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Looking Back at Iconic Tentpole Movies and Imagining Their 2013 Versions

As summer movie season officially kicked off this past Memorial Day weekend, the slate of “tentpole” movies — the ones that are expected to hold up (like a tentpole, get it?) and turn a profit, bringing in big bucks both domestically and overseas — is bigger than ever: There’s Hangover 3, After Earth, Man of Steel, Monsters University, World War Z, Despicable Me 2, The Lone Ranger, R.I.P.D., The Wolverine, and Red 2.

Studios are banking that the “tentpoles” (typically released during the summer season and again during the winter holidays) will inspire moviegoers to shell out their hard-earned cash, based on the promise of huge stars and even huger spectacles. These (mostly) big budget movies, heavy on breathless action, the latest CGI technology, 3D, and A-listers, are meant to compensate the studios for their less profitable movies. In short, even if you’re somebody who prefers the smaller, quieter film, tentpoles are your friends. They enable the studios to take risks on smaller projects. This is just one reason that our big summer blockbusters are so important, and, so massively promoted.

The first known use of the term “tentpole” was in 1987, the summer that Beverly Hills Cop 2 was released — although we would argue that the first “actual” tentpole, although it didn’t have a big budget, was Jaws. So how far have tentpole movies come since the days when Steven Spielberg hired special effects guy Bob Mattey to build a terrifyingly fake shark using a steel skeleton, rubber skin, and hydraulics?

Herewith, a (loose) chronology of iconic tentpole movies over the years — and how they might have been different if they were released this summer:

1987: Beverly Hills Cop II

Starring Eddie Muprhy as Axel Foley

Directed by Tony Scott

Iconic moment: Anytime Bob Seger’s awesome original song, “Shakedown,” played.

How the 2013 version would differ: “Shakedown” by Justin Bieber

1990: Ghost

Starring Demi Moore, Patrick Swayze and Whoopi Goldberg

Directed by Jerry Zucker

Iconic moment: Two words: Pottery wheel.

How the 2013 version would differ: The pottery wheel turns into an evil Decepticon sent to destroy Earth.

1994: Forrest Gump

Starring Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, Gary Sinese, Sally Field

Directed by Robert Zemeckis

Iconic moment: “Life is like a box of chocolates…”

How the 2013 version would differ: “Life is like a box of gluten-free chocolates…”

1997: Men in Black

Starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones

Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld

Iconic moment: The alien ship’s pilot kills farmer Vincent D’Onofrio and disguises himself with the farmer’s skin.

How the 2013 version would differ: When he pulls his skin back, prompting his wife to faint, the skin would be covered in advertising.

2001: Shrek

Starring Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz

Directed by Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson

Iconic moment: Shrek bursts into Princess Fiona’s wedding and they engage in “true love’s kiss.”

How the 2013 version would differ: Fiona would be prettier, skinner, and much less green.

2003: Finding Nemo

Starring Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres

Directed by Andrew Stanton

Iconic moment: Nemo bravely enters the fishing net that has caught Dory and sets her free

How the 2013 version would differ: Nemo bravely enters the fishing net but Dory’s already freed herself, and then she has to re-enter the net to free Nemo. Men.

2008: The Dark Knight

Starring Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Heath Ledger

Directed by Christopher Nolan

Iconic moment: The Joker’s gory pencil trick

How the 2013 version would differ: The Joker would have come riding in on a CGI dinosaur, followed by a 103-foot wave and 10,000 zombies — just for, you know, laughs.

Featured Image: Left to right: Brad Pitt is Gerry Lane, Abigail Hargrove is Rachel Lane, and Mireille Enos is Karin Lane in WORLD WAR Z. Photo courtesy Paramount Pictures

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