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MSN Entertainment's 2011 Summer Movie Guide
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Top 50 Summer Blockbusters

By Glenn Kenny
Special to MSN Movies

Do summer blockbusters suck? Are they really the worst thing to happen to motion pictures, like, ever?

Some critics and historians point to a particular fish story and a particular galactic saga as The Movies That Changed Everything For The Worse And The Reason There Are No More Movies Like "Nashville." Even people who regularly line up to see summer blockbusters like to complain about them. But, they exist, and they're not going away. And let's not kid ourselves: The cinema of sensation and spectacle is as old as the cinema itself.

Ever since that dude with the six-gun scared the stuffing out of audiences by shooting it directly into the camera (that would be back in 1903, in the short "The Great Train Robbery") people have been going to the movies to be wowed in a big and loud way. And as some of the best summer movies attest, big and loud doesn't necessarily mean devoid of brains and heart. For instance, one of the biggest pictures of this or any other summer, "The Avengers" (sorry, you have to read the whole thing to find out where it lands in the rankings) delights its viewers not just with incredible action scenes but with funny, full-rounded characters learning to work together while also working out their own "stuff." And as some other good summer movies attest, sometimes brains and heart can be kind of overrated.

In any event, for our list of the 50 best such films, we've included some that we might not personally love but acknowledge are significant, and, for the sake of context and fun, some that were made well before the summer movie became an acknowledged genre unto itself. The one rule that we stuck to was that they had to be summer movies: that is, opening in late spring at earliest, but never after Labor Day. That's why you don't see "Titanic," the first "Terminator" picture, or "Avatar" here. But even within those parameters, there are a lot of pickings, so let's get on with them ...

Browse 2012 Summer Blockbuster Galleries: 'Madagascar 3' | 'The Avengers' | 'Snow White and the Huntsman'

(Walt Disney Pictures)