Scenes from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2, The Dark Knight, and Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest.
It’s no accident that, in the top 200 top-grossing films of all time, there are only three films that pre-date 1975’s Jaws – the father of the summer blockbuster.
And all three, Gone With The Wind, Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs and The Exorcist, were released around Christmas.
You’d have thought that a date with an air-conditioned theatre was a no-brainer. But until the residents of Amity Island became shark food, the concept of the summer blockbuster was alien to moviegoers.
But within two years, Spielberg’s Jaws would be joined by his buddy George Lucas’s Star Wars, both of which would end up in the billion-dollar-worldwide club.
So with The Avengers, The Hunger Games, Twilight, The Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises fueling what looks to be the biggest summer box office ever, here’s a round-up of summer movie champs from 1975 onward.
1975 – Jaws
1976 – The Omen
1977 – Star Wars
1978 – Grease
1979 – The Amityville Horror
1980 – Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
1981 – Raiders Of The Lost Ark
1982 - ET: The Extraterrestrial
1983 – Star Wars: The Return Of The Jedi
1984 – Ghostbusters
1985 – Back To The Future
1986 – Top Gun
1987 – Beverly Hills Cop 2
1988 – Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
1989 – Batman
1990 – Ghost
1991 – Terminator 2: Judgment Day
1992 – Batman Returns
1993 – Jurassic Park
1994 – Forrest Gump
1995 – Batman Forever
1996 – Independence Day
1997 – Men In Black
1998 – Armageddon
1999 – Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace
2000 – Mission: Impossible 2
2001 – Shrek
2002 – Spider-Man
2003 – Finding Nemo
2004 – Spider-Man 2
2005 – Star Wars Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith
2006 – Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
2007 – Spider-Man 3
2008 – The Dark Knight
2009 – Harry Potter And The Half Blood Prince
2010 – Toy Story 3
2011 – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2
FLava of the decade
1970s – Star Wars. Yes, Jaws introduced people to the idea of the summer blockbuster, but George Lucas’ contribution to the genre also introduced us to the geek nation, and pushed both sci-fi and FX to the frontlines of pop culture, where they are today.
1980s – ET: The Extraterrestrial. Steven Spielberg’s MVP year (he also produced Poltergeist). It also encapsulated the Master’s unflaggingly positive worldview, in which intelligent life exists and it’s cuddly and cute and suburb-friendly. Later he would make the movie even cuddlier, airbrushing out G-Men’s guns and replacing them with walkie talkies.
1990s – Terminator 2: Judgment Day. One word – “Boom!” A lot of things would explode onscreen in the decade, but Jim Cameron was first and best with a new Canadian-made “morphing” technology and a dark, dystopian worldview. It’s worth noting that, with Titanic, Cameron would begin and end the decade as the King of the Box Office, if not the world.
2000s – Spider-Man 3. Only two years in the ‘00s would see a non-sequel win the summer, Spider-Man and Shrek. But for better or worse (okay, worse) Spider-Man 3’s year was the hardest-fought sequel year ever, with Shrek 3 and Pirates Of The Caribbean At World’s End (a.k.a Pirates 3). Between them they gobbled up more than 90% of available screens, leaving audiences with little to choose from. A portent of things to come.