15 unexpected summer movie hits
Plus: 'Bring it On,' 'The Karate Kid,' 'Babe' and more
The Blair Witch Project
Release Date: July 30, 1999
Box Office: $140.5 million
Why: At the start of 1999, no one could have predicted that one of the biggest hits of the year, and indeed one of the biggest independent films of all time, would be a black-and-white mockumentary directed by two guys no one had ever heard of. Thanks to aggressive buzz from the midnight screenings at the Sundance Film Festival and one of the first viral marketing campaigns to fully utilize the power of the internet, the film opened to enormous business, turning Artisan into a momentary force to be reckoned with and kicking off an entire genre of films that is still packing theaters today with pictures like "Paranormal Activity." What gets lost in all of the focus on how it was sold is that, most importantly, the film really did scare audiences. You can argue about the ending all day long, but in a packed theater, the effect of the film's most harrowing sequences was undeniable and electric.
- Drew McWeeny