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Who Are Today's Leading B-Movie Stars?

By Dustin Rowles | Box Office Round-Ups | June 10, 2013 | Comments ()


Sinister_Stills_Ethan_Hawke.jpeg

The term B-movie doesn't mean what it used to. It's almost easier to define a B-movie now by what it's not: They're not blockbusters. They're not art house films. They're not pornographic films. With the average budget for a studio film hovering around $60 million these days, a B-movie is basically a film that comes in way under that number, but that is not aspiring to be anymore more than escapist entertainment. They also typically fall into the horror, sci-fi, or thriller genres, or a mix of all three. They also almost never attract an audience based on their stars, although the stars are typically familiar faces.

They're harder to define, but essentially, you know one when you see it.

A fine example of a B-movie, in fact, is The Purge, which opened at number one this weekend, with around $36 million on a $3 million budget, kicking the crap out of The Interns, which opened with a better than expected $18 million on a $58 million budget. In fact, it's the least expensive movie to top the box office in over 25 years, when Friday the 13th: Part VII topped the box-office during early May with $8 million (though, at the time, the "summer" movie season didn't actually kick off until Memorial Day). Honestly, it makes you wonder why they marketplace is not saturated with the kind of low-risk, high reward films like The Purge, especially in light of the successes of movies like Insidious, Mama and Sinister the last few years. Granted, the upside is limited: $50 - $80 million is as much as most B-movies are likely to gross (and foreign grosses are similar), but -- even when you factor in marketing budgets -- the risks are substantially lower.

Speaking of The Purge it is yet another film that has typified Ethan Hawke's career over the last few years. He has quietly of become a kind of B-movie King. Hawke has had big hits with two $3 million horror flicks, The Purge and Sinister, as well as Brooklyn's Finest ($27 million on a $17 million budget), Daybreakers ($30 million on a $20 million budget), and he has three more B-movies in development. He may only make $1 million or less for each film, but he's become a quietly successful genre actor.

Patrick Wilson, likewise, has become a major star in minor movies. He's perfect for these movies, too: An excellent, recognizable actor who isn't going to bust the bank. Insidious was better than it had any right to be thanks to Wilson. He was great in a supporting role in the huge budget B-movie The A-Team, and the perfect plug-in piece for a movie like Lakeview Terrace ($40 million on a $20 million budget), although he also had a couple of B-movie bombs in Passengers and The Ledge. Nevertheless, with two more B-movies coming out, The Conjuring and Insidious 2, he's clearly comfortable in these kinds of working-stiff roles.

Ben Foster is another guy, a great actor, who doesn't get enough credit for elevating B-movies like Pandorum, 30 Days of Night , The Mechanic and Contraband ($66 million on a $25 million budget). Contraband also starred Kate Beckinsale, whose Underworld movies are obviously big hits, though her other B-movie efforts, Whiteout and Vacancy have not fared as well.

Her name and face may not be as familiar as most, but Alice Braga is doing well as the token female of color in B-movies like The Rite, Predators, and Repo Men. Cam Gigandet is all over B-movies, with Pandorum, The Unborn, Priest and The Roommate, while Jeffrey Dean Morgan has squeezed all that "Grey's Anatomy" goodwill for all its worth with B-movies like Red Dawn, The Possesion, The Courier and The Losers. Kyle Gallner is also a notable presence as the suspicious teen in movies like Red State, , Nightmare on Elm Street and Jennifer's Body. He's practically been typecast because of "Veronica Mars."

Who else might belong on a list of today's leading B-Movie stars? Karl Urban, Elizabeth Banks, Michael Rooker, Jay Hernandez?




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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • BlackRabbit

    Where have all the good men gone/And where are all the Gods?
    Where's the street-wise Hercules/To fight the rising odds?

  • Smitty

    Least expensive movie to top the box office in twenty five years? There are a few Paranormal Activity films and a Blair Witch Project that would like to talk to you...

  • Adrienne Marie

    How could you leave off the Bruce? Hail to the king, goddamnit!

  • You can't have this discussion without Milla Jovovich. You can hate the Resident Evil movies all you want, but they open huge and they deliver entertainment to their fans. I just wish that The Three Musketeers had caught on - her ninja/superhero Milady was fantastic.

  • e jerry powell

    And Wilson is just so damn cute, too. I still have the Angels in America crush on him.

    I'm guessing we aren't counting A-listers or A-minus-listers who take the paycheck cut, like Jessica Chastain, right?

  • katenonymous

    I think John Cusack is doing this, but I'm not sure how successful he is at it. Or, at least, how successful most of the movies are. It's not like Cusack's going without work.

  • apsutter

    I really love these types of movies. They're cheap and imaginative and are populated by enjoyable actors. Insidious had some good moments and I really liked Pandorum. Sinister also had some really creepy parts. I think Jennifer Carpenter fits in this category too. She was in Quarantine and The Exorcism of Emily Rose. She'll never be hugely successful but she'll have a middling to decent career.

  • Arran

    I don't know if I'd describe The Ledge as a B movie.

    I mean, it was worth about a C+, but it was a pretty straightforward drama rather than a B movie.

  • Fredo

    Reading an interview with Hawke over on Grantland, it seems as if he's settled comfortably into a dual career of arthouse fare (like Before Midnight) and B-movies (like The Purge and Sinister). It's not the worst end of it all. His movies will never tank. He'll get to work on whatever he wants. He might even get an odd nomination here and there for some of his indie arthouse stuff.

    Not the worst career to have.

  • James

    Jay Mohr calls it the middle class of acting/entertainment.

    they make enough from movies/tv work to live comfortably but the chance for stardom has passed them by. They can lead low budget/b movies and have smaller parts in bigger studio pieces and are happy and successful doing that.

  • dizzylucy

    That actually sounds pretty good, getting to act steadily and make a living at it, without all the crazy fame and pressure that comes with huge stardom.

  • Guy Pearce maybe? That guy is in all kinds of stuff that he is too good for. (although I will admit to enjoying Lockout way more than I probably should.)

  • Kathleen Allen

    david wenham. and might i add, yum!

  • BuffyloGal

    Reminds me of the days when you could always count on Eric Stoltz to fulfill that role. Good times. Karl Urban can change his look and accent around often enough to be my leading contender.

  • NateMan

    I don't know how you could have left The Statham off that list.

  • Yes - his last couple of movies were nothing but B-Movies. And he likes them that way.

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