By Thomas Sellers Jr.
By the time you conclude this countdown, you might question my test in movies and if I even know what a summer blockbuster is.
In the 1970s, Hollywood studios needed a way to boost profits during the months of June, July and into August. Drive-in theaters were doing well, but what could get the people back into a freezing, dark auditorium with strangers?
Over the next 40 years, U.S. Americans have been thrown bait like “Back to the Future,” “Dark Knight,” “Toy Story 3,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “Alien,” “Shrek Forever After,” “Knight and Day” and the grandfather of them all, “Jaws.”
These flicks are designed for close viewing with features like animation, action-packed scenes and sounds that need studio speakers. Some even employed 3D glasses to lure us into the theater.
And like shooting fish in a barrel, Hollywood nabbed billions and billions of dollars from us since the June 20, 1975, debut of “Jaws.”
With that out of the way, you won’t see on this list the summer blockbuster classics like “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial,” “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope,” “Spider-Man 2,” “Superman,” “Apollo 13,” “Batman Returns” or any of the Marvel releases.
Anything set in outer space and based on a superhero tends to bore me.
And any Harry Potter or “Lord of the Rings” release in the summer has been thrown in the trash like potato salad left out too long at a picnic.
Sorry, Will Smith, your summer six-pack of “Independence Day,” “Men in Black,” “Wild West,” “Hancock,” “I Am Legend” and “I, Robot” are not good enough to make my cut.
And none of the 2018 candidates have been good enough to get me to come out from my air-conditioned home to the $11 icebox. No place in my top 10 for “Ocean’s 8,” “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” “Deadpool 2,” “Avengers: Infinity War,” “Upgrade” and “Adrift.”
So what makes the cut for Thomas Sellers Jr.?
10. “A-Team” Released June 11, 2010
I might be the only person in America willing to place this summer classic in a top 10. I guess it is hard for me to let go of my childhood love of the TV show that gave me access to the weekly adventures of Col. John “Hannibal” Smith, Templeton “Face” Peck, B.A. Baracus and H.M. “Howlin’ Mad” Murdock.
I think the crew led by the action-hero of the 2000s, Liam Neeson, did an excellent job of bringing this quartet back to life. The cast also featured Bradley Cooper, Sharlto Copley and Raleigh-Egypt’s very own Quinton “Rampage” Jackson.
I enjoyed the action and plot twist. It took the cheesy nature of the 1980s action series and added an updated, explosive boom.
9. “True Lies” Released July 15, 1994
OK, I will confess I am an Arnold Schwarzenegger fan. I love his classics like “Commando,” “Running Man” and “Twins.” His classic one-liners make me laugh. He’s believable as a hero who bullet bounce off when he’s on the attack. So when he took on the role of Henry Tasker in “True Lies,” 13-year-old Thomas was the conductor on the train to summer blockbuster millions. Co-stars Jamie Lee Curtis, Bill Paxton and Tom Arnold are perfect complements to Arnold throughout the 141 minutes. The political thriller was pure entertainment. I love the bridge scene, the twist ending and, of course, Jaime Lee Curtis dancing. I was 13 years old.
8. “Do the Right Thing” Released June 14, 1989
I am not the biggest Spike Lee fan. Frankly, his movies are kind of boring to me. But I can sit and watch “Do the Right Thing” anytime. It’s my second favorite Lee flick behind “School Daze” (released Feb. 12, 1988).
Both movies at first glance are “black” films. But once you really pay attention to the characters, interactions and plots, it’s about coming of age. In “Do the Right Thing,” a blazing hot summer day rips a local community apart by the end of the night. Laughter, small stories and character bonding builds up to an emotional, gripping climax. I picked up a few life lessons from this movie. Everyone has his or her story. Our lives shape the views of the world we have. But when given a chance, we need to listen to each other and do the right thing.
7. “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” Released July 3, 1991
Another Arnold classic makes my countdown. This is the only true summer blockbuster I fell for the hype. Usually a summer blockbuster like “Jurassic Park” is accompanied by an aggressive advertising campaign and plenty of paraphernalia.
T2 was all I heard about before I left school that year. All of us planned to see the movie in theaters because it was going to be action-packed, thrilling and it had a young kid about our age in it played by Edward Furlong.
He did a credible job in his role. And he brought emotion and character out of Schwarzenegger’s cyborg. This is a sci-fi action thriller I recommend. Plus the action sequences and visual effects still stand up 27 years later. This sequel is a classic.
6. “Airplane!” Released July 2, 1980
OK, I am too young to have seen Airplane! in a theater. But this movie is the how-to of the parody genre. Full of quotable lines, slapstick humor and pure silliness. This spoof of the emergency/airport movies popular at that time has lasting power. Thanks to the cast of Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Lloyd Bridges, Robert Stack and Leslie Nielsen. Later in my life, Robert Stack scared the innocence out of me weekly on NBC’s “Unsolved Mysteries.” But what kept me from running from the TV was memories of his role of Capt. Rex Kramer. That straight delivery bringing hilarious lines still makes me smile. Then parody icons Lloyd Bridges and Leslie Nielsen set a high bar for themselves in “Airplane!”
5. “Speed” Released June 10, 1994
The year 1994 was a great year for movies. If it was a wine, it would have increased in value. Films like “Pulp Fiction,” “The Lion King,” “The Shawshank Redemption,” “True Lies,” “The Mask,” “Interview with the Vampire,” “Dumb and Dumber,” “Natural Born Killers” … must I go on? And the action-filled “Speed” earns a spot on this list for being a surprising summer blockbuster.
It did feature a solid cast with Keanu Reeves, Dennis Hopper and Joe Morton. But a star was born with the portrayal of Sandra Bullock’s “Annie.” Just a regular, everyday woman trying to ride the bus and have a normal day. She transformed into the perfect sidekick to Reeves’ Jack in trying to save the passengers and city from a potential exploding vehicle. “Speed” is the fastest-moving adventure – literally. And each second is believable and fun. Bullock was able to create chemistry with Reeves and had you rooting for the couple to survive in order to have a happily ever after.
4. “National Lampoon’s Vacation” Released July 29, 1983
I love classic Chevy Chase. Just give me the putting scene from “Caddyshack” and my sides are hurting. In the early 1980s, Hollywood comedy belonged to Chase. He had leading man features with the humor capable of drawing in men and women. He looks like the typical family man. Therefore, bringing Clark Griswold to life was perfect for Chase. Chase and the cast featuring Beverly D’Angelo, Imogene Coca and Randy Quaid help create the genre of the family vacation comedy. The standard was made with screwball moments, relatable highlights and great quotes.
What made this movie awesome was Clark snapping once he got to Wolly World to find it closed. This man just traveled from his home in Chicago all the way to California. He endured theft, death and storms just to get a closed sign. His reaction was the proper response.
3. “Coming to America” Released June 29, 1988
Wow, another comedy. Whether it is cold, warm or blazing Memphis hot, give me something funny to watch. One of the greatest romantic comedies ever debuted in 1988. Director John Landis captured legendary comedian Eddie Murphy’s leading-man skills in “Coming to America.” He also captured Murphy’s old man side, singer side and even white side with the actor donning makeup to bring to life multiple characters. Arsenio Hall took on the challenge of playing many characters as well.
Classic scenes from Randy Watson to the barber shop make this movie quotable for years. The Soul-Glo theme was my ringtone at one point.
Throughout all the jokes from Murphy’s Prince Akeem to Hall’s Semmi, the plot in this movie is phenomenal. It’s a great love story. Akeem, who doesn’t want an arranged marriage, heads to America to find a new bride. Akeem and Semmi travel to the States and take on jobs at a bootleg Mcdonald’s. This is where he finds his true love of Lisa. This movie is beautiful in many aspects.
2. “Forrest Gump” Released July 6, 1994
I love history. I love sports. I love a love story. I love learning while watching a film. I love laughing. And I don’t mind a good cry. Forrest Gump checks all the boxes.
Tom Hanks is the greatest actor of our generation. He’s on the Mount Rushmore of Hollywood actors. He earned the Oscar that year for this fantastic movie.
Every history class should require this movie for watching. It’s an entertaining way to bring up a discussion about the Vietnam War, John F. Kennedy, Bear Bryant and AIDS.
The movie hasn’t aged very well as for the special effects, but it’s still enjoyable to see Gump meet presidents and be involved in historic moments.
If you haven’t seen Forrest Gump yet … well, you’re just stupid. And I know what Forrest will say, “Stupid is as stupid does.” So don’t be stupid, and run like Forrest to watch this U.S. American classic. Or if you’re like me, treat yourself to another viewing.
1. “The Fugitive” Released August 6, 1993
If this movie is on TV, the next 130 minutes are dedicated to solving the mystery of who killed Dr. Richard Kimble. “The Fugitive” brought a 1960s TV series to my generation with the great performances of Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones. This movie smashed at the box office with intense action. The chase of Ford’s Kimble from Jones’ Samuel Gerard is hilarious, heart-stopping and emotional. Ford is running for his freedom and trying to solve the cast. Jones doesn’t care. Gerard was given an assignment to bring a fugitive to justice. But as the chase goes through most of Illinois, the men actually form a bond from a distance. I guess gunshots, dodging capture in a hospital and a leap into a waterfall bring two men together. Kind of like a summer romance. Go grab “The Fugitive” for a blockbuster night.