Summertime usually means blockbusters at the movie theater. But where did the term and tradition come from? Join us as we explore the history of the summer blockbuster. What films started it all? What changes led to it becoming such a powerhouse season for Hollywood? And what does the future hold for summer blockbusters? We’ll answer all these questions and more! So, whether you’re a film historian or just an average movie fan interested in learning more about your favorite pastime, keep reading!
The summer blockbuster began with a story about a “little” shark
While we can see the idea of a summer blockbuster dating back to 1943 with Richard Wallace’s war film Bombardier, Spielberg’s Jaws is named the first “true” summer blockbuster. Released on June 20, 1975, Jaws became the first movie to earn $100 million at the box office. Jaws can also thank its unique marketing plan for a successful premiere. With 24-30 second TV commercials, the unforgettable shark poster, and a haunting score by John Williams, people had to see this film for themselves.
— Kyle Lambert – Art (@kylelambert) June 21, 2022
George Lucas followed in Spielberg’s footsteps with Star Wars. The sci-fi space odyssey surpassed Jaws at the box office with $775.8 million. These kinds of big-budget films were enticing to filmmakers, resulting in a surge of summer film drops throughout the 80s and ‘90s including Alien, Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, Back to the Future, and more.
In the 2000s, the summer blockbusters just kept coming with X-Men (2000), Pirates of the Caribbean (2003), The Dark Knight (2008), Inception (2010), Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Avengers: Infinity War (2017), and Hereditary (2018).
What makes a movie a summer blockbuster?
The summer blockbuster is a big-budget movie that’s released in the height of the summer season. It usually has some kind of crazy special effects or an epic plot with iconic stars. Often, the movies are advertised several months to a year in advance to entice audiences to see the movie in theaters!
Flashback to the early 1900s. Movie theaters were sweaty hot rooms, especially in the summer. Then in 1925, cinemas finally installed air conditioning. Still, the outdoors were calling during the summer months, so what would make them want to stay inside for a movie? Hollywood studios had to bring big exciting films to the silver screen worth seeing in theaters.
Now, with modernized AC, comfortable seats, and drool-worthy snacks, movie theaters are an ideal place for a brief respite from the outdoors. On rainy days, hot days, or whenever you want a few hours in a cool dark room, the movies are the place to be.
Fans share their favorite summer blockbusters
Since the ‘80s, there’s been endless summer blockbuster genres: horror, family-friendly, action-adventure, sci-fi, and even romantic comedies.
Movie fans are always sharing their favorites throughout the years on Twitter:
June 20 1975 was the premiere of Jaws.
Steven Spielberg’s summer thrill blockbuster is still one of his best films – I like it much better than Lincoln. Legendary John Williams score, a terrific performance by Robert Shaw, and one very menacing shark made this one a true classic. pic.twitter.com/6W4oNNpCwO
— Michael W. Freeman (@Freelineorlando) June 20, 2022
Michael argues the original summer blockbuster takes the cake.
At the cinema; here in the UK it was a 12, and I was only almost 11, but I managed to get in anyway! Turned out to be the best summer blockbuster I’d ever seen, and remains so!
— Jimi Fletcher (@mrjimifletcher) June 20, 2022
Jimi remembers seeing Batman Begins like it was yesterday— a memorable summer blockbuster.
I remember Return of the Jedi came to theaters just as school was getting out for the summer. Saw it at the Cinedome in Ogden, Utah. Also saw Grease there which was another great summer experience. Looking forward to the new Jurassic movie very soon!
— Fourkidslater (@WildesMillar) June 4, 2022
Two very different movies that could bring similar audiences. I mean, Grease has “summer loving” in one of the songs. . .
high school musical 2. no other movie has even come close to the pure summer vibes it gave off and i’m not exaggerating in the slightest
— Ly🌙🥀 is streaming obi wan kenobi (@hafbloodkhonshu) June 1, 2022
Singing, dancing, summer fun, and Zac Efron? We can get behind this.
It’s mad to consider the impact Spielberg has had over different generations of movie goers and how arguably he could have the best film of the decade continuously since the 70s! Jurassic park for me is THE quintessential summer blockbuster
— Ryan Richards (@ryansrich1987) June 16, 2022
Ryan is team Jurassic Park and always team Spielberg.
Its interesting tho. I consider the “summer blockbuster” to be mostly action movies. Maybe an animated one, but best blockbuster lists will include shit like There’s Something About Mary and The Sixth Sense which I personally wouldn’t include.
— Erin (@ErinMPeyton) June 15, 2022
Erin has an interesting take that big blockbusters have to be action-centered. Does she have a point? Or can romantic or horror films be just as valid?
2022 summer blockbusters to watch
The list of potential blockbusters for summer 2022 is looking more promising by the minute.
Tom Cruise returns to the role of Maverick in Top Gun: Maverick, released at the end of May. With the help of fighter jets, drama, a sprinkle of nostalgia, and Miles Teller’s shirtless body roll dance moves, the film earned $400 million in box office revenue.
First viewing, I thought Top Gun Maverick was really good. Second viewing, I’m declaring it hands down the best summer blockbuster since the Nolan run of The Dark Knight and Inception over a decade ago. pic.twitter.com/hm6QhS8MBa
— Chris Vogel (@chrisvogel_92) June 19, 2022
The ending to the trilogy of Jurassic World proves to be another big blockbuster of the summer.
Jurassic World Dominion key initial takeaways:
There absolutely is a world where The Fast & The Jurassic could exist.
I’m not entirely convinced Jeff Goldblum and Ian Malcom aren’t legitimately the same person.
It’s a summer blockbuster that’s a lot of fun.
— kyle the baron of pizza (@kyleembke) June 18, 2022
An unexpected film, Marcel the Shell, is being called the movie of the summer by some film critics.
— Cameron Scheetz (@cameronscheetz) June 10, 2022
Lightyear is a summer movie for audiences of all ages.
Pixar’s return to the big screen is also the closest they’ve come to just a straight up summer blockbuster. #Lightyear is entertaining space adventure and a nifty way to keep the TOY STORY franchise going, but that’s it. https://t.co/C7hs0dscbf
— Travis Hopson (@punchycritic) June 14, 2022
There are still so many more films coming out soon too! The Austin Butler and Tom Hanks-led biopic Elvis comes to theaters June 24, along with the scary movie The Black Phone.
Marvel fans, you’re in luck because the next Thor film hits theaters on July 8th!
blockbuster of the summer it’s true https://t.co/m7HefqF3KX
— SUNNY DAY (@THORFlLMS) June 21, 2022
We’ve also got Jordan Peele’s sci-fi thriller Nope in late July, and Brad Pitt’s Bullet Train set for an August release.
Have you seen any of the big 2022 summer blockbusters yet? What’s your favorite summer film? Let us know on Twitter!
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