Ever since Jaws birthed the summer blockbuster in 1975, motion-picture studios have saved their priciest, splashiest films for beach season. Every year between May and August you can expect the latest superhero extravaganza, Tom Cruise vehicle, killer-fish flick, or action-packed sequel—each with a budget equivalent to the gross national product of a small country. But while big budgets and big marketing often mean big box office, they can also mean big disasters. Sometimes 9-digit flops can be chalked up to bad publicity, a trailer that didn’t resonate, or the studio misjudging interest in a genre, story, or star.
Since, as they say, the customer is always right, most of these blockbuster dirigibles earned their reputation by virtue of being awful. But with time and distance, is something like 1987’s Ishtar or 1995’s Waterworld really as bad as their reputation? We decided to revisit, in alphabetical order, 12 notorious summer duds to see if they’re really that bad, or if they’re ripe for some sort of redemption.