Top Twenty Five Best Reviewed Summer Blockbusters

THE BEST REVIEWED SUMMER MOVIES OF THE LAST 40 YEARS.    This list can be found on Rotten Tomatoes site.  It is interesting in various ways.  I have seen all these movies except one (can you guess which one I missed) and I understand why the critics liked the vast majority of them.  You will notice that many of them are children’s movies or animated features, or movies that required a lot of CG or special effects.  You will also notice that Avatar (quite rightly) doesn’t come close to making the cut.  All these movies got a rating of 90% fresh or better, mostly better.    See what you think.   They are listed from most well received down starting with 1).

1)      E.T.

2)      UP

3)      Toy Story III

4)      Alien (1979)

5)      Aliens (1986)

6)      Star Wars Episode V—Empire Strikes Back

7)      Jaws

8)      Wall-E

9)      The Dark Knight (2008)

10)   Finding Nemo

11)   Airplane!

12)   Star Trek (2009 reboot)

13)   Ratatouille

14)   Back to the Future

15)   Risky Business

16)   Apollo 13

17)   Iron Man (2008)

18)   Who Framed Roger Rabbit

19)   Star Wars Episode IV

20)   Terminator II—Judgment Day

21)   The Truman Show

22)   Big

23)   The Bourne Ultimatum

24)   Chicken Run

25)   Unforgiven

  • Drew Trotter

    Isn’t Avatar’s omission from a summer blockbuster list at least in part because it was released at Christmas?!

  • ben witherington

    I suppose, but it wouldn’t be on the list even if it was a summer movie. It was widely panned by the critics, and rightly so. Only its special cinematography on the foreign planet deserved an Oscar nod. Otherwise this movie was just Dances with Wolves on another planet, and the dialogue was atrocious.


  • Rick

    It includes Ratatouille, yet leaves out Spiderman?

  • codebeard

    I have only seen about half of these, but I am curious about what reasons you’d have had for not seeing one of them, Ben. Was it simply because you never got around to seeing it, or was there something objectionable about the movie?

  • Dan S

    Avatar didn’t deserve Oscar wins for cinematography or art direction since it’s look was blatantly stolen from Roger Dean’s fantasy landscape art.

    I’m kind of wondering why “Raiders of the Lost Ark” isn’t on the list. The inclusion of “Risky Business” and “Big” over “Forrest Gump”? I think Rotten Tomatoes as a ratings site has some issues here.

  • Edgar

    What, no Matrix? :-(

    That should be right after T2…

  • Chad

    Spot on regarding the comparison to Dances with Wolves, Ben. I routinely refer to Avatar as Dances with Smurfs.

  • Jared

    Surprised to see The Truman Show on that list. So which movie didn’t you see? My first guess is Risky Business.

  • ben witherington

    Fellows, these are simply the top reviewed movies by the critics, and don’t in particular have much to do with Rotten Tomatoes. It’s a list released by the Film people or the Academy. I simply didn’t see Chicken Run. No reason except I missed it. I’ve seen the rest. The point is, these other movies you mention were not as well reviewed across the board.


  • ben witherington

    P.S. Thanks to Dan S. for telling me about the theft by Cameron. I have no respect for the guy anyway. He is the guy who claimed to bring the ossuaries of Jesus and Mary Magdalene to NY city, which of course was a farce. The guy is not credible and has a huge ego.


  • alaskazimm

    You need to see Chicken Run. It’s one of my favorite movies and a pinnacle of claymation, imo.

  • Jerry

    I agree on Chicken run it is Stalag 17 meets Wallace & Gromit. Very well done.

  • Aloysiys

    Before you see Chicken Run watch both Stalag 17 and The Great Escape. But then you really must see it.

  • ben witherington

    Well I have seen both those movies, so Chicken Run is next.


  • Dan

    Dr. Witherington,

    This is a theological question but I wasn’t sure where to ask you. I got a copy of ‘Erasing Hell’ by Francis Chan. In many ways, he argues against Bell’s ‘Love Wins.’ He says that there is no evidence that gehenna was a garbage dumb in Jerusalem, as Bell claims. He said the first reference to such a dump was 1200 years later by David Kimhi, who lived in Europe. I’m curious as to your thoughts. Thanks!

  • David B. Swanson

    I believe you can go back even further than “Dances with Wolves”, Avatar is Pocahontas in the future.

  • Matthew Y

    “Dances with Wolves on another planet”

    Yes! I kept saying the same thing to those I was watching it with. I was so unimpressed with Avatar.

  • Rick

    Ah, but Dances with Wolves was terrible and made no sense. The Last Samurai was better than Dances with Wolves, and Avatar was better than both. I don’t suppose anyone’s thought that this anti-colonial variation on the Hero Myth is popular because of its Christ reverberations, much like Superman or any of the others. Honestly, the immediate impression Avatar made on me was of a world without a fall. I think it could have been a very teachable moment for Christians, theologically speaking.

    On a personal note, as both a Marine and someone casually interested in various aspects of the paleo lifestyle, I thought that Cameron generally did a very good job of ensuring that the small details were authentic in these two areas. The Marine characters — for the most part — spoke like Marines and convincingly used Marine slang and mannerisms. (Avatar remains the only commitment to film, not including any HBO miniseries, of Marine stories where the central characters seemed like actual Marines to me.) The Na’vi run like actual barefoot runners (forefoot strike rather than the common shod western heel strike), hold their bows like you’ll see Indians do it rather than the standard western technique, etc. And the technological achievements were incredible.

    I guess I have a hard time understanding some of the sniffy criticism Avatar has received. And based on the numbers cited on Wiki, I’d say that it was not at all “panned” by critics.