Independence Day doesn't always fall on a weekend, but the days surrounding the Fourth of July are a boon for the movie industry's box-office numbers.
This summer is nearly out of blockbusters. "Despicable Me 3," "The House" and "Baby Driver" lead into the Fourth of July, with "Spider-Man Homecoming" (July 7), War of the "Planet of the Apes" (July 14) and "Dunkirk" (July 21) rounding out the month. However, July has brought in more than $1 billion in receipts 11 times since 1998, when a field led by "Saving Private Ryan," "Armageddon" and "There's Something About Mary" first shattered the mark.
In fact, 2015 was the highest-grossing July of all time at nearly $1.5 billion. Granted, it took top-ranked "The Secret Life of Pets" a while to reach its $368 million mark (it never topped the weekend box office chart), but "Jason Bourne," "Star Trek: Beyond," "Ghostbusters," "The Legend of Tarzan" and "Bad Moms" all made more than $100 million after opening that month.
However, it takes something special to break through on Fourth of July weekend. The "Terminator" series had a lock on the holiday weekend after "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" made the equivalent of $56 million, adjusted for inflation, back in 1991. The holiday-specific alien invasion epic "Independence Day" made an adjusted $78.6 million by having Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum dodge destruction in 1996. Though a drama ("The Perfect Storm" in 2000) or comedy ("The Devil Wears Prada" in 2006) occasionally sneaks through, it takes an effects-heavy juggernaut of wall-to-wall action to pry folks away from barbecues and free fireworks.
Unsurprisingly, the folks at movie industry data site BoxOfficeMojo found that computer-generated effects, superheroes, robots and aliens -- and the occasional teen vampire -- are American moviegoers' favorite means of declaring independence from intellectual acuity for a few hours. The following ten films weren't always released on July 4 -- or in July itself -- but they were the motion picture industry's strongest arguments for parting with a few hours of one's holiday:
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Date released: July 3, 1997
Fourth of July weekend take: $52.1 million
Total take: $190.4 million
This sequel wasn't the finest hour for alien cops Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, but bringing in Rosario Dawson, Lara Flynn Boyle and Johnny Knoxville at about the last time that any of them could move the needle at the box office was just about the best move director Barry Sonnenfeld could make. But even with that lineup, the $70.8 million this film made after adjusting for inflation came in below the adjusted $77.9 million the first one made just five years earlier.
Date released: June 28, 2006
Fourth of July weekend take: $52.5 million
Total take: $200 million
You're going to see reboots aplenty on this list, but we were as surprised as anyone to see Warner Brother and Marvel reboot the Superman franchise after making this fairly successful connection to the Superman films of the '70s and '80s. From the faithful reworking on John Williams's original Superman score to Kevin Spacey's note-perfect emulation of Gene Hackman's Lex Luthor, this was a near-perfect installment of the Superman series. Sure, the Superman-as-Jesus metaphor gets a little heavy handed in parts, but bringing back Marlon Brando in original '70s footage and breathing new life into a Superman series sullied by '80s excess was well worth it -- even if director Bryan Singer cost the world a satisfying ending to his X-Men series as a result.
Date released: July 3, 2012
Fourth of July weekend take: $62 million
Total take: $262 million
So, wait, you're doing another Spider-Man? And neither Tobey Maguire or Kirsten Dunst are in it? And Sam Raimi isn't signed on as director? And that guy from "The Social Network" who wasn't Jesse Eisenberg is Peter Parker? Gee, wonder why this was a two-and-done series that paved the way to Spider-Man's second reboot in the last 20 years? Despite surrounding Andrew Garfield's lesser Spider-Man with Emma Stone, Denis Leary, Sally Field and Martin Sheen, this Spider-Man wasn't as well-embraced as the series that preceded it and never had the support required to bring the whole gang into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While Robert Downey Jr. introduces the world to yet another Spider-Man, this installation has aged far worse than its five-year lifespan would suggest.
Date released: July 2, 2008
Fourth of July weekend take: $62.6 million
Total take: $228 million
This was an original take on a superhero film, and it deserved better. Will Smith's depressed, alcoholic, isolated Los Angeles guy with superpowers is a walking, flying liability who isn't always played for laughs. Making Charlize Theron someone of a similar ilk who masks her powers in the confines of suburbia was an inspired move as well. Jason Bateman works as Smith's foil, Hancock's journey to redemption is more believable than a CGI superhero's narrative should be and the flack this film took for not sticking to the superhero script seems unnecessary nine years and several dozen superhero films later.
Date released: June 30, 2010
Fourth of July weekend take: $64.8 million
Total take: $300.5 million
In the U.S., this was where Twilight peaked: When Bryce Dallas Howard flips out over her dead lover and tries to destroy R Patz and K-Stew, but their love and a bunch of Taylor Lautner's werewolves were totally too much. Despite the fact that Edward is all sorts of ready to "turn" Bella by the end of "Eclipse" (yes, the sex metaphor is this heavy handed the entire time), moviegoers in the U.S. never fell for the "Twilight" series as hard as they fell for this film. The worldwide box office take would keep escalating through the end of the series in 2012, but "Twilight" wouldn't have quite the same hold on audiences here again.
Date released: June 29, 2005
Fourth of July weekend take: $64.9 million
Total take: $234.3 million
In 1898, H.G. Wells told a little story about alien invaders that was more of a political metaphor for the Victorian Era than anything else. In 1938, Orson Welles and a cast of other actors at CBS radio in New York scared the bejesus out of the American listening public with a news-bulletin-style modern interpretation of that same story. By the time we reached the 1953 film with its poorly drawn death rays, metallic stingray alien spaceships and thinly veiled Cold War metaphor, the work had nearly outlived its usefulness. Enter Stephen Spielberg, Tom Cruise and post-9/11 America. When this hit theaters in summer 2004, the images of helpless victims and families searching for loved ones still seemed a bit too familiar. The fact that those scene bear far more weight than those of giant tripods incinerating scads of humans speaks loudly to the mindset of the time.
Date released: July 3, 2007
Fourth of July weekend take: $75.2 million
Total take: $198.5 million
Generation X kids had been waiting for this one for a long time. The Transformers' last big-screen appearance was 21 years earlier, in an animated feature that traumatized a generation by killing off half their toys on screen and -- most unforgivably -- killing off protagonist Optimus Prime in the fist act. Michael Bay rewarded that loyal following for its efforts by making the new batch of on-screen Transformers enormous, mechanically intricate and incredibly loud. It was destined to be a blockbuster. We just didn't think it would get the go-ahead for five more sequels and a spinoff. Nostalgia fades, but Viacom revenue can't without a shareholder revolt.
Date released: July 3, 2013
Fourth of July weekend take: $83.5 million
Total take: $368 million
We've already reached the third installment of this series (fourth if you count "Minions"), but this is where Gru picks up a love interest (Kristen Wiig), effectively turns his adopted daughters into a strike team and introduces everyone to a Pharrell Williams earworm of a song that stood no chance at the Oscars against "Let It Go" from Frozen, but infected adult contemporary radio and playlists to this day. We'd love to tell you that this film was pivotal in some way, but only in giving "Despicable Me 3" a decent Independence Day weekend release date.
Date released: June 30, 2004
Fourth of July weekend take: $88.1 million
Total take: $373.6 million
Ah, the sequel before the reboots.
The second installment of the Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire Spider-Man series was the high-water mark before all the emo hair and oversaturation of villains. Alfred Molina harkens back to a time when directors actually cared about hiring great actors like him and Willem Dafoe for these films. His Doctor Octopus is a force, and elevated James Franco's performance as a Goblin in waiting. Maguire and Kirsten Dunst made it feel as if this was going to be a legacy series. About 13 years and two reboots later, this series is finally being tied into the rest of the Marvel Universe. It's just a shame that this version was relegated to the archives.
Date released: June 29. 2011
Fourth of July weekend take: $97.8 million
Total take: $352.4 million
Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox quit this series long ago. Mark Wahlberg, who'll take just about any role you throw at him, has announced this year's "The Last Knight" is his last spin in the transforming cars. Even director Michael Bay is unchallenged enough by the premise at this point to step back from the series. Yet Paramount demands a spinoff based around Bumblebee -- a computer-generated ad for the Chevrolet Camaro -- and a sixth sequel in the series. This third installment -- which roped poor President John F. Kennedy into a minor role -- was the top-grossing film of the series. It was also the last appearance for LaBeouf before the series started drifting away from its '80s toy roots and into murkier narrative territory.