This summer flocks of people traded their couches for the theater as Hollywood churned out some of the most highly-anticipated films in years. The most discussed releases are lovingly referred to together as “Barbenheimer” – a term coined by the internet in reference to the simultaneous release of Barbie and Oppenheimer on the same weekend.
These two films swept the box office to a degree that the industry has rarely seen since the pandemic took a wrecking ball to movie theater revenue. Less than two weeks after its release, Greta Gerwig’s Barbie has already grossed more than any other film by a solo woman director. Additionally, Oppenheimer pulled the strongest second-weekend numbers ever for an R-rated film behind only Deadpool 2.
Though these are hardly this summer’s only cinematic attractions. No Hard Feelings starring Jennifer Lawrence and the latest Indiana Jones and Mission: Impossible films are also getting people to the movies. With the public’s renewed enthusiasm for a good movie at a high and the SAG-AFTRA strike likely to cause some delays in the coming months, we put together a list of 10 classic summer blockbusters that hold up just as well today as they did when they made a splash at the theater.
Steven Spielberg’s Jaws is based on Peter Benchley’s 1974 novel of the same name. It tells the story of a great white shark terrorizing a beach town. Although it might look somewhat dated today, it was earth-shattering in 1975, winning three Academy Awards for Best Film Editing, Best Original Dramatic Score, and Best Sound. It is the perfect film for a summer movie night— not only is it considered a classic, but it is also often credited with revolutionizing the film industry and giving birth to the summer blockbuster phenomenon.
Grease follows the summer romance between Danny Zuko, played by John Travolta, and Sandy Olsson, played by Olivia Newton-John. The film captures the essence of the era’s rock ‘n roll culture and remains a favorite among audiences of all generations. At its core, Grease is a nostalgic and lighthearted celebration of youth, friendship, and love, which continues to be entertaining and relevant today.
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, also known as E.T., is another by directorial titan Steven Spielberg. It follows a young boy named Elliott, who discovers a friendly extraterrestrial being (E.T.) stranded on Earth after his spaceship leaves without him. E.T. quickly became a cultural phenomenon and is considered one of the greatest films ever made by many. The film’s theme of unlikely friendship makes it an unexpectedly emotional ride.
Back to the Future (1985)
The first installment in the Back to the Future trilogy was directed by Robert Zemeckis and released in 1985. It stars Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly and Christopher Lloyd as Dr. Emmett “Doc” Brown and follows their adventures with time travel. The film iconized the DeLorean and adults who grew up with Back to the Future still enjoy letting you know how much they love it.
Jurassic Park (1993)
Jurassic Park brings dinosaurs back to life in its still-thrilling story of a theme park attraction going horribly wrong. This is another movie by blockbuster-maven Steven Spielberg and was based on Michael Crichton’s science fiction novel. Although the film was made decades ago, it explores themes that are very relevant today, including the ethical implications of genetic engineering, the dangers of playing with nature, and the consequences of hubris. Jurassic Park spawned a franchise that still continues today.
Independence Day (1996)
Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day is set in the midst of a global crisis as humanity faces an extraterrestrial invasion on July 4th. It is still remembered for its thrilling action sequences, groundbreaking special effects, and effective blend of high stakes, drama, and humor. While this might not be a go-to film for Fourth of July celebrations, it is sure to thrill viewers. Its sequel, Independence Day: Resurgence, was released in 2016.
Finding Nemo (2003)
Finding Nemo is Pixar’s classic animated tale about a clownfish named Marlin searching for his lost son, Nemo. Directed by Andrew Stanton, Finding Nemo is one of Pixar’s most iconic and beloved films. Further, it is perfect for a family movie night because its smart humor manages to appeal to children and adults alike. Its universal themes of family and central coming-of-age story still resonate with audiences of all ages, contributing to its widespread appeal and lasting legacy.
The Dark Knight (2008)
The Dark Knight, the second installment in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, redefined the meaning of “superhero movie” upon its release in 2008. The film deals with complex themes, delving into the complexities of heroism and the fine line between order and chaos. Heath Ledger received widespread acclaim for his portrayal of the Joker and was the second actor to posthumously win an Academy Award for his transformative and terrifying performance.
Another from Christopher Nolan, Inception is a mind-bending sci-fi thriller set in a world where skilled individuals can enter the dreams of others to extract valuable information or plant ideas in their minds, a practice known as “inception.” This film has a legion of diehard fans because of its complex and multi-dimensional plot. It’s rare that a movie is just as rewarding on a fourth watch as it is on your first.
The Avengers (2012)
The Avengers kicked off the highest-grossing film franchise in history, known for its massive action sequences, character-driven storytelling, and bringing an iconic cast of Marvel superheroes together. Two of its sequels, Endgame and Age of Ultron, hold the highest-ever opening weekends at the global box office. The original 2012 film kicked off the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole and set the standard for the modern era of superhero films.