The Evolution of the Summer Blockbuster

Action Sees Some Action

Action has always been a part of the Hollywood formula (you know the old “Lights! Camera! Action!” command). But if ever there were a golden age for action movies, it would have to be the 1980s. In what other decade would musclemen with limited oratory skills (Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, obviously) come to redefine the term “leading man?”

In the wake of family-friendly actioners like the Indiana Jones films, a spate of R-rated action films began arriving in the mid-1980s. They dealt with adult-oriented issues like the Vietnam War (Rambo: First Blood Part II), murderous cults (Cobra), mafia takedowns (Raw Deal), jungle commandos (Predator), cyborg cops (RoboCop), crazy cops (Die Hard), and maniac cops (Maniac Cop)—all of which seemed ripe for the warm-weather watching.

These made-for-mass-consumption flicks were conceived from the get-go to be the studio’s summer tent poles, painting themselves as “blockbusters” whether audiences showed up or not. It’s this wave of shoot-‘em-up films that diluted the “blockbuster” designation, turning it from a verified financial achievement into almost a genre unto itself.

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