10 Classic Summer Blockbusters That Are Worth Seeing

10 Classic Summer Blockbusters That Are Worth Seeing
A still of Henry Thomas in "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial"
(Photo by Universal Studios – © 1982 Universal Pictures)

The release of “Iron Man 3” marks the beginning of summer blockbuster season. The next few months will be filled with huge popcorn flicks with even larger budgets, and if we’re lucky, one or two of them might turn out to be more than mindless dreck. Though we’ve been trained to think of mainstream summer fare as nothing more than disposable entertainment, every year or two a genuine good film manages to sneak into the pack. Here’s our pick of the best summer blockbusters of all time.

“Jaws” (1975)


Director: Steven Spielberg

Gross: $470,653,000

The film that made beachgoers scared to go in the water really started the summer blockbuster culture as we know it. It may have had a troubled production, but it would go on to become the highest-grossing film ever at the time. And yes, Spielberg’s name pops up on this list a few times.

“Star Wars” (1975)

Director: George Lucas

Gross: $775,398,007

The film that kicked off the beloved, and seemingly never ending, space epic and spawned one of fandom’s largest communities. As confident as Lucas may have been, it seems unlikely that he could have imagined his work becoming as big as it did — so big that Disney purchased Lucasfilms for $4.05 billion last year.

“Raiders of the Last Ark” (1981)

Director: Steven Spielberg

Gross: $389,925,971

The first, and still best, entry in the Indiana Jones franchise proved that Harrison Ford was an action hero, and that Lucas and Spielberg knew how to grab the imagination of movie audiences the world over.

“E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” (1982)

Director: Steven Spielberg

Gross: $792,910,554

One of the most critically acclaimed films on this list, “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” the story of a boy and his alien friend, went over well with audiences, becoming, yet again for Spielberg, the highest-grossing film ever.

“Back to the Future” (1985)

Director: Robert Zemeckis

Gross: $383,874,862

Zemeckis’s film about a loveable, rascally teen (played perfectly by Michael J. Fox) who, with the help of his deranged-looking scientest buddy, travels back in time with a Deloreon almost seems too weird to have been a hit with movie goers. The mixture, which also prominently featured the bizarre Crispin Glover, would prove wildly successful and would lead to two unfortunately inferior sequels.

“Terminator 2: Judgement Day” (1991)

Director: James Cameron

Gross: $519,843,345

“Terminator 2” may not be Cameron’s most successful film, but it might be the most enjoyable. It’s also clearly the peak of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s long and storied action hero career.

“Jurassic Park” (1993)

Director: Steven Spielberg

Gross: $962,967,287

Spielberg and the computer-generated dinosaurs that, for the most part, still look good to this day, sounds like recipe for success, right? Was it ever  the film was the third of the directors movies to become the highest-grossing film of all time.

“Speed” (1994)

Director: Jan de Bont

Gross: $350,448,145

It’s hard to imagine a film like “Speed” being such a huge hit today. It didn’t seem to have much franchise potential, its cast lacked huge star power (this is the film that made Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock box office draws), and it was directed by an unknown. But the film, which ensured that trips to the multiplex would take a toll on your ears for years to come, was a massive success with audiences.

“Saving Private Ryan” (1998)

Director: Steven Spielberg

Gross: $481,840,909

We may equate year end releases with awards, but even blockbusters bring in the honors. Spielberg’s World War II epic may not have won best picture at the Oscars in ’99, but it did garner Spielberg his second Best Director award.

“The Dark Knight” (2008)

Director: Christopher Nolan

Gross: $1,004,558,444

Arguably the greatest superhero movie of all time, Nolan’s second Batman film showed that audiences were willing to believe, and love, a serious take on the Caped Crusader. The performance by the late Heath Ledger might also be the most memorable in blockbuster history.