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05.13.2016by: Alex Maidy

Top 10 Summer Blockbusters of All Time

With CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR opening to massive box office last week, the 2016 summer movie season is officially underway. For the next three months, films will vie to break records of all sorts and enter the annals of Hollywood history. Looking back since the season became an event, we have cobbled a list of the ten best and definitive blockbusters the season has produced. This was a hard list to compile so you are likely to disagree with some of these choices. If so, feel free to let us know in the talk backs below.

Honorable Mentions

Summer has become the go to season for Hollywood to unleash their biggest budget spectacles. Over the last four decades, we have seen Oscar nominees like BLADE RUNNER and MAD MAX: FURY ROAD to classics like DIE HARD, GHOSTBUSTERS, and BACK TO THE FUTURE. Iconic sequels have hit, like ALIENS and THE DARK KNIGHT while fan favorites like FACE/OFF, ARMAGEDDON, and ROBOCOP have delivered the goods. These films are all great and the fact they didn't make the top ten should tell you just how big summer movies have become.

#10 - PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN

The perfect blend of epic Hollywood and Disney originality, Gore Verbinski's franchise-starting chapter in the saga seemed like a terrible idea until everyone saw the movie. Johnny Depp's performance is stellar and unlike anything we had seen before while the special effects delivered a blend of swashbuckler and comedy that fans ate up. While none of the sequels were quite as good as the first, they all delivered a formula for the ideal summer movie.

#9 - SPEED

Keanu Reeves on a bus that cannot slow down doesn't scream blockbuster but it was the event film of 1994. Jan De Bont caught lightning in a bottle thanks to the chemistry between Reeves and Sandra Bullock that made for an action thriller that delivered on every front. Dennis Hopper is great as the bad guy who delivers pop quizzes and explosive obstacles for our hero.

#8 - E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL

This film has the benefit of being for all ages. It wowed kids and adults alike when it debuted in 1982 and returned to theaters multiple times after that. Like any of the greatest films ever made, E.T. stands up to repeat viewings. Without any explosions or action sequences, this is a film that manages to still be an ideal summer film experience and one that deserves to be seen on the big screen.

#7 - INDEPENDENCE DAY

As a kid, I remember waiting in line before the theater doors opened for the first showing of INDEPENDENCE DAY. This was before midnight screenings and before reserved seats. I was determined to see Roland Emmerich's epic the first moment I could and I was not disappointed. Like the best disaster films, INDEPENDENCE DAY has heroes, villains, monsters, and stunning visuals. There are few films that can manage to do all of those things well but ID4 does. Sure, it is a bit cheesy in hindsight but it was still the most amazing thing my 13-year-old self had seen since STAR WARS.

#6 - RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK

Adventure has a name and summer has a hero in Indiana Jones. Over the course of four films and an upcoming fifth, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg managed to take us all back in time to enjoy this series of homages to the pulp serials and adventure stories of a bygone era. Fighting Nazis and searching for mystical artifacts made Indiana Jones a household name and the closest thing to an American James Bond. These movies are rip-roaring good times that evoke the best days of the summer season.

#5 - JURASSIC PARK

JURASSIC PARK was another film from my childhood that I anticipated for months. From the mysterious teaser to the tie-in toys, everything about Steven Spielberg's film was designed for the summer movie season. A thrill ride that felt more 3D than any 3D movie, JURASSIC PARK was the template for last year's insanely successful JURASSIC WORLD. While the 1993 original still holds up as an example of how to do CGI right, it also serves as the point when special effects began to cross from practical to computer generated and films would never be the same.

#4 - THE AVENGERS

Comic book films and superhero movies had been summer movie staples for twelve years before THE AVENGERS re-wrote the rules entirely. By taking a half dozen franchise leads and putting them into an ensemble, director Joss Whedon did what may thought would never be possible and made the biggest movie of all time in terms of sheer star power. Today, we get cross-over superhero films and connected universes like they are commonplace, but it was just four short years ago that the rules changed for good.

#3 - TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY

Despite three piss-poor sequels, TERMINATOR 2 still ranks as proof that sequels sometimes should happen. I cannot say that we will ever see another film in this series, but we will always have this 1991 classic. I was only ten years old when this movie came out, way too young to be seeing an R-rated film, but I was fully engrossed by the sheer spectacle that James Cameron pulled off with this film. R-rated movies like this aren't often made these days but this was certainly one example of how to do it right.

#2 - STAR WARS

Each year until THE FORCE AWAKENS, a new STAR WARS film heralded the beginning of the summer movie season. Now, Marvel films tend to have that honor, but there are six years over the last four decades where kids know the first day that summer began and it was in a dark theater with a bucket of popcorn and the crawl ushering us into a galaxy far, far away. It felt weird seeing a new STAR WARS at Christmas time, but these will forever be summer movies to me.

#1 - JAWS

Steven Spielberg makes his third appearance on this list and for good reason. In 1975, Spielberg essentially invented the summer blockbuster with a chilling drama about a town terrorized by a great white shark. It doesn't have non-stop action. In fact, it is mostly talking, but this Hitchcockian thriller is one of the best summer movies you will ever see. You may have been to scared to go back in the water, but I guarantee you were prepared to head right back into the theater.

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5:50AM on 05/14/2016

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12:42AM on 05/14/2016

Confused

If two or more people contributed to this article it's cool. But it was stated that someone was 13 when they saw Independence Day, which means they were born in 1983. However, someone also said they were 11 when they saw Terminator 2 in 1991 which would make them 10. Also, Jurassic Park is, in my mind, clearly better than The Avengers any day of the week and twice on Sunday. Sorry for nitpicking.
If two or more people contributed to this article it's cool. But it was stated that someone was 13 when they saw Independence Day, which means they were born in 1983. However, someone also said they were 11 when they saw Terminator 2 in 1991 which would make them 10. Also, Jurassic Park is, in my mind, clearly better than The Avengers any day of the week and twice on Sunday. Sorry for nitpicking.
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8:49PM on 05/13/2016
Ok list, Tim Burton's Batman should be there instead of the Avengers. Sure Avengers made more money, but Batman brought some much needed legitimacy to comic book movies...hell you could even say Iron Man should be here instead because if it hadn't succeeded there would be no Avengers.
Ok list, Tim Burton's Batman should be there instead of the Avengers. Sure Avengers made more money, but Batman brought some much needed legitimacy to comic book movies...hell you could even say Iron Man should be here instead because if it hadn't succeeded there would be no Avengers.
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+0
8:03PM on 05/13/2016
I have no clue what criteria you used on this one, from the title I expected this to be the top 10 highest grossing, but these definitely aren't. Nor are they the top 10 mot influential or best from a critical standpoint. It just kind of feel like 10 random summer movies the author liked.

However, for anyone whose curious what the top 10 grossing summer blockbusters are here's the list (the gross from their original release adj. for inflation):

10. Raiders of the Lost Ark $663
I have no clue what criteria you used on this one, from the title I expected this to be the top 10 highest grossing, but these definitely aren't. Nor are they the top 10 mot influential or best from a critical standpoint. It just kind of feel like 10 random summer movies the author liked.

However, for anyone whose curious what the top 10 grossing summer blockbusters are here's the list (the gross from their original release adj. for inflation):

10. Raiders of the Lost Ark $663 Million
9. Forrest Gump $674 Million
8. The Empire Strikes Back $677 Million
7. Jurassic World $678 Million
6. Return of the Jedi $695 Million
5. The Phantom Menace $728 Million
4. Jurassic Park $740 Million
3. ET $1,066 Million
2. Jaws $1,099 Million
1. Star Wars $1,224 Million
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+0
7:30PM on 05/13/2016
I definitely have some issues with the list (the main being that thee doesn't seem to be any set criteria -- are these supposed to be the 10 best blockbusters ever? 10 most influential? 10 highest grossing? it just feels like 10 random summer movies that the author liked) but Jaws is literally the film that is credited with creating the summer movie season so definitely no issues with this being #1.
I definitely have some issues with the list (the main being that thee doesn't seem to be any set criteria -- are these supposed to be the 10 best blockbusters ever? 10 most influential? 10 highest grossing? it just feels like 10 random summer movies that the author liked) but Jaws is literally the film that is credited with creating the summer movie season so definitely no issues with this being #1.
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+0
7:24PM on 05/13/2016
Now speed is a fun little action flick, but if we're talking biggest blockbusters of all-time (like gross wise) how does it make the list when movies that made a gazillion dollars more don't? If we're talking in terms of quality then how does it make the list when Aliens and Diehard and The Dark Knight don't? Whatever criteria you're using this just seems like a weird pick for "top 10 ever."
Now speed is a fun little action flick, but if we're talking biggest blockbusters of all-time (like gross wise) how does it make the list when movies that made a gazillion dollars more don't? If we're talking in terms of quality then how does it make the list when Aliens and Diehard and The Dark Knight don't? Whatever criteria you're using this just seems like a weird pick for "top 10 ever."
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5:51PM on 05/13/2016

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3:45PM on 05/13/2016

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-1
2:35PM on 05/13/2016
-4/10: MAX MAX 4
-5/10: ARMAGEDDON; INDEPENDENCE DAY 1; ROBOCOP 1
-6/10: BLADE RUNNER 1; GHOSTBUSTERS 1; FACE/OFF
-7/10: DIE HARD 1; PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN 1; STAR WARS EPISODE IV
-8/10: JURASSIC PARK 1; SPEED 1; TERMINATOR 2
-9/10: THE AVENGERS 1; BACK TO THE FUTURE PART I; THE DARK KNIGHT; E.T.
-10/10: JAWS
-4/10: MAX MAX 4
-5/10: ARMAGEDDON; INDEPENDENCE DAY 1; ROBOCOP 1
-6/10: BLADE RUNNER 1; GHOSTBUSTERS 1; FACE/OFF
-7/10: DIE HARD 1; PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN 1; STAR WARS EPISODE IV
-8/10: JURASSIC PARK 1; SPEED 1; TERMINATOR 2
-9/10: THE AVENGERS 1; BACK TO THE FUTURE PART I; THE DARK KNIGHT; E.T.
-10/10: JAWS
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1:27PM on 05/13/2016

Jurassic Park and ID4!

Good list! I Would have had The Dark Knight at #10 over Pirates of the Caribbean. Also the original Spiderman deserves a honorable mention. Really helped the super hero movie genre take off.
Good list! I Would have had The Dark Knight at #10 over Pirates of the Caribbean. Also the original Spiderman deserves a honorable mention. Really helped the super hero movie genre take off.
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10:50AM on 05/13/2016
I was 5 years old when I saw this in theatres in 1991. I remember seeing the skull get crushed by the Terminator and I was HOOOOOOOOOOOOKED!!! I remember my parents tried to hide my eyes everytime someone took a T-1000 knife to the face (or eye lol)
I was 5 years old when I saw this in theatres in 1991. I remember seeing the skull get crushed by the Terminator and I was HOOOOOOOOOOOOKED!!! I remember my parents tried to hide my eyes everytime someone took a T-1000 knife to the face (or eye lol)
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10:45AM on 05/13/2016
I think for my money T2 was the biggest summer blockbuster in history. Perfect blend of casting, music by guns n roses (biggest band at the time), good CGI (which was brand new at the time), story, pacing. I wish James Cameron would've made a 3rd entry immediately after.
I think for my money T2 was the biggest summer blockbuster in history. Perfect blend of casting, music by guns n roses (biggest band at the time), good CGI (which was brand new at the time), story, pacing. I wish James Cameron would've made a 3rd entry immediately after.
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10:53AM on 05/13/2016
I agree with the 3rd movie by James Cameron but that's too bad. However, with T2 technology, you can hardly tell that T2 is a 20 years old movie. Special effects hold up very very well.
I agree with the 3rd movie by James Cameron but that's too bad. However, with T2 technology, you can hardly tell that T2 is a 20 years old movie. Special effects hold up very very well.
10:33AM on 05/13/2016
Jaws is a good example of summer blockbuster. It took everybody by surprise and everything in that movie still holds up pretty well. Nevertheless, I'm surprised that Aliens by James Cameron didn't make the list.
Jaws is a good example of summer blockbuster. It took everybody by surprise and everything in that movie still holds up pretty well. Nevertheless, I'm surprised that Aliens by James Cameron didn't make the list.
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10:32AM on 05/13/2016
I remember trying to get the ticket for T2 and it was sold out everywhere. It's the ultimate summer blockbuster.
I remember trying to get the ticket for T2 and it was sold out everywhere. It's the ultimate summer blockbuster.
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10:31AM on 05/13/2016
Even with today's technology, special effects for Jurassic Park are very good. I remember watching this movie for the first time and wanted to watch it again right afterward. It's an epic summer blockbuster.
Even with today's technology, special effects for Jurassic Park are very good. I remember watching this movie for the first time and wanted to watch it again right afterward. It's an epic summer blockbuster.
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10:29AM on 05/13/2016
I think the special effects hold up pretty well and it was such a huge blockbuster of that summer.
I think the special effects hold up pretty well and it was such a huge blockbuster of that summer.
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10:29AM on 05/13/2016
A great great movie after all these years.
A great great movie after all these years.
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10:28AM on 05/13/2016
There's hardly any action movie like Speed anymore. I remember when it was released it was a small phenomenon that it's a must-see movie of the summer.
There's hardly any action movie like Speed anymore. I remember when it was released it was a small phenomenon that it's a must-see movie of the summer.
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