We are still technically a couple weeks away from the summer solstice, but let’s be honest, around these parts, summer starts Memorial Day weekend. Temperatures spike into the nineties consistently, school lets out and movies start to hit the big screen that everyone wants to see. Of course, these days, big hits are much more spread out than they used to be, but there are still big time flicks that debut between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
Since such a big part of the summer blockbuster is remembering the exciting the theater into the warm evening while excitedly discussing what you just saw, all movies were selected during a drafters life span, but each selector was able to take one from before their time (because some summer classics cannot be ignored).
1. Jurassic Park (1993)
This is one of the first movies I remember seeing in theaters when I was a 6-year-old child. Still a great flick.
2. Jaws (1975)
The movie that launched the era of the summer blockbuster and cemented 28-year-old director Steven Spielberg as an incendiary talent. It’s a perfect movie that fires on all cylinders. Spielberg’s excellent pacing and John Williams’ haunting score create palpable tension and non-stop excitement throughout the film’s two hour running time. Filled with spectacular scenes, but the shark attack at the crowded beach is probably my favorite. The audience and Roy Scheider’s Chief Brody know something horrible is coming and Spielberg exploits that fear with one of the most suspenseful scenes of all-time. As the shark devours a young boy underwater, the score builds toward its crescendo and the camera swiftly zooms to a close-up of Brody’s terrified face. He proceeds to sprint toward the shore screaming, “Get out of the water!” Good thing sharks aren’t real. Phew!
3. The Dark Knight (2008)
Widely considered the best part of one of the best trilogies ever made, I’m not sure much explanation is needed here. Give me all of the set pieces.
4. The Avengers (2008)
Iron Man, The Hulk, Thor, Captain America. What else do you need in a movie? Having these superheroes along with Black Widow and Hawkeye trying to stop human enslavement by Loki is a great action packed movie. There are even some great jokes thrown in this movie. This is one of my all-time favorite movies.
5. Anchorman (2004)
One of the most iconic films of the 21st century and probably THE iconic comedy of our time. Littered with irreverent one-liners and a hilariously star-studded cast, this Will Ferrell flick is good enough to top the list.
-Jordan de Lugo
6. Inception (2010)
As a fan of Christopher Nolan films in general, I remember being confused, yet excited for the release of this Nolan pet project, and it lived up to the billing. An in-depth sci-fi thriller with a strong cast, backed by a tremendous Hans Zimmer score, the re-watchability is strong. I feel like I notice something new every time.
7. Apollo 13 (1995)
I definitely took Apollo 13 this high for the potential. Tom Hanks and crew were tremendous and the movie is definitely a must see if you like sci-fi/space.
8. The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005)
I went funny with my first pick for summer blockbusters. “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” gave us the directorial debut of Judd Apatow and introduced us to the movie version of Seth Rogen as part of a stellar cast. The references to video games, Survivor and mint-condition action figures had me dying laughing in the theater. It has stellar rewatch value much like Knocked Up, Anchorman and The Hangover.
9. Independence Day (1996)
Can’t believe this was here for my second pick. Although the movie doesn’t hold up well today, at the time, it was one of the most exciting movies I had ever seen.
10. Back to the Future (1985)
As a kid, I rented “Back to the Future” more than any movie outside of “Follow That Bird“. My family had a tradition of renting this movie, buying a bucket of fried chicken and having an indoor picnic on the carpet while we watched. Similarly to “Jaws”, “Back to the Future” is a flawless blockbuster that possesses a winning blend of action, comedy, and heart. So much of this movie is iconic: the Delorean time machine, Doc Brown’s unkempt white hair and incredulous reactions, Marty’s performance of Johnny B. Goode at The Enchantment Under the Sea dance, and George McFly’s cathartic KO of Biff Tannen, to name just a few. It’s undoubtedly reassuring that gentlemen like Biff are never put in positions of power.
11. Inglorious Basterds (2009)
From Christoph Waltz’ masterclass performance in the opening scene, Inglorious Basterds grabs you and doesn’t let go until its over. Equal parts tension and absurdity, it’s everything that a Tarantino movie is supposed to be. Eli Roth is my spirit animal.
12. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
I was hoping I would be able to take “The Dark Knight” with my first round pick, but settling for “The Dark Knight Rises” for a second round choice is fine with me. Christian Bale playing Batman and trying to stop Tom Hardy, playing Bale, from eliminating the city of Gotham is an excellent movie. Every time it comes on TV, I still watch.
13. Stars Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)
The film that changed it all. The beginning of a craze that has lasted four decades. With (then) breathtaking visuals and a fantastically woven story, this is one of the most important movies and sci-fi films of all time. The film series is now owned by Disney and is not going anywhere anytime soon.
-Jordan de Lugo
14. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011)
The excitement for the “Sorcerer’s Stone” was palpable back in 2001, nothing matched the fervent energy surrounding the series finale ten years later. Unique in that there was actually a year between part one and part two of the “same” movie, this satisfying conclusion was only marred due to the fact that I watched the series finale of “Friday Night Lights” after seeing this in theaters and was an emotional wreck that night.
15. Finding Nemo (2003)
I’m a kid at heart. I remember watching “Finding Nemo” in theaters with my grandma. It’s a timeless movie that can be watched at any age.
16. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Chris Pratt leads a group of rag-tag guardians in this 2014 hit that is one of my all-time favorite summer releases. From late 2012 until its July debut, I was locked into every news announcement regarding Guardians of the Galaxy. The chemistry and comedic timing of Gamora, Rocket, Drax and Groot makes Guardians one of the best non-Batman superhero movies I enjoy. I may have shed a tear or two when Groot sacrificed himself: SPOILER.
17. Up (2009)
“Up” smashed the box office that year and the first five minutes of the movie will break your heart. It gets better though.
18. Speed (1994)
This 1994 Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock “vehicle” is one heck of an adrenaline-fueled thrill ride. Reeves stars as Jack, a LAPD cop attempting to thwart Dennis Hopper’s plans (I’m not sure he knows he was in a movie) to blow up a bus filled with passengers on California’s Interstate 105 if its’ speed drops under 55 mph. After the bus driver is eliminated, Jack enlists Annie (Sandra Bullock) to take the wheel. Annie is a sassy young woman who rides the bus because wait for it: her license was suspended for speeding. Isn’t ironic don’t you think? Like speeeeeding on a bus armed with C-4 when your license is revoked for the very same thing. Who would have thought, it figures. Anyway, Reeves and Bullock’s chemistry is sizzling, the stunts are exciting, and it’s all served up just as I like it, with extra cheese.
19. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Movies are better with friends, right? Which is clearly why Captain America and Iron Man brought allllll of their best buddies to their epic showdown. Easily the most recent of the movies I’ve selected, but I feel like it’s a worthy pick.
20. The Hangover (2009)
This movie is the definition of “goals” when it comes to having a bachelor party. I would love for someone I know to even have half of the events that transpired in this bachelor party, cause I would love to hear the real story behind one of these epic parties. I think I got a steal in round 3.
21. The Lion King (1994)
One of the first movies I remember from my childhood. A well-balanced blend of superb voice acting, character development, comedy and storytelling, this iconic Disney cartoon meant so much to so many children.
-Jordan de Lugo
22. Airplane! (1980)
From before my time, but typically a summer watching staple with my family. Just so absurd, yet so quotable, this comedic classic has held up.
23. WALL-E (2008)
Any movie that rips on Walmart for being a corporate conglomerate is okay by me. Plus, EVE’s voice is really cool. Like, the way she says WALL-E’s name. I dunno, don’t listen to me.
24. Men in Black (1997)
I strongly considered a Pixar flick for my third selection, but I remembered too much of the excitement and lead-up to Tommy Lee Jones working with Will Smith. I was (and am still) a huge fan of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” in the mid-90s and Smith continued his big-screen success after Independence Day and just prior to the “Wild Wild West” disappointment. Much like the “Guardians”, “Men in Black” has a wonderful soundtrack (thank you Danny Elfman). “MIB” provides plenty with storyline, humor, Vincent D’Onofrio and neuralyzers.
25. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
The anticipated sequel to Mad Max was one of the most awesome cinematic works I had seen in a long time. From the pyrotechnics to the story, A+ summer blockbuster.
26. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
This one holds up as one of the best pure comic book movies ever made. I’m a fan of the first film, mainly Tobey Maguire’s performance and the charming origin story, but Sam Raimi’s sequel is superior to its solid predecessor for several reasons. The special effects are eye-popping; Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock is a menacing, full-dimensional character; and the story has higher stakes. While Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy redefined the possibilities of comic book movies, Spider-Man 2 remains one of my favorite superhero adaptations and is by far the strongest Spidey movie to date. I’m interested to see how the upcoming “Spider-Man: Homecoming” compares.
27. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006)
In the years since both movies came out, “Talladega Nights” hasn’t been quoted to death *nearly* as much a certain Will Ferrell flick about a TV newscaster, and I’m glad for it. If you don’t chew Big Red… well… you know the rest.
28. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)
Shia LeBeouf was a better lead actor in this than Mark Wahlberg. And Megan Fox was a better co-star than the other co-stars the series had in future movies.
29. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
This follow up to perhaps Marvel’s most original and daring production was another home run. With amazing special effects, a hilarious cast and a superb soundtrack for viewers of all ages, this is set up to be one of the most impressive “comic book” movie series of all time.
-Jordan de Lugo
30. Wedding Crashers (2005)
“Sailor, good man!” I could spend the rest of this just rattling off Christopher Walken quotes as Sen. Cleary, but I keep it short and sweet. The best of the Owen Wilson-Vince Vaughn joints, my favorite celebrity crush Rachel McAdams, an underrated d-bag performance from a young Bradley Cooper, and endless quotes that made everyone rethink how they should behave at their next wedding.
31. Toy Story 3 (2010)
What should be the last Toy Story movie, the third installment of this series is a tear-jerker. Admit it, you were near tears when they were about to be incinerated.
32. Inside Out (2015)
Had to close with a strong Pixar movie and “Inside Out” fits the bill. Amy Poehler helped a strong cast of voice actors as a young girl gets older and we experience the emotions along the ride. I think it can easily be placed in the top-5 of Pixar flicks with the likes of “Toy Story” and “Wall-E”. Between you and me, I have only seen “Inside Out” once because the emotional roller coaster hit me hard in theaters. Bing Bong will go down in history as one of the best supporting characters ever. And is there anything Bill Hader cannot do? I wish my version of fear sounded like he does.