Summer movie season is an eagerly anticipated time, both for audiences and studios. Images of dollar signs dance around executives’ heads, while cinema goers look forward to the latest slate of epic entertainment. While the large scale fare of films tend to come out in summer, June is a month that offers a little bit of everything. From CGI extravaganzas to compelling independent fare, there’s no shortage of options. In fact, it was a June release for “Jaws” that created the modern blockbuster.
Today, we’ll run down the ten best June releases to date. Something to take note of here, there are a few extra rules in place, since there was an embarrassment of riches to choose from. Simply put, any title we recently cited in a Top 10 piece is excluded. So, while “Ghostbusters,” “The Hurt Locker,” and “Toy Story 3” are all deserving, they won’t be on this list. As for runners up, the likes of “Apollo 13,” “Batman Begins,” “Dead Poets Society,” “Fahrenheit 9/11,” “Knocked Up,” and “Minority Report” just missed the cut. Throw “The Big Sick,” “Blade Runner,” “Dogtooth,” “The Hero,” and “Spider-Man 2” into the mix and you could easily have had an alternate ten that would represent June brilliantly as well.
10“The Go-Getter” (2007)
dir: Martin Hynes
Largely ignored upon release, audiences missed out on an absolute gem. One of the more underrated independent movies of the 2000’s, “The Go-Getter” represents how great June releases can be when they’re not just blockbusters. Combining great music from M. Ward with a stylized road trip tale, this tiny film is the sort of effort that gets buried all too often by CGI fests. Zooey Deschanel and Lou Taylor Pucci are at their best here, with quiet chemistry that makes the more whimsical elements of this story feel unusually grounded. Finding yourself while searching for something completely different on the open road is a well worn trope, but Martin Hynes and his cast makes it feel absolutely fresh.
dir: Duncan Jones
Sam Rockwell puts an entire film on his back with “Moon” and delivers one of his great leading performances. The debut film for director Duncan Jones, he showcased Rockwell as he had never been before, with tremendous results. Leaning into Rockwell’s work, as well as a lo-fi aesthetic, Jones made this all about character, emotion, and state of mind. Scene after scene of Rockwell acting against himself are absolutely riveting, building to a conclusion that offers no easy catharsis. In a perfect world, this would have been the role to give Rockwell his first Academy Award nomination.
8“Bull Durham” (1988)
dir: Ron Shelton
One of the best baseball films ever put to celluloid, “Bull Durham” gets minor league life right. Playing a sport for a living has never seemed more like a job than it does here. Kevin Costner, Tim Robbins, and Susan Sarandon are all tremendously enjoyable, adding in a buddy comedy, as well as a romance, to the story of two baseball careers headed in opposite directions. June is a month where baseball really shines in real life. Here, it did the same on the big screen as well.
dir: Andrew Stanton
Pixar never took a bigger risk than they did with “WALL-E.” Eschewing human characters and any dialogue for a large swarth of the picture, this adventure could have tested the patience of younger fans. Instead, it moved everyone with its stunning imagery and environmentally conscious story. Andrew Stanton and company trusted their audience. That bold move paid off tenfold here. The imagination on display is as staggering as it is beautiful.
6“Do The Right Thing” (1989)
dir: Spike Lee
Filmmaker Spike Lee announced himself as a storyteller for the ages with this June release. Taking place on a hot day in Brooklyn, “Do The Right Thing” is an incredibly urgent picture. A true New York story, this treatise on race relations is a true powder keg. Much like Lee’s character Mookie, tensions rise, along with the heat, until there’s an explosion. When the garbage can flew through the window of the pizzeria in the third act, the dam burst, sending Lee to new heights as a director. 30 years later, it’s still incredibly powerful, and as relevant as ever.
5“The Truman Show” (1998)
dir: Peter Weir
Ahead of its time, this June baby predicted the world’s obsession with reality television. Peter Weir not only stretched the range of Jim Carrey here, he gave audiences a preview of where modern entertainment was headed. “The Truman Show” has a global scope, all focused on one ordinary man. The way viewers grow to care for Truman, both within the film and outside of it, is Weir’s greatest accomplishment.
dir: Penny Marshall
Tom Hanks scored his first of five Best Actor nominations from the Academy for this incredibly charming work. “Big” asks Hanks to believably portray a child, no easy task, and he turns in what could be seen as his finest hour on screen. Together with director Penny Marshall, Hanks captures the feeling of youthful innocence and joy. Seeing it in the emotions, facial expressions, and movements of an adult is easier put on the page than depicted on screen. That they pulled it off as iconically as they did here, well that’s proof of just how special the movie is.
3“The Lion King” (1994)
dir: Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff
At the peak of Disney’s Renaissance in the 1990’s, “The Lion King” blew away adults and children in equal measure. An animated iteration the likes of William Shakespeare‘s “Hamlet,” Disney was able to mix all of their hallmarks together in a way that has rarely been matched. Beautiful animation? Check. Lovable characters? Check. Songs that would become cultural touchstones? Triple check. A simple story told well, this Disney classic is a roadmap for how to craft something an entire generation can fall for.
2“Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” (1998)
dir: Robert Zemeckis
In a very real way, the Marvel Cinematic Universe owes a huge debt to this hybrid animated work. “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” allowed Robert Zemeckis to combine an old fashioned gumshoe story with the zaniness of cartoons. Old and new slammed together in a cornucopia of memorable moments, visual splendor, and a strong story that captivated audiences of all ages. Cutting edge upon release in June of 1998, it remains current more than two decades later.
1“Jurassic Park” (1993)
dir: Steven Spielberg
Of course the man who invented the summer blockbuster with “Jaws” would take the top spot here. Steven Spielberg revolutionized the special effects world with “Jurassic Park,” epitomizing what a modern June juggernaut could be. A roller coaster come to life, Spielberg is a maestro at taking his audience on an exciting ride. Moreover, in 1993, something like this had never been seen before. Dinosaurs were all but brought back to life, captivating the world within a film that is not just the best to ever come out in June, but is among the very best of its kind.