10 great summer blockbusters

Time Out names some of its favourite summer movies

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10 best summer blockbusters
These are the films meant purely to entertain, designed for the dog days of vacation and evenings after the beach. In arriving at our ranked list, we set a few parameters: all films had to be released between May and August - sorry, Titanic fans. All had to have grossed at least US$100 million globally (seriously thinning the herd). And all had to be intended as high-stakes entertainments, not accidental ‘sleeper’ hits like The Blair Witch Project. These are just 10 of our favourites - let us know if we forgot yours.

1 Jaws (1975): Imagine a mammoth, sharp-toothed creature that takes cold-eyed pleasure in terrorising its victims - one that must move forward constantly or perish, that quietly circles its prey before attacking with lightning speed. Now imagine a shark. Given the way that Steven Spielberg’s nail-biter goes after audience’s nervous systems, the film’s resemblance to its leviathan isn’t coincidental: multiplex thrill rides had never seemed so ruthlessly, efficiently predatory. This was the game-changer, the first to employ a ‘wide-release’ strategy, the first to gross more than US$100 million, the moment when this director became ‘Steven Spielberg,’ the template for the must-see modern summer movie. After Jaws, every moviemaker who wanted to leave viewers giddy and gasping knew they’d need a bigger boat.
David Fear

2 Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981): Is there a more purely perfect action hero in all of adventure flickdom than Indiana Jones? (Tom Selleck must still be kicking himself for turning down the role). Even if audiences knew nothing from the cliff-hanger serials from the ’30s and ’40s - the original inspirations - they did know about Nazis, biblical wrath and snakes. Lots of snakes. Furiously propulsive, Raiders is a triumph of cutting and craft, with composer John Williams having an especially good day in front of the orchestra. But the prime movers behind the project were producer George Lucas, a key creative collaborator, and director Steven Spielberg, brilliant with actors and redemptive moments of humour. If the boy geniuses had indeed won over Hollywood, this movie forecasted a benevolent kingdom.
Joshua Rothkopf

3 Star Wars (1977): When George Lucas screened a rough cut of his pulpy cosmic adventure for his film-brat peers, they offered better-luck-next-time condolences. (One person did congratulate him: Steven Spielberg). When Star Wars finally came out in 1977, those same directors watched their bearded buddy reroute Hollywood for the next few decades. Suddenly, space was the place, a movie’s merchandising was enormously important, and the era of the global blockbuster went into interstellar overdrive.
David Fear

4 Ghostbusters (1984): ‘Don’t cross the streams!’ is sound advice if you’re operating a plasma gun. Ironically, that’s exactly what Ivan Reitman did with this blockbuster, mixing snarkiness, horror-lite spookiness and the breakneck pacing of an action flick. (Having Bill Murray, an instantly iconic logo and Ray Parker Jr.’s infectiously catchy theme song didn’t hurt either). This monster hit broke the bank by demonstrating that mashing up popular genres equalled a something-for-everybody box office bonanza. Every big-budget sci-fi-action comedy that’s goosed multiplex audiences owes this movie a bucket of a debt.
David Fear

5 ET The Extra-Terrestrial (1982): After being left behind on Earth, a diminutive alien visitor (a triumph of animatronic effects work by Carlo Rambaldi) befriends young suburbanite Elliott (Henry Thomas). They’re both damaged beings - ET’s abandonment mirrors Elliott’s pain over his parents’ divorce - who learn to cope with their respective situations even as they look helplessly to the skies and, in the most iconic image, fly gracefully past the moon. ET is one of Steven Spielberg’s most personal works, yet was still a border-defying blockbuster - the highest grosser of all time until Jurassic Park supplanted it.
Keith Uhlich

6 Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991): He said he’d be back. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s time-travelling, mechanised killer returns as a good guy, ready to serve and protect future warrior John Connor (Edward Furlong) from a liquid-metal assassin (Robert Patrick). Director James Cameron continued to push the limits of CGI technology with Patrick’s T-1000 - he’s the water snake in The Abyss made spike-through-the-eye deadly. And Arnie gets to stretch some of those emotional muscles he worked in Total Recall with the boy-and-his-dog relationship between him and Furlong. This blockbuster still works best when Cameron lets his cybernetic creations whale on each other and anything in their way.
Keith Uhlich

7 Aliens (1986): James Cameron? Sure - he was the kid who had just turned Conan into a cyborg with 1984’s The Terminator. But could Hollywood entrust the whippersnapper with one of the most anticipated follow-ups in sci-fi history? Sigourney Weaver was won over by the director’s passion for making the mother of all monster movies; embedded in his futuristic war film’s DNA was also an antimilitary critique and a strongly feminist statement about self-sufficiency. A tense shoot and last-minute editing didn’t help buzz. But Cameron was already setting the template for all of his subsequent risks: double down on your own confidence and let doubters be damned.
Joshua Rothkopf

8 Jurassic Park (1993): Dinosaurs walk the earth in Steven Spielberg’s mega-hit, which gives us a nice helping of awe before a T Rex has its bloody way with a goat. It’s a deft mix of animatronics and CGI, a perfect blockbuster. That Spielberg made this and Schindler’s List within the same year is still impressive.
Keith Uhlich

9 The Bourne Ultimatum (2007): Underrated for its political daring, this dynamic third installment of Matt Damon’s amnesiac-spy saga returned Jason Bourne to Manhattan, to confront his spook superiors about their illegal operations. Director Paul Greengrass was just coming off United 93; in many ways, this was its fictional counterpart, equally timely and suffused with rage.
Joshua Rothkopf

10 WALL-E (2008): It came from the house that Toy Story built, yet neither Pixar nor Disney had ever released anything so perversely post-apocalyptic: a quirky robot cleans up a ruined, abandoned Mother Earth. The film’s critical and commercial success helped sell the notion that pop animation could be more than just princesses and fart jokes.
David Fear

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