Graveyard Shift

Over 20 Years Later, 'Anaconda' Is Still A Delightfully Dumb Cinematic Experience  

Jacob Shelton
2.4k views 12 items

Anaconda, the gloriously over-the-top giant snake movie from 1997, is the Showgirls of snake movies. Though popular upon its release (it made back three times its budget at the box office), people soon forgot about it. The cover art doesn’t do it any favors, but anyone who has caught this movie on a Sunday afternoon knows it’s one of the best bad movies ever committed to celluloid. 

The film follows a documentary crew lead by Jennifer Lopez as they sail down the Amazon in search of a hidden tribe. Along the way, they run afoul of Jon Voight and a huge snake that just keeps getting bigger. The movie was critically reviled upon release, but genius can take years to shine through. Now, 20 years after it hit theaters, Anaconda has only gotten better with time - and remains one of the most delightfully dumb movies in existence. 

It Is An Obvious 'Jurassic Park' Knockoff
It Is An Obvious 'Jurassic Par... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Over 20 Years Later, 'Anaconda' Is Still A Delightfully Dumb Cinematic Experience
Photo: Columbia Pictures

What if Jurassic Park was about a single, gigantic snake that went around the jungle eating people? You’d have Anaconda , baby. The score; the crew of plucky, beautiful people wearing khakis; and even the moral, that "man is the real monster," is ripped straight from Jurassic Park - albeit focused through the lens of a B-movie about a big ol’ snake.

After Jurassic Park devoured the box office in the early 1990s, everyone tried to make their own creature feature about an animal that shouldn’t exist. Carnosaur , Mosquito , and Godzilla (1998) all make a play for the throne, but it’s Anaconda that really leans into the Jurassic aesthetic. The movie even has an English blowhard, and though he’s no David Attenborough, he still gets the job done.

When it comes down to the actual anaconda, its onslaughts are similar to the raptors, but with much less subtlety.

Ice Cube Actually Says 'Today’s A Good Day'
Ice Cube Actually Says 'Today’... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Over 20 Years Later, 'Anaconda' Is Still A Delightfully Dumb Cinematic Experience
Photo: Columbia Pictures

Anaconda was Ice Cube’s eighth movie, but the producers treat him like no one’s ever heard of him. Throughout the film, his character (cinematographer Danny Rich) listens to Ice Cube - that is, himself - on his boombox, and even quotes his own lyrics.

When the audience is first introduced to Ice Cube’s character, Jennifer Lopez says something to the effect of, “I can’t believe you’re up so early,” to which he answers, “Well, today’s a good day.” The line is a clear reference to the rapper's single, "It Was a Good Day," released just four years before the film premiered.

Eric Stoltz Bows Out Of The Movie By Swallowing A Wasp
Eric Stoltz Bows Out Of The Mo... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Over 20 Years Later, 'Anaconda' Is Still A Delightfully Dumb Cinematic Experience
Photo: Columbia Pictures

At no point does it feel like Eric Stoltz wants to be in Anaconda. Not even when he’s making out with J. Lo. 

The veteran character actor from films like Pulp Fiction and Mask feels out of place co-starring next to Ice Cube and J. Lo, so it’s not surprising he gets out of the movie as quickly as possible. Rather than get chomped up by a giant river anaconda, Stoltz swallows a venomous wasp while diving underwater. His character's reaction to the wasp serves as the catalyst for the documentary crew turning around and heading towards the anaconda’s lair.

After he goes down, Stoltz is never heard from until the end of the movie, when he wakes up to save the day. Not a bad way to spend a movie. 

The Anaconda Frequently Screams Even Though In Real Life It Absolutely Cannot
The Anaconda Frequently Scream... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Over 20 Years Later, 'Anaconda' Is Still A Delightfully Dumb Cinematic Experience
Photo: Columbia Pictures

With the notable exception of the bull snake, serpents lack vocal cords. They don’t roar and they definitely don’t screech. A snake can hiss - and some rattle - but they never scream at people when they strike. That is to say, if a snake actually tried to eat a human (instead of actively avoiding them in real life), it certainly wouldn't scream when it did it.

But the titular anaconda isn’t like other girls. It can roar like a ferocious beast (or maybe a Tyrannosaurus rex) when it’s chasing down unlucky documentarians.

Maybe the makers of Anaconda thought it would be scarier to have the snake scream as it went after its targets, or maybe they just had Frank Welker (the prolific voice actor who voices the snake) on the payroll and needed to use him. In hindsight, it's this kind of ridiculous thinking that elevates Anaconda from being a normal bad movie to a camp masterpiece of ‘90s cinema.