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Top 10 Best Summer Blockbusters of All Time

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nick Spake
Script written by Nick Spake. Summer flicks don’t always hit it out of the park, but when they do, it’s movie magic in its purest form. Join as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Best Summer Blockbusters. Watch on WatchMojo: Big thanks to arimazzie, Knightwing25, Andrew A. Dennison and Milan Alleman for suggesting this idea, and to see how WatchMojo users voted, submit to our suggest page here: https://www.WatchMojo.comsuggest/%20Top%2010%20Best%20Summer%20Blockbusters

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Top 10 Best Summer Blockbusters

Summer flicks don’t always hit it out of the park, but when they do, it’s movie magic in its purest form. Welcome to and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Best Summer Blockbusters.

For this list, we’re taking a look at the greatest movies ever released during the summer season. We’ve based our selections on how popular a film was upon release, as well how well it holds up.

#10: “Back to the Future” (1985)

Reigning as the number one box office champ for eleven weeks, this time travel classic became 1985’s highest-grossing film. Gaining attention largely from positive word of mouth, “Back to the Future” had something for everyone. The Oscar-nominated screenplay is heavy on memorable one-liners, but more importantly, has a well-plotted story to back it up. At this story’s heart is a touching romance between Marty McFly’s parents, as well as a meaningful friendship between Marty and Doc Brown. It’s our investment in these characters that makes the action so heart-pounding, amounting to one of the finest climaxes in summer blockbuster history. No matter the season, the film will always be timeless.

#9: “Independence Day” (1996)

A year before “Men in Black” packed theaters, Will Smith solidified himself as the king of summer blockbusters with “Independence Day.” Released on the heels of a gripping ad campaign, “Independence Day” blew up the White House, and then the box office when it hit theaters. Of all the explosive disaster flicks we got in the late ‘90s, this was by far the most enjoyable, complete with stunning action set pieces, cool aliens, and memorable dialogue (including President Whitmore’s epic speech, in particular). Much like a fireworks show, this movie will get anybody pumped for the Fourth of July.

#8: “Mad Max: Fury Road” (2015)

This non-stop thriller wasn’t actually the summer’s highest-grossing movie in 2015. When all was said and done, however, it was by far the MVP, setting a new standard for big-budget blockbusters. In an era where popcorn flicks are often bogged down with complicated plots and meandering dialogue, director George Miller stripped out all the unnecessary excess, instead putting emphasis on what audiences paid for: action! Instead of the CGI creatures and sky beams we’re used to seeing, though, Miller loads his film with inventive stunt work, imaginative production values, and possibly the greatest vehicle chase ever. At the center of everything are characters who seem simple on the surface, but underneath, are much more.

#7: “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” (1991)

Throughout the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, few directors dominated summer quite like James Cameron. His movies were not only smartly constructed and visually impressive, but also treated the audience like adults, often receiving an R rating. “Terminator 2” is Cameron at the height of his phenomenal run of blockbusters. The action remains some of the best ever put on film, combining unbelievable stunts with revolutionary CGI effects. Above all else, the film keeps us invested, with a genuine sense of doom and deep themes that explore the meaning of humanity. Much like “Aliens,” another Cameron film, it’s also a rare sequel that expands upon a story, and arguably surpasses its predecessor.

#6: “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981)

Steven Spielberg and George Lucas are two names embedded in the summer movie season’s DNA. Likewise, the name Indiana Jones has become synonymous with adventure. With Spielberg behind the camera and Lucas contributing to the story, the filmmakers once again changed the game with “Raiders”. They set out to capture the nostalgic sensation of watching classic Saturday matinée serials, which made the film’s summer release date all the more fitting. What started as a B-movie ended up transcending the genre that inspired it, and graduated to the A-List. Like a rolling boulder, the action in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” just keeps gaining momentum, without pausing a second to breathe.

#5: “Jurassic Park” (1993)

Steven Spielberg is legendary for good reason, and here’s the summertime master again: this prehistoric adventure remains his biggest financial success. 1993 was basically the year of “Jurassic Park.” Audiences were hooked from the early trailers, which wisely only revealed bits and pieces of the dinosaurs Spielberg had cooked up. And viewers weren’t disappointed when the film finally arrived in theaters, allowing us to finally get a good look at the T-Rex and Velociraptors. A near-perfect mix of suspense and special effects, there’s just something about “Jurassic Park” that defines summer movies. To reference John Hammond, it’s a film that captured the imagination of the entire planet.

#4: “The Dark Knight” (2008)

The summer of 2008 had no shortage of superhero movies, although none reached the same level of popularity or quality as “The Dark Knight.” A follow-up to 2005’s “Batman Begins,” director Christopher Nolan raised the bar in every department, from the action to the ideologies to the character development, most notably giving us an unparalleled depiction of the Joker. With its sophisticated tone and gritty sense of realism, the film changed the entire landscape modern cinema, in more ways than one. For anyone who felt Batman and summer movies in general were just kid stuff, “The Dark Knight” made them see the light, earning critical acclaim and getting the last laugh at the box office.

#3: “E.T. the Extra Terrestrial” (1982)

Many summer flicks revolve around explosions and violence, but “E.T.” offers something completely different: a touching tale of friendship that functions as a quirky comedy, a family drama, and a love letter to childhood. But that unique blend also pretty much explains why “E.T.” captivated audiences, becoming the biggest movie at the time. As with many other Spielberg movies, the initial ads avoided showing too much of the titular alien. Once the film arrived in theaters, however, there wasn’t a moviegoer on the planet who couldn’t recognize E.T. With effects that never overshadow the story, “E.T.” managed to inspire, enthrall, and sum up why we go to movies at all.

#2: “Jaws” (1975)

Hmmm . . . have we mentioned Steven Spielberg yet? It’s safe to assume that none of the other movies on this list would’ve existed if it wasn’t for this colossal moneymaker. Considered by many to be the first true event picture, this Spielberg film established the summer movie season as we know it. With an enormous marketing campaign and an unprecedented wide release strategy, the buzz was through the roof by the time “Jaws” debuted. Of course that wouldn’t have mattered if the film itself didn’t leave an impression. Fortunately, “Jaws” was an unprecedented financial and critical hit. Even now, few summer movies can blow “Jaws” out of the water.

Before we get to our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:

“The Avengers” (2012)

“Ghostbusters” (1984)

“Speed” (1994)

#1: “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope” (1977)

“Jaws” might’ve given birth to the summer movie season, but “Star Wars” proved that it was here to stay, with timeless characters, a detailed mythology, and special effects unlike anything audiences had ever seen. What made George Lucas’ film all the more significant is that it was something of a surprise hit. It didn’t have the biggest budget, production wasn’t without setbacks, and not everybody involved was convinced the final product would be profitable. Yet, “Star Wars” was not only a success, but became the highest-grossing movie of the time, taking on a life of its own in popular culture. It also inspired several follow-ups that ruled the summer season, including “The Empire Strikes Back.”

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