a terrible film but it made $150 million, the only film in the first five years of TriStar to even break $55 million and even today is the studio’s third biggest film.  Stallone would find a home at the studio with films like Rambo III (the only other TriStar film before the fall of 1989 to break $40 million, making $53 million), Lock Up (which might surprise you to learn was supposed to be a serious Oscar contender before it was actually released to dreadful reviews) and Cliffhanger (which, by the time it was made, in spite of earning $84 million, was helping to sink Carolco).  He was a big star for the studio but those four films combined earn a lower total rating than Total Recall or T2 which is why there are no Essential Viewing films listed.

Bruce Willis

While he was already a star on television with Moonlighting, Bruce Willis didn’t get a lead film role until 1987.  His first two lead roles, Blind Date and Sunset, both Blake Edwards, were both TriStar films.  While the first was a solid hit, the second was a critical and commercial flop.  Willis might never have been a film star had it not been for Die Hard (a Fox film) that was released a few months later.  As a result, the studio brought him in as the voice of the baby in Look Who’s Talking, the second TriStar film to ever break $100 million.  That not only lead to two sequels I haven’t seen (with greatly diminishing box office returns, dropping from $140 for the original to $47 for the sequel and $10 for the third, which Willis wasn’t in) but also to Hudson Hawk, the disaster of a film that almost killed Willis’ screen career and pretty much lead to the end of his time at TriStar.  But, see some irony on that down at the bottom of the post.


When you look at TriStar compared to all the films I’ve seen, a couple of things stand out.  First of all, of all the films I’ve seen from 1984 to 1998 (the bulk of TriStar’s production), Dramas account for over 40% yet they account for just over 20% of the TriStar films.  While most other genres are pretty close to the average for those years, the two that make up for the lack of Dramas are Comedy (29% of TriStar, 21% of all films) and especially Action (11% of TriStar films, less than 5% of all films).  Ironically, the best TriStar film, Glory, is one of just two War films I have seen by the studio (Bat 21 is the other one).  This is accounted for with the stars as well, with Bruce Willis Comedies and Sly / Arnold Action films.  One thing to note is their Action films are simply terrible.  Of the 13 Action films I have seen only one, Extreme Prejudice, even reached **.5.

The Top 20 TriStar Films

  1. Glory
  2. The Fisher King
  3. District 9
  4. Jerry Maguire
  5. Avalon
  6. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
  7. Bugsy
  8. Donnie Brasco
  9. Philadelphia
  10. Peggy Sue Got Married
  11. Oliver Twist  (2005)
  12. Husbands and Wives
  13. As Good as It Gets
  14. Total Recall
  15. Q & A
  16. Apt Pupil
  17. Metropolis
  18. The Mask of Zorro
  19. L.A. Story
  20. Devil in a Blue Dress

note:  The top 4 films are ****.  The ***.5 films stop with #18.

Notable TriStar Films Not in the Top 20

note:  Includes all films I have either already reviewed or have current plans to review in the future as well as all films I saw in the theater.

  • Ironweed  (#21)
  • The Doors  (#24)
  • Real Genius  (#28)
  • The Muppets Take Manhattan  (#38)
  • Places in the Heart  (#41)
  • Basic Instinct  (#42)
  • Steel Magnolias  (#43)
  • Hook  (#46)
  • Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein  (#56)
  • So I Married an Axe Murderer  (#57)
  • Legends of the Fall  (#58)
  • Sleepless in Seattle  (#69)
  • The Mirror Has Two Faces  (#83)
  • Air America  (#84)
  • The Natural  (#87)
  • Godzilla  (1998)  (#103)
  • Starship Troopers  (#105)
  • It Could Happen to You  (#121)

The Bottom 10 TriStar Films, #123-132
(worst being #10, which is #132 overall)

  1. Let’s Get Harry
  2. Lifeforce
  3. Rambo III
  4. Lock Up
  5. Godzilla 2000
  6. Mixed Nuts
  7. Daddy Day Camp
  8. The Pest
  9. I Know Who Killed Me
  10. The Last Dragon

The Statistics

Total Films 1912-2011: 132  (15th)
Total Films 1984-2011: 132  (9th)

Total Percentage of All Films 1912-2011:  0.99%
Total Percentage of All Films 1984-2011:  2.22%

  • 1984-1989:  63  (4th)  –  5.79%
  • 1990-1999:  56  (11th)  –  2.89%
  • 2000-2011:  13  (33rd)  –  0.45%

Biggest Years:

  • 14:  1987
  • 12:  1988
  • 11:  1986, 1989

note:  In 1987, I have seen more TriStar films than any other studio.

Biggest Years by Percentage of All Films:

  • 1988:  6.74%
  • 1986:  6.51%
  • 1987:  6.44%
  • 1989:  6.43%

Best Year:

  • 1991:  3 films in the Top 20


  • Top 10 Most Films every year from 1984 to 1991
  • The Most Films of any studio in 1987  (14)

TriStar leaped into the Top 10 in its first year with 7 films.  By 1986, it was tied for third (11).  It would not drop out of the Top 5 until 1990.  I have seen at least four films from the studio every year until 1998 and at least six every year except 1995 and 1996.  Its 8 films in 1984 placed it in the Top 60 Most Films of any Studio already.  It moved quickly into the Top 50 in 1985 and the Top 35 in 1986.  By 1987, it was at 40 films and #21 among films I have seen.  It rose a couple of spots each year until it stalled a little at #14, landing there in 1990 (with 71 films) and staying there through 1993.  It was stuck behind all the majors and the big 70’s indie companies (New Yorker Films, AIP, AVCO).  In 1994, it went up to 97 films and passed AVCO into 13th place.  In 1996, it dropped back to 14th, having been passed by Miramax.  It finally caught AIP with 125 films in 2002 but was stuck tied with it for three years as there were no TriStar films and by the time a new TriStar film moved it up the list, it had been passed again, this time by both New Line and Sony Pictures Classics.  By 2011, it was up to 132 films (and was slowly releasing films again) but was mired in 15th place with Lionsgate and IFC starting to close in.

The Top Films:

  • Nighthawk Winner:  1989
  • 3 Films in the Top 20:  1991
  • Top 10 Films:  4
  • First Year in the Top 10:  1989
  • Latest Year in the Top 10:  2009
  • Top 20 Films:  10
  • Best Decade for Top 20 Films:  1990’s  (7)
  • Worst Decade for Top 20 Films:  2000’s  (1)

Nighthawk Awards

  • Number of Films That Have Earned Nominations:  24
  • Number of Films That Have Won Nighthawks:  7
  • Number of Films With Multiple Nominations:  10
  • Number of Films With Multiple Wins:  4
  • Best Picture Nominations:  2
  • Total Number of Nominations:  61
  • Total Number of Wins:  21
  • Category With the Most Nominations:  Makeup  (7)
  • Director with Most Nighthawk Nominated Films:  Barry Levinson  /  Paul Verhoeven  (2)
  • Best Film with No Nighthawks:  Jerry Maguire
  • Best Film with No Nighthawk Nominations:  Avalon
  • Number of Films That Have Earned Drama Nominations:  14
  • Number of Films That Have Earned Comedy Nominations:  14
  • Number of Films That Have Won Drama Awards:  1
  • Number of Films That Have Won Comedy Awards:  5
  • Drama Picture Nominations:  1
  • Comedy Picture Nominations:  2
  • Total Number of Drama Nominations:  21
  • Total Number of Comedy Nominations:  34
  • Total Number of Drama Wins:  4
  • Total Number of Comedy Wins:  9
  • Category With the Most Nominations:  Actress  (4 – Drama  /  6 – Comedy)
  • Best Drama Film With No Nominations:  Avalon
  • Best Comedy Film With No Nominations:  The Mask of Zorro
  • Most 2nd Place Finishes:  Hook  (2)
  • Most 6th Place Finishes:  The Mask of Zorro  (2)
  • Most Top 10 Finishes:  Glory  (13)
  • Most Top 20 Finishes:  Glory  (13)
  • Films With at Least One Top 10 Finish:  39
  • Best Film Without a Top 10 Finish:  Q & A
  • Films With at Least One Top 20 Finish:  56
  • Best Film Without a Top 20 Finish:  Matilda

Most Nighthawk Nominations:

  1. Glory  –  12
  2. The Fisher King  –  7
  3. Hook  –  4
  4. six films –  3

Most Nighthawks:

  1. Glory  –  9
  2. Terminator 2: Judgment Day  –  4
  3. The Fisher King  –  3
  4. District 9  –  2
  5. The Natural / Total Recall / Bugsy  –  1

Most Nighthawk Points:

  1. Glory  –  625
  2. The Fisher King  –  335
  3. Terminator 2: Judgment Day  –  140
  4. Bugsy  –  115
  5. District 9  –  100

Most Drama Nominations:

  1. Glory  –  5
  2. Places in the Heart  –  2
  3. Ironweed  –  2
  4. Bugsy  –  2
  5. ten films  –  1

Most Comedy Nominations:

  1. The Fisher King  –  6
  2. Jerry Maguire  –  6
  3. As Good as It Gets  –  4
  4. three films  –  3

Most Drama Wins:

  1. Glory  –  4

Most Comedy Wins:

  1. The Fisher King  –  4
  2. As Good as It Gets  –  2
  3. Peggy Sue Got Married  –  1
  4. The Freshman  –  1
  5. Husbands and Wives  –  1

Most Drama Points:

  1. Glory  –  365
  2. Places in the Heart  –  75
  3. Ironweed  –  70
  4. Bugsy  –  65
  5. three films  –  40

Most Comedy Points:

  1. The Fisher King  –  385
  2. Jerry Maguire  –  235
  3. As Good as It Gets  –  215
  4. Peggy Sue Got Married  –  155
  5. The Freshman / Husbands and Wives  –  130

All-Time Nighthawk Awards

  • Best Picture
  1. Glory
  2. The Fisher King
  3. District 9
  4. Jerry Maguire
  5. Avalon

Analysis:  The full list above, of course, is the full list.
Glory is the only TriStar film to win the Nighthawk while The Fisher King is the only other one to earn a nomination.  Jerry Maguire and District 9 are the only other ones to make the Top 10 in their respective years though six more make the Top 20.
No TriStar film has won the Oscar though five have been nominated (Places in the Heart, Bugsy, Jerry Maguire, As Good as It Gets, District 9) although, of course, neither of my top two which were both high profile films that failed to earn the Oscar nom.  The studio has done much better at the Globes, winning Drama in 1991 (Bugsy) and Comedy in 1997 (As Good as It Gets).  It has earned another four Drama noms (Places in the Heart, Glory, Avalon, Legends of the Fall) and six Comedy noms (Peggy Sue Got Married, The Fisher King, Sleepless in Seattle, Jerry Maguire, My Best Friend’s Wedding, The Mask of Zorro).  The BAFTAs have blanked it in both Picture and British Film.  It earned three BFCA noms in two years (Jerry Maguire, As Good as It Gets, Donnie Brasco) but nothing since then.  It has earned four PGA noms (Glory, Avalon, As Good as It Gets, District 9).  It has won one critics award for Best Picture (Bugsy, LAFC).

  • Best Director
  1. Ed Zwick  (Glory)
  2. Terry Gilliam  (The Fisher King)
  3. Neill Blomkamp  (District 9)
  4. Barry Levinson  (Bugsy)
  5. Cameron Crowe  (Jerry Maguire)

Analysis:  Like with Picture, Zwick is the only Nighthawk winner and Gilliam the only other nominee.  Gilliam did win the Nighthawk Comedy award and the studio has done much better in Director – Comedy (noms for Crowe, James L. Brooks (As Good as It Gets), Coppola (Peggy Sue Got Married) and Oliver Stone (The Doors)).  Blomkamp, Levinson and Crowe were all Top 10 finishers.
The studio hasn’t done well at the awards with Best Director.  Levinson and Robert Benton (Places in the Heart) earned Oscar noms.  Zwick, Levinson, Gilliam, Zwick again (Legends of the Fall) and Brooks earned Globe noms.  Blomkamp earned a BAFTA nom.  The studio has been blanked at the BFCA.  Benton, Levinson (Avalon and Bugsy), Crowe and Brooks earned DGA noms.  Levinson won the LAFC for Bugsy.

  • Best Adapted Screenplay:
  1. Glory
  2. Donnie Brasco
  3. Ironweed
  4. District 9
  5. Apt Pupil

Analysis:  Glory wins the Nighthawk but the next best finish is three Top 10 finishers (Donnie Brasco, District 9, Terminator 2).
District 9 earned Oscar, Globe, BAFTA and BFCA noms.  Donnie Brasco was Oscar and WGA nominated.  Glory was Globe and WGA nominated.  The Natural earned a WGA nom.

  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. The Fisher King
  2. Jerry Maguire
  3. Avalon
  4. Husbands and Wives
  5. Philadelphia

Analysis:  The studio does better here than in Adapted.  The Fisher King wins the Nighthawk and Jerry Maguire is nominated while four other films land Top 10 spots (Husbands and Wives, Avalon, Philadelphia, Peggy Sue Got Married).
Places in the Heart wins the Oscar while eight other films earn nominations.  Five films earn Globe noms.  Husbands and Wives wins the BAFTA while three other films earn nominations.  Avalon and As Good as It Gets win the WGA while eight other films earn nominations.  Places in the Heart wins the NYFC while Bugsy wins the LAFC.
While no Adapted Screenplay from TriStar has ever finished higher than 4th at the Consensus (and only two have done that), Places in the Heart won the Consensus and from 1990 to 1993 at least one TriStar film finished 3rd or higher every year.

  • Best Actor:
  1. Tom Cruise  (Jerry Maguire)
  2. Warren Beatty  (Bugsy)
  3. Robin Williams  (The Fisher King)
  4. Tom Hanks  (Philadelphia)
  5. Jack Nicholson  (As Good as It Gets)

Analysis:  Four TriStar performances earn Nighthawk noms.  Ironically, Cruise is not one of them, finishing 6th in a very, very good year for Best Actor.  Instead, it’s Nicholson twice (Ironweed is the other) and the two from 1991 (Beatty, Williams).  Hanks, like Cruise, is kept out in a very good year.  Williams and Nicholson also win the Comedy award.
Hanks and Nicholson both won the Oscar while Oscar noms also went to Nicholson (Ironweed), Beatty, Williams, Robert Downey (Chaplin) and Cruise.  Hanks won the Drama award at the Globes while Williams, Cruise and Nicholson all won the Comedy awards.  There have also been four other nominees in each category.  Downey is, surprisingly, the only BAFTA nominee (which he also won).  Nicholson won the BFCA as did Ian McKellen for Apt Pupil (I have him in supporting and he also won for Gods and Monsters which wasn’t a TriStar film).  Nicholson won the SAG while Cruise is the only other nominee (SAG didn’t start until 1994).  Nicholson won the NYFC and LAFC for Ironweed and the NBR for As Good as It Gets.  Beatty and Cruise also won the NBR while Al Pacino won the BSFC for Donnie Brasco.

  • Best Actress
  1. Helen Hunt  (As Good as It Gets)
  2. Renee Zelwegger  (Jerry Maguire)
  3. Sally Field  (Places in the Heart)
  4. Meryl Streep  (Ironweed)
  5. Kathleen Turner  (Peggy Sue Got Married)

Analysis:  No TriStar performance has won Actress or even come in 2nd.  But Hunt and Turner both came in third and Field, Streep and Judy Davis (High Tide) earned noms.  Zelwegger came in 7th in a very good year.  Turner and Hunt both won the Comedy awards.
Field and Hunt both won the Oscar.  Turner and Streep both earned nominations as did Jessica Lange twice (Sweet Dreams, Music Box).  Field won the Drama Globe while Hunt won the Comedy Globe.  In addition, there have been five Drama nominees and six Comedy nominees.  Bizarrely, by 1992, TriStar had earned all of its Drama noms and only one Comedy nom (Turner).  Judy Davis was the only BAFTA nominee (see Supporting Actress, below).  There has never been a BFCA nominee.  Hunt won the SAG but there have been no other nominees.  There have been three critics wins: Turner (NBR), Davis for High Tide (NSFC) and Mercedes Ruehl (see below).  Overall, not a great category for TriStar.

  • Best Supporting Actor:
  1. Denzel Washington  (Glory)
  2. Morgan Freeman  (Glory)
  3. Ian McKellen  (Apt Pupil)
  4. Cuba Gooding, Jr.  (Jerry Maguire)
  5. Ben Kingsley  (Bugsy)

Analysis:  Denzel wins the Nighthawk while Freeman and Kingsley are nominated.  McKellen finishes in 6th and Gooding in 7th.
Denzel and Gooding win the Oscar while four others are nominated including two performances from Bugsy (Harvey Keitel is the other).  Denzel wins the Globe while six others are nominated including both from Bugsy.  Rupert Everett (My Best Friend’s Wedding) is the only BAFTA nominee.  Gooding won the BFCA but there have been no other nominees.  Gooding won SAG and Don Cheadle (Devil in a Blue Dress) and Greg Kinnear (As Good as It Gets) have earned nominations.  John Malkovich won three critics awards for Places in the Heart, Keitel two for Bugsy (shared with Thelma and Louise), Cheadle two and one each were won by Gooding and Kinnear.

  • Best Supporting Actress:
  1. Mercedes Ruehl  (The Fisher King)
  2. Judy Davis  (Husbands and Wives)
  3. Julia Roberts  (Steel Magnolias)
  4. Anne Heche  (Donnie Brasco)
  5. Lauren Bacall  (The Mirror Has Two Faces)

Analysis:  Ruehl wins the Nighthawk while Davis is nominated as is Norma Aleandro (Gaby – A True Story).
Ruehl won the Oscar while six others have earned nominations.  Roberts, Ruehl and Bacall all won the Globe and five others have earned nominations.  Roberts, Ruehl and Bacall were all BAFTA nominated but Davis actually won the BAFTA as the lead.  There have been no BFCA nominations in this category.  Bacall won SAG over Renee Zelwegger (Jerry Maguire, see above).  Davis won five of the six critics awards in 1992, Ruehl won two for supporting and she won the LAFC for lead and Anne Heche won the NBR.

  • Best Ensemble
  1. The Fisher King
  2. Jerry Maguire
  3. Bugsy
  4. As Good as It Gets
  5. Glory

Analysis:  This is based on the total points for acting for all members of the cast.  It’s interesting the The Fisher King, with three performances I list (Williams, Bridges, Ruehl) finishes ahead of two films with four listed performances (Cruise, Zelwegger, Gooding, Hunt and Beatty, Bening, Kingsley, Keitel).  It shows how good the performances are in The Fisher King.

  • Best Editing:
  1. Glory
  2. District 9
  3. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
  4. The Fisher King
  5. Jerry Maguire

Analysis:  Glory not only is the only Nighthawk winner but also the only nominee.  District 9 is the only other film to make the Top 10 in its year.
They’ve done a bit better with actual awards.  Seven films were nominated at the Oscars, including two nominations in 1989 (Glory, The Bear).  District 9 is the only BAFTA nominee, there are no BFCA nominees, Glory won the ACE and Terminator 2, As Good as It Gets and District 9 all earned ACE noms.

  • Best Cinematography:
  1. Glory
  2. The Fisher King
  3. District 9
  4. Avalon
  5. Bugsy

Analysis:  Glory wins the Nighthawk and The Fisher King earns a nomination while Bugsy, District 9 and Avalon all earn Top 10 finishes in good years.
Glory and Legends of the Fall (both Ed Zwick films) both win the Oscar while five others earn nominations (including three Barry Levinson films: The Natural, Avalon and Bugsy).  Three films earn BAFTA noms (The Bear, Glory, District 9).  There are no BFCA nominees.  Peggy Sue Got Married and Bugsy win the ASC while five other films earn nominations (though not Glory).  Devil in a Blue Dress wins the NSFC, the only critics win.

  • Best Original Score:
  1. Glory
  2. The Natural
  3. Hook
  4. Avalon
  5. Apt Pupil

Analysis:  Yes, 1989 was a great year for Original Score but Glory is one of the best film scores I have ever heard.  Just terrible that it wasn’t nominated.  Both Glory and The Natural win the Nighthawk while Hook and Apt Pupil earn nominations.  This is actually TriStar’s best showing at the Nighthawks with 20 different films landing in the Top 20 and eight in the Top 10.
This is sort of the best category at the Oscars.  No TriStar film wins the Oscar but ten films earn nominations, though I feel I should point out that two of them were in the short-lived Comedy Score category and two of them were in the Adapted Score / Song Score category in its last year (1984 – Songwriter and The Muppets Take Manhattan).  But it is also one of the better Globe categories (8 nominations, though no wins).  But other than that, it’s just got one BAFTA nom (Sleepless in Seattle of all films).  Only four scores earned both Oscar and Globe noms and they were all in a three year stretch from 1990 to 1992 (Avalon, Bugsy, Chaplin, Basic Instinct).

  • Best Sound:
  1. Glory
  2. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
  3. District 9
  4. Total Recall
  5. The Doors

Analysis:  Glory and T2 both win the Nighthawk and District 9 and Total Recall both earn nominations.  The Doors is the only other film to place in the Top 10.
Aside from the Oscar wins for Glory and T2 and the nomination for Total Recall, Cliffhanger, Legends of the Fall and The Mask of Zorro all earned Oscar noms.  T2 won the BAFTA and District 9 earned a nomination.  District 9 also earned a BFCA nom.  The CAS nominees include Cliffhanger, Jumanji, Zorro and District 9.

  • Best Art Direction:
  1. Glory
  2. The Fisher King
  3. Bugsy
  4. Hook
  5. Avalon

Analysis:  Glory and The Fisher King win the Nighthawk while Bugsy and Hook come 2nd and 4th (to Fisher King in 1991).  Avalon is one of six TriStar films to earn a Top 10 finish.
Bugsy is the only Oscar winner with six films earning nominations, including three in 1991 (the same three mentioned above).  Four films earn BAFTA noms (T2, Chaplin, Frankenstein, District 9).  District 9 is the only ADG nominee but the guild didn’t start its awards until 1996.  District 9 also won the LAFC.

  • Best Visual Effects
  1. District 9
  2. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
  3. Total Recall
  4. Jumanji
  5. Starship Troopers

Analysis:  Total Recall, T2 and District 9 all win the Nighthawk while Jumanji, Starship Troopers and Hook all earn noms.
Total Recall won a special Oscar for Visual Effects while T2 won a regular award.  Four other films have earned nominations (Hook, Cliffhanger, Starship Troopers, District 9) although, surprisingly, not JumanjiT2 won the BAFTA while Labyrinth, Total Recall and District 9 were nominated.  District 9 was BFCA nominated and won one VES award while earning nominations for two others.

  • Best Sound Editing
  1. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
  2. District 9
  3. Glory
  4. Total Recall
  5. The Mask of Zorro

Analysis:  T2 wins the Nighthawk while Total Recall, Glory and District 9 earn nominations.  Seven other films earn Top 10 finishes.
T2 wins the Oscar while Rambo, Total Recall, Cliffhanger and The Mask of Zorro earn noms.  The MPSE (the only other group that does Sound Editing awards) has given awards to Places in the Heart, Total Recall, Jerry Maguire, Starship Troopers and District 9 while five others have earned nominations.

  • Best Costume Design:
  1. Glory
  2. Bugsy
  3. Hook
  4. Oliver Twist  (2005)
  5. The Natural

Analysis:  Bugsy wins the Nighthawk while Hook and Glory earn noms.  Eight other films earn Top 10 finishes including sixth place finishes for The Natural, Peggy Sue Got Married, Avalon and The Mask of Zorro.
Bugsy wins the Oscar while Places in the Heart, Peggy Sue Got Married, Sunset, Avalon and Hook all earn noms.  Through 1991, it was TriStar’s best category at the Oscars (six noms including two in 1991) and it hasn’t earned a nomination there since 1991.  Outside of the Oscars, TriStar has managed two BAFTA noms (Chaplin, Zorro) and one CDG noms (Zorro).

  • Best Makeup
  1. District 9
  2. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
  3. Philadelphia
  4. Total Recall
  5. Labyrinth

Analysis:  Both T2 and District 9 win the Nighthawk while nominations are earned by Labyrinth, Ironweed, Philadelphia, Total Recall and Hook.  T2 also wins the Oscar while Hook, Philadelphia and Frankenstein earn noms.  Outside of the Oscars, Chaplin earned a BAFTA nom and District 9 earned a BFCA nom.

  • Best Technical Aspects
  1. Glory
  2. District 9
  3. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
  4. Hook
  5. Total Recall

Analysis:  Simply adding up all the points in the technical categories.  Out of 81 points possible, Glory has 64, thumping any other TriStar film.  District 9 is in second with 53 and then it drops to 43 for T2.  There is a six point drop after Total Recall so this is an easy list.  When done with weighted points, the drop after Total Recall is much tighter (The Fisher King is just four points behind) but the list is still the same.

  • Best Original Song:
  1. “Streets of Philadelphia”  (Philadelphia)
  2. “Together Again”  (The Muppet Take Manhattan)
  3. “Invincible”  (The Legend of Billy Jean)
  4. “Light of Day”  (Light of Day)
  5. “Lovetown”  (Philadelphia)

Analysis:  “Streets of Philadelphia”, “Light of Day” (both written by Springsteen) and “Together Again” all earn Nighthawk noms.  The others earn Top 10 finishes as does “After All” from Chances Are.
“Streets of Philadelphia” wins the Oscar and four others earn nominations: “After All”, Neil Young’s “Philadelphia” and two terrible choices (“A Wink and a Smile” from Sleepless in Seattle and “I Finally Found Someone” from The Mirror Has Two Faces).  “Streets of Philadelphia” wins the Globe while “After All”, “I Finally Found Someone”, “Rhythm of the Night” (The Last Dragon) and “Once in a Lifetime” (Cadillac Records) earn noms.

  • Best Animated Film:
  1. Metropolis

Analysis:  TriStar has released four animated films, three of which are relentlessly mediocre or bad (Planet 51, Pound Puppies and the Legend of Big Paw, Trumpet of the Swan) and the Japanese Metropolis.

  • Best Foreign Film:
  1. Metropolis

Analysis:  TriStar wasn’t the distributor for many foreign films (only four that I’ve seen) and Metropolis is the only one good enough to make this list.

  • Best Film (by my points system):
  1. Glory
  2. The Fisher King
  3. District 9
  4. Philadelphia
  5. Bugsy

Analysis:  Glory is in the Top 40 all-time.  There is a massive drop to The Fisher King (just outside the Top 250).

  • Best Film  (weighted points system)
  1. Glory
  2. The Fisher King
  3. District 9
  4. Jerry Maguire
  5. Bugsy

Analysis:  With significant points in the two lowest weighted categories, Makeup and Song, Philadelphia drops out of the Top 5.  Jerry Maguire, with the bulk of its points in the major categories, leapfrogs into fourth.

Best Films With No Top 5 Finishers:

  • Q & A

Worst Film with a Top 5 Finish:

  • Starship Troopers

Nighthawk Notables

  • Best Film to Watch Over and Over:  Terminator 2: Judgment Day
  • Best Line  (comedic):  “I was just thinking of the immortal words of Socrates who said . . . ‘I drank what?’”  (Val Kilmer in Real Genius)
  • Best Line  (dramatic):  “I ain’t fighting this war for you, sir.”  (Denzel Washington in Glory)
  • Worst Line:  “It’s okay, because I got to have you.”  (Dina Meyer in Starship Troopers)
  • Best Opening:  The Muppets Take Manhattan
  • Best Ending:  The Fisher King
  • Best Scene:  the final battle in Glory
  • Best Kiss:  Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones in The Mask of Zorro
  • Best Death:  Sharon Stone in Total Recall
  • Most Gut-Wrenching Scene:  the Antietam scene at the beginning of Glory
  • Most Heart-Wrenching Scene:  the end of Glory
  • Best Use of a Song:  “Streets of Philadelphia”  (Philadelphia)
  • Best Soundtrack:  The Doors
  • Best Non-Rock Soundtrack:  Glory
  • Best Ensemble:  The Fisher King
  • Funniest Film:  The Fisher King
  • Most Over-Rated Film:  Starship Troopers
  • Worst Film:  The Last Dragon
  • Worst Film I Saw in the Theater:  Mixed Nuts
  • Worst Sequel:  Godzilla 2000
  • Best Sequel:  Terminator 2: Judgment Day
  • Performance to Fall in Love With:  Renee Zelwegger in Jerry Maguire
  • Performance for the 12 Year Old in Me to Fall in Love With:  Jennifer Connelly in Labyrinth
  • Sexiest Performance:  Penelope Ann Miller in The Freshman
  • Highest Attractiveness / Acting Ability Ratio:  Bridget Fonda in It Could Happen to You
  • Most Surprisingly Good Performance in an Otherwise Terrible Film:  Lauren Bacall in The Mirror Has Two Faces
  • Coolest Performance:  Antonio Banderas in The Mask of Zorro
  • Best Tagline:  “The ceremony is about to begin.”  (The Doors)
  • Best Cameo:  Oliver Stone in The Doors
  • Sexiest Cameo:  Moira Kelly in Chaplin
  • Funniest Cameo:  Liza Minnelli in The Muppets Take Manhattan

note:  Soundtracks I Own from TriStar Films (chronological):  Glory, The Doors, Philadelphia, Jerry Maguire

At the Theater:  By the end of 2011, I had probably seen over 1000 films in the theater at some point or another.  I had certainly been to the movies well over 1000 times.  I had only seen 23 TriStar films.  The two biggest years were 1991 (The Fisher King, Terminator 2, Bugsy, The Doors, Hook) and 1994 (Frankenstein, Legends of the Fall, It Could Happen to You, Mixed Nuts) though they were polar opposites in quality.  As far as I remember there is no TriStar film that I saw multiple times in the theater.  Terminator 2 was certainly the biggest event in the theater, seeing it at a special showing the night before opening night with a ramped up crowd and when Sarah Conner said “On August 29th, 1997, it’s gonna feel pretty fucking real to you too. Anybody not wearing 2 million sunblock is gonna have a real bad day.” someone yelled out “that’s my birthday” and the crowd went nuts.


Academy Awards

  • Number of Films That Have Earned Nominations:  37
  • Number of Films That Have Won Oscars:  10
  • Number of Films With Multiple Nominations:  23
  • Number of Films With Multiple Wins:  6
  • Best Picture Nominations:  5
  • Total Number of Nominations:  108
  • Total Number of Wins:  19
  • Category With the Most Nominations:  Score  (10)
  • Number of Films with Nominations I Haven’t Seen:  0
  • Directors with Most Oscar Nominated Films:  Barry Levinson  /  Paul Verhoeven  (3)
  • Best Film with No Oscar Nominations:  Oliver Twist  (2005)
  • Year with Most TriStar Nominated Films:  1989  (5)
  • Year with Most TriStar Nominations:  1991  (26)

Oscar Oddities:

  • Every TriStar film nominated for more than one Oscar has lost at least two races.  The only ones with only two losses are Total Recall, Legends of the Fall (both 1 for 3), Glory (3 for 5) and Terminator 2 (4 for 6).
  • Of the 37 films that have earned nominations, 9 have earned 5 or more.  Of the 28 with 4 or fewer only two won an Oscar (Total Recall, Legends of the Fall).  Of the 9 with more than 4 nominations, only Hook (5 noms) failed to win an Oscar.
  • Only 14 of the 38 films have earned 1 nomination.  That only 36.84%, way below the Oscar average of 52.49%.
  • Barry Levinson and Paul Verhoeven each have three Oscar nominated films.  But Levinson’s films earned 18 nominations while Verhoeven’s earned only 6.  Yet, the biggest winners are James Cameron and Ed Zwick (4 Oscars for their films each).
  • No director has earned an Oscar nom without a Picture nom and even though only one of the five Best Picture nominees was in 2009 or later (when the Picture lineup was expanded), three of them didn’t earn Director nominations.
  • In the kind of weird coincidence my mother loves, four TriStar films have won two Oscars (Places in the Heart, Bugsy, Philadelphia, As Good as It Gets).  All four of them were directed by former Oscar winners for Best Picture and Best Director (Robert Benton, Barry Levinson, Jonathan Demme, James L. Brooks).  Three other former Picture-Director winners made Oscar nominated films for TriStar (Woody Allen, Francis Ford Coppola, Richard Attenborough) while in 1991, two future winners combined to earn 11 nominations for TriStar (James Cameron, Steven Spielberg).
  • Only 9 TriStar films have earned 5 or more nominations but all four films nominated in 1991 earned 5 or more (Bugsy, Terminator 2, The Fisher King, Hook).
  • The only two TriStar films to win more than two Oscars both failed to be nominated for Best Picture.

Most Oscar Nominations

  1. Bugsy  –  10
  2. Places in the Heart  –  7
  3. As Good as It Gets  –  7
  4. Terminator 2: Judgment Day  –  6
  5. five films  –  5

Most Oscar Wins:

  1. Terminator 2: Judgment Day  –  4
  2. Glory  –  3
  3. four films  –  2

Most Oscar Points:

  1. Bugsy  –  350
  2. Places in the Heart  –  320
  3. As Good as It Gets  –  310
  4. Jerry Maguire  –  210
  5. Glory  –  195
  6. Terminator 2: Judgment Day  –  190
  7. The Fisher King  –  180
  8. Philadelphia  –  150
  9. District 9  –  135
  10. Avalon  –  105

Critics Awards

  • Number of Films That Have Won Critics Awards:  12
  • Number of Films With Multiple Awards:  9
  • Best Picture Wins:  1
  • Total Number of Awards:  32
  • Category With the Most Awards:  Supporting Actor  (9)

Most Awards:

  1. Bugsy  –  6
  2. Husbands and Wives  –  5
  3. Places in the Heart  –  4
  4. The Fisher King  –  3
  5. Devil in a Blue Dress  –  3

Most Points:

  1. Bugsy  –  434
  2. Husbands and Wives  –  270
  3. Places in the Heart  –  236
  4. The Fisher King  –  178
  5. Devil in a Blue Dress  –  159

Most Points by Critics Group:

  • NYFC:  Places in the Heart  –  80
  • LAFC:  Bugsy  –  270
  • NSFC:  Devil in a Blue Dress  –  110
  • BSFC:  Donnie Brasco  –  70
  • CFC:  Bugsy / The Fisher King / Husbands and Wives / Jerry Maguire  –  60
  • NBR:  As Good as It Gets  –  130

Golden Globes

  • Number of Films That Have Earned Nominations:  32
  • Number of Films That Have Won Globes:  9
  • Number of Films With Multiple Nominations:  18
  • Number of Films With Multiple Wins:  3
  • Best Picture Nominations:  12
  • Total Number of Nominations:  77
  • Total Number of Wins:  13
  • Category With the Most Nominations:  Actress  (13)
  • Best Film with No Globe Nominations:  Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Globe Oddities:

  • No TriStar film has been nominated for both supporting awards.
  • At least two awards each have been won in Picture and all four acting categories by TriStar films.  It has won the big three awards in both Drama and Comedy (all three in one year in 1997).  But no TriStar film has ever won Director or Screenplay.

Most Globe Nominations:

  1. Bugsy  –  8
  2. As Good as It Gets  –  6
  3. Glory  –  5
  4. The Fisher King  –  5
  5. Legends of the Fall  /  The Mirror Has Two Faces  –  4

Most Globes:

  1. As Good as It Gets  –  3
  2. The Fisher King  –  2
  3. Philadelphia  –  2

Most Globe Points:

  1. As Good as It Gets  –  355
  2. Bugsy  –  340
  3. The Fisher King  –  260
  4. Glory  –  220
  5. Places in the Heart  –  160

Guild Awards

  • Number of Films That Have Earned Nominations:  28
  • Number of Films That Have Won Guild Awards:  10
  • Number of Films With Multiple Nominations:  10
  • Number of Films With Multiple Wins:  3
  • Best Picture Nominations:  4
  • Total Number of Nominations:  60
  • Total Number of Wins:  14
  • Category With the Most Nominations:  Screenplay  (12)
  • Best Film with No Guild Nominations:  Oliver Twist

Most Guild Nominations:

  1. As Good as It Gets  –  8
  2. District 9  –  8
  3. Jerry Maguire  –  6
  4. Avalon  –  4
  5. four films  –  3

Most Guild Wins:

  1. As Good as It Gets  –  3
  2. Jerry Maguire  –  2
  3. District 9  –  2
  4. seven films  –  1

Most Guild Points:

  1. As Good as It Gets  –  390
  2. Jerry Maguire  –  250
  3. District 9  –  235
  4. Avalon  –  200
  5. Glory  –  140


  • Number of Films That Have Earned Nominations:  16
  • Number of Films That Have Won BAFTAs:  3
  • Number of Films With Multiple Nominations:  6
  • Number of Films With Multiple Wins:  1
  • Most BAFTA Wins:  Terminator 2: Judgment Day  (2)
  • Best Picture Nominations:  0
  • Total Number of Nominations:  30
  • Total Number of Wins:  4
  • Category With the Most Nominations:  Original Screenplay / Art Direction / Visual Effects  (4)
  • Best Film with No BAFTA Nominations:  Jerry Maguire

Most BAFTA Noms:

  1. District 9  –  7
  2. Chaplin  –  4
  3. Terminator 2: Judgment Day  –  3

Most BAFTA Points:

  1. District 9  –  195
  2. Chaplin  –  115
  3. Husbands and Wives  –  115
  4. Terminator 2: Judgment Day  –  100
  5. The Fisher King  –  70

Broadcast Film Critics Awards  (Critic’s Choice Awards)

BFCA Points:

  1. As Good as It Gets  –  120
  2. Jerry Maguire  –  110
  3. District 9  –  90
  4. Apt Pupil  –  70
  5. Donnie Brasco  –  50

Notes:  The BFCA started in 1995 and didn’t start regular nominations (aside from Picture) until well into the 2000’s by which time TriStar was pretty dead in the water.  This the total list of all TriStar films with BFCA points.

All Awards:

Most Nominations:

  1. Bugsy  –  27
  2. As Good as It Gets  –  25
  3. District 9  –  25
  4. Jerry Maguire  –  18
  5. Places in the Heart  –  16
  6. The Fisher King  –  16
  7. Glory  –  14
  8. Avalon  –  11
  9. Terminator 2: Judgment Day  –  11
  10. Husbands and Wives  –  11

Most Awards:

  1. As Good as It Gets  –  11
  2. Bugsy  –  10
  3. Places in the Heart  –  7
  4. Jerry Maguire  –  7
  5. The Fisher King  –  6
  6. Terminator 2: Judgment Day  –  6
  7. Husbands and Wives  –  6
  8. Glory  –  5
  9. Philadelphia  –  4
  10. Devil in a Blue Dress  /  District 9  –  3

Total Awards Points

  1. Bugsy  –  1178
  2. As Good as It Gets  –  1145
  3. Places in the Heart  –  797
  4. Jerry Maguire  –  753
  5. District 9  –  686
  6. The Fisher King  –  672
  7. Glory  –  522
  8. Husbands and Wives  –  515
  9. Avalon  –  377
  10. Terminator 2: Judgment Day  –  335

Highest Awards Percentage:

  1. Bugsy  –  9.56%
  2. As Good as It Gets  –  7.59%
  3. Places in the Heart  –  7.05%
  4. The Fisher King  –  5.45%
  5. Jerry Maguire  –  4.85%
  6. Glory  –  4.30%
  7. Husbands and Wives  –  4.23%
  8. District 9  –  3.26%
  9. Avalon  –  2.97%
  10. Terminator 2: Judgment Day  –  2.72%


Lists for studios are harder because I have to come up with them myself.  There are no books that rank the best films by studio and no way to sort through them on the IMDb or TSPDT.

The TSPDT Top 5 TriStar Films

  1. Terminator 2: Judgment Day  (#637)
  2. Husbands and Wives  (#997)
  3. Jerry Maguire  (#1915)
  4. Total Recall  (#1922)
  5. District 9  (#324 – 21st Century)

note:  I sorted through the current TSPDT list myself to come up with this.

Top 10 U.S. Domestic Box Office  (1984-2011)

  1. Terminator 2: Judgment Day  –  $204.84 mil
  2. Jerry Maguire  –  $153.95 mil
  3. Rambo: First Blood Part II  –  $150.42 mil
  4. As Good as It Gets  –  $148.47 mil
  5. Look Who’s Talking  –  $140.08 mil
  6. Godzilla  (1998)  –  $136.31 mil
  7. My Best Friend’s Wedding  –  $127.12 mil
  8. Sleepless in Seattle  –  $126.68 mil
  9. Hook  –  $119.65 mil
  10. Total Recall  –  $119.39 mil

note:  When it was released, T2 was the 13th highest grossing film of all-time and the #1 film of 1991.  By the end of 2011, it was down to #111.  As of 18 June, 2018, it is #184 but #114 on the adjusted list.

Top 10 U.S. Domestic Box Office (all-time, adjusted to June 2018)

  1. Terminator 2: Judgment Day  –  $445.69 mil
  2. Rambo: First Blood Part II  –  $388.11 mil
  3. Look Who’s Talking  –  $319.15 mil
  4. Jerry Maguire  –  $310.79 mil
  5. As Good as It Gets  –  $290.14 mil
  6. Sleepless in Seattle  –  $280.28 mil
  7. Godzilla  (1998)  –  $266.23 mil
  8. Hook  –  $262.78 mil
  9. Basic Instinct  –  $259.85 mil
  10. Total Recall  –  $258.54 mil

note:  The reason Basic Instinct, released two years after Total Recall, jumps ahead of it is that ticket prices actually went down in 1992.


note:  TriStar doesn’t have a long distinguished history so there are no coffee table books like with the major studios and few books that deal with the history of the studio.

History of the American Cinema 10: A New Pot of Gold: Hollywood Under the Electronic Rainbow, 1980-1989, Stephen Prince, 2002

The tenth volume in the series (though the series wasn’t all written in order).  Like all the books in the series, a valuable book if you’re interested in the film industry as an industry.  It covers the entire creation of TriStar.


The Best Tri-Star Film I Haven’t Yet Reviewed

Avalon  (1990, dir. Barry Levinson)

In my review of Hunt for the Wilderpeople, I discussed Sam Neill and Jeff Goldblum, comparing them because they were both in the new Thor film and the level of excitement over that.  Neither of them were ever big stars even if they were in big films (Jurassic Park, of course) and neither has ever earned an Oscar nomination.  They are more established examples of that type of actor, good character actors who are appreciated but have never really received their due in terms of being stars or earning awards accolades.  Now we have the film Avalon, made back in 1990 and starring two very likable actors who are in that same class as Neill and Goldblum.  Aidan Quinn and Kevin Pollak have never become stars and the most awards attention either has received for film work has been Quinn’s Indie Spirit nomination for Supporting Actor in 2004.  But they are fun to watch, usually with Quinn as a more romantic lead and Pollak as a comic foyle.  Here they don’t fill either of those roles (Quinn is a married father and Pollak has basically no humorous lines) as two cousins who are moving forward with their lives.

Avalon was the third film made in Barry Levinson’s series of quasi-autobiographical films about growing up in Baltimore but it is set the earliest.  It is a film that hearkens back to the days of his childhood (he was born in 1942), in those immediate post-war years where the economy seemed to recover so strongly and everyone back from the war was buying so much that going into business for yourself seemed like a great idea for everybody.  It’s hard to say precisely who the star of the film is because it seems to equally tell the story of three different generations co-existing in the same household and dealing with the changes in the post-war world.

First, there is Armin Mueller-Stahl as Sam, the grandfather in the household.  He came over from the old world to find Baltimore to be a world of light and imagination (he landed on the Fourth of July).  He sits with his brothers throughout the film, at holidays, watching television (when it works), waiting for his son at the hospital (he’s been stabbed while working).  He continually passes down his stories even if no one is left that wants to hear them.

Then there are Quinn and Pollak.  Quinn is Jules, Sam’s son and Pollak is his cousin Izzy.  Both of them have Americanized their last names and decided that the time is right to go into business for themselves (especially after Quinn is stabbed).  Quinn envisions a store where they sell nothing but televisions and while this is slow at first, they are eventually able to parlay their success into a department discount store.  This is the kind of success that involves moving to the suburbs and while they stay close as co-workers they also become a bit more separate as family members and we see the birth of the nuclear family in the post-war years.  At the same time that we feel Sam and his brothers’ concern about drifting farther apart (when the drive to suburbs delays one of Sam’s brothers so much on Thanksgiving that he misses the cutting of the turkey he storms out, refusing to ever come back), we can also see why Jules and his wife feel the need to have some space to call their own, a chance for their own lives that doesn’t require being forced to live the same way that people have lived in the past just because it was what they had always done.

Last there is little Elijah Wood as Michael, Jules’ son and Sam’s grandson.  Michael lives in a changing time, when he gets punished in school for failing to understand the difference between the phrase “can I” and “may I” (something which Sam also fails to grasp).  He is our introduction into this world, asking questions about what the suburbs will be like and finding a new world to explore.

There is real human drama throughout this film, which is well written and directed by Levinson and looks wonderful.  It is just at the cusp of everything in my own Nighthawk Awards, landing at an 87, the highest ***.5 and while it fails to earn a single Nighthawk nomination in my 1990 Awards, it lands in the Top 10 six times.  It is also a very moving film whose somewhat tragic but poignant end reminded me of something which happened in my own life.  The very Christmas that this film came out, my next door neighbor managed to do something very similar to what Michael does, except it was his own garage and part of what went up were all the Christmas presents his father had hidden in the rafters.  I wouldn’t see this film until it came out on video much later in 1991 but it was a stark reminder of how real what happens in the movies can be.

The Worst Tri-Star Film I Haven’t Yet Reviewed

I Know Who Killed Me  (2007, dir. Chris Severtson)

While each unhappy family may be unhappy in its own way, not all bad films are bad in their own way.  Indeed, there are various categories that really bad films can fall into and lots of them group together in various ways.  This film is absolutely a really bad film.  I gave it a 3 when I watched it the first time (going through the Razzie nominees for each year before writing my review of the worst film of the year) and watching it this time (with a lot of fast forwarding, catching just enough to remind enough of it to write this review), I think I was being too generous the first time around.  This film was not the worst of 2007; that was Captivity which is actually a terrible film in some of the same ways that this film is, and it wasn’t even the second worst film, as that was Epic Movie, but I wonder if maybe this film is even worse than Epic Movie.

This film isn’t bad because it stars Lindsay Lohan.  There was a time when Lindsay Lohan meant something else.  It happens to a lot of child stars.  Hell, as far back as Bobby Driscoll, Disney stars have been going off the deep end with drugs and even dying young.  The modern era has produced a new wave of child stars who are also brilliant actors and grow up to be (at least for celebrities) well adjusted people who even win actors, people like Anna Paquin and Natalie Portman.  But for every Elijah Wood and Kirsten Dunst that does well there’s a Miley Cyrus who takes their wholesome image and turns into a total freak.  By 2006, Lohan had been a child star (The Parent Trap), evolved into a teen star (Mean Girls, Freaky Friday) and seemed to be coping with her career quite well.  In 2006, she was one of the best things about Prairie Home Companion, singing one hell of a funny song and almost stealing the end of the film.  But by 2007, her life was headed into a downward spiral and she decided to take on a really adult role in I Know Why You Killed Me.  Sadly, while it has “adult” content, there were clearly no adults involved in the making of this film.

Why this film is bad is because of two different things, things that help group bad films together.  One kind of bad film is the bad slasher / horror film.  It is the film in which someone is tortured or killed (or both) for no other reason than to titillate the viewer.  Captivity was a perfect example of that kind of film, of the very worst of torture porn.  But only part of I Know Who Killed Me focuses on the torture of Lohan (she is a young woman who is kidnapped by a serial killer).  The rest focuses on the mystery of what happens after she escapes from the torture.  That’s when we get into the other kind of bad film this is, which is an astoundingly stupid film.  There have been lots of stupid films through the years, films with ludicrous plots that somehow get made anyway.  In this case, some talentless writer teamed with a talentless director and they got Lohan, whose looks (or at least whose breasts) had become very popular by this time and got her to agree to be scantily clad on film and that got them the go-ahead.  But none of them thought to include a real story.

Here’s the story in a bubble.  Girl kidnapped, tortured, saved, claims she’s not the girl who was kidnapped even though we know she is.  Claims to maybe be the lost twin of the girl even though the girl she now claims to be is found to be a character in fiction written by the girl.  All of that would just be odd, an alternate personality caused by shock or trauma.  But all of that is undermined in tone of the most idiotic endings in film history when it turns out she was right all the time and in spite of all logic and even proof, she really was the twin when we see the original girl’s dead body in the woods, discovered by the new version of her.  I try not to reveal important plot points for most movies, even movies that have been around for a long time (witness the way I talk around the climax of Avalon even though it was released 28 years ago) but the whole point is that the ending of this film is so mind-bogglingly stupid that it’s incomprehensible that no adult actually stepped in and said “no, that’s fucking stupid, you’re not doing that.”  But, no, they did, and it turned out to be, not quite the worst film ever made by the studio, because of The Last Dragon, but since I already reviewed that film as the worst film of 1985, certainly the worst I hadn’t yet reviewed, just beating out The Pest, and I’m okay with that because I really don’t think I could tolerate even one minute of watching John Leguizamo in that film again.

Bonus Review

Total Recall  (1990, dir. Paul Verhoeven)

Continuing my habit of writing bonus reviews of films I saw in the theater, I give you the original and much better Total Recall.  There are things about this film that you can object to if you would like.  It stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, who, I would hope is no one’s idea of an actor.  It was a summer blockbuster, the biggest weekend opening of the year (yes, back in 1990, you could make $25 million and be the biggest opening weekend of the year) and has more flash than substance.  It was also a film that absolutely earned its R rating, with nudity, considerable profanity and enough violence that it almost earned an X rating (which didn’t stop 15 year old me from seeing it in the theater).  This is the kind of film that was really meant to be seen on the big screen and because of that, I made certain to get the Blu Ray when I watched it again for this review so I could at least get the visuals looking better than ever.  And yet, somehow this was one of the better films of the year, a mid-range ***.5 that landed at #23 on my list.

As I said, Arnold isn’t really an actor.  He’s a star.  But he’s also a big muscular star and that makes him the most believable person in Hollywood for a lot of roles and this is one of them.  This time he plays Quaid, a construction worker on Earth who dreams of Mars.  Not just going to Mars (which you can do at this point) but actually dreaming that he has already been to Mars.  So he goes to a place which can implant a memory of having been there because it’s cheaper than actually going.  But when there, it turns out that he’s already been there, that he’s really a secret agent named Howser who had his mind wiped and he was placed on Earth because he was dangerous.  Or maybe that’s just the cover story in the memory now being implanted in his mind.

That’s the joy of Total RecallTotal Recall is a visual feast.  It earned Sound and Sound Editing nominations at the Oscars and won a special Oscar for Visual Effects.  It earns those same things at the Nighthawks as well as a nomination for Makeup and lands in my Top 20 for Art Direction.  We get mutants, women with three breasts, but also self-driving cabs that will try to kill you if you stiff them, holograms and Sharon Stone in a leotard beating the crap out of Arnold.  The main plot of the film (a revolution on Mars, the idea that Mars really has water) isn’t even the point.  But there is a point and it’s not just that the film is a visual feast.

There is the dream.  Then there is the company that implants memories and the specific shot on screen when Quaid is picking his female companion for the implant.  There is the sweat on the man who comes to get Quaid out of his dream.  There is the end.  And you must make your own decision what has happened in the film.  That is what elevates Total Recall to something even more than a summer blockbuster.  It was a summer blockbuster that rewarded you with action and science-fiction marvels and amazing visuals but also a debate over what actually happened in what you just watched.  And that’s something that’s always a plus.


Since 2011, TriStar has come back much stronger.  In the lost decade (98-07), 11 of the studio’s 28 films made less than $1 million.  Since 2012, the studio has released 18 films (10 of which I have seen) and only four of them have made less than $23 million and none have made less than $1 million (I have actually seen all three of the lowest grossing films, all made by former Oscar winners for Best Director: Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, T2 Trainspotting, The Walk).  It has included such daring films as Looper and Elysium and critical success like Baby Driver and All the Money in the World.  Also, if you notice, Looper is one of those films.  Yes, after 20 years away in the wake of the disaster of Hudson Hawk, Bruce Willis, whose career, like John Travolta’s, seems unkillable (Look Who’s Talking was big for both of them), was back making by far his best film at TriStar.  Also, there is the amusement that both T2 films (Judgment Day, Trainspotting) are TriStar films.
T2 Trainspotting is #5 on my list and Looper is #10.  All the Money in the World would land at #18.  Elysium and Baby Driver would be just outside the Top 20.  Pompeii, on the other hand, lands at about the 10th worst film ever in the studio’s history.
T2 Trainspotting
figures into the Top 5 all-time for Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Editing and Art Direction while Baby Driver is in the Top 5 for Editing, Sound and Sound Editing and Elysium for Visual Effects and Sound Editing.  Michelle Williams would be #2 in Actress for All the Money in the World and Christopher Plummer would be #5 in Supporting Actor.
In terms of the Nighthawk Notables, T2 Trainspotting contends for Best Line (“You’re an addict.  So be addicted.  Just be addicted to something else.”), Best Opening, Best Ending, Best Use of a Song (“Silk”) and easily takes Best Trailer.  I also own the soundtrack and it’s the only TriStar film I’ve seen in the theater since 2011.  Pompeii gets the post-2011 Notable category of I Left My Acting in Westeros.
Elysium is nominated at the Nighthawks for Visual Effects and Sound Editing and T2 is nominated for Adapted Screenplay.
Baby Driver is the big awards film among the post-2011 TriStar films.  It earned three Oscar noms (Editing, Sound, Sound Editing), an Actor – Comedy nom at the Globes, it won Editing at the BAFTAs and earned a Sound nom, won Editing at the BFCA and the CFC and earned guild noms for Editing, Sound, Sound Editing (3 noms) and Makeup.  Its 14 noms, 3 wins and 352 points place it on all three Top 10 lists though its 1.59% doesn’t.  No other film has had more than five nominations and the only other win was Looper for Screenplay at the NBR.
Looper and Baby Driver are both on the TSPDT 21st Century List, but below District 9, so they would be films #6 and 7.  No film has made it into the Top 10 in box office, with Baby Driver‘s $107 million the highest any TriStar film has grossed since 2011.