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Glance at any magazine, any billboard, any newspaper, bus stop, toy store or fast food restaurant this week and you’re bound to spot a white-helmeted stormtrooper or the menacing mask of Kylo Ren gazing back at you. With the debut of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” only days away, Disney’s hype machine has jumped to lightspeed. Yet whether or not the latest entry in the Skywalker saga lives up to the buzz remains to be seen. Because as anyone familiar with the following 12 films knows, not all movies warrant their hype. Click through to see the most over-hyped movies of all time.
“Fifty Shades of Grey” (2015)
A box office smash, this controversial adult romance was based on one of the most buzzed-about erotic novels in decades. Promising steamy sex and envelope-pushing kinkiness, the film adaptation of E.L. James’ book was released on Valentine’s Day, making it the perfect date movie for adventurous couples. Sadly, all the hype in the world couldn’t disguise what was essentially a high-gloss theatrical version of a typical “Red Shoe Diaries” episode.
“The Interview” (2014)
It’s impossible to exaggerate the hype that gripped the nation when Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s raunchy political satire made its long-delayed debut. The film’s comical depiction of dictator Kim Jong-un sparked an international incident when North Korean hackers launched a devastating cyber-attack on Sony Pictures, crippling the studio and forcing major theater chains to cancel screenings at the last minute. After President Obama criticized the cancelation as a mistake, several hundred independent theaters opted to show “The Interview” as a gesture against censorship and terrorism. When the dust finally settled, the movie was revealed to be nothing more than a harmless buddy comedy – albeit one with a very accurate depiction of North Korean totalitarianism.
A textbook example of a trailer being better than the film itself, Ridley Scott’s ambitious epic about the discovery of slimy life on another planet set sci-fi geeks buzzing for months before it landed in theaters. Would “Prometheus” be a direct prequel to the 1979 classic “Alien,” or was it a unique story that merely echoed themes from that beloved series? Shrouded in mystery, the film’s high-end cast and jaw-dropping effects suggested that the hype might actually be justified this time. Unfortunately, wonky logic and gaping plot holes divided audiences, many of whom felt it promised more than it delivered.
Greeted with the type of frenzy usually reserved for boy bands, this toothless adaptation of the hugely popular young adult novel broke box office records when it premiered in the winter of ’08. Though it spawned four increasingly CGI-dependent sequels, the film’s dreary romance and sparkly vampires were strictly for lovelorn teenyboppers (and a sprinkling of Twi-moms). Unlike “The Hunger Games” which rewarded the hype that accompanied it, “Twilight” is unlikely to stand the test of time.
“Snakes on a Plane” (2006)
Proving that Internet hype doesn’t guarantee Blair Witch-level success, this memorably titled thriller about a passenger jet filled with reptilian stowaways was an online sensation but a dud at the box office. Opening far below expectations, “Snakes on a Plane” plummeted to sixth place in its second week, a disastrous drop for one of the most blogged-about movies in years.
“The Matrix Revolutions” (2003)
Four years after “The Matrix” wowed audiences with its dazzling effects and provocative story, the Wachowskis unveiled two much-hyped sequels, released a mere six months apart. Though not quite as groundbreaking, the second film, titled “The Matrix Reloaded,” expanded on the mind-bending themes and trippy visuals established in the original. Not so with the sloppy third entry, however, which ended the cyberpunk saga with a yawn rather than a cheer.
“Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace” (1999)
Eager to see the first new Star Wars film in 16 years, loyal fans from around the country lined up outside of theaters a month before the release of “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.” An estimated 2.2 million full-time employees missed work to attend screenings, causing a massive loss in productivity, according to a national employment consulting firm. And yet from the moment the opening text crawl mentioned taxation, trade routes and shipping blockades, something seemed amiss. Between the wooden acting, leaden dialogue and an unfunny Jar Jar Binks, this wasn’t the film we were looking for.
“The Godfather Part III” (1990)
16 years after “The Godfather Part II” won half a dozen Oscars, including Best Picture, Francis Ford Coppola’s third entry in the Corleone crime saga debuted to massive hype and wildly high expectations. But despite several standout sequences, and the return of much of the original’s cast and crew, the magic just wasn’t there. While many blamed the presence of Sofia Coppola in a key role for its mixed reception, the movie’s sluggish plot and overwrought climax left many fans disappointed.
“Henry & June” (1990)
Controversy and hype often go hand-in-hand, which explains why this disappointingly staid biopic about a love triangle between authors Anaïs Nin, Henry Miller and Miller’s wife June generated an avalanche of buzz in the weeks leading up to its release. The first film to receive an NC-17 rating, “Henry & June” was rumored to break new ground in terms of erotic content. But instead of a bold examination of adult sexuality, the movie resembled an overlong Merchant and Ivory production, replete with heavy-handed symbolism, stuffy art direction and a tendency to discuss passion rather than to depict it.
“King Kong” (1976)
A year before “Star Wars” revolutionized movie hype, Dino De Laurentiis’s giant ape remake pulled out all the stops in a media blitz that overshadowed the film itself. From an ad campaign that bluntly declared it “The most exciting original motion picture event of all-time,” to a coveted Time Magazine cover story and a high-profile tie-in with fast food chain Burger Chef, “King Kong” paved the way for modern movie marketing. Word that a 40-foot animatronic Kong would handle the bulk of the film’s action generated gargantuan buzz, but audiences felt cheated when the towering figure appeared on screen for less than 15 seconds.
“Deep Throat” (1972)
It’s difficult to imagine mainstream audiences flocking to see a crummy little porno movie starring a cast of drugged-out, hirsute performers, but that’s exactly what happened when the dismal “Deep Throat” premiered in the summer of ’72. With the sexual revolution in full swing, the film rode a massive wave of hype, earning an estimated $50 million at the box office, on a budget of less than $50,000. Adding to its allure, popular celebrities like Johnny Carson, Sammy Davis Jr., Barbara Walters and Vice President Spiro Agnew admitted to having seen the film, whose title became an unexpected codename during the Watergate scandal.
Imagine a movie so terrifying that its makers literally provided each audience member with a life insurance policy worth $1,000 in case they should die of fright during the film. Known for the gruesome gimmicks he employed to build hype around his B-movies, director William Castle partnered with insurance giant Lloyd’s of London to create buzz for “Macabre,” a modestly suspenseful kidnapping thriller starring Jim Backus, aka Thurston Howell III on “Gilligan’s Island.” Adding to the carnival-like atmosphere, fake nurses were hired to patrol cinema lobbies, while off-duty hearses were parked outside theaters to drum up extra publicity.