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Best-Reviewed Summer Blockbusters by Year Since 1975

by | August 2, 2016 | Comments

When it comes to big summer movies, the opinions of critics and audiences are always out of sync. Right? Not so fast. Using our weighted formula, we at Rotten Tomatoes decided to spotlight the best-reviewed wide releases from each summer since 1975 — the year Jaws kicked off the blockbuster era — and it turns out that many of the big winners with the pundits have become perennial favorites with regular moviegoers as well.


1970s | 1980s | 1990s | 2000s | 2010s

#1980
Adjusted Score: 103.693%
Critics Consensus: Dark, sinister, but ultimately even more involving than A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back defies viewer expectations and takes the series to heightened emotional levels.
Synopsis: The second entry in George Lucas' Star Wars trilogy finds Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), the green-as-grass hero from the first... [More]
Directed By: Irvin Kershner

#1981
#1981
Adjusted Score: 101.431%
Critics Consensus: Featuring bravura set pieces, sly humor, and white-knuckle action, Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of the most consummately entertaining adventure pictures of all time.
Synopsis: Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) is no ordinary archeologist. When we first see him, he is somewhere in the Peruvian jungle... [More]
Directed By: Steven Spielberg

#1982
#1982
Adjusted Score: 110.88%
Critics Consensus: Playing as both an exciting sci-fi adventure and a remarkable portrait of childhood, Steven Spielberg's touching tale of a homesick alien remains a piece of movie magic for young and old.
Synopsis: Both a classic movie for kids and a remarkable portrait of childhood, E.T. is a sci-fi adventure that captures that... [More]
Directed By: Steven Spielberg

#1983

Risky Business (1983)
92%

#1983
Adjusted Score: 96.053%
Critics Consensus: Featuring one of Tom Cruise's best early performances, Risky Business is a sharp, funny examination of teen angst that doesn't stop short of exploring dark themes.
Synopsis: Risky Business is the film in which 19-year-old Tom Cruise dances around his living room in his underwear. He does... [More]
Directed By: Paul Brickman

#1984
#1984
Adjusted Score: 102.75%
Critics Consensus: An infectiously fun blend of special effects and comedy, with Bill Murray's hilarious deadpan performance leading a cast of great comic turns.
Synopsis: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson star as a quartet of Manhattan-based "paranormal investigators". When their government... [More]
Directed By: Ivan Reitman

#1985
#1985
Adjusted Score: 102.312%
Critics Consensus: Inventive, funny, and breathlessly constructed, Back to the Future is a rousing time-travel adventure with an unforgettable spirit.
Synopsis: Contemporary high schooler Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) doesn't have the most pleasant of lives. Browbeaten by his principal at... [More]
Directed By: Robert Zemeckis

#1986

Aliens (1986)
97%

#1986
Adjusted Score: 104.044%
Critics Consensus: While Alien was a marvel of slow-building, atmospheric tension, Aliens packs a much more visceral punch, and features a typically strong performance from Sigourney Weaver.
Synopsis: Big-budget special effects, swiftly paced action, and a distinct feminist subtext from writer/director James Cameron turned what should have been... [More]
Directed By: James Cameron

#1987
#1987
Adjusted Score: 98.798%
Critics Consensus: Intense, tightly constructed, and darkly comic at times, Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket may not boast the most original of themes, but it is exceedingly effective at communicating them.
Synopsis: Stanley Kubrick's return to filmmaking after a seven-year hiatus, this film crystallizes the experience of the Vietnam War by concentrating... [More]
Directed By: Stanley Kubrick

#1988

Big (1988)
97%

#1988
Adjusted Score: 102.444%
Critics Consensus: Refreshingly sweet and undeniably funny, Big is a showcase for Tom Hanks, who dives into his role and infuses it with charm and surprising poignancy.
Synopsis: More than anything else, 13-year old New Jerseyite Josh (David Moscow) wants to be "big". That's the wish he makes... [More]
Directed By: Penny Marshall

#1989

Parenthood (1989)
91%

#1989
Adjusted Score: 95.167%
Critics Consensus: Bolstered by a delightful cast, Parenthood is a funny and thoughtfully crafted look at the best and worst moments of family life that resonates broadly.
Synopsis: This feel-good ensemble comedy tracks a quartet of suburban siblings and their families over the course of a single summer.... [More]
Directed By: Ron Howard

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