Most historians agree that Jaws was the first "summer movie." It was the first time that studios made the connection that summer = summer vacation = kids home from school with disposable allowances. It was also a movie that actually took place during the summer and on the beach. It was also a brilliantly simple film that could be advertised almost exclusively by word of mouth and by a great poster. Hence, it practically invented the term "blockbuster." But just because the studios officially established the summer movie season from then on doesn't mean that people didn't go to the movies during the summer before that. Here's my list of seven great summer releases from the days before the hype.
1. North by Northwest
Released July 17, 1959
Hitchcock released quite a few of his great films in the summer -- including Strangers on a Train, Rear Window and Psycho -- but I like to think that this big, lightweight, but precision-perfect thriller is his best "summer movie," due to its general brightness and upbeat tone and its impressive collection of picturesque locations. (It's like a mini-vacation from your seat.) And, on a hot summer day, Cary Grant in his sleek gray suit is the epitome of cool.