Daniel Buhrman-Shauna Gerke

“Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “The Lion King,” “Jurassic Park,” “Jaws” and “Avengers: Endgame” all have what in common? The quick answer is they're incredibly popular. The next answer is they're huge financial successes, and the most specific answer for the movie buffs among us is that they were all released in the summer.

The "summer blockbuster" is a topic every year, with critics and movie fans clamoring every year about which movie is the next must-see to beat the summer heat. With summer upon us, Front Office Manager Shauna Gerke and reporter Daniel Buhrman debate which summer blockbuster is the best of all time.

Buhrman: Original 'Star Wars' made an ever-continuing splash

There's so many “Star Wars” movies now, it seems you have to be pretty specific so people know which one you're talking about. Depending on who you're talking to, the first “Star Wars” could be the prequels which began in 1999 or the first entry of the series to hit theaters in 1977. Now referred to canonically as "A New Hope," the first ever seen movie in the long-running franchise is my pick for the best summer blockbuster of all time.

Looking up "blockbuster" in most any dictionary will yield a definition along the lines of “a movie that is a great commercial success.” “Star Wars,” now “Episode IV, A New Hope” was just that. It made nearly $470 million in the U.S. and over $775 million worldwide. While many movies, especially in recent years with the never-ending record-breaking it seems, have sold more, the ticket sales of a A New Hope defied expectations almost as much as Luke Skywalker did helping bring balance to the force.

As quoted in a Business Insider article, director George Lucas himself never thought the movie would be a success, and neither did the many studios who passed on the movie before it was picked up by 20th Century Fox. But success it was, and the reverberations of its appeal through the themes of good vs. evil, the heroes journey and, of course, awesome lightsaber effects continue today.

No matter what people might think of the prequels released in the late 1990s into the early 2000s or the sequels released in recent years (many people and critics are continually disappointed), the promise of another textbook definition of fantasy and promise in the face of evil lures fans in time and time again.

The series is a cultural touchstone, able to be quoted by people who've (shockingly!) never seen a single entry. It may even be argued it's success as a science fiction, influenced by westerns, led the way to some of the most fantastical hits, such as superhero movies, we see today. If none of that means anything, I don't know why we would call anything a blockbuster.

Gerke: I've got my own Top 10 list

This has been the year of event cancellations or postponements.  First sports, then music concerts, and now the summer movie season. 

Summer has typically been the time when the “blockbusters” were released. And even though studios are now turning that into a year-around event, summer still usually receives the most attention.  With movie theaters closed or at limited capacity, what happens to the summer blockbuster?  As with everything these days, we go old school.

In April, Harpers Bazaar named the best summer movies of 2020 and provided their new release dates.  The movies on this list may seem quite familiar to us — “Black Widow,” “F9” (Fast & the Furious 9), “Top Gun,” “Ghostbusters,” just to name a few — but, with postponed release dates (some as far out as the summer of 2021), maybe we’ll have to revisit some of those blockbusters from the past on your favorite streaming service or DVD.

According to Business Insider, the 10 highest grossing summer blockbusters “of all time” (really, the oldest is 1975) are as follows: 10. “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” 9. “Lion King,” 8. “Star Wars: Phantom Menace,” 7. “Jurassic Park,” 6. “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi,” 5. “Avengers: End Game,” 4. “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back,” 3. “Jaws,” 2. “E.T. The Extra Terrestrial” and 1. “Star Wars: A New Hope” (originally titled “Star Wars”).  It’s probably no surprise there are four “Star Wars” movies on this list.  That franchise does have a strong following; but, usually not one to follow the pack, I have a Top 10 list of my own. 

My personal Top 10 are: 10. “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn,” 9. “Flash Dance,” 8. “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” 7. “E.T.,” 6. “Dirty Dancing,” 5. “16 Candles,” 4. “Grease,” 3. “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum,” 2. “Twister” and 1. “Vacation.” 

Two movies I would love to put in my Top 10 are “Breakfast Club” and “Footloose,” but both were released outside of the “summer” season.  As you can see my list is pretty old school, mostly from the 80’s.  What movies would you put on your list?

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