I think eight full months is enough time to pass judgment: 2016 has been the suckiest year that has ever sucked. Even our easiest method of escape – the movies – has been so spectacularly unspectacular, not even tried and true franchises can shake off the funk of this terrible year.
This statement spurred a conversation at the offices of CT Boom this week: if summer ‘16 movies are the worst, what summer’s movies are the best?
This wasn’t easy. I wrote the question and still had a hard time coming up with the answer. All week I was positive ‘96 was going to run away with the title, because ‘96 had some much going for it. The Atlanta Olympics were a big deal, the Chicago Bulls started their second three-peat, the Unabomber got caught, Friends was just starting to cook, and Seinfeld was KING. At the movies, Will Smith became a megastar with Independence Day and Tom Cruise turned Mission: Impossible from just another TV adaptation into one of the most successful and long-lasting franchises in movie history. How do you beat a year like that?
With SOLID GOLD, that’s how. The best summer for movies wasn’t ‘96. It was ‘91, baby. Look at this roster: Boyz N The Hood, The Rocketeer, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, What About Bob?, Jungle Fever, Hudson Hawk, Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead, etc. In almost any other year, this would be your list of gold medal winners, but in ‘96, these didn’t even step up to the podium. Here is my proof:
BLOCKBUSTER: Terminator 2 – Kinda hard to argue with this one. Not only did it make $520MM at the global box office, but it set the bar for special effects in movies for the next 20 years. This was the best sequel since Empire Strikes Back.
CULTURALLY SIGNIFICANT: Thelma & Louise – “Just drive.”
INDIE CROSSOVER (tie): Barton Fink – The Coen Brothers at the height of their weirdness. This was the last movie they made before every movie they made was an immediate Oscar contender. It marked the beginning of beautiful partnerships with both John Turturro and John Goodman. It was absolutely bananas and a nice weird island in a sea of big budget blockbusters that year. Quintessential art house stuff right here.
The Commitments – the story of an Irish band that plays classic R&B. Maybe one of the most watchable movies of all time.
MODERN CLASSIC: Point Break – THE most watchable movie of all time. Young Keanu. Insane Gary Busey. Classic ‘that guy’ performance by classic Hollywood ‘that guy’ John C. McGinley. The most quotable script ever. PEAK SWAYZE. This movie was the reason why ‘91 beat ‘96.
- Naked Gun 2 ½
- Problem Child 2
- Child’s Play 3
- Mannequin Two: On The Move
- Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey
- Kickboxer 2
- Beastmaster 2
WHY DID THIS GET MADE: Stone Cold – Coming out of NCAA football, the nation asked, “Is there anything Brian “The Boz” Bosworth can’t do?” We quickly found out the answer was A. transition collegiate fame into a productive NFL career and B. act.
1983 was the best summer movie season for one reason and one reason only… Return of the Jedi. It might not be the best in the original trilogy (that distinction goes to Empire) BUT this movie was the culmination of EVERYTHING! Empire left us with so many questions! Would Han be ok? Was Vader really Luke’s father? Could the Rebellion really defeat the might Empire after getting their asses handed to them on Hoth? We got answers to those questions and more! We found out what Jabba the Hutt looked like. We saw Luke transform into a bad ass Jedi. Oh, and more Boba Fett! (PS – he got out of the Sarlacc, okay?! I mean, it takes YEARS to digest someone and he had armor and weapons, he survived.)
Even if you want to complain about the Ewoks you would be wrong. We loved them at the time. You did. I did. We all did. We loved the toys, cartoons and made-for-TV movies they spawned. All of it. You can try to be cool now in 2016 but back in 1983, you were all in on Wicket.
For those who are more concerned with Box Office receipts let me offer you the numbers: Total Gross – $252,583,617
The number two movie was Trading Places with a paltry $90,404,800.
1983 was the best.
A shit year for music, but a winner for movies. I give you the summer before my freshman year of high school… 1999!
Blockbuster: Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace – Despite this ending up being a black eye on the franchise, people were cranked for it that summer.
Indie Crossover Hit: The Blair Witch Project – The fact we were in the infant years of Google and the internet is really what made this movie such crazy event. I’ll admit I was definitely among the many who legit thought it was real.
Longevity / Modern Classic: The Sixth Sense – Still a classic. Really the first time I was completely floored by a “ surprise twist” in a movie theater. “I See Dead People” would go on to be one of the most recognizable movie quotes ever.
Cultural Significant: American Pie – The movie that defined the sex lives of an entire generation. Be honest, you have never eaten apple pie the same.
If Stranger Things taught us anything, it is that summers in the 1980s were the best unless you were in the Upside Down. Unlike now where all the movies are terrible, each summer delivered us high profile comedies, interesting ideas, and when a sequel showed up, it was either amazing or absurdly terrible. Unlike Jason Bourne, there was no middle ground, everyone hated Crocodile Dundee 2.
I give you the summer of 1983. They had just opened a movie theater in my hometown and as a chubby 7-year-old, I couldn’t be more excited. What kind of celluloid dreams would this theater bring me? How much popcorn would I eat? Will Mom let me have M&Ms AND Popcorn? These are the answers I needed.
In hindsight, that summer had the perfect mix of blockbusters, quintessential comedies, and hysterically bad sequels that are worth watching again just to wonder how they got made.
Trading Places – One year before his peak, Eddie Murphy blew the doors off this now somewhat racist, certainly dated comedy. Dan Aykroyd, at the height of his powers, shows he doesn’t need John Belushi to carry a movie. “Is there a problem here officers” still is one of the best lines in movie history.
National Lampoon’s Vacation – Let’s’ pretend last year’s remake never happened. The original Vacation is a perfect movie. In fact, I’ve modeled most of my life around it. Chevy Chase has ruined his legacy and this character, but in ’83 he was brilliant. Also note this is two years prior to his peak in ’85 (Fletch, Spies Like Us, European Vacation). I still say “first ones here” to this day.
Mr. Mom – One of those “if cell phones existed, this movie would not really make sense” films of the 1980s. Michael Keaton plays a flustered stay-at-home dad in a movie about redefining gender roles and troubles with vacuums. Watch it for The Young and The Restless cameo, stay for Keaton’s one-liners.
WAIT..WHAT? Hysterically Bad Sequels:
Jaws 3-D – Jaws really should have been one movie. The fact that FOUR were made is beyond me. The best thing about this, beyond the 3D, is that it takes place in Sea World. You thought Blackfish was a bummer.
Staying Alive – Disco may have been dead, but that didn’t stop Sly Stallone and John Travolta from making a completely unnecessary sequel to Saturday Night Fever. This movie is a must watch simply because it makes no sense and Frank Stallone does the soundtrack.
This song is everything:
Superman 3 – Stop it. Even coked up Richard Pryor can’t save this movie.
Return of the Jedi – I know. It’s cheesy and the worst of the original trilogy. This is also like saying the third roll at Bertucci’s isn’t as good as the first. It is and you just feel bad because you’re fat. All your favorite people- all still young- and you see Darth Vader’s face. If you hate this, you shouldn’t be allowed to be on this planet.
WarGames – Oh, the political intrigue of the 80s! Would this movie ever get made today? Certainly not. It’s too smart, too interesting, kinda complicated and involves tic-tac-toe. No studio green lights. “Do you want to play a game?”
Risky Business – The movie that made Tom Cruise a household name and made everyone love and then immediately hate that Bob Seger song. (I’m a Katmandu man, myself). This movie, much like some of the others on this list, is note perfect and should never be remade. Also if you saw this at 14, you enjoyed every second of that train scene.
1983…you were everything.
The Summer of 1989 is clearly the best summer of all time for films – it isn’t even open for debate.
We were coming off eight years of Ronald Reagan being in charge, and everyone was happily playing Tetris and doing pretty well for themselves (except, of course, for anyone involved in all the political revolutions happening in just about every country not named the United States of America). All that mattered was we were ending the 1980s spending money on pretty much every movie that came out that summer.
Nowadays, the summer movie season begins as soon as we get to May (sometimes even April). Traditionally, it starts with Memorial Day weekend. And boy, did 1989 produce an amazing Memorial Day, with the last “real” Indiana Jones film – Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Released on Wednesday, May 24, it immediately sets the all-time opening weekend record with $29.3 million.
As excited as we all were for that sequel, there was still yet another sequel coming three short weeks later when Ghostbusters II drops on June 16. It then sets the new opening weekend record with $29.4 million.
It holds that record for exactly one week.
Because no one had any idea just how big June 23 would be, when Batman came out, earning $40.4 million.
In the span of four weeks, we already have three of the biggest films of all time to that point in history. Before the end of the year, a total of six films would be released that each earn over $100 million (previously, the most in any one year was four from the year before – in fact, it wouldn’t be until 1994, a full five years later, that at least six films would ever again earn more than $100 million).
The remaining $100 million films? Lethal Weapon 2 (that’s the diplomatic immunity one), Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (practical effects – it still holds up), and Parenthood (a movie known more now for producing a spin-off TV series that ended last year).
And take a look at some of the other films from the summer of 1989:
Dead Poets Society, When Harry Met Sally…, Uncle Buck, The Abyss, Weekend at Bernie’s, Road House, Do the Right Thing, UHF – all instant classics (or instant cult classics)
Let’s even look at bad movies from that summer – I dare you to look at this list and not find some ironic enjoyment from it:
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (William Shatner directs the movie where Captain Kirk fights God – seriously)
Karate Kid Part III (watch a 30-year-old Ralph Macchio play Daniel-San – still at the age of 17!)
No Holds Barred (Hulk Hogan’s first starring role!)
Friday the 13th Part VIII (the one where Jason “Takes” Manhattan…for about 4 minutes in Times Square…after waiting over an hour just to get to any scenes in New York)
Young Einstein (the very end of America’s pop cultural interest in Australia)
1989 is the winner. And you know it.