Are These The Greatest Summer Movies Of All Time?

With the summer movie season nearly upon us, decided to look back at some of the biggest blockbusters to ever hit when the schools are out and the air conditioning is running strong inside the multiplex…

But what makes a great summer blockbuster stand the test of time? Being part of a franchise or starting a franchise certainly helps, as all of the films on our list did. It is also crucial to have a visionary director behind the camera, and guys like Jim Cameron, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg are no slouches. Lastly, a good summer movie should be FUN, and even reflect the kind of worlds you would like to be in during those sunny days.

What do you think are the greatest summer movies of all-time? What’s your favorite from our list? Is there a big one we excluded? Let us know in the comments below!


JAWS (Summer 1975)

Steven Spielberg’s giant shark thriller not only helped define what it meant for something to be a summer blockbuster (becoming the highest-grossing film up to that time), but also embodied that summer feeling with its beach setting and sunny look that belied the dread it imbued in audiences. This movie IS summer personified.


STAR WARS (Summer 1977)

It’s become a cliche to cite the original Star Wars (or A New Hope) as the ideal summer blockbuster, having turned into a cultural phenomenon whose mythology expanded into sequels and TV continues to bring in record audiences to this day. What George Lucas managed to capture was the sense of FUN and ESCAPISM we all crave, embodied in its immortal space trio of Han, Luke, and Leia.


BACK TO THE FUTURE (Summer 1985)

Despite its evergreen popularity to this day, Back to the Future is precisely the kind of film that would never get made today. Imagine trying to sell a studio on a movie where a kid goes back in time and his mom falls in love with him? You’d be tazed and dragged off the lot. But Robert Zemeckis managed just the right balance of zany humor, special effects and clever plotting to make it all run like a dream. It’s the perfect exampled of a summer surprise that caught audiences delightfully off guard.


BATMAN (Summer 1989)

Before Batman was rendered silly by Joel Schumacher, grounded by Christopher Nolan and grimdark by Zack Snyder, filmmaker Tim Burton helped launch the brand with an utterly INSANE gothic action epic that is as colorful and fun as it is twisted and macabre. By setting the movie in a Gotham City with out-of-time elements from across the 20th century, Burton managed to capture something both timeless and true to the spirit of the comics. Those who don’t remember when this film came out can’t possibly understand the cultural FRENZY it spun into in ’89. “Movie of the Decade” indeed.



While James Cameron’s original Terminator was a sleeper hit in 1984, the filmmaker took a huge risk by making a sequel on an exponentially bigger canvas, the most expensive film of all-time and the first movie to cost nine figures. It also was the first time CGI became properly integrated as a main character in the immortal villain T-1000, and the action sequences set the standard for all action blockbusters to come.


JURASSIC PARK (Summer 1993)

By utilizing CGI to bring dinosaurs back to life, Spielberg once again tapped into something primal that makes summer moviegoing so fun. It also helped that once again he built a blockbuster around something quintessentially summer: Theme Parks. The fact that this park contained dinosaurs and scares and thrills was what made it so fun and pure.


THE LION KING (Summer 1994)

While Disney had begun its animation renaissance with Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin, it was Lion King that showed Disney still had the magic formula to drive in audiences in record numbers. The story is Shakespearian and mythical, while also being a real original coming from no prior source material (unless you count Kimba).


THE DARK KNIGHT (Summer 2008)

On the heels of the Bush years where economic collapse and terrorism preyed on the public’s subconscious, Christopher Nolan decided to take Batman to a place of true psychological pain. Heath Ledger’s Joker (a posthumously Oscar-winning portrayal) was an antithesis to the Caped Crusader, an agent of pure chaos with no personal agenda or sense of self preservation. It was America’s dark soul reflected on the screen, the blockbuster we needed and deserved.


THE AVENGERS (Summer 2012)

After five prior movies, Marvel Studios finally unlocked for audiences the potential of a true cinematic shared universe as all their big heroes coalesced into one gargantuan event movie. They’ve since taken the franchise to greater heights that make this movie look nearly primitive, but at the time the combination of colorful action and Joss Whedon’s trademark wit made this the perfect summer ride and the most fun had at the movies in a good long while. Superheroes don’t need to be dark for you to have a good time with them.


MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (Summer 2015)

After over a decade in development and years in production, George Miller emerged from the Namibian desert with a fuel-injected action epic where the storytelling was stripped down to the bone. It’s a visual feast full of spectacular sun-drenched car chases where character is expressed through action instead of dialogue, and post-apocalypitc heroism is defined to show that even in the bleakest future hope still stands strongest. Charlize Theron’s Furiosa also finally gave women the badass action hero they’d craved for so long, proving every bit the hero as Max himself.