While some may lay out on the beach until they reach a golden crisp, film enthusiasts seem to hit two birds with one stone by achieving their tan lines queuing for the release of current summer blockbusters. What follows is a reward for patience: Plush reclining seats to rest sunburnt bodies, a cool burst of A/C, and hours of nonstop action and eye-boggling CGI effects. It’s hard to believe Jurassic Park released its snarling T-Rex two decades ago, or that folks waited in the broiling summer heat for its premiere. However, not all summer blockbusters make the mega-million budget mark. Here are five classic summer films that are as visually stunning as they are entertaining—and you can watch them anytime you like.
1. Jurassic Park (1993)
As a 20th anniversary present to film enthusiasts, Jurassic Park returned with a re-release in 3D. Based on the novel by Michael Crichton, Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park remains an engaging adventure film that sternly shakes a finger at over-zealous scientists, revealing that the stealthy, swift movement of a Velociraptor’s sharp talon is one scary, allegorical CGI.
2. Do the Right Thing (1989)
Spike Lee’s Oscar nominated film about race relations stirred—and nearly toppled—America’s melting pot when it hit theaters in the summer of 1989. A story set in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood unfurls the issues of class division, racial collision, and culminates insular tensions that slowly rise, like ripples of heat from hot concrete. Whether it’s the long shots of NYC’s unbearable heat wave or from Lee’s prickly smart script, beads of sweat will form. The late film critic Roger Ebert quoted, “Anyone who walks into this film expecting answers is a dreamer or a fool. But anyone who leaves the movie with more intolerance than they walked in with wasn’t paying attention.”
3. The Dark Knight (2008)
In the past decade, there’s been a trudging trend of the comic book movie genre. Though highly profitable, there are some supernatural powers that begin to sound as interesting as jelly on toast. Thankfully director Christopher Nolan’s Batman franchise, cumulatively grossing as much as over $1.2 billion, are as entertaining as they are awe-inspiring. The Dark Knight showcases great drama and filmmaking, with spectacular performances by the late Heath Ledger as he demonstrates the terror that is The Joker.
4. Blade Runner (1982)
Ridley Scott’s transcendental, neo-noir film set in a dilapidated and dystopian postmodern Los Angeles had an estimated budget of $28 million. Yet opening weekend, the movie grossed only $1.2 million. However, with its visually detailed post-apocalyptic production design way ahead of its time, it remains a cult classic among sci-fi enthusiasts and designers alike.
5. Donnie Darko (2001)
A sci-fi psychological thriller that borders along the surreal and supernatural still finds a way to captivate the minds of anyone who wonders about the other side. Empireonline.com succinctly describes the plot as, “[A] story of a teenager who’s warned about the end of the world by a six-foot talking rabbit after a jet engine falls on his house.”
Sure, the synopsis sounds bizarre, but on screen, director Richard Kelly beautifully and seamlessly ties together the philosophical themes of life, death and human existence. Sound too heavy? Too late, because the dreamlike images accompanied by Michael Stipe’s hypnotic soundtrack will only create a catalyst for deep conversation and make you want to watch it again.