Editor's note: Each week we take a poll around the office to see what makes our colleagues tick. This week we asked which are the best summer blockbusters ever and why.
"Independence Day" (20th Century Fox): I don't love this movie because it's good -- it's not. But it's the ultimate summer blockbuster because: 1) alien invasion is always the best topic for a summer movie, 2) lots of things blow up spectacularly, and 3) even in the face of worldwide mayhem, we can count on Will Smith for nonstop alien-baiting one-liners.
"Toy Story 3" (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures) is legitimately the only movie that has made me cry at the cinema. I even watched "Titanic" when it first came out and didn't shed a tear (call me a monster or just a moody pre-teenager who thought it was cool to laugh when everyone else was sobbing). But back to "Toy Story 3." It's the perfect climax to the series and encapsulates that bittersweet moment as an adult when you realize your toys are so much more than circuit boards, blocks of wood and hunks of plastic.
Seeing "Batman" (Warner Brothers, Guber-Peters Company) with my dad when it came out brings back a lot of good memories. To me, it not only reinvigorated the superhero genre but was also just the perfect summer movie. Before the internet could ruin a moviegoer's experience, you heard and saw very little. Micheal Keaton as Batman was the most radical of ideas but it sort of ended up working. Jack Nicholson as the Joker, sure everyone could see that. A soundtrack by Prince ... um sure okay, a little weird but whatever just take my money. The car, the suit, the fact that he couldn't turn his head without moving his whole body and Kim Basinger for heaven's sake! Hell even the poster didn't need anything except the bat insignia. I don't recall a movie since that could bring out more joy as a kid than that one.
Without question, "The Dark Knight" (Warner Bros. Pictures) is the best of all the Batman films, even if Mitchell disagrees. It put on display the twisted and, well, dark essence of the Batman canon, in no small part owing to the insanity Heath Ledger brought to his portrayal of the Joker. I remember watching this as part of a full house in a small, non-air-conditioned theater on a very hot summer evening and being totally unaware that I was sweating through my clothes.
"Raiders of the Lost Ark" (Paramount Pictures) is the movie that made me want to wear a fedora hat to school and learn more about ancient artifacts. I was lucky enough to see the movie in the theater not once but 15 times. I was already obsessed with Harrison Ford thanks to his role as Han Solo in "Star Wars." But in "Raiders of the Lost Ark," Ford is a rugged archaeologist who searches the globe for treasures that "deserve to be in a museum." In this first installment of the Indiana Jones movie saga, there's action, adventure, romance and the supernatural. Plus melting Nazis! I'm also a big fan of Karen Allen as Marion Ravenwood -- a tough woman who can outdrink anyone who comes into her bar. The fact that Marion punches Indiana in the face when he comes into her bar after years of not seeing each other, made me love her character even more.
Bonnie and I are the same person, apparently. But this movie is so good it deserves to be in this slideshow twice.
In the summer of 1981, my family and I went to see "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (Paramount Pictures). After it ended, we didn't budge. All six of us immediately watched it again. Name a better opening scene: Indy snatches the golden idol from a booby-trapped temple and seems to be home-free after sprinting through a sea of shooting arrows and attempting to leap across a crevasse. But then a boulder the size of a small planet starts hurtling toward him.
Frankly, I can't imagine "Back to the Future" (Universal Pictures) not being part of my childhood. I don't remember having any expectations for it before seeing it, but it just hit all the right notes for 10-year-old me. The music, the pacing, the cast -- everything was damn near perfect. I still will watch it fairly often even though it's already permanently embedded in my brain.
I have to go with "Jaws" (Universal Pictures). Pretty much the original summer blockbuster and still a film that has its share of thrills, chills, laughs and more. With well fleshed-out main characters, there was Quint's horrifying and deeply felt "as if you were there" telling of the 600 USS Indianapolis sailors getting picked off one by one by the sharks, Roy Scheider (mostly) overcoming his fears and finally taking out the man-eater, and a great turn by Richard Dreyfuss who proves he's not just a punk, college educated "kid." Even today, and with special effects off the charts, it's still one of the great ones. And probably one of the best examples of how great editing really makes a difference. Plus a signature soundtrack element that's right up there with the "violin screech" of Psycho.
Nothing says summer to me like baseball, and nothing says "the perfect summer blockbuster" to me like "A League of Their Own" (Columbia Pictures). The film is a true celebration of sisterhood, teaching young women to go out there and give it their all. It's one of the most quotable movies of all time ("There's no crying in baseball!") and it features a fantastic supporting cast (small shout-out to Madonna). It's hard to deny that "A League of Their Own" really knocked it out of the park.
I have to go with "Die Hard" (20th Century Fox). New York cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) comes out to the coast to have a few laughs and ends up single-handedly defeating one of the greatest movie villains of all time, Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman). For me, summer blockbusters are all about big explosions and few are more memorable than Bruce Willis' jump off the top of the Nakatomi building just before Rickman turns it into a massive fireball.
I can still remember the big billboards promoting "The Fugitive" (Warner Bros. Pictures). It just said "Harrison Ford. Wanted." It was the summer of 1993, a time when you didn't need superheroes or established brands to make a big movie. I know, I know "The Fugitive" was actually based on a successful TV show from the 60s. But it was different back then. Or at least it felt different.
Anyway, to me it's a movie with the perfect formula. You have Ford playing a doctor accused of a murder he didn't commit. Tommy Lee Jones plays the cop in charge of getting him. And of course you need to find out who the hell is the actual killer while making sure the good doctor doesn't get caught.
In a time when sacred movies were never rebooted nor unnecessarily sequeled (yes, I just made sequel into a verb), and "The Terminator" was already considered one of the better sci-fi/action movies, I bring you "Terminator 2: Judgement Day" (TriStar Pictures). We didn't know if it'd be awesome or terrible. Was the actor-turned-governor-turned-actor the good guy or the bad? Would this kid screech and whine about his rebellious hairdo? So many questions, so few answers. But The Terminator came back, and with a vengeance (oops, wrong franchise), for what many consider one of the best sequels of all time.
At the risk of revealing myself as one of the oldest CNET employees, I have to nominate "Grease" (Paramount Pictures) as the ultimate summer blockbuster, released in June 1978. I remember waiting in long lines and getting turned away from sold-out showings while on a summer trip to Lake Tahoe with my family.
John Travolta, who played Danny, was one of the big draws -- it was just a year after the release of blockbuster "Saturday Night Fever." "Grease" was basically a debut for Olivia Newton-John, who as Sandy transforms from a prim and proper girl next door to the hottest of the Pink Ladies. The movie went on to become the fourth-grossing live-action musical of all time.
Like many, I know every word of every song on the soundtrack, but at the time (I was 8 years old) most of the "Look at Me I'm Sandra Dee" lyrics went right over my head.
What can I say except I'm "stranded at the drive-in, branded like a fool."