1987, 1997, 2007—Which Summer Had the Best Movies?

Each summer movie season is its own beast, with surprise hits and misses, and movies that capture the cultural conversation. So far (we’re writing this at the midsummer point), the summer of 2017 has been defined by a few key things:

  • Sequel and franchise fatigue may have finally set in. At least at the domestic box office, we’re seeing a number of flagship franchises underperforming—including Pirates of the Caribbean 5, Transformers 5, Alien: Covenant (technically part 6 in the series), Cars 3, Despicable Me 3. That’s not to say these films aren’t making big money, they’re just not living up to expectations based on the returns of previous films in the series.
  • Wonder Woman is the movie of the summer. More than any other film, this is the most discussed and defining movie of summer 2017. When people look back on this particular movie season, this is the movie they’ll remember.
  • Baby Driver is the season’s surprise hit. Surprise hits are one of the best parts of the summer movie season. Right now the only film to wear that badge is Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver which has earned $75 million+ on a $34 million budget (and still going strong at the box office).

So that’s where we’re at right now. We still have half a summer left to see how the season shakes out. But, as a whole right now, it’s a mixed bag. Here’s a glimpse of the current top 20 movies of the summer as reported by Box Office Mojo:

Top 20 Movies of Summer 2017 (So Far)

How Does 2017 Stack Up Against Other Years Ending in “7”?

More importantly, how do those years stack up against each other? To find out we took a look at three summer movie seasons each a decade apart—2007, 1997, and 1987. Which of these seasons do you think takes the crown for having the best movies?

Check out our brief analysis of each year and then cast your vote for best summer movie season below.

2007

Cream of the Crop: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, The Bourne Ultimatum, Ratatouille, The Simpsons Movie, Knocked Up, Superbad, Live Free or Die Hard

Spider-Man 3 Was a Terrible Success in Summer 2007

Looking at the top movies of 2017, it’s striking how they relate to the current movie season. Three of the top five movies of summer 2007 have reboots or sequels out in 2017. Crazy!

All in all, 2007 had a decent slate of movies. Sure, the number one movie of the summer (Spider-Man 3) is garbage. But franchise fans were definitely on board for these Harry Potter and Jason Bourne installments. Even Transformers and Pirates weren’t quite as terrible back then as they are today.

Families got another Shrek and the much-loved Ratatouille. 2017 was also a great summer for comedy—with Knocked Up, The Simpsons Movie, and Superbad all raking in the dough.

Top 20 Movies of Summer 2007:

1997

Cream of the Crop: Men in Black, Air Force One, My Best Friend’s Wedding, Face/Off, Contact, Austin Powers, The Fifth Element

Men In Black Owned Summer 1997
While the top five more or less gave summer movie fans what they were looking for, going down the list it’s hard not to see ’97 as a fairly lackluster summer.

Men in Black was a great, inventive, fun summer movie that helped signal the arrival of Will Smith as a full-fledged superstar. Air Force One did well, but when’s the last time anyone talked about that movie?

My Best Friend’s Wedding, Face/OffAustin Powers and Contact are solid summer movie entries (and the types of 90s movies we just don’t get a lot of anymore). Batman & Robin and George of the Jungle are surprisingly successful movies we’ve all agreed to erase from our collective memories.

Top 20 Movies of Summer 1997:

1997 Summer Box Office

1987

Cream of the Crop: The Untouchables, Dirty Dancing, Predator, Robocop, Spaceballs, Full Metal Jacket, The Lost Boys

Beverly Hills Cop 2 Topped Summer 1987

It’s hard to say if the summer of 1987 served up a lot of classics or—because so much time has passed since this summer (30 years!)—these movies have just had more time to endear themselves to us. Any way you slice it, summer 1987 has a great line up with what they call in basketball “a deep bench”.

At the top, you’ve got movies like The Untouchables, Dirty Dancing, and Predator and at the bottom you’ve got movies like No Way Out, Adventures in Babysitting, and The Lost Boys. There’s some great variety and rewatchability here. There’s also a lot more “adult” R-rated movies on this list, something you just don’t see a whole lot of with summer movies these days.

Top 20 Movies of Summer 1987:

1987 Summer Box Office