Hey, the summer of 2016 has been awful for movies. We all know this. But is it the absolute worst summer ever? And if 2016 is the worst summer ever, which is the best summer, and how exactly should “best” and “worst” be defined in this context?
These are the important questions that we will be addressing. Actually, Matt Singer of Screencrush sort of answered this question last month, when he determined that 2016 was only the second-worst summer (after 2009) of the past decade. Singer reached this conclusion by using actual science (i.e. not actual science but rather aggregated Rotten Tomatoes scores). However, I have neither the time nor the intelligence to resort to science. Instead, I’m going to use my opinion, man.
So, let’s blow this out. Instead of going back to just 2007, let’s go all the way back to 1976, the first summer after the year Jaws ushered in the modern era of exciting, expensive, action-packed, and dialogue-deficient summer mother-effing movies. I combed through 40 years of release schedules in order to discover the best and worst summers for cinematic entertainment. It was an arduous process — the paper trail of Smokey and the Bandit, Lethal Weapon, and Fast and Furious films is truly long and twisted. But after applying strict measuring standards that include “my gut” and “my best guess,” I came up with top 10 lists of best and worst movie summers.
Let’s start with the bad. Here are the top 10 worst summers since 1976.
What makes these summers the worst? And why are so many of them from the past 15 years? Is it possible that I’m just very, very old, and don’t understand these loud and flashy picture shows from the current century? (Sorry 1996, but I still hold a grudge for lousy-ass Twister 20 years later.) After all, there were some good movies that came during each of the years on this list, including Inception (2010), Inglourious Basterds (2009), The Devil Wears Prada (2006), and Minority Report (2002). Who doesn’t wish that something as good as those films came out during this profoundly dispiriting summer?
What put these summers at the bottom is something I like to call “bad for the wrong reasons” movies. It’s a given that each summer will be overloaded with bad films — making a good movie is really hard, and making a good movie that costs $150 million after being run-through the Hollywood meat-grinder for many years is a borderline-miracle. But sometimes a summer movie doesn’t have to be good in order to be good.
Take The Shallows, the movie about Blake Lively being attacked by a shark that came out in June. Is The Shallows good? Not really. But is it an enjoyable summer movie? Sure, why not? It’s about Blake Lively being attacked by a shark — what else do you need? The Shallows is the sort of lovable schlock that summer movie seasons rely upon. You might walk out of the theater thinking, “That was sort of stupid and I already forgot 98 percent of it,” but at least you won’t be mad about it. Compared to what else I sat through in theaters this summer, I would happily watch 10 more Blake Lively vs. Shark movies.
(My one complaint about The Shallows: The special effects weren’t as good as the special effects in Woody Allen’s Cafe Society that enabled Blake Lively to fall in love with Jesse Eisenberg in somewhat convincing fashion.)