Regardless of what memorable box office movies are released throughout a year, some of the most remembers are those past summer blockbuster films. Since the summer blockbuster concept was introduced in 1975 with the phenomenally successful film Jaws, studios have promised to outdo the previous year's films, with varied results.
What Is a Blockbuster?
The first usage of the term blockbuster was theatrical slang for a play that was exceptionally successful. As movies replaced plays as the top entertainment choice of the general public, the term transitioned to the film industry.
Past Summer Blockbuster Films
Although critics consistently disagree on what makes a film qualify as a blockbuster, the general consensus of the best past summer blockbuster films frequently includes many of the same titles. These films are typically noisy, full of raucous action and attract fans and followers that watch the movies over and over.
- Jaws (1975) - Roy Schieder played the captain of the boat that tried to fend off the deadly shark attacks.
- Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) - In a land before time, Harrison Ford starred as a swashbuckling defender of honor and a hero to a beautiful woman.
- Star Wars (1977) - A star-studded cast battled intergalactic malcontents in this special effects spectacle.
- Ghostbusters (1984) - Hunting down ghosts was the storyline for this comedy that starred Bill Murray and Dan Ackroyd.
- E.T. The Extra Terrestrial (1982) - Drew Barrymore charmed audiences in her film debut that introduced the world to the most engaging alien of all time.
- Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004) - Self-proclaimed activist Michael Moore directed the first documentary to reach blockbuster status.
- The Empire Strikes Back (1980) - The darkest installation of the six movie Star Wars series brought tears to the eyes of its massive audiences.
- Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) - Arnold Schwarzenegger started moving towards politics after starring in this portrayal of a robot with a heart of gold and fists of steel.
- Face/Off (1997) - Nicholas Cage starred in a double role as a hero and villain that switch identities.
- Aliens (1986) - Sigourney Weaver starred in this monster hit that still makes people squirm at the mere mention of its name.
- The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) - In a world of endless political twists and turns, Matt Damon packed theaters as the star of the third in the series of Jason Bourne movies.
- Jurassic Park (1993) - Stephen Spielberg mixed outstanding animation with real people to create a man vs. dinosaur adventure.
- Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) - Theaters packed in crowds anxious to see a real man shamelessly flirt with a sexy, female cartoon rabbit.
- Die Hard (1988) - Bruce Willis proved his mettle playing a he-man and hero in this taut suspense drama.
- Total Recall (1990) - Schwarzenegger gave a human side to a robot that thrilled viewers and melted hearts in the midst of showers of bullets and clever catch phrases.
- The Truman Show (1998) - In this quirky satire, Jim Carrey proved he could do more than make people laugh as he stole the movie with his heartfelt portrayal of an Everyman.
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) - Based on the wildly popular series of books, Harry Potter and his friends embarked on another adventure full of supernatural challenges.
- Animal House (1978) - Before gross out movies were the norm, this film set the standard of guys being guys in the most unflattering light possible.
- Batman (1989) - Batman was transformed from a simple superhero into a dark and complex defender of goodness in Tim Roth's popular film.
- Gladiator (2000) - Russell Crowe rose to stardom in this tale of a man repeatedly required to defend himself against Roman-era foes.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) - Johnny Depp starred in this tongue-in-cheek take on the world of battling pirates.
- Gremlins (1984) - This horror-comedy has the distinction of prompting the movie industry to introduce the PG-13 rating after children were traumatized by the antics of the furry creatures in this popular film.
- In the Line of Fire (1993) - Clint Eastwood kept movie viewers on the edges of their seats as his character pursued a man determined to assassinate a U.S. president.
- Star Trek (2009) - Movie goers flooded theaters to watch their favorite characters keep going where no men had been before.
- WALL-E (2008) - An animated mute robot captured the hearts of young and old alike in this surprise smash hit.
- The Dark Knight (2008) - Heath Ledger's last starring role before his untimely death may have contributed to the success of this film noir.
- Back to the Future (1985) - A highly entertaining mix of science fiction and comedy, Michael J. Fox starring role was his first foray into film after heading the cast of the television show Family Ties.
- X-Men (2000) - Comic book heroes came to life and launched a whole string of movies based on adventure comic book characters.
- Armageddon (1998) - Nothing entertains better than doom and gloom and the impressive special effects in this epic tale of man's demise made the movie riveting.
- Independence Day (1996) - Will Smith starred in this film as a man determined to thwart an alien invasion of Earth.
Predicting the Next Summer Blockbuster
Based on the inclusions in the aforementioned list, the only constants among the top choices are action, suspense and big budgets. No particular movie studio consistently turns out blockbusters, although summer movies seem to make the most money. Only two animated films are on the list and the themes of outer space, aliens from other worlds and superheroes appear to be keys to many of these films' successes. Animal House is the only comedy that made the cut, and blood and guts thrillers fared pretty well, but there is no sign of a musical or romantic drama to be found on the summer blockbuster lists.