Why did 'The Hangover Part II' make such an ungodly amount of money?


The Hangover Part II was always going to have a successful first weekend at the box office. The first film was a gleeful national landmark of bad behavior — remember when it had semi-serious Oscar buzz? — and it was the only non-superhero non-animated R-rated dude comedy in theaters (and will be until the decidedly weirder-looking Horrible Bosses arrives in July.) Still, even optimistic prognosticators have to be a bit surprised by just how well the film performed: as reported by EW’s John Young, the movie earned $137.4 in five days, the best opening frame ever for a live-action comedy and the second-biggest R-rated haul in history, behind only The Matrix Reloaded. And Reloaded was a mysterious, highly-anticipated sci-fi extravaganza four years in the making; Hangover 2 was essentially a remake-plus-Bangkok of a film that was basically Dude, Where’s My Car: Weekend in Vegas.

Critics were generally dismissive of the sequel — although EW movie critic Owen Gleiberman liked it just fine — but audiences clearly responded to The Hangover Part II. So how did it wind up doing so well? I’d point to three main factors. First, the marketing, which made the film look even more raw and weird than its predecessor. Look at the poster for the first Hangover: Sure, Bradley Cooper’s got some scratches, and Ed Helms is missing a tooth, but with the adorable little tyke in there you could practically be looking at a hipster remake of Three Men and a Baby — which by the way, elevator pitch! Now look at the poster for Part II: Galifianakis looks like a psychotic backwoods survivalist, Helms has that Tyson tattoo, Cooper just looks miserable, and they appear to be lying on the set of Hostel.

Secondly, the main trio of The Hangover have, between them, three uniquely perfect flavors of stardom. Cooper is the ascendant movie star, Helms is a quirky supporting actor on a TV show, and Galifianakis is a cult comedian who can absolutely crush a Saturday Night Live appearance — in short, a perfectly multi-demographic mix. It really does seem as if the movie offers something for everyone — eye candy, fratty humor — which brings us to the third reason The Hangover did so well: The franchise has already punctured in the rarified cinematic stratosphere of being less of a movie than an event. EW’s Hillary Busis compared the film to Sex and the City 2, which is uniquely spot-on: In the same sense that groups of women got together to watch the two SatC movies, groups of dudes can legitimately roll into a Friday-night screening of The Hangover Part II and expect a good time.

Did you see The Hangover Part II? Would you go to see a third movie? Do you look forward to a cultural moment far in the future when the Sex and the City and Hangover franchises cross over, Freddy vs. Jason-style?

Follow Darren on Twitter: @EWDarrenFranich

Read more:
Owen Gleiberman: I stand by liking ‘The Hangover Part II,’ but is this really the best director Todd Phillips can do?
‘The Hangover Part III': What should be in the three-quel?
‘The Hangover Part II’ Gallery: 6 exclusive portraits

Comments (203 total) Add your comment
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  • ashley

    i loved the movie! i never expected it to be as good as the first and it wasn’t but i was aware of that going in. i would def see a third (if the original cast is all there!)

    • HD

      I loved the sequel compared to the first film. As a 32 yo single man whose friends are all married with kids, I like the film because it reminds me of the times when we weren’t all buried in life.

      • Greg

        Dude, you nailed it, “…reminds me of times we weren’t all buried in life.” Being buried in life is the national dilemma. It is amazing what some, straight from the gut, irreverent laughing at our pathetic, but hilarious, societal controlled madness truly produces as citizens.

        It is also very good for the soul to belly laugh with a group of strangers for 2 hours.

      • scott

        So true! Saw the movie with buddies who are all in our 30’s and have kids. the Kids and wives were left at home and we saw the movie. Sure it is pretty much the same movie as the first one but we laughed throught the whole thing and would mostly likely do it again if they made a third.

    • Trinity

      I’m with Ashley. The sequel could never match the original for balls to the walls laughing. However, it was still hilarious and I couldn’t wait to see what they would do with this one. I would definitely see a third if the original cast stayed in tact. PLEASE bring back Paul Giamatti…his Interpol playing Crime Lord was fantastic!! I loved it all!

    • Dan

      of course it did well, white people LOVE laughing at the expense of minorities…this time it’s the Asians. Thai Father, Korean Daughter, Chinese Son…c’mon guys…get it right.
      And then there’s Ken Jeong Duk Dong…

      • Emma

        I believe Zach Galifianakis was the butt of the vast majority of the film so this is really coming out of left field.

      • pnut166

        No, we like laughing at total f*cking idiots. AHAHAHA – you`re post was funny ! See ?

      • Jeff H in TX

        Uh ohhh, who let the politically correct bummer dispenser in here?

      • danielt

        @pnut166…..funny! and true!

  • crispy

    It’s like you’re just taunting the “America loves crap” guy.

    • America Loves Crap Guy

      I LOVED this movie!!!!!!!!!!

      • Anonny Bonny

        True, America DOES love Crap Guy. That’s undeniable. It has mixed feelings about Spit Boy and Effluvia Girl, though.

      • Ry

        LOL Annoy Bonny. Actually there is an American band called spit boy… which I guess proves the original point

  • Larch

    I was all set to see it with some buddies. Then we read the Rottentomatoes reviews and decided to spend our money on beer and wings instead.

    • DGH

      I guess its a good thing Rottentomatoes didn’t say beer and wings suck drink Jack or you would have missed out on beer and wings too.

      • Larch

        Your words cut deeply, my friend.

      • James

        DGH, epic win!!!

    • Ke


    • MultiPass

      I would hate to be that poor.

      • Dusen

        Why would you infer he’s poor? I took it to mean he decided to spend his money and time on something else.

        After seeing the movie myself, I kind of wish i had done the same thing.

      • Emma

        I believe when you’re picking between dinner OR a movie, you’re probably not raking in the millions. I saw the film and loved it but that was only after I had a hardy meal.

      • Larch

        I’m certainly not going to brag about my salary/net worth to strangers on the internet – what I meant was that I feel my TIME was better spent on beer and hanging out with friends, vs seeing the exact same movie (Now in Bangkok!) that I watched in 2009.

        But thanks for your concern Emma.

      • Sammo

        @Emma…soooo, did you mean you ate a Hardee’s meal (doesn’t seem very high-brow) or a HEARTY meal (meaning satisfying and filling)? Whatever lucrative job you have, I hope it doesn’t involve much use of language. Or reading comprehension…

    • leo

      Me and some buds smoked some doobies and went to go see it, but we blacked out and woke up in a showing of “Something Borrowed.”

      • Cygnus

        I guess you’re just trying to be funny. Who blacks out smoking weed? You sure your inner-female didnt walk you over to Something Borrowed?

      • Ian

        Blacked out on weed? I guess they weren’t letting any infants see Hangover II that day…

      • Jay

        Yeah, really…. if yuour gonna make a joke. Try to do it on a knowledgable subject. If you’ve ever smoked weed you’d know… it is impossible to “black out” from it.
        To gorge on junk food and fall into a “munchie coma”, on the other hand, is completely plausable

      • gpgp

        While impossible to blackout from weed i had a bong in high school that would knock people out. It was too long and the theory is carbon monoxide buildup. Many people, myself included, would hit it stand up and fall right on their ass out cold.

      • Ry

        EYs you can black out on weed. It’s called falling asleep.

      • Jason C.

        I’m sorry, but back in the day when I did smoke week I had something laced and blacked out in a friend’s apartment for several hours. In other words, the joke could be like the plot of the film, the wolf pack black out when they have alcohol laced with roofies. You gotta love when people refuse to actually think through a joke…

      • Jeff H in TX

        Yeah like that blacking out thing actually happens…

    • Greg

      *uck Rotten Tomatoes, they missed the point!!! It was an uproariously funny comment on the effect of the state of society’s conditioning and the extremes we will go to in search of a cure for our stupefaction, lack of identify, unoriginality and inability to find ourselves.

      • Jason C.

        Greg: Yeah, Rotten Tomatoes missed the point because they write the reviews!

        Hate to tell you this, but Rotten Tomatoes compiles reviews from critics who’ve had years of service in the industry. It’s not that the critics missed the point, it’s just that they were expecting more.

      • Jonah

        I think Greg was being sarcastic. At least I hope he was….ahh, I don’t even know anymore

      • vicarious

        Both movies, 1 and 2, were both hits because we all had days like that in our lives… to some degree… Those of us who have “Matured” see movies like this to live vicariously through the characters. It’s just crazy, stupid sh*t that just happens to be outragiously funny. Whether you went to Harvard or graduated from community college, we can all relate to it on some level. However if you had a stick up your ass your whole life you probably thought the movie sucked. Just sayin’

    • Brian

      Rotten Tomatoes/ professional critics and I hardly ever agree on movies, so I only read the reviews for personal enjoyment, and not to decide whether I should see the movie or not.

      For example: If I had listened to Rotten Tomatoes and their opinion’s on the Hangover 2, I would have missed out on a hilariously epic movie! I really enjoyed it… not AS amazing as the first, but thats now a classic. Still great fun nonetheless. I recommend it!

      • LMNOP

        @Brian – I’ve had similar experiences with my opinions of movies versus critics. Believe it or not, the critic I tend to agree with the most is still Roger Ebert. He seems to not take movies too seriously, and unlike with other reviewers, when I read his reviews I never think he’s trying too hard to be “artsy” or snobby.

        As for Hangover, I’m probably one of the few who heard too many people talk up the movie too much before I saw it, and that ruined it for me. Just didn’t like it that much. I wish I hadn’t heard so much about it before I saw it.

  • Kevcogator

    I went to see this movie with my 17 year old on Friday. The theatre was packed and skewed older than expected (40% of the attendees were over 60). The movie was very funny and I would expect word of mouth will offset review buzz that it was a total knock off of the first film. I predicted a $150MM 5 day start, so it underperformed a little bit, but Monday viewing was significantly down. I guess final domestic gross will exceed $300MM.

    • Ke

      Where are you getting your figures from? Do you even know what you’re talking about? What made you predict a $150MM 5 day start? Or was that just a blind guess. So the film underperformed because your blind guess of 150MM didn’t happen? Come on..(eye rolls)

    • Ian

      Were you ID’ing and counting people to figure out that 40% of the audience was over 60, or are you simply a douchebag?

      • FazeCraze

        Leave him alone. Good Lord.

    • rerun

      Do you live in a retirement community?

    • Randy

      Actually, I predicted an opening week gross of 128.95 million, so it overperformed slightly.

    • Jason C.

      Kevcogator and Randy: Are you two box office analysts? The general consensus was that The Hangover 2 would do around $90-100 million over the holiday weekend. Saying that it would do $150M is way above anyone’s expectations, even for a major blockbuster movie, that’s just ridiculous! $128.95 million is just too specific, and once again is more than what someone should really expect from this film. Analysts are talking about how this film blew away studio and analyst expectations, and destroyed records, records that were below your expectations. Read up on box office analysts so you can get a better idea of how to come up with more realistic predictions.

      • dude

        Sarcasim fail…

      • Randy

        Maybe I should have gone out to four decimal places. It can be such a fine line, sometimes!

  • Bus Driver

    A Hangover crossover with SATC? No thanks. But with Bridesmaids?… Now we’re talkin’!

    • Genie

      No way that would ever happen. “Bridesmaids” is a well written actually haha funny movie, not an everyone else thinks it’s funny so it must be. They aren’t in the same league. “Sex in the City” is more like it, Hangover and Sex are both over-rated mediocre kind of funny franchises.

      • LM

        What Genie said. 100%.

      • Anonny Bonny

        Agree completely.

      • Ian

        Kristin Wiig is the definition of “everyone else thinks it’s funny so it must be”. Or rather “She’s in every sketch on SNL so she must be funny”…

      • Mike

        Man, I feel so bad for laughing at this movie now because the guy next to me told me too. Oops!

      • Mike

        i feel even worse for using TOO instead of to! OUCH!

      • just saying

        The Hangover is The English Patient of comedies.

      • Andy

        I actually really like Kristen Wiig in movies but I tend to hate SNL (they seem to think if you SHOUT IT it’ll be funny).

  • K


    • Barry

      I agree. It’s full of people who enjoy crap like AI, Survivor, America Has Talent, Jersey Shore, etc

      • Kenny


        I couldn’t even stop myself from laughing while typing that. It’s total crap. lol. I loved both Hangover movies though. The second one I never expected to top the first one, so when it was just about as good, or at the very least, as entertaining, I was happy.

      • Lily


      • Ian

        And every other country has versions of the same show, lol. People will always like crap. People EVERYWHERE will always like crap. At the same time America has filmmakers like Scorsese, Eastwood, and several others who have made very intelligent and very successful films. Get over yourselves and realize that no matter where in the world you are there will be all sorts of people who enjoy all sorts of things. You’ll also find pretentious douchebags in every country who think if something they dislike is successful, then people must be dumb. Those are the worst, and we should make eliminating them the priority.

    • Jason C.

      Hmm, does the fact that America is full of idiots explain why The Hangover 2 made $59M overseas? How about the fact that AI as well as many crappy American reality TV shows come from crappy and highly popular shows created overseas? Ian is right, people always want to blame America, but every country has crap and every country has high art. The reason why: we all have different tastes, and just because something is crap to you doesn’t mean that it’s crap to the guy next door.

    • Robert Blair Kaiser

      Totally agree. Just about the worst, unfunny movie I’ve ever seen. Those who love it are idiots, no matter where they come from.

      • Jason C.

        Or they just like different movies than you. Or maybe you’re an idiot because you don’t like it. Or maybe we shouldn’t judge others based on their opinions of entertainment…

  • Jennifer

    Couldn’t wait to see it. It was not quite as good as the first, but still funny and worth seeing. I would definitely see a third movie. Of course, I would pretty much see anything with Bradley Cooper.

    • Kristen

      Same here. Why isn’t he People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive already?

      • Dream Out Loud

        Because he was such a d-bag in Wedding Crashers.

  • DTO

    At my local theatre, the matinee price was $7. I know people pay more in large urban areas. This is not a complaint about high movie prices; I love going to the theatre. However, trumpeting high grosses when ticket prices get raised every six months is odd. It cost more for me to go to this one than it did to see its predecessor.

    • just saying

      Agreed. And there’s no way I’d spend $10+ on this piece of crap. I’ll wait for it to come on TV like I did the first one. And I found the first one to be completely overhyped as well. Moderately funny, but nothing near as funny as people made it out to be.

      • MC


    • Jason C.

      I don’t agree at all, it speaks toward inflation. Saying such a statement is ignorant of economic progress/regression.

  • BOB

    It made a ton of money because everything else in the theaters sucks

    • peggym

      We went because there was nothing else to see, and the first was OK. This was dreck.

    • Jason C.

      Hmmm, critically Bridesmaids, Thor, and Kung Fu Panda played better. So I doubt evereyone carried the same assumptions as you BOB.

  • Jim

    It made money because it was a holiday weekend and people wanted to be entertained. I think that it won’t play for more than a few weeks as the bigger summer movies hit and word of mouth continues to spread that it’s just a rehash of the first film. I’ll see this one the same way I saw the last one–through NETFLIX.

  • Al

    I would watch the third if it didn’t follow the same formula as the first two. Watching them try to re-create their lost night, again, is drifting into “Weekend at Bernie’s 2″ territory.

    • barack

      OMG when are they going to make Weekend at Bernie’s 3?!?!!???

      • Mr. Holloway

        …or worse…Weekend at Bernie’s 3-D!

    • Peter

      Well, they’re kind of locked in now. They could have done something completely different with the same characters. But now, how do you do a Hangover III without involving a hangover?

  • Cheryl

    Of course it broke records! The price of tickets is at the highest it’s ever been! In order to be fair, they should compare the actual number of tickets sold instead of dollar amounts. This way they can compare the totals with movies from years past, when ticket prices were lower. A blockbuster movie may have sold more tickets back in 2009 than a blockbuster movie today, but today’s movie would set a “record” dollar-wise because of the higher ticket prices. Let’s get them to change the way they determine which movies are at the top by counting the tickets sold and not the money it made. Just my 2 cents.

    • Whoopi

      To be fair, we should count the number of opinions given and not the number of cents, 2 or otherwise.

    • kelsey

      I absolutely agree. I’m convinced that the only reason why current films can be the “highest-grossing” films is because theaters keep bumping up the prices.

    • MiaS

      I am with Cheryl- we need to stop looking at the box office dollar amounts and look at atttendance.
      Let us see how E.T. (with a lot of kids seeing it) stacks up against these block busting films (with or without the extra 3D fees)
      Every year, I am less impressed by box office records due to the higher tickets prices.

      • Jason C.

        Then we also need to look at how many times the movie re-entered the box office, and how much competition it had from other mediums. Older movies might have had lower prices, but they also had less competitions as less movies were made, and home viewing was much different than it was today. The higher ticket prices help to divert the fact that people were less likely to pirate movies and purchase them for future use at the time when those movies were released.

  • Andrew

    It was just a bad movie. Home Alone 2 was more of an original premise than this. They exchanged creativity for really crude humor. Todd Phillips turned his ball cap backwards for this one.

    • dude

      I think Todd Phillips actually turned his balls backwards for this one.

  • phlydude

    I went to see the Saturday night showing @ 9:30 – sold out…had to wait until 11PM and that was packed too! I thought it was as good as (if not better mainly because it is more raunchy) than the 1st movie despite the recreation of the 1st night. But that actor that played “Teddy” – he was bad in that role…didn’t sell it too good IMHO

    • Joyce

      Yeah that asian actor was a bad — on his first scene at the airport i told my wife why didnt they get a better actor — and throughout the movie he was bad. On the way home i still talked about him but my wife defended him that “asian affluent nerds in stanford” act that way. But he was still a bad actor depicting the role.

  • Will

    I don’t understand how so many people liked it when they didn’t even try to be different.

    • Mr. Holloway

      The thinking seems to be, “If people loved the first one, why try to be too different?”

      • Mike

        And the thinking is also “with a premise called ‘the hangover’ how different can it really be???” A friend of mine was even saying that he wished we could have actually seen the Bachelor Party (or equivalent)…but that totally defeats the premise of the movie. I was perfectly fine with the movie. I wasn’t expecting an Oscar-worthy film. I was expecting more of the same with some good laughs along the way (of course, someone clearly told me to think it was funny because I can’t laugh on my own). I just don’t know what other people were expecting that are complaining it was the same movie.

      • LMFAO

        America really does love crap. This is proof.

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