Worldwide icon-chevron-right Europe icon-chevron-right United Kingdom icon-chevron-right England icon-chevron-right London icon-chevron-right Which summer delivered the best blockbusters?
The big five'The Dark Knight' (82), 'Iron Man' (79), 'Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull' (65), 'Hancock' (49), 'Wall-E' (94) Average review score73.8 Hit of the summerIt bagged two Academy Awards, but despite ‘The Dark Knight’s artistic merit, Christopher Nolan’s gritty, growly ‘Batman Begins’ follow-up was everything a summer blockbuster should be: tense, pacey and packed full of infinitely quotable one-liners. Flop of the summerHarrison Ford hiding in a fridge. Shia LaBoeuf swinging through the forest like a teenage Tarzan. A spaceship. Really? After a 19-year wait, the fourth and (hopefully) final Indiana Jones film did just about all it could to defile childhood memories of the previous three.
The big five'Shrek 2' (75), 'Spider-Man 2' (83), 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban' (82), 'The Day after Tomorrow' (47), 'The Bourne Supremacy' (73) Average review score72 Hit of the summerIn a year dominated by surprisingly solid sequels, third Potter flick ‘The Prisoner of Azkaban’ was the standout, with a more mature tone to match the now fully pubescent cast. Flop of the summerWith the disaster movie genre still recovering from its late ’90s flogging, scientifically iffy global warming picture ‘The Day after Tomorrow’ was always going to feel past its sell-by date. The endless, dull footage of people trudging through snow didn’t do the film any favours either.
The big five'Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith' (68), 'War of the Worlds' (73), 'Wedding Crashers' (64), 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' (72), 'Batman Begins' (70) Average review score69.4 Hit of the summer‘Batman Begins’ may have reinvented the superhero movie, but if we’re going on pure crowd-pleasing charisma, there’s no denying the perfectly-pitched charm of ‘Wedding Crashers’, the likes of which has been rarely replicated in subsequent buddy movies. Flop of the summerIt was the film that gave us the brand ‘Brangelina’, but cringey portmanteaus are among the smaller sins of ‘Mr & Mrs Smith’. A sorry, shallow exercise wasted on a strong and blameless cast.
The big five'Avengers Assemble' (69), 'The Dark Knight Rises' (78), 'The Amazing Spider-Man' (66), 'Brave' (69), 'Ted' (62) Average review score68.8 Hit of the summerThe critics were always going to go nuts for ‘The Dark Knight Rises’, but for us the surprise highlight was ‘Avengers Assemble’: a smart, stylish superhero ensemble that mercifully didn’t feel like having an entire special effects studio crowbarred into your imagination. Flop of the summerAfter establishing itself as one of the best action franchises of the previous decade, a change of personnel for ‘Legacy’ left the Bourne franchise in a sorry state. If there’s a more awkward Hollywood scenario than Jeremy Renner pitching up at the urinal next to Matt Damon, we can’t think of it.
The big five'Toy Story 3' (92), 'Iron Man 2' (57), 'Twilight: Eclipse' (58), 'Inception' (74), 'Shrek Forever After' (58) Average review score67.8 Hit of the summerStriking a timely blow for cinematic innovation, Christopher Nolan’s mind-bending ‘Inception’ proved to be that rarest of treats – a blockbuster with brains. That Nolan wrote and directed this along with two thirds of his Dark Knight trilogy inside of five years is nothing short of astonishing. Flop of the summerDespite a budget almost three times that of the original, the wry brilliance of its predecessors was all but lost from the feeble franchise-closer ‘Shrek Forever After’, which pulled in a paltry $239 million at the US box office.
The big five'Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen' (35), 'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince' (78), 'The Hangover' (73), 'Star Trek' (83), 'Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs' (50) Average review score63.8 Hit of the summerWith ‘Lost’ yet to reach its anti-climax, all-conquering writer/producer/director JJ Abrams was at the height of his powers when he rebooted ‘Star Trek’, and sure enough, the consensus among critics and nerds alike was that he absolutely nailed it. This summer’s follow-up, 'Star Trek Into Darkness', isn’t bad, either. Flop of the summerWere it not for Michael Bay’s CGI-saturated second Transformers movie dragging down the average, the summer of 2009 could very well have topped this list. Sadly, an otherwise stellar year can’t escape the tarnish of a film whose last hour consisted almost entirely of Megan Fox running away from explosions in a tight top.
The big five'Independence Day' (59), 'Twister' (68), 'Mission: Impossible' (60), 'The Rock' (59), 'The Birdcage' (72) Average review score63.6 Hit of the summerWhile football fans were busy weeping into their St George’s crosses and blubbing their way through another chorus of ‘Three Lions’, for moviegoers the summer of 1996 was all about Will Smith punching a tentacle-toting alien in its sort-of face then lighting up a fat stogie. Sadly, Smith is yet to sign up for the two recently-announced ‘Independence Day’ sequels, the first of which looks likely to come out in 2016. Flop of the summerAs brilliantly playful as 1993’s fourth-wall-breaking ‘Last Action Hero’ was, it was a film that made it infinitely more difficult not to snigger at the sight of Arnold Schwarzenegger reeling off dumb one-liners while holding a big gun. Enter ‘Eraser’, a film whose entire premise was exactly that.
The big five'Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom' (72), 'The Karate Kid' (69), 'Police Academy' (45), 'Star Trek III: The Search for Spock' (55), 'Romancing the Stone' (71) Average review score62.4 Hit of the summerMine cart chases, monkey brain banquets, an only-slightly-annoying sidekick – the second Indiana Jones film was everything a blockbuster sequel should be (although, strictly speaking, the series’ chronology makes it a prequel), packing in some of Indy’s most iconic set-pieces and a deliciously dark voodoo villain. Flop of the summerBe honest now, aside from the awesome vocal chords of ‘man of 10,000 sound effects’ Michael Winslow, does anyone have any fond memories of the ‘Police Academy’ series? If we’d known in 1984 that six more were on the way we’d have intervened. Decisively.
The big five'Jurassic Park' (68), 'Indecent Proposal' (35), 'In the Line of Fire' (74), 'Cliffhanger' (60), 'Groundhog Day' (72) Average review score61.8 Hit of the summerReleased at a time when CGI was something that propped up puppets and scarily life-like models rather than vice-versa, ‘Jurassic Park’ marked the end of an aesthetic era for big-budget blockbusters. Never before had a T-rex had such pant-peeing presence on film, and we doubt it will again. Flop of the summerIt took more than $100 million at the box office, but critics and feminists alike were non-plussed by Adrian Lyne’s ‘Indecent Proposal’, in which high roller Robert Redford suggests Woody Harrelson’s struggling architect should revitalise the company accounts by leasing out his wife’s vagina.
The big five'Terminator 2: Judgement Day' (68), 'Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves' (54), 'The Silence of the Lambs' (84), 'The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear' (58), 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze' (45) Average review score61.8 Hit of the summerAnthony Hopkins’ 16 minutes on screen as psychotic, chianti-quaffing killer Hannibal Lecter in ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ were enough for the Welshman to deliver the most terrifying turn of the year. The Academy agreed – the following year saw the film pick up five Oscars, including a Best Actor gong for Hopkins. Flop of the summerBy far the shoddiest of the year’s lazy, rushed-out sequels was ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze’, where cheap costumes, irritating characters and overly whimsical tone weren’t enough to win over even the pre-teen target audience.

Which summer delivered the best blockbusters?

We sift the stats to find ten vintage years for properly good multiplex movies

By David Clack

If you think about it, the summer blockbuster is a bit of a backward concept. When it’s warm and sunny – when you should be outside ‘getting some fresh air’, who wants to sit in a dark room and subject themselves to two hours of over-produced, shamelessly commercial cinema?

Loads of people, apparently: last year, August alone saw UK and Irish cinemas take a whopping £111 million, despite the ‘Olympic effect’. Naturally, it’s all down to the line-up, and before awards season brings complex plots and challenging characters, May to September is when Hollywood is at its brash, brilliant best.

Still, for every ‘Dark Knight’ there’s a ‘Batman & Robin’ and while Hollywood can average a fat wallet year in, year out, some summer movies aren’t always fully deserving of the cash they rake in. Using our unique formula*, we’ve ranked the ten best years since 1980 for summer blockbusters. Be prepared for some surprises.

*Years are ranked by taking the average Metacritic Metascore (or, where unavailable, the Average Rating on Rotten Tomatoes) of each year’s five biggest-earning movies released in the UK between May 1 and August 31.

Will 2013 match up to these vintage years?

The Great Gatsby

Film Drama

Baz Luhrman's multi-million dollar stab at F Scott Fitzgerald's 1920s epic, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire.

Man of Steel

Film Action and adventure

A reboot of the Superman franchise from director Zack Snyder, who's decided to go back to the beginning with an orgin tale.


World War Z

Film Action and adventure

Marc Forster tackles Max ‘son of Mel’ Brooks’s fine, journalistic account of a zombie uprising.


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