200911181254Just to follow up on the earlier post about how only one movie in the top 20 highest grossing films of the Aughts was based on an original idea, lets check out the ’90s to see how they compare. Original stories are in RED.

1 Titanic — ORIGINAL
2 Star Wars – Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace — Sequel
3 Jurassic Park – Novel
4 Forrest Gump – Novel
5 The Lion King — ORIGIINAL (sorta)

6 Independence Day – ORIGINAL
7 The Sixth Sense – ORGINAL
8 Home Alone – ORIGINAL
9 Men In Black – Comic Book
10 Toy Story 2 – Sequel
11 Twister – Original
12 The Lost World – Jurassic Park- Sequel
13 Mrs. Doubtfire – Novel
14 Ghost — ORIGINAL
15 Aladdin – Classic fairy tale
16 Saving Private Ryan – Original
17 Austin Powers – The Spy Who Shagged Me – ORIGINAL
18 T2 – Terminator 2 – Judgment Day – Sequel
19 Armageddon – ORIGINAL
20 Toy Story – ORIGINAL
21 Dances With Wolves — Novel
22 Batman Forever – Comic Book
23 The Fugitive – TV Show
24 Liar Liar – ORIGINAL
25 Mission Impossible – TV Show

Setting aside the obvious shockers — MRS DOUBTFIRE??? — this list does show a lot more original ideas, even if they are based on historical events — Titanic, Ryan — and that wow, in the new century nerds and their comics really have taken over, haven’t they. If enough of you are interested, we will offer analysis of previous decades in a later post.


  1. Men In Black gets an asterix… it’s a “shell”…. they bought the name, scraped out all of the insides, then filled it like a sausage. Same goes for “I, Robot”.

    Mrs. Doubtfire, like Forrest Gump, Election, and Who Censored Roger Rabbit, were probably unknown non-bestseller titles until someone bought the rights and made a movie. (FG and WCRR both had book sequels which followed the movie storyline and not the original book.)

  2. On Titanic, shouldn’t it be in red? Though I would argue that it’s only half original (the original half being the love story tacked onto real events).

  3. Isn’t Twister based on a game?


    (Oh, okay. But that would’ve been more interesting than the film they did make.)

    The Lost World should have both “sequel” and “novel” notes.

  4. I’m waiting for the year in which every movie released is either a sequel, a remake, or based on a novel, comic book, or video game. It’s coming. Sooner than we think.

  5. Hollywood’s been adapting and remaking and sequeling pretty heavily since they first started filming simplified versions of stage plays with intertitles added, and audiences have been handing over the nickels for them the whole time. Even a lot of the popular “original” movies back in the day were just scripts written for certain stars to do the same thing they did in their last successful film (still true today). Sic Semper Reddo.

  6. I don’t think this is a condemnation of Hollywood or shows a lack of creativity on the studios part, really– it just shows that they prefer to adapt story material which has proven successful in other media. They want to hedge their financial bets as best they can and believe that a best-seller or some familiar brand name or icon will more likely win audiences. Who ever said that studios seek to be original or creative in their film releases is just ignoring the evidence to the contrary. There are plenty of other valid reasons you could cite in order to criticize the studios and the film makers for poor quality productions in one way or another.

    PK Dick said people go to movies to see thing move.

  7. IMO, a movie based on a historical incident shouldn’t be considered original, since the movie’s plot can’t (shouldn’t) deviate from historical fact.

    Likewise, classifying a movie as “original” if the plot is sci-fi hackwork (INDEPENDENCE DAY) or parody (the Austin Powers movies) doesn’t support the goal of promoting originality. By those standards, the Syfy “creature of the month” movies would be considered original because they feature different creatures.

    WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT? might be an example of an adaptation that was superior to the source, Gary Wolf’s novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit?


  8. Any decade in which they didn’t make Mrs Doubtfire wasn’t all bad.

    Re Titanic, the story had been filmed at least twice before – for a vastly better version, see the 50s British film A Night To Remember.

  9. Hey, some of the best classic films were were based on books as well. “The Grapes of Wrath”, “To Kill A Mockingbird”, “How Green Was My Valley”, “Gone With the Wind”, “The Wizard of Oz”, etc. etc. etc.

    I don’t see it as a lack of creativity at all, as long as the films are done well. So, to me, making a film out of a book is perfectly fine. However, I don’t like seeing old TV shows and older movies being “remade” into quick cash-grab junk.

  10. …and The Wizard of Oz, as enjoyable as it is, is a horrible adaptation of the book, dropping the final chapters where Dorothy must venture southward. The Grapes of Wrath, produced in 1940, cuts out half of the novel so that viewers would see a patriotic, feel-good ending. Even “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” (1958) censored Big Daddy’s “crap” and any mention of homosexuality.

    Then there was “Lost Lady”. Willa Cather so hated the adaptation that she forbade any future adaptations of her work under copyright.

  11. The problem I see with this list is being based on films that collected the most money. People will watch anything that’s new and in wide distribution, regardless of how original it is. Being original or unique is not a good movie marketing pitch. Ratings are also involved since adult R films limit the amount of ticket sales. All of these get constant rotation on TV these days, but none of them I would want to see (Liar Liar? I’d rather be water-boarded.)

  12. you can’t say that Titanic, Saving Private Ryan, Armageddon, and I think, Liar, Liar, are ‘Original’ ideas. I thought Liar, Liar was based on something. And the others, well, they’re now universal ideas and moments in history.

    Titanic, well, there have been numerous stories about it. Saving Private Ryan, partially based on the Sullivan brothers, and others, and well, the destruction of the world, that idea came even before the flooding of the earth and Noah’s Ark in the Catholic Bible.

  13. In the year 1970, only one of the top 10 highest grossing films in the US (‘Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice’) was based on an original idea. OK, it’s only one year and not a decade, and it’s the top 10 and not the top 20, but maybe this fact shows that the ‘unoriginality’ of Hollywood is an old phenomenon.

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