From Top Gun to Elvis, a paying choice at the cinema

From Top Gun to Elvis, a paying choice in cinema


Sequels to old hit films, biographical dramas about musical stars of the 20th century, autobiographical stories that take us back to another era… In an attempt to attract older audiences to theaters, the film industry also regularly plays the nostalgia card.

Just take a look at the top 20 highest-grossing movies of 2022 to see just how much nostalgia can pay off at the box office. It includes, among other things, yet another sequel to the hit film saga Jurassic Park and a musical drama about the life of Elvis Presley. But there is no better example to illustrate the appeal of nostalgia in cinema than the action movie Top Gun: Maverick, a sequel to the 1986 classic, which topped the global box office last summer.

“It was a huge success, notes Quebec producer Christian Larouche (Confessions, Goodbye Happiness). This is the kind of film that we always want to see, when they are successful. It's the same with Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible which still works very well after all these years. Going to see this kind of entertainment is like falling back into our good old slippers.”

Musical Stars

Biographical dramas about the lives of stars Musicals from the 1960s, 1970s or 1980s have also been popular in cinemas for a few years. We saw it this summer with Elvis, but also recently with Bohemian Rhapsody (on Freddie Mercury) and Rocketman (on Elton John).

Christian Larouche is well placed to know that this kind of film appeals to the general public. He himself produced in 2011 a film on the life of rocker Gerry Boulet (Gerry) and he is preparing another on that of the diva Diane Dufresne. 

“Baby-boomers and people of a certain age love to see the artists who made them vibrate during their youth on the big screen,” he says. But these films are also popular with the youngest, because they allow them to discover these icons of the 1970s or 1980s. When we launched Gerry, we felt a great interest on the part of young people to discover the work of Gerry and Offenbach. The film about Diane Dufresne will surely do the same thing with its music.”

Some examples of films focusing on nostalgia

Top Gun: Maverick

Hollywood often capitalizes on nostalgia by producing sequels orremakes of old hit movies. In the case of Top Gun: Maverick, this gamble paid off particularly well. Launched last May, this sequel to the cult 1986 film featuring Tom Cruise reprising his famous role as the intrepid pilot Maverick dominated the box office throughout the summer, grossing nearly $1.5 billion in the world. 


The immense popularity of biographical dramas based on the lives of musical stars are also largely explained by this attraction to nostalgia. We had a good example of this this year with the release of the musical film Elviswhich grossed over $151 million at the worldwide box office. Similar films about Freddie Mercury (Bohemian Rhapsody), Elton John (Rocketman) and Mötley Crüe (The Dirt) have also taken over. poster in recent years, while others on Madonna and Prince are in preparation.


Filmmaker Ricardo Trogi never hid it: the success of his autobiographical film series, 1981, 1987 and 1991, is largely based on this feeling of nostalgia that seizes spectators aged over 40 when they immerse themselves in the atmosphere 1980s. The second episode of the series, 1987, which is inspired by the summer of its 17 years, exploits this vein particularly well by multiplying the looks, accessories and music of the 1980s.

The saga Halloween

Horror film fans can also fall in love with the charm of the genre's old classics, as evidenced by the popularity of the saga Halloween, which has 13 films released over a span of more than 40 years. The latest episodes of the series focus particularly on nostalgia by bringing back to the fore the heroine of the original 1978 film, played by Jamie Lee Curtis. 


What do The War of the Hats, The 12 Labors of Asterix have in common? and Bach and Boots? These classics are among the essentials of the programming of Ciné-Cadeau, this marathon of family films broadcast on the airwaves of Télé-Québec during the holiday season and which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. It is well known that Ciné-Cadeau appeals to both adults nostalgic for their youth and their own children. 

The Fabelmans 

Several great filmmakers have also recently been tempted by nostalgia for the past. After Alfonso Cuaron who recounted a chapter of his childhood, in Mexico City, in the drama Roma (winner of three Oscars, including that of best direction in 2019), Steven Spielberg in turn offers a film autobiographical, Les Fabelman, in which he looks back on his youth and his discovery of cinema. The feature film, which Spielberg describes as his most personal work, has just been released.