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30 Best Summer Blockbuster Movies Of All Time

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May 21, 2019

Category: Entertainment

Heading to the movie theater during any season of the year is a treat, but there’s something extra special about the film lineup during the summer. When you were younger, you had all the time in the world during your summer vacation to flock to the theaters and feast on every blockbuster. You don’t have much time to yourself these days, but catching a summer blockbuster certainly never lost its magic, and now, adds a nostalgic layer to the viewing experience. Movies packed with dazzling special effects, sweeping set pieces, and epic stories fill the silver-screens of theaters across the globe in the summertime. Some films are fun popcorn throwaway blockbusters to keep you entertained and cool with the theater air conditioning, and others are unforgettable big-budget classics.

After considering a sea of flicks that, at one point or another, have reigned supreme at the box office, we’ve managed to put together a list of the best summer blockbusters. These are the summer flicks that are completely re-watchable, entertaining, and backed by big money. They’re filled with A-list actors and tell incredible tales, making you laugh, cry, and shriek along the way. These are also the summer blockbusters that have been the most influential, helping similar flicks sprout for movie fanatics to eat up. From horror films to superhero flicks, this list contains movies to keep you entertained throughout the summer and beyond.

Aliens

Bringing Sigourney Weaver back in the lead role as Ripley, Aliens steers clear of pure horror and takes the franchise in a more action-centric genre. Sure, there are still horror elements with the Xenomorphs lurking around, but James Cameron sticks big, futuristic guns in the picture along with a power loader to transform the film into a high-octane action extravaganza. Aliens offers plenty of firepower if you need a movie to get you pumped up this summer.

Release Date: July 18, 1986
Director: James Cameron
Lifetime Gross: $85,160,248

Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy

Before Adam McKay went on to direct Oscar-nominated films like Vice, he was one part of a comedic duo with Will Ferrell. One of McKay and Ferrell’s most successful flicks is Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. Set in sunny San Diego in the 1970s, the film is an outrageous comedy with unexpected cameos and a committed performance from Ferrell. The supporting cast isn’t too shabby either, as it includes Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, David Koechner, and Christina Applegate. And it’s one of the most quotable comedies of all time.

Release Date: July 9, 2004
Director: Adam McKay
Lifetime Gross: $85,288,303

Armageddon

Michael Bay certainly isn’t even close to being one of the premier directors in the industry, but he does have a knack for ridiculous action movies. He rounds up a mesmerizing cast for Armageddon, including Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, and Steve Buscemi, and creates a loud, effects-driven guilty pleasure project. Although NASA would disapprove of many of the ideas proposed in thwarting an incoming asteroid presented in this film, it’s still an enjoyable ride. Turn your brain off for a couple of hours and enjoy some Michael Bay junk food.

Release Date: July 1, 1998
Director: Michael Bay
Lifetime Gross: $201,578,182

Back To The Future

From the flying DeLorean to the hoverboard, everything about Back to the Future is pop culture gold. The first film is a smart, wholly entertaining time travel flick with two likable characters in Marty and Doc Brown, allowing you to invest in the franchise. It also has a very daring plot with Marty traveling back in time to 1955 in Doc Brown’s plutonium-powered ride and interacting with his parents in high school. This film is a classic all the way through and always manages to ignite a sense of wonder, no matter how many times you’ve watched it.

Release Date: July 3, 1985
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Lifetime Gross: $210,609,762

Batman

Tim Burton decided to bring Batman to life on the big screen in a way no one had really seen him onscreen before. Burton’s 1989 Batman film features the talented Michael Keaton in the title role and Jack Nicholson as the infamous Joker, marking one of the first times an A-list actor took a major role in a comic-book movie. The result was pure, gritty crime-fighting cinema magic, giving Batman the dark, brooding film he deserved. It’s the complete opposite of the silly Adam West Batman TV show, reigniting interest in the caped crusader. Not to mention, it also has Danny Elfman’s classic score, which was also used in the Batman Animated Series.

Release Date: June 23, 1989
Director: Tim Burton
Lifetime Gross: $40,489,746

Coming To America

During the ‘80s, Eddie Murphy was the comedy king, and Coming to America is one of the shining points of his career. Playing the African Prince Akeem, in addition to several other characters, Murphy displays his versatility. It’s a worthy follow-up to the classic Trading Places, which is the previous collaboration between Murphy and director John Landis, and possibly the superior film. Playing the most likable character in his filmography, Murphy’s Prince Akeem is easy to root for.

Release Date: June 29, 1988
Director: John Landis
Lifetime Gross: $128,152,301

Die Hard

NYPD Officer John McClane is a hero who gets bruised and battered like real-life heroes do. And the fact that he isn’t played by a hulking figure like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone makes the character far more relatable. So when McClane has to face off against a group of German terrorists at the Nakatomi Plaza in Los Angeles, it’s a nail-biting experience since he has to rely on his wits more than his muscles. Die Hard is one of the most iconic action movies ever and continues to inspire plenty of summer action blockbusters.

Release Date: July 15, 1988
Director: John McTiernan
Lifetime Gross: $83,519,093

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

You can’t have a list of the best summer blockbusters and not include Steven Spielberg’s E.T. Presenting a story about two outsiders from different planets, E.T. is a classic family adventure that stands the test of time. The film will make you laugh and also touch your heart, cementing scenes in your memory that will live with you forever. Find your way home with E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.

Release Date: June 11, 1982
Director: Steven Spielberg
Lifetime Gross: $435,110,554

Ghostbusters

Ivan Reitman’s film is a geek-pleasing sci-fi comedy with hilarious performances from an all-star cast, including Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Harlod Ramis. It’s one of the best movies of the 1980s and it never fails to put a smile on our faces. Although the effects feel dated now, they still hold a unique charm. When you need a break from reality and are looking for a wild ride during a summer night, you know who to call.

Release Date: June 8, 1984
Director: Ivan Reitman
Lifetime Gross: $229,242,989

Guardians Of The Galaxy

Only comic book fans truly knew who the Guardians of the Galaxy were before the 2014 action film came out. But with one hell of a cast, including Chris Pratt, Bradley, Cooper, Zoe Saldana, and Dave Bautista, Guardians of the Galaxy soared to dizzying heights among the stars. Armed with snappy, sarcastic comedy and creative action scenes, along with an emotional center, this film drew comparisons to Star Wars. It’s truly one of the premier films in the Marvel Comic Universe (MCU) and quite possibly the most rewatchable of the bunch.

Release Date: August 1, 2014
Director: James Gunn
Lifetime Gross: $333,176,60

Inception

Presenting the complex plot of implanting ideas into people’s minds, Inception is a rare film that’s both smart, yet still manages to provide blockbuster action and fight scenes. It’s packed with an A-list cast, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Joseph-Gordon Levitt, Ellen Page, and Michael Caine, who bring the genius script to life. Nolan’s masterpiece demands multiple viewings to be fully appreciated and even with a runtime of close to two and a half hours, you never feel the movie’s length.

Release Date: July 16, 2010
Director: Christopher Nolan
Lifetime Gross: $292,576,195

Indiana Jones: Raiders Of The Lost Ark

Before Shia Labeouf was swinging with monkeys in the jungle, Indiana Jones films were still respectable. Okay, so Kingdom of the Crystal Skull wasn’t that bad, but the original Indy films are much more refined products. Raiders of the Lost Ark is a quintessential action blockbuster, catapulting Harrison Ford into the realm of superstardom. Steven Spielberg and George Lucas’ collaborative effort is simply an unforgettable adventure. Revolving around the mysterious Ark of the Covenant, Indy’s first onscreen escapade is extraordinary no matter how old you are.

Release Date: June 21, 1981
Director: Steven Spielberg
Lifetime Gross: $212,222,025

Inglourious Basterds

Let’s make no mistake — every Quentin Tarantino film is exceptional, but Inglourious Basterds just happened to drop in the summertime, finding a place on this list. This bloody tale of revenge utilizes the cinematic museum that is Tarantino’s mind to weave an alternate tale of WWII history. It’s bloody while also poetic in the way it handles vengeance, but also knows how to have fun. Starring a who’s who of actors, including Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender, this war film is another victory for Tarantino.

Release Date: August 21, 2009
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Lifetime Gross: $120,540,719

Iron Man

If Iron Man had failed in 2008, plans for the MCU might not have come to fruition. Thankfully, Iron Man sparked the fire of the MCU with the blazing power of Tony Stark’s arc reactor unibeam repulsion blast. Iron Man marks Robert Downey Jr.’s redemption in Hollywood and introduces the world to the start of something unique and special. With Jon Favreau in the director’s chair and Downey cast perfectly as Tony Stark, Iron Man is one of the most well-executed comic book movies of all time.

Release Date: May 2, 2008
Director: Jon Favreau
Lifetime Gross: $318,412,101

Jaws

Steven Spielberg is one of the most iconic directors in history, and Jaws is one of his bonafide classics. Spielberg builds up the tension so well in this film and hides the monstrous shark to engage your imagination for a more horrifying experience. It is a relentless film with characters like Martin Brody and Quint you can invest in. Even the special effects are untouched by the limits of time thanks to the masterful direction. There is no equal to this shark thriller yet, and there may never be one.

Release Date: June 20, 1975
Director: Steven Spielberg
Lifetime Gross: $260,000,000

Jurassic Park

With an unforgettable score by John Williams, and Steven Spielberg at the top of his game, Jurassic Park is the perfect summer blockbuster. The mix of practical effects and CGI give a genuine sense of realism to the enormous dinosaurs, while the plot adapted from Michael Crichton is pure genius. Sure, the Jurassic World films are fun, but the original rules supreme over all just like the mighty tyrannosaurus rex. What did you expect from a film 65 million years in the making?

Release Date: June 11, 1993
Director: Steven Spielberg
Lifetime Gross: $402,828,120

Mad Max: Fury Road

Insane from start to a satisfying finish, Mad Max: Fury Road is a hardcore post-apocalyptic action blockbuster bathed in sand, blood, and fire. Tom Hardy makes a fantastic Max Rockatansky and Charlize Theron is a bonafide badass playing Imperator Furiosa. The film makes the phrase “edge of your seat action film” an actuality, as this movie has a breakneck pace with little to no downtime. Boasting mostly practical effects and stunts, George Miller’s film is lunacy on celluloid.

Release Date: May 15, 2015
Director: George Miller
Lifetime Gross: $153,636,354

Men In Black

Will Smith was the box office king of the ‘90s and Men in Black was one of his most successful flicks during his prime. The charismatic Fresh Prince teams up with the stoic, no-nonsense Tommy Lee Jones, and their buddy-cop chemistry is on point all the way through. The film led to a couple of sequels, but the original is by far the best of the bunch. For a comedic action film, it still manages to open your mind to the endless mysteries of the galaxy.

Release Date: July 2, 1997
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Lifetime Gross: $250,690,539

Minority Report

Mixing a mind-bending, thought-provoking script about fate vs. free will with effects-heavy action, Minority Report entertains on all levels. This underrated neo-noir sci-fi action film stars Tom Cruise in the lead role and is based on a short story by the prolific science fiction writer Philip K. Dick. The film is set in a future where a controversial special police force is capable of arresting murderers before they commit their crimes. With twists and turns at every corner, this think-piece blockbuster will stay with you long after the credits roll.

Release Date: June 21, 2002
Director: Steven Spielberg
Lifetime Gross: $132,072,926

Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl

Disney’s beloved ride was adapted into a feature film and it took the audience by storm thanks to the movie’s incredible visuals, set pieces, and an Academy Award-Nominated performance from Johnny Depp. The loony, rum-loving Jack Sparrow steals the show with his rockstar attire, dreads, and quirky persona. Somewhere at the top of most entertaining pirate movies in history, the first Pirates of the Caribbean installation is a thrilling adventure that captures the theme park ride’s vibe perfectly while expanding upon its world.

Release Date: June 9, 2003
Director: Gore Verbinski
Lifetime Gross: $305,413,918

Predator

Arnold Schwarzenegger leads a badass elite team of killers on a rescue mission until things take a turn for the worst when an alien starts to pick them off one by one. Need we say more? Predator is packed with bulging muscles, big guns, and one ugly, monstrous creature looking to rip the spines out of the fearless soldiers. Mixing elements of horror into this adrenaline-fueled summer action blockbuster, Predator is explosive machismo perfected.

Release Date: June 12, 1987
Director: John McTiernan
Lifetime Gross: $59,735,548

Speed

A young officer named Jack Traven is stuck on a bus that’s set to explode if the speed drops below 50 mph. Taking the location-focused action style of Die Hard, Speed raises the bar by putting our hero on a speeding bus. Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock make for an entertaining pair in this popcorn flick, and Dennis Hopper turns in a solid performance as the antagonist. It’s definitely a product of the ‘90s, but it’s so well done you can’t help but have a good time.

Release Date: June 10, 1994
Director: Jan de Bont
Lifetime Gross: $121,248,145

Star Wars Original Trilogy

Only the biggest movies get released over the summer, so it’s no surprise that all three films in the original Star Wars trilogy had summertime premieres. We couldn’t leave out any of the movies so we’ve decided to include all three in one spot on our list. The layered journey of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and the rest of the crew is always a magical experience. Although the new trilogy is well-done, the original trilogy holds a special place in our hearts.

Release Date: May 25, 1977
Director: George Lucas
Lifetime Gross: $1,060,779,251

Terminator 2: Judgement Day

Hands down, this is one of the best sequels of all time and arguably better than the first installation. Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Cameron are in their cinematic prime in this sci-fi action film that manages to tug on your heartstrings while delivering wave after wave of jaw-dropping action scenes. The relationship built between the T-800 and John Connor made everyone want their own Ray-Ban-sporting killer machine bodyguard. When you think about summer blockbusters, they don’t get any grander than Terminator 2.

Release Date: July 3, 1991
Director: James Cameron
Lifetime Gross: $205,881,154

The Dark Knight

Featuring a phenomenal performance from the late Heath Ledger, an audacious script, and stellar direction, The Dark Knight is an undeniably epic movie experience. The film is unique and riveting because it’s based on this important question: what if Batman was real? The Dark Knight is a crime drama at heart set in a world where Batman exists. Every single aspect of this film works so well we dare say it’s a perfect movie. It will go down in history as the summer blockbuster we deserve.

Release Date: July 18, 2008
Director: Christopher Nolan
Lifetime Gross: $533,345,358

The Hangover

The Hangover became an instant comedy classic when it hit the big screen in 2009. It went on to become the second highest-grossing R-rated comedy ever in the United States. The uproarious flick takes place in Las Vegas and follows three friends trying to find their buddy after a wild bachelor party night. Starring Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper, and Ed Helms (with a cameo from hard-punching Mike Tyson), The Hangover has become a Vegas trip primer to get you hyped up for the craziness that lies ahead in the city that never sleeps.

Release Date: June 5, 2009
Director: Todd Phillips
Lifetime Gross: $277,322,503

The Lion King

A Disney classic, The Lion King takes the Hamlet plot and turns it into a kid-friendly storyline with a whole lot of heart. It’s always a good idea to pop in or stream this classic animated movie and sing along to the unforgettable songs. Simba’s journey to grow into his role as king is inspirational, to say the least. And no matter how old you are, “Hakuna Matata” will still put a smile on your face.

Release Date: June 15, 1994
Director: Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff
Lifetime Gross: $422,783,777

The Truman Show

Typically starring in big-budget comedies during the ‘90s, Jim Carrey decided to take on a dramatic role in The Truman Show. Well, he knocks it out of the park, transcending to a higher level of stardom. Inspired by an episode of the Twilight Zone, this film shows us the effects of reality TV and living a life viewable by others on screens around the world (sound familiar?). It has a winning story and was a box office success at the time of its release.

Release Date: June 5, 1998
Director: Peter Weir
Lifetime Gross: $125,618,201

Top Gun

Top Gun may not necessarily be an award-worthy film, but it’s definitely an entertaining guilty pleasure. Tom Cruise gives a magnetic performance as Maverick, a rebellious student in the United States Navy’s elite fighter weapons school. It’s an extremely popular ‘80s flick despite the mediocre critical response with plenty of eye-popping aerial action. When it pops up on TV, we can’t help but be sucked into the cheesy flick.

Release Date: May 16, 1986
Director: Tony Scott
Lifetime Gross: $179,800,601

Toy Story 3

We get to visit our favorite toys for a third time in Toy Story 3, as Andy is all grown up, leaving his beloved old friends behind. The voice acting from Tom Hanks and Tim Allen is as incredible as ever, and there are some notable characters introduced, including Michael Keaton as Ken. By the end of the film, we’re left with the perfect farewell to the cinematic representation of our childhood and it’s impossible not to feel moved by the finale.

Release Date: June 18, 2010
Director: Lee Unkrich
Lifetime Gross: $415,004,880

The 30 Most Anticipated Movies Of 2019

While it’s always easy to wax nostalgic about the greatest summer blockbusters of all time, it’s even more fun to look at what’s just around the corner. Check out our list of the most anticipated movies of 2019 for a preview of this year’s slate of hopeful classics.

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