Entertainment The Best Years for Summer Movies  

Ron Mexico
7.6k votes 858 voters 67.9k views 35 items

List Rules "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
Ranker may collect a commission from links on this page.
list ordered by
1
362 125
1984 is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Years for Summer Movies
1984
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
237 74
1989 is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Years for Summer Movies
1989
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
3
280 99
1985 is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Years for Summer Movies
1985
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
273 96
1982 is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Years for Summer Movies
1982
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
5
285 106
1980 is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Years for Summer Movies
1980
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
6
273 107
1986 is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Years for Summer Movies
1986
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
7
246 99
1994 is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Years for Summer Movies
1994
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
8
186 73
1993 is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Years for Summer Movies
1993
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
9
219 98
2008 is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Years for Summer Movies
2008
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
10
173 79
1997 is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Years for Summer Movies
1997
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
11
150 73
1988 is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Years for Summer Movies
1988
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
140 66
1987 is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Years for Summer Movies
1987
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
13
141 73
1983 is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Years for Summer Movies
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
14
141 74
2003 is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Years for Summer Movies
2003
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
15
134 86
1981 is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Years for Summer Movies
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
16
148 99
2009 is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Years for Summer Movies
2009
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
17
103 63
1999 is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Years for Summer Movies
1999
Notable releases: The Sixth Sense, South Park: Bigger Longer Uncut, American Pie, The Phantom Menace, The Blair Witch Project, Eyes Wide Shut, The Mummy, Notting Hill, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Run Lola Run, Deep Blue Sea, The Iron Giant
18
99 61
1996 is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Years for Summer Movies
1996
Notable releases: Independence Day, The Rock, Mission Impossible, The Nutty Professor, Trainspotting, Kingpin, The Frighteners, Twister, Dead Man, The Cable Guy
19
117 81
2012 is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Years for Summer Movies
2012
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
20
98 66
1995 is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Years for Summer Movies
1995
Notable releases: Braveheart, Apollo 13, Babe, The Usual Suspects, Crimson Tide, Die Hard With a Vengeance, Pocahontas, Batman Forever, Clueless, Species, Waterworld, Desperado
21
93 66
1991 is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Years for Summer Movies
1991
Notable releases: Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Thelma and Louise, City Slickers, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, The Rocketeer, Boyz n the Hood, Point Break, What About Bob?, Jungle Fever, Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey, Barton Fink
22
100 73
1979 is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Years for Summer Movies

Notable Releases: Apocalypse Now, Alien, Rocky II, Dracula, Nutcracker Fantasy, Monty Python's Life of Brian, Escape from Alcatraz, The Muppet Movie, The In-Laws, Prophecy, The Main Event

23
76 57
2001 is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Years for Summer Movies
2001
Notable releases: Shrek, The Fast and the Furious, AI, Legally Blonde, Moulin Rouge, Rush Hour 2, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, The Mummy Returns, Sexy Beast, Wet Hot American Summer, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
24
85 66
2004 is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Years for Summer Movies
2004
Notable releases: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Anchorman, The Notebook, Spider-Man 2, Napoleon Dynamite, The Bourne Supremacy, The Day After Tomorrow, Collateral, Shrek 2, Dodgeball, The Terminal, Fahrenheit 911, Before Sunset, I Robot, Garden State, Alien vs Predator
25
124 104
2011 is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Years for Summer Movies
2011
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