Top Gun: Maverick recently broke records over Memorial Day weekend, grossing over 156 million on its debut weekend, and went on to become Fortune’s biggest Tom Cruise opening film of all time. The bank holiday weekend is notoriously a jumping-off point for many studios’ summer blockbuster schedules, and over the years many all-time classic films have kick-started the summer season of film fans with a bang.
It’s often debated which Memorial Day movies were the most memorable, and over at Ranker, as the votes roll on and the entries bob up and down, pollsters agree on which were the cream of the crop.
Note: Leaderboards are live and continue to collect votes, so some leaderboards may have changed after this release.
10 Back to the Future III (1990)
In this often underestimated conclusion of the hugely popular Back to the Future trilogy, Doc Brown is accidentally transported back to the Wild West. Marty soon discovers that he has been murdered and decides to travel further back in time to save him.
Of course, there’s time travel hilarity before Marty saves the day and returns to his 1985 homeland. The film has a surprising amount of heart, not least due to Mary Steenburgen’s role as Doc’s new love interest. The film sees Marty’s emotional maturity story arc finally come to fruition as he overcomes his alpha male competitive streak (with an audience-friendly cameo opponent in Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers as Needles).
9 Rocky III (1982)
The third entry in Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky series features Hulk Hogan and Mr. T as the main antagonists. Rocky III shows a famous Balboa in his prime struggling with the ups and downs to finally get to the top.
The film manages to hit the twist with Rocky losing his mentor Mickey (Burgess Meredith) and having to turn to his former adversary Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) for advice on how to overcome Clubber Lang’s challenge. Full of quintessential 80’s bravado and chutzpah, this film delivered all the usual holiday weekend expectations, bang for buck and hit for hit.
8th On (2009)
This popular Pixar film was embraced by a generation of Disney fans who had never seen an animated film that heralds the perils of old age and explains that a second life is always an option for those looking for it.
High presented the story of curmudgeon and balloon seller Carl who, after losing his wife (in a rather infamous, tearful, and decidedly unusual Disney montage), lifts his house to float into a South American wilderness, only to save his Retirement plans get interrupted by a blind child and a talking dog. The film has been acclaimed by critics and fans alike for its candid portrayal of love, family and anti-ageism.
7 Shrek (2001)
Mike Meyers, Cameron Diaz and Eddie Murphy captured the childhood memories of an entire generation with their eponymous voiceover work at The Dreamworks Shrek movies. Determined to save his swamp home from an invasion of displaced fey, Shrek agrees to Lord Farquaad’s quest to rescue Princess Fiona, who must overcome her own secret adversity.
Full of laughs, Hollywood-in jokes, a self-deprecating, tongue-in-cheek self-appreciation, some basic beginnings of female representation in the genre, and a real love story for adults and children alike. Shrek is a rare entity among animated series that has endured to this day.
6 Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
fans of the Indiana Jones Franchises are often at odds about the ultimate legacy of this second entry, though Ranker users still hold it in high esteem. Temple of Death was alternately acclaimed for its wildly inventive action sequences and cheeky sense of humor, but also derided for considering a number of scenes too intense for younger viewers, including Mola Ram’s famous heart-removal sacrifice scene.
The film also suffered from its use of era-limited problematic Asian and Indian stereotypes. Still, there was little to deny that there was some guilty pleasure involved, from descending spiked caves to creepy crawly bugs to ridiculously unlikely plane crash escapes, and of course Spielberg’s wife-to-be screams her head off for most of the film.
5 Brave Heart (1995)
Though his star has dramatically dimmed its luster in recent years for a number of reasons, for a time there was little to stop Mel Gibson and his epic portrayals of fictional historical figures, most presciently in his portrayal of William Wallace in brave heart.
Telling the tale of 13th-century Scottish folk hero Wallace rising up against English oppression was no small feat, and Gibson delivered a compelling performance amid a series of battle scenes. His fleeting and most quotable line of the film, “They may take our lives, but they will never take our freedom!” is still widely quoted today.
4 Star Wars Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983)
Expectations for this final entry in the original trilogy were exceedingly high. It had a lot to do with the incredible success and fan reactions Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, which is universally acclaimed as the best war of stars movie of all time.
Unfortunately, Return of the Jedi Couldn’t quite live up to its predecessor, suffering a significant blow with George Lucas’ decision to include the cuddly but utterly misplaced Ewoks in the narrative. Quiet, jedi has a lot of meaning war of stars Moments not least the deaths of Yoda, Jabba, Vader and (allegedly) the Emperor, a thrilling Jabba’s palace sequence and the final lightsaber duel between Luke and his father.
3 Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
The third film in the original Indiana Jones Trilogy is incredibly popular among Ranker users. After the divisive reception of Temple of DeathFans were encouraged to spot a true Blue Jones adventure still in the Lucas and Spielberg well.
Returning to well-known Nazi opponents was a wise decision, but an even wiser decision was to cast Sean Connery as Indy’s sophisticated and downright stuffy father, Henry Jones Sr., who single-handedly stole the film as she went on a quest after the Holy Grail made. With the usual adventure treasure map tropes and sweeping vistas at the Great Temple of Petra, Last Crusade established himself as a solid savior in the original Indiana Jones Trilogy.
2 Star Wars IV: A New Hope (1977)
As early as 1977, George Lucas thought he had a hit with his groundbreaking space opera and somehow landed a dead-end spot with distributor 20th Century Fox to kick off the summer. war of stars captivated the minds of the Baby Boomer and Gen X generations almost immediately with its high-flying antics showcasing a now-legendary trio of heroes.
The charming smuggler flyboy pilot, the farm boy who managed to become the wise Jedi he’s destined to be, and the princess, the leader of the resistance, have all become pop culture icons. Featuring never-before-seen special effects and the raw charisma and chemistry of its three leads, war of stars became a tent pole for all future science fiction cinema.
1 Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Lucas knew how to launch his empire summer after summer after the initial success of the debut film and its little miracle Rich occupies the number one Ranker slot. With a rabid fan base that keeps confirming their status as the best war of stars Streak of All Time, the Kershner-directed sequel hits all the right notes for the continuation of the Skywalker saga.
The introduction of Master Yoda and Lando Calrissian, the infamous Hoth Imperial Walker battle and of course the bevy of timeless quotes have increased Rich to a status unmatched by films of any genre, let alone science fiction.
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