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Snakes on a Plane is a 2006 thriller film starring Samuel L. Jackson in which hundreds of poisonous snakes are released on a passenger jet flying between Hawaii and Los Angeles. Prior to its release in theaters, its B-movie style title combined with Jackson’s casting resulted in much hype for the film online, resulting in a number of parody videos and fan art.
University of Pittsburgh administrator David Dalessandro wrote the first version of the screenplay that would go on to become Snakes on a Plane in 1992 after reading about Indonesian brown tree snakes that climbed into cargo holds during World War II. Originally titled Venom, he rewrote the story three times and was turned down by more than 30 Hollywood studios before New Line Cinema bought the rights. Child actor and Final Destination 2 director David R. Ellis was tapped to direct and soon after, Samuel L. Jackson signed on after seeing the title of the film. For a short period of time in August 2005, the name of the film had been changed to Pacific Air 121, but Jackson insisted the name be changed back.
The day after the news of Jackson sticking by the film’s original name broke, screenwriter Josh Friedman, known for his work on Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, blogged about the the history of the title, rejoicing that the studio did not end up changing the name. The post generated more than 250 comments, with dozens of people noting how great the title was in a campy, so-bad-it’s-good way. This post also asserted that the phrase “Snakes on a Plane” be used interchangeably with “Shit Happens,” as a way to express that one does not have any control over events that take place. The phrase was defined on Urban Dictionary in this manner on August 23rd, 2005 and chosen as the Urban Word of the Day on the day the film was released.
Despite not even having an official website at the time, hype for the film grew online and an additional five days of shooting was ordered in March 2006 to add in scenes that would give the movie an R rating. One of the reshot scenes had Samuel L. Jackson reciting the line “I want these motherfucking snakes off the motherfucking plane,” which was first suggested in a fan video. In the days prior to the film’s release on August 18th, 2006, Varitalk launched website allowing people to send semi-personalized phone messages in Samuel L. Jackson’s voice, resulting in 1.5 million calls within the first week.
Within the first week, the film received a 68% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, aggregated from 169 critical reviews. Metacritic reported a 57% rating based on 31 critics. Additionally, some reviewers reported audiences getting in to the film through cheering and yelling at the screen. Despite the internet buzz, the film only earned $15.25 million in its opening weekend, grossing a total of $62 million before being released on DVD on January 2nd, 2007.
On October 6th, 2005, Something Awful Forums member Brosa Parks started a thread featuring Snakes on a Plane parody posters with alternate titles (shown below). Within the first month, the thread received over 320 replies.
On June 29th, 2006, YouTuber CroFabJoe uploaded a mashup video featuring Snakes on a Plane scenes with the song All Your Base Are Belong To Us (shown below, left), garnering more than 2.03 million views and 5,100 comments in the following seven years. On April 15th, 2009, YouTuber agonybooth uploaded a scene from the film which had expletives replaced with TV-friendly language (shown below, right). In the next five years, the video accumulated upwards of 2.92 million views and 6,700 comments. On October 9th, 2012, a page for the film was created on the trope database site TV Tropes.
New York Times – After Hype Online, ‘Snakes on a Plane’ Is Letdown at Box Office