Ranking every single summer blockbuster since 1977

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Like you, I’ve been hugely disappointed with the summer of 2016. Almost every blockbuster that arrived from the start of April through the end of August has left a bad taste in our mouths – and yet,the terrible movies just kept coming. As the months progressed and the heat pressed on, the general conversation was less excited about upcoming blockbusters; they would probably follow suit and be wash-outs, like the many that came before it. And you know what? After the string of bad summer blockbusters this year, I can’t help feeling the same. But was 2016 really this bad? Was this the end-point that the endless cycle of sequels and remakes – which have been doing well up until now – had been heading for all along? There was only one way to find out: track every summer movie release from 2016 back to where it started, compiling the Rotten Tomatoes score of each one, and finding out just how good those summers really were.

And here’s where the problems with such a task appeared, and my gargantuan feature seemed most foolhardy. So here are some ground rules I set myself, and you should read them too.

  • Firstly, why 1977 instead of ‘75, the year of the first true blockbuster, Jaws? My reasoning: it took the rest of the world a couple of years to jump on the blockbuster bandwagon (i.e. a couple of years to actually make them), and the year of Star Wars, the other side of the blockbuster-boom coin, seemed appropriate; where commercialism really found its feet with popular cinema. Beside the year of origin, there was also the question of dates: to me, April is still Spring – but so many blockbusters or ‘summer’ movies are released in April, that it seemed silly not to include it. Also, isn’t September still technically Summer? Only the scraps seem left for September releases, and everyone’s gone back to school; for the movie biz, once August ends, Summer is over. (I’ve also highlighted films that were released at the very end of March – for instance, the 30th – as the vast majority of their opening week is actually in April).
  • But the biggest problem? Defining what a ‘blockbuster’ actually is. If we look at our favourites from down the years, there is a definite bend toward action, adventure, science fiction, epics, fantasy, and also Oscar-bait fare. But you’ll also notice that I’ve included horror and comedy films that were released in the summer; I’ve done this as both genres are massively huge, and even a low budget shocker can become a huge blockbuster in terms of both profit and popularity. The same goes for comedies – ask Kevin Hart, whose comedies so far this year have earned over one billion dollars at the box office. To ignore them would be foolish. There are also films on here whose only claim to being a blockbuster are their star names – such as Hell or High Water, or Sicario. Feel free to leave them out and work out your own percentages, as I was very much on the fence about their inclusion.
  • While Rotten Tomatoes is a great tool for compiling critical consensus, we can’t forget that an RT score is not film criticism: a simple percentage ignores the conversation that is actually happening over these films. Plus, the earlier you go back, the less reviews there are – a mix of fewer publications, or fewer publications whose reviews have been digitised, plus the rise of blogs that may or may not be as professional to begin with. It’s an imperfect system – so keep in mind this is just an impression of critical consensus. That’s very important.
  • Remember, this isn’t every single film that was released during the summer – only the ones that either, a) clearly represent a blockbuster, b) made enough box office to become a blockbuster, c) are sequels to films that weren’t ‘blockbusters’, but gained enough popularity for the sequel to become blockbusters themselves (think the original cult-ish Pitch Perfect, and the box office leviathan Pitch Perfect 2). Of course, these definitions stretch and bend from film to film, but I’ve done my best to be aware of these differences. Also, I haven’t included the box office numbers because I wanted to only focus on critical reception – whether these films were actually any good, regardless of the money they made (I know that the amount of money movies make essentially writes their future, so of course it’s an element that does matter – but that’s a different conversation).
  • The difference in the amounts of movies released each year vary to differing extents: for instance, 1977 only has 12 movies I would consider summer movies, while 2013 had a whopping 34 releases. That’s obviously the blockbuster juggernaut snowballing and snowballing, but it’s simply another variable.
  • I’ve compiled this according to the US release date of each film.
  • Each film title is followed by its Rotten Tomatoes score. Following the list of films for each year, will be a percentage: this is how many films released in that summer are given a 60% rating or over on Rotten Tomatoes. 60% is the minimum score for a movie to be deemed ‘Fresh’ (as opposed to under 60%, which would be ‘Rotten’).

1977

Annie Hall – 98
Star Wars – 93
Smokey and the Bandit – 81
A Bridge Too Far – 73
Exorcist II: The Heretic – 21
The Rescuers – 83
Sorcerer – 80
The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training – 50
Orca – 15
The Hills Have Eyes – 64
Suspiria – 93
Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger – 63

  • 12 films
  • 67.83333333333333% (9 films rated fresh)

1978

Dawn of the Dead – 92
I Wanna Hold Your Hand – 83
Warlords of Atlantis – RT score not available
Damien: Omen II – 41
The Driver – 85
Grease – 77
Jaws 2 – 55
Heaven Can Wait – 88
National Lampoon’s Animal House – 91
Halloween – 92

  • 10 films
  • 70.39999999999999% (8 films rated fresh)

1979

Manhattan – 98
Apocalypse Now – 97
Alien – 97
The Muppet Movie – 87
Phantasm – 64
Rocky II – 73
Escape from Alcatraz – 95
Moonraker – 60
The Amityville Horror – 24
Monty Python’s Life of Brian – 96
The Bugs Bunny / Road Runner Movie – 100

  • 11 films
  • 81% (10 films rated fresh)

1980

Friday the 13th – 58
Star Wars – Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back – 94
The Shining – 88
The Blues Brothers – 85
The Last Flight of Noah’s Ark – 40
Herbie Goes Bananas – 40
Airplane! – 97
Caddyshack – 75
The Earthling – RT score not available
Raise the Titanic – 50
Xanadu – 38
Smokey and the Bandit II – 20

  • 12 films
  • 57.08333333333333% (5 films rated fresh)

1981

Excalibur – 82
The Howling – 66
Polyester – 89
Clash of the Titans – 66
Raiders of the Lost Ark – 94
Superman II – 89
The Great Muppet Caper – 79
Stripes – 86
The Cannonball Run – 30
Escape From New York – 85
The Fox and the Hound – 69
An American Werewolf in London – 89

  • 12 films
  • 77% (11 films rated fresh)

1982

Conan the Barbarian – 70
Rocky III – 63
Poltergeist – 88
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan – 88
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial – 98
Grease 2 – 32
Annie – 52
Blade Runner – 89
The Thing – 80
Tron – 70
Fast Times at Ridgemont High – 78
Pink Floyd – The Wall – 70

  • 12 films
  • 73.16666666666667% (10 films rated fresh)

1983

Flashdance – 33
Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone – 18
Star Wars – Episode VI: Return of the Jedi – 80
Psycho II – 59
WarGames – 93
Trading Places – 86
Octopussy – 42
Superman III – 26
Twilight Zone: The Movie – 65
Porky’s II: The Next Day  – 11
Staying Alive – 00
Jaws 3 – 11
Krull – 33
National Lampoon’s Vacation – 93
Risky Business – 96
Smokey and the Bandit Part 3 – 20

  • 16 films
  • 47.875% (6 films rated fresh)

1984

Romancing the Stone (March 30) – 87
Sixteen Candles – 86
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom – 85
Once Upon a Time in America – 89
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock – 78
Ghostbusters – 97
Gremlins – 85
Top Secret! – 76
The Karate Kid – 90
Cannonball Run II – 13
Conan the Destroyer – 26
The Last Starfighter – 76
The Muppets Take Manhattan – 81
Purple Rain – 66
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension – 72
Dreamscape – 75

  • 16 films
  • 73.875% (14 films rated fresh)

1985

Ladyhawke – 65
Brewster’s Millions – 36
Rambo: First Blood Part II – 30
A View to a Kill – 36
The Goonies – 70
Cocoon – 80
Return to Oz – 55
Back to the Future – 96
Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome – 81
The Black Cauldron – 55
Red Sonja – 15
National Lampoon’s European Vacation – 39
Weird Science – 56
Pee-wee’s Big Adventure – 89
Teen Wolf – 47

  • 15 films
  • 56.666666666666664% (6 films rated fresh)

1986

Short Circuit – 57
Top Gun – 55
Poltergeist II: The Other Side – 37
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – 81
The Manhattan Project – 47
The Karate Kid, Part II – 43
Labyrinth – 67
Psycho III – 58
The Great Mouse Detective – 81
Aliens – 98
Flight of the Navigator – 81
Howard the Duck – 15
Stand By Me – 91
The Transformers: The Movie – 55
The Fly – 91
Manhunter – 94

  • 16 films
  • 65.6875% (8 films rated fresh)

1987

Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol – 00
Project X – 78
Beverly Hills Cop II – 46
The Untouchables – 80
Harry and the Hendersons – 44
Predator – 78
The Witches of Eastwick – 73
Spaceballs – 54
Full Metal Jacket – 95
The Living Daylights – 70
Innerspace – 81
The Brave Little Toaster – 75
Jaws: The Revenge – 00
RoboCop – 88
Superman IV: The Quest for Peace – 12
The Lost Boys – 72
Masters of the Universe – 17
Dirty Dancing – 71

  • 18 films
  • 57.44444444444444% (11 films rated fresh)

1988

Beetlejuice (March 30) – 81
18 Again! – 29
“Crocodile” Dundee II – 11
Willow – 48
Rambo III – 36
Big – 97
Red Heat – 62
Who Framed Roger Rabbit – 97
Coming to America – 69
Short Circuit 2 – 38
Die Hard – 92
A Fish Called Wanda – 93
Caddyshack II – 04
Cocktail – 05
The Blob – 61
MAC and Me – 00

  • 16 films
  • 51.4375% (8 films rated fresh)

1989

Masters of the Universe 2: Cyborg – 14
Kickboxer – 60
Field of Dreams – 86
Teen Witch – 43
K-9 – 22
Earth Girls Are Easy – 66
Fright Night 2 – 25
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – 88
Dead Poets Society – 85
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier – 21
Licence to Kill – 77
Ghostbusters II – 51
Batman – 72
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids – 75
The Karate Kid, Part III – 16
Weekend at Bernie’s – 52
When Harry Met Sally – 89
Lethal Weapon 2 – 83
The Abyss – 89

  • 19 films
  • 58.631578947368425% (11 films rated fresh)

1990

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie (March 30) – 40
Back to the Future Part III – 74
Total Recall – 82
Dick Tracy – 64
Gremlins 2: The New Batch – 67
RoboCop 2 – 32
Days of Thunder – 39
Die Hard 2 – 69
Ghost – 74
Darkman – 83
The Witches – 100

  • 11 films
  • 65.81818181818181% (8 films rated fresh)

1991

Thelma & Louise – 83
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves – 50
The Rocketeer – 62
Terminator 2: Judgement Day – 93
Point Break – 68
Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey – 54
Hot Shots! – 83
Double Impact – 14

  • 8 films
  • 63.375% (5 films rated fresh)

1992

Beethoven – 31
FernGully: The Last Rainforest – 71
Lethal Weapon 3 – 56
Alien 3 – 44
Sister Act – 71
Patriot Games – 75
Batman Returns – 80
Universal Soldier – 19
Honey, I Blew Up the Kid – 41
Unforgiven – 95

  • 10 films
  • 58.3% (5 films rated fresh)

1993

The Adventures of Huck Finn – 69
Hot Shots! Part Deux – 59
Super Mario Bros. – 15
Cliffhanger – 69
Jurassic Park – 93
Last Action Hero – 37
Sleepless in Seattle – 72
The Firm – 75
In the Line of Fire – 95
Weekend at Bernie’s II – 10
Free Willy – 57
Hocus Pocus – 30
Rising Sun – 35
Tom and Jerry: The Movie – 18
The Fugitive – 96

  • 15 films
  • 55.333333333333336% (7 films rated fresh)

1994

Thumbelina (March 30) – 25
The Crow – 82
Maverick – 67
Beverly Hills Cop III – 10
The Flintstones – 21
Speed – 93
The Lion King – 92
The Shadow – 35
Forrest Gump – 72
True Lies – 72
Lassie – 87
North – 15
The Mask – 77
Clear and Present Danger – 82
Natural Born Killers – 46

  • 15 films
  • 58.4% (9 films rated fresh)

1995

A Goofy Movie – 53
An Awfully Big Adventure – 33
Die Hard With a Vengeance – 51
Braveheart – 78
Casper – 44
Johnny Mnemonic – 14
Congo – 24
Batman Forever – 40
Pocahontas – 56
Apollo 13 – 95
Judge Dredd – 18
Might Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie – 50
Species – 34
First Knight – 47
Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home – 36
Clueless – 81
Waterworld – 42
Babe – 97
The Usual Suspects – 88
Mortal Kombat – 32
Bad Boys – 43
Desperado – 62

  • 22 films
  • 50.81818181818182% (6 films rated fresh)

1996

James and the Giant Peach – 93
The Craft – 50
Twister – 57
Flipper – 32
Mission: Impossible – 63
Dragonheart – 50
The Rock – 66
Eraser – 36
The Hunchback of Notre Dame – 73
The Nutty Professor – 64
Independence Day – 61
Phenomenon – 50
The Frighteners – 64
Matilda – 90
The Island of Dr. Moreau – 22
The Crow: City of Angels – 12

  • 16 films
  • 55.1875% (8 films rated fresh)

1997

The Saint – 29
Anaconda – 38
Volcano – 44
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery – 70
The Fifth Element – 71
The Lost World: Jurassic Park – 51
Con Air – 54
Speed 2: Cruise Control – 03
Batman & Robin – 11
Hercules – 83
Face/Off – 92
Men in Black – 92
Contact – 62
George of the Jungle – 56
The Swan Princess: Escape from Castle Mountain – 40
Air Force One – 78
Spawn – 19
Free Willy 3: The Rescue – 44
Event Horizon- 24
G.I. Jane – 55
Kull the Conquerer – 26

  • 21 films
  • 49.61904761904762% (7 films rated fresh)

1998

Lost in Space – 27
Mercury Rising – 17
City of Angels – 59
Species II – 09
Tarzan and the Lost City – 06
Deep Impact – 48
Godzilla – 16
The Truman Show – 94
Mulan – 86
The X-Files: Fight the Future – 64
Dr. Dolittle – 43
Out of Sight – 93
Armageddon – 39
Lethal Weapon 4 – 52
Small Soldiers – 48
There’s Something About Mary – 83
The Mask of Zorro – 83
Saving Private Ryan – 92
The Avengers – 05
Blade – 54

  • 20 films
  • 50.9% (7 films rated fresh)

1999

The Matrix (March 31) – 87
Entrapment – 38
The Mummy – 56
Star Wars – Episode 1: The Phantom Menace – 55
Notting Hill – 83
Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shaged Me – 51
Tarzan – 88
The General’s Daughter – 22
Big Daddy – 40
South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut – 81
Wild Wild West – 17
American Pie – 61
Lake Placid – 40
The Haunting – 17
Inspector Gadget – 21
Deep Blue Sea – 56
The Blair Witch Project – 86
The Iron Giant – 96
Runaway Bride – 46
Mystery Men – 60
The Sixth Sense – 85
The Thomas Crown Affair- 70
Universal Soldier: The Return – 05

  • 23 films
  • 54.826086956521735% (10 films rated fresh)

 

2000

The Road to El Dorado – 48
Rules of Engagement – 36
American Psycho – 67
The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas – 25
Gladiator – 76
Battlefield Earth – 03
Dinosaur – 65
Mission: Impossible 2 – 57
Shanghai Noon – 79
Gone in 60 Seconds – 24
Titan A.E. – 52
Chicken Run – 97
The Patriot – 61
The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle – 43
The Perfect Storm – 47
The Kid – 49
Scary Movie – 53
X-Men – 81
Pokemon: The Movie 2000 – 15
Nutty Professor II: The Klumps – 26
Hollow Man – 27

  • 21 films
  • 49.095238095238095% (6 films rated fresh)

2001

Spy Kids (March 30) – 93
Pokemon 3: The Movie – 22
Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles – 11
Driven – 14
The Mummy Returns – 47
A Knight’s Tale – 58
Shrek – 88
Pearl Harbor – 25
Moulin Rouge! – 76
Evolution – 42
Swordfish – 26
Atlantis: The Lost Empire – 49
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – 19
Dr. Dolittle 2 – 42
The Fast and the Furious – 53
A.I. Artificial Intelligence – 73
Cats & Dogs – 54
Scary Movie 2 – 15
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within – 44
Jurassic Park III – 50
Planet of the Apes – 45
Rush Hour 2 – 52
American Pie 2 – 52
Rat Race – 44
Ghosts of Mars – 21

  • 25 films
  • 44.6% (4 films rated fresh)

2002

The Scorpion King – 41
My Big Fat Greek Wedding – 76
Spider-Man – 89
Star Wars – Episode II: Attack of the Clones – 65
Insomnia – 92
Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron – 69
The Sum of all Fears – 59
The Bourne Identity – 83
Scooby-Doo – 30
Lilo & Stitch – 86
Minority Report – 90
Hey Arnold!: The Movie – 29
Mr. Deeds – 22
Men in Black II – 39
The Powerpuff Girls Movie – 63
Reign of Fire – 40
Eight Legged Freaks – 48
K-19: The Widowmaker – 60
Stuart Little 2 – 81
Austin Powers in Goldmember – 54
Signs – 74
Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams – 74
XXX – 48

  • 23 films
  • 61.39130434782609% (13 films rated fresh)

2003

The Core (March 28) – 41
Basic – 21
Bulletproof Monk – 23
X2: X-Men United – 86
The Matrix Reloaded – 73
Bruce Almighty – 48
Finding Nemo – 99
The Italian Job – 73
2 Fast 2 Furious – 36
Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd – 10
Rugrats Go Wild – 41
Hulk – 61
28 Days Later – 87
Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle – 43
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines – 70
Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas – 46
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl – 79
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen – 17
Bad Boys II – 23
Johnny English – 33
Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life – 24
Seabiscuit – 77
Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over – 46
American Wedding – 54
Gigli – 06
S.W.A.T. – 48
Freddy vs. Jason – 41

  • 27 films
  • 48.37037037037037% (9 films rated fresh)

2004

Hellboy – 81
Walking Tall – 26
Kill Bill Vol. 2 – 84
The Punisher – 29
Man on Fire – 39
Van Helsing – 23
Troy – 54
Shrek 2 – 88
The Day After Tomorrow – 45
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – 91
The Chronicles of Riddick – 29
Garfield: The Movie – 15
The Terminal – 61
Around the World in 80 Days – 31
Spider-Man 2 – 93
King Arthur – 31
House of Flying Daggers – 88
I, Robot – 58
Catwoman – 09
The Bourne Supremacy – 81
Thunderbirds – 19
The Manchurian Candidate – 81
The Village – 43
Collateral – 86
Yu-Gi-Oh! The Movie: Pyramid of Light – 05
Open Water – 72
Alien vs. Predator – 21

  • 27 films
  • 51.22222222222222% (11 films rated fresh)

2005

Sin City (March 28) – 78
Sahara – 39
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – 60
XXX: State of the Union – 16
Kingdom of Heaven – 39
Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith – 79
Madagascar – 55
Mr. and Mrs. Smith – 59
Batman Begins – 84
War of the Worlds – 74
Fantastic Four – 27
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – 83
The Island – 40
Stealth – 13
Transporter 2 – 52
The 40-Year-Old Virgin – 85
The Brothers Grimm – 38

  • 17 films
  • 54.17647058823529% (7 films rated fresh)

2006

Basic Instinct 2 (March 31) – 07
Ice Age: The Meltdown (March 31) – 57
Scary Movie 4 – 37
Silent Hill – 29
United 93 – 91
Mission: Impossible III – 70
Poseidon – 33
The Da Vinci Code – 25
X-Men: The Last Stand – 58
The Omen – 27
The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift – 37
Superman Returns – 76
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest – 54
Miami Vice – 47
World Trade Center – 68
The Illusionist – 74
Snakes on a Plane – 69

  • 17 films
  • 50.52941176470588% (6 films rated fresh)

2007

Hot Fuzz – 91
Next – can’t find RT score
Spider-Man 3 – 63
28 Weeks Later – 70
Shrek the Third – 41
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End – 45
Ocean’s Thirteen – 70
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer – 37
Evan Almighty – 23
Live Free or Die Hard – 82
Ratatouille – 96
Transformers – 57
Rescue Dawn – 91
Joshua – 62
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – 78
Sunshine – 76
The Simpsons Movie – 88
The Bourne Ultimatum – 93
Rush Hour 3 – 18
Stardust – 76
The Invasion – 19
Mr. Bean’s Holiday – 51

  • 21 films
  • 63.19047619047618% (13 films rated fresh)

2008

Iron Man – 94
Speed Racer – 39
The Fall – 59
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian – 67
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – 77
Sex and the City – 49
Kung Fu Panda – 87
The Happening – 18
The Incredible Hulk – 67
WALL-E – 96
Wanted – 72
Hancock – 41
Hellboy II: The Golden Army – 85
Journey to the Centre of the Earth – can’t find RT score
The Dark Knight – 94
Mamma Mia! – 54
The X-Files: I Want to Believe – 31
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor – 12
Tropic Thunder – 82
Star Wars: The Clone Wars – 18
Death Race – 43
Babylon A.D. – 06

  • 21 films
  • 56.714285714285715% (10films rated fresh)

2009

Fast & Furious – 28
Dragonball Evolution – 14
17 Again – 55
State of Play – 84
Battle for Terra – 48
X-Men Origins: Wolverine – 38
Star Trek – 95
Angels & Demons – 37
Terminator Salvation – 33
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian – 44
Up – 98
The Hangover – 79
Land of the Lost – 26
The Taking of Pelham 123 – 51
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen – 19
The Hurt Locker – 98
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs – 45
Public Enemies – 68
Bruno – 68
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – 84
G-Force – 22
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra – 35
District 9 – 90
Inglourious Basterds – 89
The Final Destination – 29

  • 25 films
  • 55.08% (10 films rated fresh)

2010

How to Train Your Dragon (March 26) – 98
Clash of the Titans – 28
Kick-Ass – 76
Iron Man 2 – 72
Robin Hood – 43
Shrek Forever After – 58
Sex and the City 2 – 15
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time – 36
The A-Team – 47
The Karate Kid – 66
Jonah Hex – 12
Toy Story 3 – 99
Knight and Day – 52
Grown Ups – 10
The Last Airbender – 06
Despicable Me – 81
Predators – 64
The Girl Who Played With Fire – 69
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice – 41
Inception – 86
Salt – 62
The Expendables – 41
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World – 81

  • 23 films
  • 54.04347826086957% (11 films rated fresh)

2011

Sucker Punch (March 25) – 23
Hanna – 71
Scream 4 – 59
Fast Five – 77
Thor – 77
Bridesmaids – 90
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – 32
The Artist – 97
Drive – 92
Kung Fu Panda 2 – 81
X-Men: First Class – 86
The Hangover Part II – 33
Super 8 – 82
The Smurfs – 22
Green Lantern – 26
Cars 2 – 39
Transformers: Dark of the Moon – 35
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 – 96
Captain America: The First Avenger – 80
Cowboys & Aliens – 43
Colombiana – 27
Final Destination 5 – 62
Rise of the Planet of the Apes – 82
Conan the Barbarian – 24
Spy Kids: All the Time in the World – 22

  • 25 films
  • 58.32000000000001% (13 films rated fresh)

2012

Wrath of the Titans (March 30) – 26
American Reunion – 43
Lockout – 38
The Pirates! Band of Misfits – 86
Safe – 57
The Avengers – 92
Dark Shadows – 37
The Dictator – 57
Battleship – 34
Men in Black 3 – 68
Snow White and the Huntsman – 49
Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted – 79
Prometheus – 73
Rock of Ages – 41
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter – 35
Brave – 78
Magic Mike – 80
Ted – 67
The Amazing Spider-Man – 73
Ice Age: Continental Drift – 37
The Dark Knight Rises – 87
Total Recall – 30
The Bourne Legacy – 56
The Expendables 2 – 66
ParaNorman – 87

  • 25 films
  • 51.6% (12 films rated fresh)

2013

The Host (March 29) – 08
G.I. Joe: Retaliation (March 27) – 29
Oblivion – 53
Scary Movie 5 – 04
Iron Man 3 – 79
Pain & Gain – 49
Star Trek Into Darkness – 86
The Great Gatsby – 48
Fast & Furious 6 – 69
The Hangover Part III – 20
After Earth – 11
Now You See Me – 49
The Purge – 37
This is the End – 83
Man of Steel – 55
Despicable Me 2 – 73
Monsters University – 78
World War Z – 67
The Heat – 65
White House Down – 50
The Lone Ranger – 31
Grown Ups 2 – 07
Pacific Rim – 71
Red 2 – 43
R.I.P.D. – 13
The Conjuring – 86
The Wolverine – 69
The World’s End – 89
The Smurfs 2 – 13
2 Guns – 64
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters – 42
Elysium – 67
Kick-Ass 2 – 31
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones – 12

  • 34 films
  • 48.55882352941177% (14 films rated fresh)

2014

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (March 31) – 52
Transcendence – 20
Godzilla – 74
X-Men: Days of Future Past – 91
How to Train Your Dragon 2 – 91
It Follows – 97
Foxcatcher – 88
Edge of Tomorrow – 91
Maleficent – 50
A Million Ways to Die in the West – 33
22 Jump Street – 84
Transformers: Age of Extinction – 18
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – 90
The Purge: Anarchy – 56
Guardians of the Galaxy – 91
Hercules – 60
Lucy – 67
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – 22
The Expendables 3 – 32
The Giver – 35
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For – 43
Birdman – 91

  • 22 films
  • 63.54545454545455% (12 films rated fresh)

2015

Furious 7 – 79
Avengers: Age of Ultron – 75
Pitch Perfect 2 – 66
The Age of Adaline – 55
Mad Max: Fury Road – 97
Tomorrowland – 50
Spy – 94
Inside Out – 98
Sicario – 94
San Andreas – 48
Jurassic World – 71
Southpaw – 61
Terminator Genisys – 25
Everest – 73
Ted 2 – 46
Magic Mike XXL – 63
Ant-Man – 81
Self/less – 19
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation – 93
Pixels – 16
Fantastic Four – 09
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. – 67
Straight Outta Compton – 87
Hitman: Agent 47 – 08

  • 24 films
  • 61.458333333333336% (15 films rated fresh)

2016

Hardcore Henry – 47
Captain America: Civil War – 90
Criminal – 31
The Jungle Book – 95
The Huntsman: Winter’s War – 17
The Angry Birds Movie – 43
X-Men: Apocalypse – 48
Alice Through the Looking Glass – 30
Money Monster – 57
The Nice Guys – 91
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising – 62
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows – 38
Now You See Me 2 – 34
The Conjuring 2 – 80
Warcraft – 28
Finding Dory – 94
Independence Day: Resurgence – 32
The Shallows – 77
The BFG – 75
The Legend of Tarzan – 36
The Purge: Election Year – 54
The Secret Life of Pets – 74
Ghostbusters – 73
Ice Age: Collision Course – 12
Star Trek Beyond – 83
Jason Bourne – 56
Suicide Squad – 26
Pete’s Dragon – 87
Ben-Hur – 28
Mechanic: Resurrection – 24
Hell or High Water – 99

  • 31 films
  • 55.516129032258064% (12 films rated fresh)

Conclusions

Now that’s interesting. According to what I’ve found, the critically highest-rated summer was 1979 with 81% of movies having a ‘Fresh’ rating, over 11 film releases.

From 1985 through to 1996, each year rounds out somewhere between 55% and 65%. 1997 is the year that the drop in quality seems to become concrete, the average rating of the summers from then until now turning out at 56.99%. So basically, just over half of the movies released every summer for the past 19 years has been good (or rather, rated ‘Fresh’ on RT). That ain’t good. But what else did I find? 2016 is far from the worst summer ever: that would belong to 2001, with a low 44.6% turnout. 2016, on the other hand, has a 55.52% (rounded up) rating – clearly totally average for almost the past two decades. So what does that say about my findings?

Ultimately, that we can’t judge movies this way. Numbers are no way to really get at the zeitgeist of moviedom; the real criticism is in actually reading reviews, and simply talking about those movies. Clearly, even though we may get a spate of big ‘event’ films that disappoint us, there are still good films coming out which take on the popularity. While the sequels and remakes of 2016 have underperformed in terms of box office, all that’ll mean is that studios will take more risks in the future – or the opposite. The rut hasn’t been just this year – it’s been the past 20 years. So let’s break out of it.

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