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Top 10: Award-Winning June Releases

The summer months don’t usually generate award-winning cinema, but we’re highlighting the notable exceptions…

award winning june releases

The month of June is not one that you traditionally associate with award-winning releases. Instead, it’s far more thought of as summer blockbuster time. However, there are more June releases to review major awards attention than you might have expected, including two Best Picture winners at the Oscars. Today, we pay tribute to some of those titles, including a surplus of 1988 releases.

With potential award contenders (if we even have an awards season this year) hitting this month such as “Da 5 Bloods” and “The King of Staten Island,” we’re looking at ten of the best award-winning June releases ever. Below you’ll see the cream of the crop, though it was quite hard to narrow this list down. Honorable Mention citations go to “Apollo 13,” “Beginners,” “Do the Right Thing,” “The Lion King,” and “Minority Report,” just to name a few.

10. Bull Durham (1988)
dir. Ron Shelton

Image from the movie "Bull Durham"
© 1988 The Mount Company − All right reserved.

One of the best baseball films ever, the story of Crash Davis and the minor leagues is an utter pleasure. Comedy fans, romance fans, and sports fans alike found something to enjoy in Ron Shelton‘s tale. Shelton’s script came up short at the Oscars, but took home the Writers Guild of America prize in Original Screenplay. Kevin Costner, Tim Robbins, and Susan Sarandon have rarely been this charming. Without actual baseball here in June 2020, “Bull Durham” even manages to scratch an itch!

9. The Apartment (1960)
dir. Billy Wilder

Image from the movie "The Apartment"
© 1960 United Artists − All right reserved.

The first June release (of only two, so far) to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards, “The Apartment” is of its time, but still an incredible motion picture. In addition to the top prize, Billy Wilder was bestowed with Oscars for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay (with I.A.L. Diamond), while the film itself was lauded in Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White and Best Film Editing. With Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine turning in incredibly warm performances, Wilder’s romantic dramedy is one for the ages.

8. Jaws (1975)
dir. Steven Spielberg

Image from the movie "Jaws"
© 1975 Zanuck/Brown Productions − All right reserved.

Steven Spielberg essentially created the summer blockbuster with this June release. In the process, John Williams crafted one of history’s most iconic movie sounds, taking home Best Original Score when all was said and done. Additionally, “Jaws” won Oscars for Best Film Editing and Best Sound. Outside of the Academy Award bubble, it also caused a generation to avoid going into the water. Passing up the ocean on a hot summer day? Only a very special flick can pull that off.

7. The Hurt Locker (2009)
dir. Kathryn Bigelow

the hurt locker

The other June release to take home Best Picture, “The Hurt Locker” reflected the incredible anger and frustration of the time. That capturing of the zeitgeist powered it past a pop culture behemoth in “Avatar.” With nine Academy Award nominations, it’s the most cited June release to date. That across the board support for Kathryn Bigelow‘s war drama turned into six Oscars. In addition to Picture, Bigelow received Best Director (the first woman to take the category), while Mark Boal won Best Original Screenplay. Tack on wins in Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing, and Best Sound Mixing, and the end result is the little film that could coming up quite big on Oscar night.

6. WALL-E (2008)
dir. Andrew Stanton

Image from the movie "WALL·E"
© 2008 Pixar − All right reserved.

An incredibly ambitious and risky bit of animation, “WALL-E” is one of Pixar’s finest moments. Winning Best Animated Feature was icing on the cake, but getting audiences, and especially families, to turn out for a largely silent cartoon is truly something. Falling in love with a garbage collecting robot on an Earth free of humanity would be a tough ask for most, but for Pixar and director Andrew Stanton, it was just another day at the office.

5. Big (1988)
dir. Penny Marshall

Image from the movie "Big"
© 1988 American Entertainment Partners II L.P. − All right reserved.

The world fell in love with Tom Hanks in June of 1988. “Big” launched him into the stratosphere, remains one of Hanks’ most wonderfully likable turns, and set a box office record for director Penny Marshall. The film’s success made Marshall the first ever female director helm a $100 million grosser. Hanks was nominated for an Oscar, winning a Golden Globe before that in the Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical category. To this day, it remains one of the easiest works out there to put a smile on a viewer’s face.

4. Toy Story 3 (2010)
dir. Lee Unkrich

Image from the movie "Toy Story 3"
© 2010 Pixar − All right reserved.

Pixar got a Best Picture nomination for “Toy Story 3,” arguably their best production, to date. With five nominations, overall, the heartbreaking sequel won Academy Awards in Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song. When you remember how worried some were that the company was going to sully the franchise with another effort in the series, it’s almost silly. Hell, the same thing happened again with the newest installment last year. However, the bar was set so high, seeing “Toy Story 3” clear it so easily is a mind-boggling accomplishment.

3. Ghostbusters (1984)
dir. Ivan Reitman

Image from the movie "Ghostbusters"
© 1984 Delphi Films − All right reserved.

Not just an all-time great June release, but an absolute top tier high concept comedy, “Ghostbusters” is a gem. Hilarious, original, and with a killer song, Ivan Reitman‘s zany mix of the silly and the supernatural was a phenomenon. In fact, the Ray Parker Jr. song “Ghostbusters” received the BAFTA Award for Best Original Song. When looking at purely fun June releases with an awards pedigree, it’s hard to find one more enjoyable than this.

2. Jurassic Park (1993)
dir. Steven Spielberg

Image from the movie "Jurassic Park"
© 1993 Universal Pictures − All right reserved.

Spielberg made a new generation’s “Jaws” with “Jurassic Park,” which is a nearly impossible feat. Oscars for Best Sound, Best Sound Effects Editing, and Best Visual Effects went to dinosaur adventure. The moment the cast first sees the animals in the flesh is engrained in cinematic history. Boundaries were being broken, depicted within a rollicking bit of franchise-starting entertainment.

1. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988)
dir. Robert Zemeckis

Image from the movie "Who Framed Roger Rabbit"
© 1988 Amblin Entertainment − All right reserved.

The imagination on display in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” still stands tall to this day. Winner of three Academy Awards (plus a Special Achievement Award), this animation/live-action hybrid took home prizes in Best Film Editing, Best Sound Effects Editing, and Best Visual Effects. Robert Zemeckis has always been a cutting edge filmmaker, but his ability to merge technology with old-fashioned storytelling is at its best here. Mixing action, comedy, and noir, he presented something literally for everyone. It’s cinematic perfection.

Which award-winning June releases are your favorites? Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments below.


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Written by Joey Magidson

When he’s not obsessing over new Oscar predictions on a weekly basis, Joey is seeing between 300 and 350 movies a year. He views the best in order to properly analyze the awards race/season each year, but he also watches the worst for reasons he mostly sums up as "so you all don't have to". In his spare time, you can usually find him complaining about the Jets or the Mets. Still, he lives and dies by film. Joey's a voting member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.


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