Ever since Jaws attacked the box office in 1975, Hollywood has been churning out summer blockbusters. When it comes to movies, the summer months have become synonymous with big budget spectacle and non-stop action. However, over the past four decades, there’s been no shortage of blockbusters that appeal to children of all ages. It doesn’t take massive amounts of sex, violence, and profanity to tell a compelling story, and these 10 summer family films prove that in spades.
10. Chicken Run
Release Date: June 21, 2000
Box Office Gross: $106.7 million
Despite voice work from the not so family friendly Mel Gibson, this whimsical claymation film from the creators of Wallace and Gromit has plenty to offer. Centered around a band of chickens hoping to escape from their farm before being turned into filling for pot pies, Chicken Run finds the perfect balance of action, comedy, and heart.
Release Date: June 3, 1988
Box Office Gross: $114.9 million
Everyone loves Tom Hanks, and this classic comedy is a great reminder of exactly why that is. Although this film is easily the most adult oriented on the list, and contains a couple sexual references and the occasional curse word, the film’s overall lighthearted nature, and reverence for youthful innocence makes it nearly impossible not to love.
Release Date: June 29, 2007
Box Office Gross: $206.4 million
The first of many Pixar entries on this list, Ratatouille takes an absurd premise and delivers one of the most heartfelt tributes to the joys of food ever put on screen. Not only does it teach the important lesson that you should follow your passion, it also has the potential ancillary benefit of getting kids to branch out in their eating habits. All in all, it’s the ideal movie for anyone who loves a good meal.
Release Date: June 27, 2008
Box Office Gross: $534.7 million
Using minimal dialogue, Wall-E manages to tell a complex story of isolation and love. It doesn’t hurt that the film is wildly entertaining, funny, and surprisingly poignant. Even though the film paints a dark picture of humanity’s future, the underlying environmental and social messages are worth a serious discussion. Plus, who doesn’t love robots?
6. Toy Story 3
Release Date: June 18, 2010
Box Office Gross: $635.7 million
The only one of the Toy Story films to be released during the summer, the third installment in the pitch perfect franchise offered a fantastic bookend to both the joys of being a child and the eventuality of growing up. The most amazing part of this film is that the suspense and emotion will resonate just as strongly (if not stronger) with adults than it will with kids.
5. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
Release Date: July 9, 2003
Box Office Gross: $652.1 million
Before the franchise became an overhyped cash grab, the original Pirates of the Caribbean offered the type of lighthearted fun perfect for family viewing. Although the film has a PG-13 rating, it’s primarily due to intense action scenes and bloodless violence. While most older kids should enjoy following the exploits of the now overly famous Captain Jack Sparrow, the film’s dark tone might not be great for children under 10.
4. The Lion King
Release Date: June 15, 1994
Box Office Gross: $771.9 million
One of the few Disney classics released during the summer season, The Lion King isn’t just a throwback to what animation used to be, it’s also a testament to quality storytelling. With great voice work, memorable songs, and one of the most traumatically sad deaths since Bambi’s mom, The Lion King holds up as one of the great animated features from one of Disney’s strongest eras.
3. Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope
Release Date: May 25, 1977
Box Office Gross: $775.4 million
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Star Wars was new and exciting. Sure the prequels might have tarnished the original a bit, but there’s still a reason people lined up around the block during the summer of ’77. Star Wars wasn’t just unlike anything that came before it in terms of spectacle, it was a reminder that movies could (and should) be a whole lot of fun.
2. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial
Release Date: June 11, 1982
Box Office Gross: $792.9 million
Steven Spielberg knows how to make summer movies, and, E.T. has been the family classic that keeps on giving. It was rereleased in 1985, and again in 2002, making it one of the most financially successful movies of all time. In addition to basically printing cash at the box office, E.T. is almost universally praised, and was named one of the American Film Institute’s 100 greatest movies of all time.
1. Finding Nemo
Release Date: May 30, 2003
Box Office Gross: $864.6 million
You can debate which Pixar movie is the best till the cows come home, but Finding Nemo is the studio’s most endearingly family oriented of the bunch. Wildly successful at the box office, Finding Nemo centers on an over-protective father and his journey to be reunited with his son. Seamlessly blending action, drama, suspense, and humor (all while maintaining a G Rating) Finding Nemo is the definitive family summer blockbuster.
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