As any movie fan knows, summer produces some of the biggest theatrical blockbusters. But by the time you get to August, the box office becomes a fascinating mix of big-budget action flicks, early award season contenders, outrageous comedies and teen favorites. Wonderwall.com is taking a look at some of the movies celebrating big milestones in August 2021, starting with this classic… "Matilda," based on the beloved Roald Dahl novel, became one of the defining family films of the '90s when it hit theaters 25 years ago on Aug. 2, 1996. Former child star Mara Wilson portrays the titular character, a young genius who develops psychokinetic abilities and uses them to deal with both her disreputable family and the tyrannical principal of her school. Directed by — and co-starring — Danny DeVito, the comedy received positive reviews praising the direction and the faithfulness to the spirit of the source material. Sadly, it underperformed at the box office, but it has developed a devoted following through frequent television airings. Mara reiterated that point during an interview with "Entertainment Tonight" in 2021, noting, "It became a hit especially with VHS and with DVD, and I have been signing VHS that people kept and DVDs that people kept for 25 years now, and that is something that is really cool. And probably the coolest thing is when people tell me they introduced their children to it, so they will say, 'My daughter loves it, my son loves it. I watch it with my kids,' and that is really cool to know that you are a part of something that is generational." "Matilda" can be rented on iTunes, Amazon and YouTube.
Keep reading to see more movies celebrating significant anniversaries in August 2021…
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One of the most acclaimed coming-of-age films of all time is celebrating the 35th anniversary of its release: "Stand By Me" hit theaters on Aug. 8, 1986. Based on Stephen King's 1982 novella "The Body," it stars Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman and Jerry O'Connell as four boys who go on a hike in 1959 and find the body of a missing boy. The dramedy became a sleeper summer hit at the box office, bringing in more than six times its $8 million budget. Critics fell for the movie's feel-good nostalgia as well as its breakout ensemble. The Los Angeles Times called it "[a treasure] absolutely not to be missed" and Stephen declared it the first successful translation to film of any of his works. "Stand By Me" was nominated for an Academy Award for best adapted screenplay and two Golden Globe Awards: best motion picture and best director. In 2016, Rolling Stone hailed it as "the rare movie that necessarily gets better with time." It can be streamed on Paramount+.
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"Step Up" become a massive box office surprise when it was released 15 years ago on Aug. 11, 2006. The low-budget teen romance — which stars Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan as two dancers from very different worlds who must pair up in a showcase that determines both of their futures — grossed more than $114 million in ticket sales. Audiences fell head over heels for the electric chemistry between the leads, who would eventually wed, welcome a daughter and divorce. Critics weren't as kind to the cheesy romance, but poor reviews didn't deter theater attendance as fans loved its addictive choreography and popular soundtrack. The film made such a splash that it spawned five sequels: 2008's "Step Up 2: The Streets," 2010's "Step Up 3D," 2012's "Step Up Revolution," 2014's "Step Up: All In" and the 2019 Chinese film "Step Up: Year of the Dance." A television series based on the films, "Step Up: High Water," has also been running since 2018. The one that started it all can be rented on iTunes, Amazon and YouTube.
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Young audiences raced to their local theater 20 years ago to see "The Princess Diaries" when it was released on Aug. 3, 2001. Based on the young adult novel of the same name, the film follows a shy American teenager who learns she's the heir to the throne of a (fictional) European kingdom. Her estranged grandmother — the queen of Genovia — comes to her aid, helping her decide whether to claim her title or renounce it permanently. Disney's coming-of-age hit marked the feature film debut of Anne Hathaway and Mandy Moore and became a massive comeback for screen legend Julie Andrews. It was an unexpected commercial success, grossing over $165 million worldwide. Ranking among the most profitable films of 2001, it helped establish Anne as a bankable star and spawned a hit 2004 sequel, "The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement." Rumors of a third film have lingered for years. Fans can stream the original on Disney+.
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The "Planet of the Apes" franchise made a swinging comeback 10 years ago with the origin story "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," which was released on Aug. 5, 2011. It marked the first in a new series about a universe where the humans of Earth are overtaken by a generation of apes. James Franco, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Tom Felton and David Oyelowo round out the sci-fi flick's cast, which is headlined by "Lord of the Rings" performer Andy Serkis's incredible motion-capture work as a chimpanzee named Caesar. In this film, a substance designed to help the brain repair itself gives advanced intelligence to an animal shelter full of apes. The creatures lead an uprising against the shelter's abusive staff and create a new society of free apes in the forests outside San Francisco. The fast-paced action was positively reviewed, as was its direction and special effects, scoring an Academy Award nomination for best visual effects. Andy was a standout for most, earning many nominations from associations that do not normally recognize performance capture as traditional acting. It grossed more than $480 million worldwide and spawned two sequels. "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" is available to stream on fuboTV.
The period drama "The Help" — which opened in theaters on Aug. 10, 2011 — focuses on a young white woman who wants to write a book exposing the racism faced by two Black maids in the South during the Civil Rights Movement. Based on the bestselling book of the same name, it features an incredible ensemble that includes Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Emma Stone, Cicely Tyson, Bryce Dallas Howard, Allison Janney and Jessica Chastain. The film was a critical and commercial success that grossed $216 million worldwide and received four Academy Award nominations including best picture, best actress for Viola and best supporting actress for both Octavia and Jessica, with the former winning the trophy. "The Help" is available to stream on Hoopla.
The musical television series "Glee" was such a massive sensation when it first hit the airwaves that it sparked a live concert tour featuring the beloved cast of breakout young stars. That tour was then captured on film and brought to theaters 10 years ago for those who couldn't make it to one of the sold-out live dates. "Glee: The 3D Concert Movie," which was released on Aug. 12, 2011, depicts the cast's New Jersey concert as well as behind-the-scenes footage. It provides an opportunity for fans of the Emmy-winning series to experience a setlist of songs from the show's first and second seasons in a live setting, while still feeling part of the action from the comfort of their own home. It also is a great look at the show's influence on teenagers at the time, many of whom felt a sense of community with the band of misfits that made up McKinley High's singing New Directions. "This movie will give fans — not just in the U.S. but around the world — the chance to experience the 'Glee' concert in a visceral way," said 20th Century Fox chairman Gary Newman at the time. The concert film, which grossed twice its budget at the box office, can be rented on iTunes, Amazon and YouTube.
The "American Pie" franchise reached new heights 20 years ago when the second film was released on Aug. 10, 2001. Jason Biggs, Shannon Elizabeth, Alyson Hannigan, Chris Klein, Natasha Lyonne, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Tara Reid, Seann William Scott, Mena Suvari, Eddie Kaye Thomas and Eugene Levy all returned for a second helping of outrageous sex antics, proving that sometimes the sequel is just as good as the first. The teen comedy follows the sexual exploits of the now college-age friends as they attempt to throw the greatest summer party ever at their rented beach house. Younger audiences raced to see the R-rated flick, which brought in $288 million in worldwide ticket sales on a budget of $30 million. It spawned two more films in the series, but the countless laugh-out-loud moments in this one explain why it's the highest grossing film in the franchise. "American Pie 2" is available to stream on Peacock.
It's been 15 years since one of the most buzzed-about summer releases ever hit theaters, with "Snakes On A Plane" arriving on Aug. 18, 2006. For those who aren't aware, the title truly says it all as the campy action flick follows the events that unfold after hundreds of snakes are released on a passenger plane in an attempt to kill a trial witness. The film gained a considerable amount of attention before its release, forming a large online fanbase and becoming an internet phenomenon before anyone had actually seen it. This mostly stemmed from the movie's matter-of-fact title, star-packed casting and ridiculous premise. Samuel L. Jackson and Julianna Margulies led the cast as an FBI agent and a flight attendant who must work together to save as many people as possible from their surprise killer passengers. Critics jumped on board with the silliness, with many reporting audiences cheering, applauding and engaging in call and response in their theaters. It didn't quite live up to the hype at the box office, raking in $62 million worldwide, but there's no denying just how fun the film is. "Snakes On A Plane" is available to stream on HBO Max.
Jeff Goldblum enjoyed one of his first lead roles 35 years ago when "The Fly" was released on Aug. 15, 1986. Loosely based on the 1957 short story and the 1958 film of the same name, the horror flick follows an eccentric scientist who, after one of his experiments goes wrong, slowly turns into a fly-hybrid creature. The film co-starring Geena Davis received massive acclaim from critics and audiences, with praise focused on the disturbing special effects and Jeff's winning performance. The low-budget affair was a hit at the box office too, grossing more than $60 million. It also won an Academy Award for best makeup. Named by Time Magazine as one of the 25 best horror films, it spawned a 1989 sequel featuring a new cast. "The Fly" can be rented on iTunes, Amazon and YouTube.
Before "Gossip Girl" and "Superbad," Blake Lively and Jonah Hill starred in the slapstick comedy "Accepted," which came out 15 years ago on Aug. 18, 2006. Justin Long stars in the teen film as a recent high school graduate who schemes to create his own college after being rejected from every single one to which he applied. He soon recruits all of his friends to join in making what initially seems like a ridiculous idea into a viable reality. Critics weren't sold on the over-the-top premise, but as the San Francisco Chronicle wrote in its review, "If you can lighten up for an hour and a half, the film delivers one good laugh after another." It more than made back its budget at the box office, plus it provides a hilarious early glimpse at a slew of young actors before their careers really took off. "Accepted" can be streamed on Netflix.
Nicole Kidman successfully tried her hand at the horror genre 20 year ago with the ghost flick "The Others." The Oscar-winning star played a devoutly religious woman who lives in her darkened old family house with her two photosensitive children at the end of Word War II and becomes convinced that the home is haunted. Not since "The Sixth Sense" was a film's twist so buzzed-about that you had to see it to believe it. That positive word-of-mouth made the scare-fest a surprising success story when it was released on Aug. 2, 2001. It raked in more than $200 million worldwide and achieved the rare feat of being a horror film that received enough critical acclaim to garner awards acknowledgement. Nicole's performance was singled out for being especially exceptional and nabbed Golden Globe and BAFTA Award nominations. "The Others" can be rented on iTunes, Amazon and YouTube.
Kevin Costner sent hearts aflutter 25 years ago at the height of his career when "Tin Cup" was released on Aug. 16, 1996. He co-stars alongside Rene Russo in the sports-themed romantic comedy as a former golf pro whose rebellious nature and bad attitude cost him everything. His character now works as an instructor and falls for one of his pupils, who also happens to be the girlfriend of his nemesis. The sparkling chemistry between the two leads delighted both critics and audiences, sending the film to the top of the box office when it debuted (it made nearly twice its budget in ticket sales). Variety wrote in its review, "Amiable and constantly amusing rather than uproarious, this mangy tale of a ne'er-do-well's fitful assault on personal and professional respectability benefits greatly from Kevin Costner's ingratiatingly comic star turn, his most appealing work in years." Kevin received a Golden Globe Award nomination for his work. "Tin Cup" can be streamed on HBO Max.
Will Ferrell had one of the biggest hits of his career 15 years ago when "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby" arrived on Aug. 4, 2006. Will stars as the titular NASCAR superstar who's at the top of his game — until the arrival of a French Formula One champion (played by Sacha Baron Cohen) threatens to take it all way. The comedian also co-wrote the quotable feature, which became another $100-million grosser on his resume. Sony greenlit the film off a six-word pitch, "Will Ferrell as a NASCAR driver," and the ensuing hilarity proved they knew exactly what they were in for. It tapped into a piece of modern-day Americana that was ripe for spoofing and weaved in perfectly with Will's comedic sensibilities. Speaking of the movie's enduring legacy, Will told ESPN in 2016, "It means we got it right. I mean, as right as a movie like this can be. No one was too mad at us. I did have one driver show up at my house and threaten to drag me behind his car at Daytona, but just one. No, I'm kidding that didn't happen. Maybe." The film is available to stream on Netflix.
Twenty-five years ago, the Bradys returned to the big screen when "A Very Brady Sequel" was released on Aug. 23, 1996. A follow-up to the hit comedy "The Brady Bunch Movie," it continues on the predecessor's theme of placing the '70s Brady Bunch family in a contemporary '90s setting. This time, the iconic clan must deal with a scheming con artist who infiltrates their family by pretending to be matriarch Carol's ex-husband. It received worse reviews and ticket sales than the first film, but it built a cult following that has only grown in size in the years since its release. Numerous memes have been taken from the sequel's ridiculous humor, with many focused on Christine Taylor's incredible work as vain oldest sister Marcia (you've definitely seen a "Sure, Jan" GIF at some point in your internet browsing). "A Very Brady Sequel" can be streamed on CINEMAX GO.
One of the most significant indie films of its decade, "She's Gotta Have It," made a splash 35 years ago when it was released on Aug. 8, 1986. Director Spike Lee's feature debut depicts the beautiful Nola Darling as she dates three men at the same time: a rich, handsome narcissist; a stable, overprotective alpha male; and a timid geek with a heart of gold. The movie follows the protagonist as she struggles to choose between her trio of suitors. As The New York Times wrote of the film's legacy in 2007, it "ushered in the American independent film movement of the 1980s. It was also a groundbreaking film for African American filmmakers and a welcome change in the representation of Blacks in American cinema, depicting men and women of color not as pimps and whores, but as intelligent, upscale urbanites." It also launched Spike's career, spawned a Netflix series in 2017 and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."
Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker reteamed 20 years ago in the hit sequel "Rush Hour 2," which was released on Aug. 3, 2001. It marked the second film in the buddy comedy trilogy, following the successful first movie in 1998. It depicts Jackie's Chief Inspector Lee and Chris's Detective James Carter as they journey to Hong Kong on vacation only to be thwarted by a murder case involving two U.S. customs agents after a bombing at the American embassy. The comedic duo were already lovable in the first "Rush Hour," but the pair truly found their stride in the second. Critics were mixed this time around, but Variety called it a "superior sequel" and "the very model of the limber, transnational Hollywood action comedy." Meanwhile, viewers couldn't get enough, with the film making over $340 million worldwide. It became the year's 11th highest grossing movie worldwide and is still the highest grossing project in the franchise. "Rush Hour 2" is available to stream on HBO Max.
The game-changing horror film "An American Werewolf in London" celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2021 after arriving in theaters on Aug. 21, 1981. It portrays two American backpackers who are attacked by a werewolf while traveling in England, causing one to question whether he will become one of the beasts under the next full moon. The surprising comedic take on the scary subject matter impressed viewers, helping it rake in more than $60 million in ticket sales on a $5 million budget. Critics were also pleased with the fun thrill ride, with Empire Magazine writing that "carnivorous lunar activities rarely come any more entertaining than this." At the 54th Annual Academy Awards, it won the first-ever Oscar for best makeup. An underperforming sequel, "An American Werewolf in Paris," was released in 1997. The first film is available to stream on Amazon Prime.