The Summer Blockbuster is a difficult thing to categorize. Does it refer to a genre? One usually thinks of Action or Adventure films as being the usual Summer Blockbusters, but Science Fiction films often premiere during the summer as well. Horror is also a huge part of summer filmgoing. What makes a film a Summer Blockbuster is certainly its release date, but successful films of the type also become a part of the filmloving culture around them. These films inspire cosplayers, t-shirt makers, and nerds with money to come together and enjoy classic American commerce and hopefully some entertainment along with it. Steven Spielberg is the undisputed king of this type of filmmaking, and rest assured one of his films will appear on the list, but it should be noted that he would deservedly hold many of the top spots on a purely objective list of Summer Blockbusters. This list is not objective.
Mad Max: Fury Road
George Miller’s fourth entry in the Mad Max saga is the pinnacle of contemporary blockbuster filmmaking. The entire blockbuster concept stems from Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, a movie which brought fright and intensity out into the sun, and a tradition of summertime fear. Fury Road is simultaneously a bright film, a terrifying film, a funny film, even a sad film, though it never decelerates its impressive pace.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
The original summer badass movie. ‘Nuff said.
Drag Me To Hell
Sam Raimi does to the gypsy-themed horror genre what he did for slapstick horror, turn it from schlock to art. Alison Lohman also delivers a sufficiently terrified update to the plucky cursed girl trope. Drag Me To Hell’s famous ending also stands as one of cinema’s most succinct explanations of irony.
The movie that made Jet Li a household name also continued where Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon left off, in terms of bringing interest in Chinese cinema to western audiences. Hero is perhaps best known for its lake-set sword fight, a summer action locale if there ever was one.
Raiders of the Lost Ark
A film that justifies the existence of an entire genre must be pretty special, and the first cinematic adventure of Indiana Jones is the perfect combination of pulpy action, slapstick comedy, and old-fashioned Hollywood filmmaking. Harrison Ford brings an effortless charisma that has eluded film studios since he gave up joy sometime in the 90s. Raiders is greater than the sum of its parts, its full of action, adventure, maybe a little racism and sexism, but it embodies the Summer Blockbuster in every way.