As the summer movie season is winding down, and with “Wonder Woman” declared the 2017 summer box office winner, I decided to turn back time and list what I feel are the 10 most groundbreaking summer blockbuster films of all time. The films on my list may have been eclipsed at the box office by other films, but the films on my list were first and important nonetheless.
“Jaws”. Released in the summer of 1975, “Jaws” is considered the father of summer blockbuster films. The Steven Spielberg directed film left beach-goers horrified to set foot in the ocean after experiencing this thrilling film. The film was the highest-grossing film of all time until we get to #2 on my list. “Jaws” is the perfect film to watch at a summer pool party. Try it.
“Star Wars”. Hitting theaters in May of 1977 with a bang, the epic space opera forever changed the way sci-fi films were made. I will never forget the first time I saw this movie on the big screen. I was left breathless during and after the film, and became a forever fan of Luke Skywalker and his friends in that galaxy far, far away. We should be forever grateful to George Lucas for bringing these beloved characters into our lives.
“Jurassic Park”. Once again Steven Spielberg was able to delight movie fans with a “monster”. This time in the form of a T-Rex and other assorted dinosaurs. When the film was released to theaters in the summer of 1993, movie fans were amazed with the realistic dinosaurs presented in the films. I will never forget the scene with the raptors in the kitchen of the park where the cloned dinosaurs were on display. Thrilling. Years later we are waiting on yet anther sequel to be released in June of 2018. More summer fun can be expected.
“Batman”. The summer of 1989 finally brought the caped crusader to the big screen in a film worthy of his storied history. In the hands of director Tim Burton, the Gothic styled film featured a classic performance from Jack Nicholson as the Joker, and proved to doubters that Michael Keaton could pull off a capable Dark Knight. The film started a new wave of “Batmania” that had not been seen since the campy Batman show of the 1960’s. Even though Superman beat Batman to the big screen, the Dark Knight proved to have the edge at the box office. Plus, one can ever forget the awesome bat symbol movie poster. Being a huge Batman fan, this was the beginning of a string of Batman films, except for one misstep, that kept me happy.
“Independence Day”. This film made its presence know on July 3rd of 1996 with plenty of bang for your bucks, resulting in movie fans jamming theaters. The Will Smith sci-fi thriller, made us nervous in the anticipation of pending alien attacks on every major city in the world. The special effects were amazing and it was an event to attend a film with this title on or around the 4th of July. The film burned up the box office was nicknamed “ID4”. Even though the film holds a special place in the hearts of many movie fans, a tepid sequel left us cold and disappointed.
“E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial”. When this film debuted in the summer of 1982, most films had featured villainous and horrible outer-space aliens. When the lovable alien know as ET made his appearance, he left movie fans with a warm feeling in their hearts and a tear in their eyes when he left his Earth bound best friend Elliott to return home. The film was so popular it provided a boom in sales for the candy Reese’s Pieces, featured prominently in the story. The scene of ET and Elliott flying on his bicycle in front of the moon is a classic cinema moment. Spielberg did it again.
“Raiders of the Lost Ark”. Did I just mention Steven Spielberg? The director has yet another film on my list in the form of the Harrison Ford starring vehicle. This film hankered back to the days of the film serials of the 1930’s and 40’s, and proved you can make old things new again while keeping a sense of nostalgia intact. Ford was perfectly cast as the fedora wearing Nazi fighter. The film was pure fun for those who attended the film in the summer of 1981, and an eventual sequel brought about the “PG-13” rating. The theme song, along with the “Star Wars” theme, is one of the most memorable in cinema history.
“Alien”. Did I mention friendly outer-space aliens earlier in my list? Well, the summer of 1979 featured the release of this chilling film featuring the first appearance of the alien that begins life by attaching to the mouth of a human or any other available creature, and is eventually “born” by bursting through its hosts chest. The creature matures extremely fast into a horrific being with an extremely large mouth and acid for blood. Not exactly something you would want to encounter in a dark alley. The film is like being trapped in a carnival fun house you desperately want to flee. The smashing success of the film led to sequels, one of which was released earlier this year. I will never forget the tag line for the film: “In space no one can hear you scream.”
“Spider-Man”. In the summer of 2002 fans of the web-slinger finally got to see their hero swing across New York City with the special effects the character deserved. The character was originally supposed to have his own film over 25 years before the release of this film, but I think we can all be grateful it was delayed due to the advance in special effects. Actor Tobey Maguire brought the character of Peter Parker/Spider-Man to life, and though many had mixed feelings about his performance, he will always be the first Spidey. The film broke box office records making the film a must-see in 2002. Years later we are now on our third Spider-Man, but this film will forever be remembered as the classic film it is.
“Terminator 2: Judgement Day.” The 1991 film is a sequel to the moderately successful “Terminator” film, but in this case part 2 blew the original out of the water. Arnold Schwarzenegger really makes the character his own in this film, despite being challenged by the very impressive and improved shape shifting T-1000, played to perfection by Robert Patrick. The film also proved actress Linda Hamilton could hold her own with any male action hero. Despite a few less-than-stellar sequels, “T2” will forever be remembered as a classic summer sci-fi film.
Honorable mention: “Wonder Woman”. The hottest film of the summer of 2017 was the top grossing film featuring a female superhero, and proved a woman director, Patty Jenkins, could helm the lead of a summer blockbuster.
So there it is, my list of some of the most groundbreaking summer blockbusters of all time. If you have your favorites I would love to hear from you! See you at the movies!