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
Jaws movie poster
Credit: Universal History Archive/Getty Images

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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Jaws movie poster
Credit: Universal History Archive/Getty Images

1 Jaws

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.”

Star Wars 1977 movie poster
Credit: Universal History Archive/Getty Images

2 Star Wars

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.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom movie still
Credit: Paramount Pictures/Getty Images

3 Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

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.

4 Batman

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.

Jurassic Park movie still
Credit: Murray Close/Getty Images

5 Jurassic Park

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.

“Forrest Gump” still with Tom Hanks
Credit: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

6 Forrest Gump

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.

7 Independence Day

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.”

8 Shrek

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.