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The Best Years for Summer Movies

List Criteria: "Summer movies" in a given year must have opened in the months of May, June, July or August.

List of the best "summer seasons" for new mainstream films. The notion of the "summer blockbuster" movie season started in June of 1975, when Steven Spielberg's Jaws became the biggest box office draw to date (the troubled production had spiraled out of control and wound up costing nearly four times as much as was initially projected). Since then, studios have all attempted to program event movies for the summer months, typically around fare designed to appeal to younger audiences, such as action movies and broad comedies. The long July 4th weekend has always been a coveted release date for new films, but the summer season now extends far longer than it did in the '70s and '80s. New "summer" films now open in early May and continue coming out right up through Labor Day.

In the decades since Jaws, many classic films have seen release during the busy summer movie season. Great summer movies happen every year, but some years have more than others. It's now possible to go back and look at the actual historical summers that have given us some of these memorable film experiences, and evaluate which season itself featured the most genuinely good summer movies. This isn't just a summer movies list or a list of best movies by year, this is a list of the best years for summer movies from '75 through the present day.

Check out more lists like Greatest Movies that Take Place During Summer, Movies That Take Place in Summer Camp, and Hottest Actors in Summer Movies

The Best Years for Summer Movies Films
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  1. 1
    + 263
    - 85

    1984

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    Notable releases: Ghostbusters, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, The Karate Kid, Gremlins, The Neverending Story, Once Upon a Time in America, Purple Rain, Red Dawn, Revenge of the Nerds, Top Secret, Bachelor Party, The Natural
  2. 2
    + 200
    - 63

    1982

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    Notable releases: Blade Runner, E.T., The Thing, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Poltergeist, The Road Warrior, Rocky III, Tron, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Conan the Barbarian, The Secret of Nimh, An Officer and a Gentleman
  3. 3
    + 212
    - 70

    1985

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    Notable releases: Back to the Future, The Goonies, Pee Wee's Big Adventure, Teen Wolf, Weird Science, National Lampoon's European Vacation, The Black Cauldron, Cocoon, Fletch, Fright Night, St. Elmo's Fire
  4. 4
    + 220
    - 78

    1980

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    Notable releases: The Empire Strikes Back, The Shining, Airplane!, The Blues Brothers, Caddyshack, Cheech and Chong's Next Movie, Dressed to Kill, Fame, Friday the 13th, Used Cars, The Big Red One, The Blue Lagoon
  5. 5
    + 164
    - 58

    1989

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    Notable releases: Batman, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, When Harry Met Sally, Dead Poets' Society, Do the Right Thing, The Abyss, Ghostbusters II, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Lethal Weapon 2, License to Kill, Parenthood, Uncle Buck, Road House
  6. 6
    + 183
    - 79

    1994

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    Notable releases: Forrest Gump, Speed, The Lion King, True Lies, The Mask, Clear and Present Danger, The Crow, Maverick, Natural Born Killers, The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Spanking the Monkey
  7. 7
    + 198
    - 90

    1986

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    Notable releases: Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Aliens, Top Gun, Stand by Me, The Fly, Big Trouble in Little China, Back to School, Cobra, Labyrinth, Short Circuit, Transformers: The Movie, SpaceCamp, Flight of the Navigator
  8. 8
    + 129
    - 55

    1997

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    Notable releases: Men in Black, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, The Fifth Element, Contact, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Con Air, Hercules, My Best Friend's Wedding, Face/Off, Good Burger, Air Force One, Spawn, Event Horizon
  9. 9
    + 127
    - 54

    1993

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    Notable releases: Jurassic Park, The Fugitive, Sleepless in Seattle, In the Line of Fire, The Firm, The Last Action Hero, Menace II Society, Cliffhanger, Dave, Free Willy, Robin Hood: Men in Tights, So I Married An Axe Murderer, Hard Target
  10. 10
    + 154
    - 76

    2008

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    Notable releases: Iron Man, The Dark Knight, Kung Fu Panda, WALL-E, Hancock, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Sex and the City, Tropic Thunder, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, The Incredible Hulk, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Mamma Mia!, Stepbrothers, Pineapple Express
  11. 11
    + 110
    - 53

    1988

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    Notable releases: Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Die Hard, Coming to America, A Fish Called Wanda, Big, Midnight Run, Bull Durham, The Great Outdoors, Young Guns, Married to the Mob, The Last Temptation of Christ, Willow
  12. 12
    + 102
    - 49

    1983

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    Notable releases: Return of the Jedi, Risky Business, War Games, Trading Places, The Man With Two Brains, National Lampoon's Vacation, Strange Brew, Octop***y, Twilight Zone: The Movie
  13. 13
    + 102
    - 50

    2003

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    Notable releases: Finding Nemo, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, X2, The Matrix Reloaded, Bruce Almighty, The Italian Job, 28 Days Later, Whale Rider, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Legally Blonde 2, Bad Boys II, Freddy vs. Jason
  14. 14
    + 93
    - 49

    1987

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    Notable releases: Predator, Robocop, Dirty Dancing, The Living Daylights, Full Metal Jacket, La Bamba, The Untouchables, Innerspace, Harry and the Hendersons, Spaceballs, Adventures in Babysitting, The Witches of Eastwick, Withnail & I
  15. 15
    + 117
    - 74

    2009

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    Notable releases: The Hangover, Star Trek, Up, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, District 9, 500 Days of Summer, Moon, Drag Me to Hell, In the Loop, Terminator Salvation
  16. 16
    + 97
    - 63

    1981

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    Notable releases: Raiders of the Lost Ark, An American Werewolf in London, Superman II, Body Heat, Stripes, The Great Muppet Caper, Escape from New York, Arthur, Clash of the Titans, History of the World: Part 1, For Your Eyes Only, Dragonslayer
  17. 17
    + 79
    - 53
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  18. 18
    + 84
    - 61

    2012

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    Notable releases: The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, Men in Black 3, Snow White and the Huntsman, Prometheus, Brave, The Amazing Spider-Man, Moonrise Kingdom, The Dictator
  19. 19
    + 101
    - 79

    2011

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    Notable releases: Bridesmaids, Thor, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II, Captain America: The First Avenger, X-Men: First Class, The Tree of Life, The Help, Midnight in Paris, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Super 8, Kung Fu Panda 2, Attack the Block
  20. 20
    + 67
    - 48

    1996

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    Notable releases: Independence Day, The Rock, Mission Impossible, The Nutty Professor, Trainspotting, Kingpin, The Frighteners, Twister, Dead Man, The Cable Guy
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