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The 50 Greatest Summer Blockbusters
July 2, 2014 5:00 AM   Subscribe

At The Dissolve: 12 critics narrowed down a list of more than 650 movies, all released between May 1 and August 31 between 1975 and 2013, to arrive at the 50 greatest summer blockbusters.

Part One (50-31) | Part Two (30-11) | Part Three (The Top Ten)
posted by valkane (74 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm John Kennedy Toole Box, and I fully endorse their number one choice.
I love that movie so hard, and I think it should be required viewing each 4th of July.
HINT HINT.
posted by John Kennedy Toole Box at 5:17 AM on July 2 [3 favorites]


The Top Ten is a hard list to argue with. I watched Who Framed Roger Rabbit again recently, and marveled at how well-constructed it is.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 5:18 AM on July 2 [3 favorites]


A Star Wars-less Top Ten Greatest Summer Blockbusters had better be unimpeachable (and no, Empire doesn't "count"). Who Framed Roger Rabbit is not unimpeachable as a Greatest Summer Blockbuster. That is all I can say without dissolving into incoherent swearing.
posted by Etrigan at 5:19 AM on July 2 [2 favorites]


This list makes me want to schedule the rest of my summer around it.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:20 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


Though I might quibble about the order, that's a pretty darn good list!

(It was especially nice to see Babe and Moulin Rouge! get some of the respect they so richly deserve, despite not being amongst the highest grossing box office successes on the list - - though the abysmal The World's End should have missed the cut since it's Edgar Wright's one bad film.)
posted by fairmettle at 5:21 AM on July 2 [2 favorites]


The Top Ten is a hard list to argue with. I watched Who Framed Roger Rabbit again recently...

If you watch E.T. again you might want to argue with the Top Ten.
posted by mcstayinskool at 5:23 AM on July 2


A Star Wars-less Top Ten Greatest Summer Blockbusters had better be unimpeachable (and no, Empire doesn't "count").

If you look at the long list, Star Wars just barely misses the cut for top ten (it's number 11). While I like Empire better as a movie, I think there's a good case for Star Wars as a better summer blockbuster, in terms of being lighter and more fun. Similarly, I think Raiders of the Lost Ark is a better summer blockbuster, although Last Crusade is, to me, a better movie.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:30 AM on July 2 [2 favorites]


I love that movie so hard, and I think it should be required viewing each 4th of July.

For a moment, I was worried that you were talking about Independence Day.
posted by Strange Interlude at 5:35 AM on July 2 [6 favorites]


The top 10 list is definitely a list of big blockbuster movies, so what-it-says-on-the-tin I suppose. But only a few of them are movies I'd ever want to watch a second time -- most of them were fun to see once, and at that point you've had the full experience.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:54 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


If you watch E.T. again you might want to argue with the Top Ten.

Weirdly, I've never actually seen E.T. I'm not sure why, I've meant to see it for thirty-two years now but somehow never have.
posted by octothorpe at 5:55 AM on July 2


Speaking as someone who's seen Jaws dozens of times, they couldn't have found a shot that was something that was actually as it appeared on the screen for the photo illustration?

I note for the record that, if you're lucky enough to live near one of their 12 locations, Jaws is playing today and tomorrow at The Movie Tavern.
posted by ob1quixote at 5:56 AM on July 2


I recently saw Jaws for the first time, and was amazingly disappointed by it. It's just a shark, it turns out. That's the big scary antagonist character. It's a shark, and it's eating things, because it is a big predator, which we already knew about sharks. People keep going into the water and getting eaten. Sharks are not exactly subtle about it, either. They got these huge teeth pointed right at you. For goodness sake. The seventies were a different time, I guess.
posted by Greg Nog at 5:57 AM on July 2 [8 favorites]


I remember going to see Jaws back then, when the lines were around the block, and of course being absurdly afraid to swim in our backyard pool at night with the stars overhead and no bottom in sight and you could have been in the middle of the deep dark cold Atlantic.

(And I love how, in one serendipitous glance at this Top 10 just now, I caught a picture of Drew Barrymore kissing E.T. and the “Get away from her, you bitch!” quote from Aliens.)
posted by pracowity at 5:58 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


Can someone please copy-and-paste the list to this thread for those of us unable to see it?
posted by Theta States at 5:59 AM on July 2


Come alive! You're in the Pepsi Generation.

 
posted by Herodios at 6:00 AM on July 2


Yeah despite the better-sequel effect I can't really agree with Empire trumping Star Wars for a list like this; Empire may have been a better movie but Star Wars was a totally new thing nobody had ever seen before. I saw the third showing of Star Wars in New Orleans in 1977 in a completely full theatre and in the quiet moments you could have heard a pin drop. The awe was palpable. By the time it came out Empire was just more of the same.

Similarly, parts of E.T. wear with the years but you can't ignore the fact that it played for an entire year on its first release, setting a record for this city. In different ways, it was like Star Wars in that nobody had ever seen anything quite like it. It's easy to rag on its flaws now that it's been copied fifty-seven times but there's nothing quite like being there when something like that is done for the first time.
posted by localroger at 6:04 AM on July 2 [4 favorites]


an someone please copy-and-paste the list to this thread for those of us unable to see it?

10. After Last Season
9. Meshes of The Afternoon
8. Alien
7. The Brown Bunny
6. Welcome to The Dollhouse
5. Welcome to The Dollhouse mashup edition (with scenes from American Pie)
4. Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story
3. Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce
2. Cars 2
1. The Werckmeister Harmonies
posted by Greg Nog at 6:07 AM on July 2 [50 favorites]


*squints at Greg Nog's list*

Wait a minnit….
posted by wenestvedt at 6:19 AM on July 2


Greg Nog get out of my head, it hurts when you do that.
posted by gideonswann at 6:20 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


I haven't seen ET in a very, very long time. I'm about to introduce my kids to it the next time we have movie night. This thread has made me nervous about doing so.
posted by middleclasstool at 6:21 AM on July 2


You forgot Flubber!
posted by blue_beetle at 6:27 AM on July 2


I fucking hate ET.

There, I said it. And I'll say it again. And again. Until everyone understands how much I cannot stand that soppy overblown piece of nonsense that everyone my age was supposed to love because we were all Gertie's age.

Like this quote from the article:
"Now try to imagine the way you must have looked when you saw E.T. on a cineplex screen for the first time. Your expression was probably similar: the upturned, misty gaze of someone who’s just witnessed a genuine marvel."

Nope. I ended up having nightmares about that fucking alien. And then I watched it again when I was older and I hated the mawkishness and the fucking Jesus parable and aaaaugh, I hate that movie so much it causes me to spontaneously combust.

Also, Die Hard is not a summer blockbuster. Die Hard is a Christmas movie. Even I, who officially did not see it in its entirety until last Christmas, I know this.

However, the rest of the top 10 is lovely and totally acceptable.
posted by Katemonkey at 6:38 AM on July 2 [14 favorites]


Also, PeeWee's Big Adventure is Number 19. This is completely and utterly delightful to see, because no one ever seems to remember this film and it is my favourite film of all time. I love this film forever and ever and wish I had PeeWee's house and his bike and I'm totally watching it again tonight.
posted by Katemonkey at 6:40 AM on July 2 [6 favorites]


It's just a shark, it turns out.

Or not...
posted by P.o.B. at 6:45 AM on July 2 [4 favorites]


Also, Die Hard is not a summer blockbuster. Die Hard is a Christmas movie. Even I, who officially did not see it in its entirety until last Christmas, I know this.

But it came out during the summer. I remember that I the only reason I saw it was to sit in air conditioning for two hours because it was obviously going to be a terrible movie. I mean, an action movie staring Bruce Willis? He's a comic actor, not an action hero.
posted by octothorpe at 6:47 AM on July 2 [2 favorites]


Ahhh, sweet sweet Schadenfreude. Finally someone is backing away from the insane devotion to Star Wars that's choked America's consciousness for the past umpty-odd years.
posted by psoas at 6:52 AM on July 2


psoas: " that's choked America's consciousness"

I find your lack of faith ... disturbing.
posted by chavenet at 7:07 AM on July 2 [9 favorites]


I hate E.T. I was a kid when I saw it and I hated it then. It's a cheap, manipulative film with a poorly designed alien.

The top 10 is basically worshipping Spielberg, with 4 of his movies to only one Star Wars film. And the wrong one; no matter what I thought as a teenager, the #1 on this list should be Star Wars. I mean, Raiders and Jaws and Jurassic Park are all good examples of the summer blockbuster genre, and on the whole better than their modern-day descendants, but the list basically says that nobody has ever topped Spielberg at his own game. And you can talk about the prequels and all that til the cows come home, but Lucas did it better two years after Jaws.
posted by graymouser at 7:28 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


50. The 40-Year Old Virgin
49. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
48. Babe
47. Top Gun
46. Minority Report
45. The Lion King
44. Bull Durham
43. The Iron Giant
42. Iron Man
41. The World's End
40. Moulin Rouge!
39. Up
38. Poltergeist
37. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
36. Gremlins
35. Batman
34. The Thing
33. Risky Business
32. Airplane!
31. A Fish Called Wanda
30. The Truman Show
29. The Muppet Movie
28. Inception
27. Midnight Run
26. Spider-Man 2
25. The Shining
24. South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut
23. Toy Story 3
22. Finding Nemo
21. A.I.: Artificial Intelligence
20. Clueless
19. Pee-wee's Big Adventure
18. Blade Runner
17. Apocalypse Now
16. Ghostbusters
15. RoboCop
14. WALL-E
13. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
12. Alien
11. Star Wars
10. The Dark Knight
9. Jurassic Park
8. Who Framed Roger Rabbit
7. The Empire Strikes Back
6. Aliens
5. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
4. Raiders of the Lost Ark
3. Die Hard
2. Back to the Future
1. Jaws
posted by Boxenmacher at 7:42 AM on July 2 [4 favorites]


No Meatballs?
posted by AJaffe at 7:46 AM on July 2 [2 favorites]


Hey! Hey! Can I suggest that this list might just be good FanFare movie club fodder? We can watch each one from 50 through to number 1 over the course of about a year, and then quibble about placement on the list and what films were left off.
posted by nubs at 8:00 AM on July 2 [2 favorites]


So I guess that I've seen all but E.T., The 40-Year Old Virgin, Iron Giant, South Park and Clueless.

I can't remember if I've actually seen Risky Business all the way through or just seen so many clips from it that it seems like I've seen it.
posted by octothorpe at 8:03 AM on July 2


wow that's the most broken-on-mobile website I've ever run across. Is it trying to push photos of the text or something?
posted by straight at 8:13 AM on July 2


It's just a shark, it turns out. That's the big scary antagonist character.

Pretty sure the mayor isn't a shark.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:16 AM on July 2


What?

No 'Attack of the Killer Tomatoes' ?
posted by fordiebianco at 8:30 AM on July 2


That's a pretty darn good list.
posted by Theta States at 8:34 AM on July 2


That's a pretty darn good list.

Which one, this, or that?

I like Cars 2 and ET was a maudlin mess.
posted by RedOrGreen at 8:43 AM on July 2


I totally agree with the FanFare idea!
posted by Night_owl at 8:46 AM on July 2


I recently saw Jaws for the first time, and was amazingly disappointed by it.

As it turns out, many 1970s movies are disappointing when you finally watch them, or when you finally watch them again. (Many, not all.)
posted by blucevalo at 9:00 AM on July 2


Man. Jaws is a superb movie. It's about the shark at all. It's about the Brody-Hooper-Quint dialogue.
posted by persona au gratin at 9:08 AM on July 2 [4 favorites]


If you're used to the technical proficiency and camerawork of current movies, it can be hard to understand older movies as they were experienced when they were first seen. I recently saw the Godfather trilogy for the first time, and while I appreciated what an achievement it was for its day I couldn't help but be constantly reminded of how slow and unengaging it would seem to a modern audience. Practically the whole film is static composed shots; there are maybe a couple of pans and a zoom in the whole movie. The money is spent on sets, lighting, costumes, and of course superb acting and writing. But it's almost all shot from pedestal cameras. It was normal in the day but today it's very striking how seldom the camera moves or the frame changes during a scene.
posted by localroger at 9:35 AM on July 2


I was arguing about Jaws just the other day (partner maintains that it's boring, which, WHAT?) and it turns out that my main argument was that it was the first of its kind and thrilling and well acted, and my opponent's argument being that the parts that weren't shark-eat-boat were all really really dull. I think that we concluded that I must have watched the thing in a certain window where I hadn't seen those exact shots knocked off a bazillion times, and he'd seen so many faster paced movies that cribbed Spielbergian camera angles that we were essentially watching different movies: me, a 70s auteur movie with sharks, him a sluggish, old fashioned action movie with no CGI. He's wrong, of course, but that's where we agreed to stop. Luckily we both agree Jurassic Park is the greatest or this relationship would be in trouble...

I cannot believe this list contains A Fish Called Wanda but not Predator.
posted by theweasel at 9:45 AM on July 2 [3 favorites]


I was arguing about Jaws just the other day (partner maintains that it's boring...

Do me a favor and give him one of these for me.
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:57 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


I think that we concluded that I must have watched the thing in a certain window where I hadn't seen those exact shots knocked off a bazillion times, and he'd seen so many faster paced movies that cribbed Spielbergian camera angles that we were essentially watching different movies: me, a 70s auteur movie with sharks, him a sluggish, old fashioned action movie with no CGI.

As my ex-spouse said upon seeing a Hitchcock movie for the first time: "Oh, I have seen this before. It just wasn't a Hitchcock movie when I saw it."
posted by Etrigan at 10:09 AM on July 2 [2 favorites]


Also, Die Hard is not a summer blockbuster. Die Hard is a Christmas movie.

By the same logic, Good, Bad Ugly was released (US) on Dec. 23 ... but by the time it got to my favorite drive-in, it was summertime. And It beats all the others - proving that there are two kinds of people in this world, my friend.
posted by Twang at 10:15 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


Bulgaroktonos: "Similarly, I think Raiders of the Lost Ark is a better summer blockbuster, although Last Crusade is, to me, a better movie."

I recently rewatched them, and I think Last Crusade goes too far in the cartoony/explicitly humorous direction. Marcus Brody, in particular, becomes a caricature.

It's not bad, by any means, but I really preferred Raiders' balance of humor and action.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:20 AM on July 2 [2 favorites]


localroger: "it's very striking how seldom the camera moves or the frame changes during a scene."

Funny, because whenever I watch recently filmed action scenes I find myself thinking "jeez, buy a goddamn steadicam already." The tight-focus, shaky, change-the-angle-every-3-seconds approach is just lazy. I feel it is a cheap substitute for good cinematography. But it's what we're used to now, so it's what everyone expects.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:55 AM on July 2 [3 favorites]


I'm confused by their (lack of a) definition of what constitutes a "blockbuster". For me, the term implies a particular kind of mass-appeal action or adventure movie or, at the very least, a very financially successful or big-budget movie. Quite a few of the movies on this list are either low-budget or were box office flops at the time (Iron Giant, Blade Runner, etc.), and movies like 40-Year-Old Virgin, Babe, and Clueless (while excellent movies) fall outside of the genres one usually associates with "blockbuster".

So, it seems like this is a list of 50 Good Movies That Came Out In The Summer.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 10:55 AM on July 2 [3 favorites]


Practically the whole film is static composed shots; there are maybe a couple of pans and a zoom in the whole movie.

That would be a feature, not a bug.
posted by octothorpe at 10:58 AM on July 2 [3 favorites]


I have never understood the appeal of The Godfather, and that has nothing to do with cinematography. For me, it's a movie about incredibly unlikable people doing incredibly unlikable things.

Also, it insists upon itself.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 11:09 AM on July 2 [3 favorites]


I absolutely love things filmed with a static camera. I watched Lake Tahoe recently, which is almost all static shots, and it was mesmerising.
posted by dng at 11:26 AM on July 2


That would be a feature, not a bug.

Oh I agree. I was just noting that it is very strikingly different from what is expected nowadays. Also lawn.
posted by localroger at 11:59 AM on July 2


For me, it's a movie about incredibly unlikable people doing incredibly unlikable things.

Except that when we meet Michael Corleone, he's not unlikeable. Maybe he's not as outraged about the family business as some of us would like but he's at worst bemused by it, and he starts out assuring his fiancee that he's not part of it. The tragedy, then, is that he is dragged into it, he is forced to become the very kind of person we know he doesn't want to be to play his role effectively, every attempt of his to go straight fails, and he ends up losing everything he really cares about because of his family loyalty.
posted by localroger at 12:04 PM on July 2


Only watching movies about likable people would get boring pretty quick.
posted by octothorpe at 12:08 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


Count me in with the 'Buy a steady-cam!' crowd. Some movies are so bad I feel sick watching them. -Cloverfield, I'm looking at you.
Also, kids get off my lawn. (Yelled from my rocking chair on the porch.)

As to the list. Well you just can't force people to have good, meaning, my taste. ;)
Really who leaves either of the first two Predator movies off the list.
(Not talking AvP. We don't want any heresy here.)
posted by Gadgetenvy at 12:24 PM on July 2


Re The Godfather, I had to read the book—which was a kind of summer blockbuster in itself—in order to figure out what all was going on in the movie.

So I guess that I've seen all but E.T., The 40-Year Old Virgin, Iron Giant, South Park and Clueless.

Barring any predisposition against animation, I'd say Iron Giant was your best bet.
posted by Flexagon at 12:27 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


Except that when we meet Michael Corleone, he's not unlikeable. Maybe he's not as outraged about the family business as some of us would like but he's at worst bemused by it, and he starts out assuring his fiancee that he's not part of it. The tragedy, then, is that he is dragged into it, he is forced to become the very kind of person we know he doesn't want to be to play his role effectively, every attempt of his to go straight fails, and he ends up losing everything he really cares about because of his family loyalty.

Watching Michael Corleone go from being a semi-likable person to being a completely unlikable is just not that compelling to me. I recognize that I'm in the minority here.

Only watching movies about likable people would get boring pretty quick.

I'm not suggesting that every character in a movie needs to be likable, but one likes to have someone to root for.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 12:29 PM on July 2


Sometimes the person you're rooting for is destroyed. That's "tragedy," the opposite of classical "comedy" where the person you're rooting for goes through hell but ends up triumphing.
posted by localroger at 12:31 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


Sometimes the person you're rooting for is destroyed. That's "tragedy," the opposite of classical "comedy" where the person you're rooting for goes through hell but ends up triumphing.

Sure. I just couldn't bring myself to root for Michael Corleone. Ultimately, I didn't care about any of the characters, good or bad.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 12:37 PM on July 2


I'm guessing that you probably don't like Shakespeare much.
posted by octothorpe at 12:42 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]


So it is agreed... Ben Trismegistrus will be allowed to not like The Godfather so much... and localroger will use his political influence to maintain a civil and enjoyable thread... and octothorpe, and all the rest of the five families of metafilter... will be allowed to draw the water from the well.
posted by valkane at 12:48 PM on July 2 [4 favorites]


I'm guessing that you probably don't like Shakespeare much.

You would be wrong there. Do you honestly think that someone would have to be a completely uncultured Philistine in order to not like The Godfather?

But let's play that one out. I love Othello, because the title character is a generally good person whose tragic flaw, exploited by Iago, causes him to do horrible things. When he realizes what he has done, he expresses tremendous remorse and takes the only option left to him. The play is about watching the fall of a good man through a variety of internal and external causes.

You could say that The Godfather is basically about the same themes. Michael is basically a good guy at the beginning, who does what he feels he has to because of some sort of misplaced family loyalty. But there's no remorse, and there aren't really any consequences, and I don't find his story compelling or interesting to watch.

Again, YMMV. I'm well aware that most people consider The Godfather to be one of the best movies ever made. I'm not trying to take that aware from anyone - I just don't have the same reaction.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 12:52 PM on July 2


I have seen every movie on this list. Most of them in theaters. Not a single one is better left unseen, if you can appreciate a 'summer blockbuster' as a movie theme. (This would not be true if Independence Day had made the list. Still angry about that pile)
posted by DigDoug at 1:58 PM on July 2


So happy that Midnight Run is on this (paging Alonzo Moseley FBI). I just don't know why it's a summer blockbuster (like a few other picks that were really cult favorites that have nonetheless endured) -- looks like it barely made back its marketing budget.
posted by dhartung at 3:05 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


Nope. I ended up having nightmares about that fucking alien.

Substitute "creature" for alien and I feel the exact same way about Gremlins. Hated that movie. Nightmares for months.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 3:15 PM on July 2


This is a good list, but

WHERE IS BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA
posted by nushustu at 3:16 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]


So it is agreed...

That sounds like an offer I can't refuse, Valkane.
posted by localroger at 3:35 PM on July 2


WHERE IS BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA

It's a list of blockbuster movies, not movies that see things no other movie can see, do things that no other movie can do.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:43 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]


And then I watched it again when I was older and I hated the mawkishness and the fucking Jesus parable and aaaaugh, I hate that movie so much it causes me to spontaneously combust.

E.T. is spiritual but I wouldn't call it a Jesus parable. It's one rotation away from being a Ghibli movie.
posted by fleacircus at 4:00 PM on July 2


Where is "I Know Who Killed Me"? This list is crap.
posted by knoyers at 4:32 PM on July 2


That sounds like an offer I can't refuse, Valkane.

I have a sentimental weakness for my children and I spoil them, as you can see. They talk when they should listen. Anyway, Signor Ben Trismegistus, my word to you is final. I want to congratulate you on your new business and I'm sure you'll do very well and good luck to you. Especially since your interests don't conflict with mine. Thank you.

Localroger, come here. What's the matter with you? I think your brain is going soft with all that comedy you are playing with that young girl. Never tell anyone outside the Family what you are thinking again.
posted by valkane at 4:59 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]


I think your brain is going soft with all that comedy you are playing with that young girl.

Oh no I am absolutely not that character from Fools Die. Which by the way is the Mario Puzo novel I really really wish someone would make into a movie or even better a 6-episode miniseries because it is fucking brilliant.
posted by localroger at 6:56 PM on July 2


I'm not suggesting that every character in a movie needs to be likable, but one likes to have someone to root for.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 4:29 AM on July 3


Obviously someone doesn't watch It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
posted by DoctorFedora at 11:34 PM on July 2


What a fantastically well written article. Thanks for sharing!
posted by Vindaloo at 4:31 PM on July 3


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