A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, studios would use summer as a dumping ground for bad movies. These iconic flicks changed the story line.

By Liz Loerke
Updated July 27, 2016
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Once a term for movies that grossed more than others, blockbusters now refers to action-packed, special-effects-driven spectacles, says author Tom Shone.

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Dun-dun…dun-dun… Jaws, Steven Spielberg’s thriller about a great white shark, makes a killer splash and becomes the first movie to earn more than $100 million domestically. The film industry quickly realizes, “We’re gonna need bigger movies.”

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George Lucas’s space saga, Star Wars, a sleeper hit, shows that it has the same box-office mojo as Jaws, raking in $193.8 million in the United States, then cashing in with official movie merchandise.

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Families flock to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, the year’s third-highest-grossing flick, only be to be horrified by a violent sacrifice scene. Spielberg suggests the addition of a PG-13 rating, and in August Red Dawn becomes the first PG-13 movie.


Holy Batman-ia! Tim Burton’s comic-book noir is the center of a cross-promotional marketing campaign, which rolls out toys and fast-food tie-ins, well ahead of the June 23 release. When it hits theaters, Batman earns a record $42.6 million in three days.

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Aided by CGI (computer-generated imagery) dinosaurs, Spielberg takes another chomp at the movie landscape with Jurassic Park. A crowd-pleaser that doesn’t require mastery of English, it sweeps the global market, earning $224 million more overseas than here.

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Forrest Gump runs into the hearts of Academy voters. The heartfelt dramedy is the first movie to gross more than $100 million and win the Oscar for Best Picture.


The White House is blown up by aliens in Independence Day, and “the end of the world becomes extremely marketable,” says Purdue University’s film-program director, Lance Duerfarhd. “It paves the way for apocalyptic hits San Andreas and 28 Days Later.”


Shrek stomps the competition, making $484 million worldwide and winning the first-ever Oscar for Best Animated Feature. Because the movie is packed with jokes for kids and adults alike, every family member wants to see it.