summer movies ranked, the mask

RANKED! The Best Years For Summer Movies

Photo: New Line Cinema

It’s no secret that if you want awards, you release your movie between Thanksgiving and Christmas. But if you want big bucks, toy tie-ins, and the adoration of millions, you make it in the summer or you go home. It might have something to do with the fact that a lot of people take their vacations in these months and are in dire need of some cinematic delights. It might also be that kids, who are always overly enthusiastic about movies, have a lot of free time during the summer break. Or, perhaps movie stars simply love promoting their work under a caressing sun with refreshing cocktails in their hands. Either way, we’ve seen some fantastic blockbusters over the years, but what summer was the best? Here is our ranking of some of the greatest movie summers in the history of cinema.

4. 2008

summer movies ranked, the dark knight 2008

We’ll start with quite a recent one (yes, just 10 years ago) – the summer of 2008. What are some of the films that marked this great year?

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

This summer brought us back one of the most famous, whip-abusing archaeologists, Indiana Jones, nineteen years after the last film. Although the film wasn’t as good as some of its predecessors, it toyed cleverly with our nostalgia, so we let it slide.

Iron Man

Besides that, 2008 gave us a bunch of superheroes. The Incredible Hulk was OK, but Iron Man was absolutely terrific and it reminded people why they once loved the ridiculously charming Robert Downey Jr. It also ground zero for the Marvel Cinematic Universe currently having its way with the world to the tune of billions.

The Dark Knight

Christopher Nolan also amazed people with his second installment in his Batman series called The Dark Knight, featuring the scene-stealing performance of the late Heath Ledger.

Pineapple Express

On a lighter side, there was Ben Stiller’s enjoyable Tropic Thunder and Seth Rogen’s weed-centric Pineapple Express, which has become something of a cult favorite over the years.

3. 1994

summer movies ranked, forrest gump 1994

We’re now stepping back a decade into the ’90s that brought us so many great films.

The Lion King

The 1994 gave us one of Disney’s legendary films–The Lion King–that made so many kids (and adults) cry for many years to come.

The Mask

Jim Carrey was still finding ways to be as ludicrous as possible and The Mask with the lovely Cameron Diaz gave him just that. It’s also a neat and subtle entry into the “best comic book movie adaptation” discussion because no one remembers the original comic.

Natural Born Killers

Quentin Tarantino and Oliver Stone collaborated on an undoubtedly cult film. Natural Born Killers also propelled Juliette Lewis to stardom.

The Crow

Unfortunately, this year also proved to be fatal for Bruce Lee’s only son Brandon Lee who appeared as an iconic protagonist in The Crow. But the movie was a huge (and oh-so-angsty-90s) hit, and the soundtrack is a time capsule of the decade.

Forrest Gump

Of course, 1994 was also the year when Robert Zemeckis decided to make history and create one of the most quoted films in the world with the almighty Tom Hanks in the lead role. Forrest Gump even went on to receive an Academy Award for best picture in 1995.

2. 1982

summer movies ranked, road warrior 1982

Now we’re stepping into what might be called a golden decade starting with 1982 and a collection of truly fantastic summer movies.

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

In 1982, Spielberg presented us with a weird-looking little alien who only wanted to go back home with the help of a couple of children, including the incredibly young Drew Barrymore. Everyone wanted their own alien after this movie.

The Thing

While Spielberg was amused by the idea of creating a small and cute little extraterrestrial, John Carpenter had something a lot more vicious in mind with The Thing. This film was something of an instant classic and helped establish Kurt Russell as a versatile action star.

The Road Warrior

At the same time, another action star was slowly rising in a land down under – the exceptional Mel Gibson portraying a lost and angry dystopian survivor Mad Max for the second time (yes, The Road Warrior is actually Mad Max 2, the original film having gone under the radar in the U.S. upon initial release).

Blade Runner

Our personal favorite from this year is certainly Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner that was based on Phillip K. Dick‘s short story and featured some great performances by the sturdy Harrison Ford, beautiful Sean Young, and surprisingly poetic Rutger Hauer.

1. 1997

summer movies ranked, men in black 1997

Although this is quite debatable and might step on some fingers, we strongly believe that 1997 was the best year for summer movies. Although all of these cinematic gems weren’t really Oscar-worthy, they made up one amazing alien-infested movie summer.

Men in Black

Who doesn’t like Men in Black? The original one, anyway? Will Smith was always a charming presence on the screen, perfectly teamed up with the overly grumpy Tommy Lee Jones, on a hunt for some imaginative aliens.

The Fifth Element

Then there was Luc Besson’s colorful universe filled up with various characters including a race of belligerent Orc-like creatures, a completely blue, big-headed opera singer, and a perfect orange-haired being called Leeloo. This film also features one of Gary Oldman‘s best (and oddest) villain performances.


If you were into something a bit more serious that involved aliens, you could simply turn your attention to Contact, a serious-minded movie about a possible contact with other beings.

Event Horizon

Although Sam Neill isn’t quite the first person you think about when you say science fiction, his role in 1997 Event Horizon turned him into a proper space adventurer.

So, this was our selection of summer movies and their best years, but it’s just a portion of it. If you haven’t found your favorite movie, why don’t you let us know which one it is and we’ll pretend like we’ll consider including it into the list?