For many Americans, summertime is prime movie season. With long days and free time to burn, the movies have become a go-to choice for beating the heat or riding out rainy summer afternoons. And though summer blockbusters are now a cultural norm, the warmer months were not always a top priority for Hollywood executives.
Though theaters became air conditioned already in 1925, it wasn’t until the release of Steven Speilberg’s “Jaws” in 1975 that film distributors began to put much stock in summer movies. Universal Pictures had a hunch that with the right marketing a summer film could succeed. The studio spent an unprecedented $1.8 million promoting the film, and the gamble paid off.
“Jaws” became the first-ever summer blockbuster, grossing over $7 million in its opening weekend. The movie remains well-loved today, and new fans are continually drawn to the movie’s legendary status.
The success of “Jaws” was enough to convince every studio in Hollywood that summertime was officially movie time. Since 1975, some of the movie industry’s biggest hits have come out for the summer movie season. George Lucas was quick to capitalize on the summer season, releasing six Star Wars films in the summer between 1977 and 2005.
Today, summer movies remain as popular as ever with hits like “Avengers: End Game” (2019) and “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” (2018) breaking into the top 20 highest grossing films of all time worldwide.
With so many legendary summer blockbusters, it’s easy to overlook the treasure trove of lesser-known films and cult classics that also came out in the summer. From Marlon Brando’s 1953 turn as Marc Antony in “Julius Caesar” to director Kogonada’s beautiful 2017 debut feature “Columbus,” there’s a world of must-see summer flicks that have flown largely under the radar. Here are some of the best summer flicks you’ve never seen, based on audience and critic ratings from Rotten Tomatoes and Internet Movie Database.
To determine the best summer flicks you’ve never seen, 24/7 Tempo created an index based on each film’s Rotten Tomatoes average critic rating, Rotten Tomatoes average audience rating, and Internet Movie Database average user rating. To be considered, each film needed to have between 5,000 and 20,000 IMDb user ratings, 35,000 or fewer Rotten Tomatoes user ratings, and at least 5 Rotten Tomatoes critic ratings. They also had to have received wide release in the U.S. some time from May 1 through August 31, according to IMDb. Only films released since 1950 with English language dialogue were considered as a proxy for cultural relevance.
We averaged the user ratings from Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb and weighted by the number of votes for each. The combined user rating was then averaged with the Rotten Tomatoes critic rating.