The Biggest Summer Blockbusters of the Last 50 Years

Add these mega movies to your watch list if you haven't already seen them all

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Summer Blockbusters
Lucasfilm/20th Century Fox/REX/Shutterstock; Paramount; Justin Lubin/Universal

Jaws. Jurassic Park. Star Wars. Summer movies have a penchant for sending chills down our spines and keeping our eyes glued to the big screen. They also score the big bucks — and spots in the pop culture canon.

Get your popcorn ready and enjoy this list of some of the most major summer movies from the past 25 years to add to your watch list or revisit this season.

Box office figures courtesy

02 of 26

Rocky (1976)

Sylvester Stallone Rocky

All-time Domestic Box Office Take: $117,235,147

Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) is a small-time boxer looking for a way out of his working-class life in Philadelphia. He's arbitrarily chosen to take on the world heavyweight champion, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), when the fighter's opponent gets injured. Rocky starts an intense training regimen while also building a relationship with his friend's sister — and the rest is movie history.

03 of 26

Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977)

Star Wars Episode IV - A New Hope - 1977
Lucasfilm/20th Century Fox/REX/Shutterstock

All-time Domestic Box Office Take: $460,998,507

The movie that started it all ... from a galaxy far, far away. The first film in the larger-than-life Star Wars franchise documents the beginning of Luke Skywalker's journey to becoming a Jedi. It features a young Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill and grossed more than $775 million worldwide.

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Jaws (1975)

Courtesy Everett Collection

All-time Domestic Box Office Take: $260,758,300

A young woman is killed by a shark while skinny-dipping near the New England town of Amity Island. The police chief, Martin Brody (Roy Scheider), wants to close the beaches, but the mayor is not in favor. Ichthyologist Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and ship captain Quint (Robert Shaw) set out to catch the killing machine and save the day — but not without some serious scares along the way.

05 of 26

Grease (1978)

Travolta And Newton-John In 'Grease'
Paramount Pictures/Fotos International/Getty

All-time Domestic Box Office Take: $190,071,103

It was named the most successful movie musical of all time — and it has a $396 million international gross to prove it. The '50s-era film follows clean-cut Aussie transplant Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) and leather-donning bad boy Danny (John Travolta), who have a summer romance that crosses cliques and focuses on friendships, love and adventure in a time when everything was a bit simpler. (Oh, those summer nights!)

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The Godfather(1972)

Paramount Pictures/REX/Shutterstock

All-time Domestic Box Office Take: $134,966,411

Arguably one of the greatest movies ever, the mob drama is based on a book written by Mario Puzo and focuses on the Italian American crime family of Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando). Life takes a turn when his son Michael (Al Pacino) joins the Mafia, wrapping himself up in the vicious cycle of organized crime.

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Mommie Dearest (1981)

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

All-time Domestic Box Office Take: $19,032,261

The biographical retelling of Joan Crawford's (Faye Dunaway) decision to take in two orphans, the film follows what appears to be a happy, functional family but soon turns to show daughter Christina's (Diana Scarwid) perspective on an abusive mom feeling resentful from broken relationships and her waning MGM contract. The movie — and the book it's based on — both came out after Joan's 1977 death.

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Flashdance (1983)

Flashdance Jennifer Beals

All-time Domestic Box Office Take: $92,921,203

A beautiful young woman, Alex Owens (Jennifer Beals), works in a steel mill during the day and a bar at night. She notices that her boss, Nick Hurley (Michael Nouri), is interested in her and supportive of her dancing career. Thus, she strives to get accepted into a renowned dance conservatory. It's all so '80s.

09 of 26

Footloose (1984)

The movie "Footloose", directed by Herbert Ross and written by Dean Pitchford. Seen here from left, Sarah Jessica Parker as Rusty and Kevin Bacon as Ren. Initial theatrical release February 17, 1984. Screen capture. Paramount Pictures
CBS via Getty

All-time Domestic Box Office Take: $80,035,402

Newcomer Ren McCormack (Kevin Bacon) moves from Chicago to a small Midwest town that's banned dancing and made rock music illegal. In typical protagonist form, as he tries to fit in — which is a struggle — he fights an uphill battle to change the views of the townspeople. He finds help and solace within his own group of defiant peers (including Sarah Jessica Parker's Rusty), though the local reverend, Shaw Moore (John Lithgow), tries to hinder this growth.

10 of 26

Coming to America (1988)

Coming To America - 1988

All-time Domestic Box Office Take: $128,152,301

To escape an arranged marriage, Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy) — a wealthy royal from a fictional African country — flees to America with his companion Semmi (Arsenio Hall) to find his true princess in Queens. It's a great comedy, with James Earl Jones scoring laughs as Akeem's dad, and is one of Eddie Murphy's highest-grossing movies with $288 million worldwide.

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Batman (1989)

Michael Keaton as Batman. Moviestore/Shutterstock

All-time Domestic Box Office Take: $251,348,343

In the first movie telling of the Batman story, the superhero (Michael Keaton) witnesses his parents' murder as a child and grows up to be a millionaire philanthropist who fights crime in Gotham City disguised as Batman. He takes on his archnemesis, The Joker (Jack Nicholson), who wishes to seize control of Gotham City's criminal underworld. All the while, he works to conceal his identity and protect his love interest, reporter Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger).

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Men in Black (1997)

Will Smith in Men In Black

All-time Domestic Box Office Take: $250,690,539

Here come the Men in Black! Specifically, Kay (Tommy Lee Jones) and Jay (Will Smith), "providers of immigration services and regulators of all things alien on earth," as the AP summary goes. While doing their highly classified day jobs, they discover an assassination plot — after all, they're "the first, last and only line of defense against the worst scum of the universe."

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Titanic (1997)

Summer Blockbusters

All-time Domestic Box Office Take: $659,363,944

We don't even need to tell you the plot of this one (right?), only that the Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet classic is the third-highest-grossing film of all time, with a staggering $2.2 BILLION worldwide.

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The Fugitive (1993)

Summer Blockbusters

All-time Domestic Box Office Take: $183,875,760

Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford) is wrongly accused of the murder of his wife. As a means to clear his name, he outruns the law in an attempt to find her true killer. The pursuit of U.S. marshals is led by Deputy Samuel Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones), who is determined to catch Kimble if it's the last thing he does. Kimble leads the team through a series of complex chases as he discovers secrets about his wife's death.

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Independence Day (1996)

Summer Blockbusters
20th Century Studios

All-time Domestic Box Office Take: $306,169,268

As the sky ignites and terror races through the world, it's evident that a force of exceptional magnitude is coming for its vengeance. Its main mission is to destroy the world over the Fourth of July weekend. Only a designated group, united by fate and unusual conditions — and led by one Will Smith — can put a stop to the madness.

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Jurassic Park (1993)


All-time Domestic Box Office Take: $404,214,720

In Stephen Spielberg's terrifying fan favorite, paleontologists Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) join mathematician Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) to tour an island theme park full of dinosaurs who were essentially brought life using prehistoric DNA. The park's wealthy investor and creator, John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), assures that everyone is safe. (As if!) The ferocious dinosaurs break free and go on a rampage, and you can probably guess what happens next.

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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001)

Tom Felton, Daniel Radcliffe

All-time Domestic Box Office Take: $318,087,620

In the first adaptation of J.K. Rowling's super-popular kids' books, Harry Potter finds out on his 11th birthday that he is the orphan of two powerful wizards. He also finds out that he possesses powers, too, and is summoned to Hogwarts — a mystical English boarding school for wizards. While there, he makes friends, rolls with the punches and finds out more about his parents' deaths.

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The Dark Knight (2008)

The Dark Knight. Warner Bros/DC Comics/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

All-time Domestic Box Office Take: $534,858,444

In arguably the best Batman film in the franchise, Christian Bale plays Batman and Heath Ledger plays a terrifying young Joker. Over the course of the film, Batman is constantly called to choose between heroism and vigilantism. The movie scored eight Oscar nods and its late star, Ledger, earned one posthumously for his supporting role.

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Night at the Museum (2006)

Summer Blockbusters
Doane Gregory/20th Century Studios

All-time Domestic Box Office Take: $250,863,268

As a struggling artist, Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) has dreams of becoming something bigger, but he isn't quite sure what. So he takes a job as a security guard at N.Y.C.'s Natural History Museum to help pay the bills. During his first shift, he makes the surprising discovery that the artifacts in the museum come to life at night thanks to an Egyptian curse — and he gets tied up in some of the crazy characters' antics.

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Transformers (2007)

Summer Blockbusters

All-time Domestic Box Office Take: $319,246,193

In this revamped tale of the autobots (good guys) vs. the decepticons (villains), the fate of humanity is at stake as the robots bring their war to Earth. These robots can transform into any mechanical device as they strive to seek power. A human youth, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), is the only one who can save the world from their furor.

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The Matrix Reloaded (2003)

Summer Blockbusters
Jasin Boland/Warner Bros.

All-time Domestic Box Office Take: $281,576,461

The sequel to the '90s classic features freedom fighters Neo (Keanu Reeves), Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), who continue to fight the good fight against the Machine Army. During their mission to save humanity from extinction, they learn more about the Matrix and Neo's role in the fate of mankind. Interestingly, it grossed more than the original.

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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

Summer Blockbusters
Baldur Bragason/Columbia

All-time Domestic Box Office Take: $102,515,793

Hired by wealthy Swedish industrialist Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is a disgraced reporter who seeks to redeem himself by solving the 40-year-old murder of Vanger's niece, Harriet. Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) is a clever and quirky investigator who joins Blomkvist on his journey. Her trust is not easily won, but she and Blomkvist find a way to manage.

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Get Out (2017)

Justin Lubin

All-time Domestic Box Office Take: $176,040,665

The first film from Jordan Peele features Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and his girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams), who have reached the meet-the-parents part of dating. Upon arriving, Chris notices that the family is very accommodating, but he still gets an eerie vibe. Over the course of the weekend, he notices that his inclinations are right and that their behaviors are just coverups for truths that are heinous and wicked.

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Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Marvel Studios' AVENGERS: ENDGAME..L to R: Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), War Machine/James Rhodey (Don Cheadle), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper)..Photo: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2019
©Marvel Studios 2019

All-time Domestic Box Office Take: $858,373,000

In this pivotal moment in the Marvel universe, the Avengers — Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Captain America (Chris Evans) and Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) — must figure out a way to bring back their defeated allies in order to compete in a final battle with Thanos, the evil demigod who destroyed the planet and universe. The first half of the Marvel franchise definitely went out with a bang, and its $2.798 billion international gross amplifies that sentiment

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Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

Alex Bailey/Fox

All-time Domestic Box Office Take: $216,668,042

This biographical telling of the life of the legendary rock band Queen focuses on its unconventional leader, Freddie Mercury. The band's look and sound helped skyrocket its appeal in the 1970s, and this movie does a good job of explaining what happened behind the scenes and on stage. This was a standout role for star Rami Malek, who played Mercury in the movie and picked up an Oscar for his work.

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Spectre (2015)

Stephen Vaughan/Columbia Pictures

All-time Domestic Box Office Take: $200,074,609

James Bond (David Craig) receives a cryptic message from his past, which leads him to Mexico City and Rome. Here he meets the widow (Monica Bellucci) of an infamous criminal. After uncovering a meeting with the infamous evil organization SPECTRE, he decides that he must stop the group's dark plans as only James Bond can.

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