Prestige movies usually come out in the autumn, the better to position themselves in the award-season conversation. The biggest blockbusters are often released in early summer, to help fill the needs of idle moviegoers ready to kill some time with fights, chases, and huge explosions. In between these two lucrative periods on the movie calendar lies a dead zone maybe even more barren than the frigid wasteland of January: the final couple of weeks of August. Historically speaking, Hollywood treats this stretch of dates like a dumping ground for projects that are neither likely hits nor prospective awards contenders. They are the forgotten, the unwanted, the filler indifferently released into theaters nationwide with the near certainty that America will choose one final gasp of beach time over whatever they offer.
And yet, every once in a while, a genuinely terrific studio movie crops up during this period of box-office poison, going on to accrue the status of a classic. What follows are 13 great Hollywood films released after 1975, all of which opened in theaters just before Labor Day in their respective years, bringing unexpected quality to the junkyard of late summer.