I’ve always maintained the late ’80s are an era unto itself, bearing little in resemblance to the earlier years of the decade. Nowhere is that obvious in 1988 than at the box office. The top movie of the year (at least according to box office sales): Rain Man?!?
Don’t get me wrong: Rain Man is a fine movie. It was nominated for eight Academy Awards, winning four (including best picture, best actor for Dustin Hoffman, best director and best screenplay). And 30 years later, we can all still quote some of its memorable lines.
I’m an excellent driver.
Three minutes to Wapner.
But still, Rain Man suffers when it comes to its longevity in the pop culture zeitgeist. Do you see a lot of people dressing as Charlie or Raymond Babbitt for ’80s parties? Do you see a Rain Man marathon on cable TV for any holiday weekend?
Rain Man did prevail at the box office in 1988 but not by a huge margin. The movie pulled in $172 million, just enough to squeak pass more memorable flicks such as Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Coming to America, Big, Die Hard and Beetlejuice.
And if you look at other box office champs in the late ’80s, you’ll notice the same pattern. In 1987, Three Men and a Baby was No. 1. (Well, my theory falls apart a little here, because Top Gun was indeed tops in 1986, and some little known movie named Batman was the hero in 1989). Still, anyone surprised that Rain Man was the top movie in 1988?
Here’s the full top 10 list of movies in 1988, according to Box Office Mojo. You decide if we spent our money in the right place.
1. Rain Man
2. Who Framed Roger Rabbit
3. Coming to America
6. Crocodile Dundee II
7. Die Hard
8. The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!
11. Working Girl
12. A Fish Called Wanda
16. Rambo III
17. Oliver & Company
18. Bull Durham
19. A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master
20. The Land Before Time