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Times readers crown ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ in the Ultimate Summer Movie Showdown

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Justin Chang speaks with Will Wheaton about “Stand By Me,” and talks about the weeks 15 and 16 winners -- plus the final showdown winner -- “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

“Jaws” lost.

It’s hard to believe, but it’s true. Steven Spielberg’s 1975 shark-attack thriller, the movie that all but invented the summer blockbuster and forever changed the landscape of Hollywood moviemaking, was essentially the foundation of the L.A. Times Ultimate Summer Movie Showdown — our series to program the greatest summer movie season of all time.

Week after week over the past several months, you’ve voted on Twitter and chosen a remarkable slate of 16 films (released between 1975 and 2019), of which “Jaws” seemed the obvious favorite.

In the end “Raiders of the Lost Ark” triumphed over our other finalist, Ridley Scott’s “Alien,” and won the Ultimate Ultimate Summer Movie crown.

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Los Angeles Times film critic Justin Chang, entertainment columnist Glenn Whipp, and "Stand By Me" actor Wil Wheaton.
The finale of the Ultimate Summer Movie Showdown on August 20, 2020 featured Los Angeles Times film critic Justin Chang, entertainment columnist Glenn Whipp, and “Stand By Me” actor Wil Wheaton.
(Ken Kwok/Los Angeles Times)

How it all started >>

Finale: How ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ beat ‘Jaws’ — and won the Ultimate Summer Movie Showdown

Weeks 15 & 16

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Week 14

Why ‘The Fugitive’ is a great summer movie — and a love letter to Chicago

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Times film critic Justin Chang invited his “Fugitive”-obsessed friend Darla Lansu Campbell, a Chicago-born, Los Angeles-based TV writer (“Truth Be Told,” “Switched at Birth”), to discuss the enduring pleasures of her all-time favorite movie.

Read more on this week’s winner: ‘The Fugitive’ >>

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‘The Fugitive’ or ‘The Sixth Sense’? Twenty-four movies compete this week >>

Week 13

Mission: Film a major action movie amid COVID 19. For Christopher McQuarrie, it’s not impossible

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In production on the as-yet-untitled seventh installment, writer-director Christopher McQuarrie said “Mission: Impossible - Fallout” had been two days away from shooting in Venice, Italy, in March when the coronavirus outbreak forced the evacuation of the city. Still, despite the mother of all production snafus, McQuarrie said the “Mission” team has been pressing ahead.

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Read more on this week’s winner: ‘Mission Impossible - Fallout’ >>

‘Caddyshack,’ ‘Animal House’ or ‘Step Brothers’? Comedy on the Showdown >>

Week 12


‘Clueless’ just turned 25. Has it aged a day? As if!

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Times film critic Justin Chang and TV reporter Yvonne Villarreal look back at the legacy of Amy Heckerling’s romantic-comedy classic, its Jane Austen roots and its contributions to the look and language of an entire generation of teenagers.

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Read more on this week’s winner: ‘Clueless’ >>

Christopher Nolan’s ‘Dark Knight’ & ‘Dunkirk,’ and the list for week 12 >>

Week 11

Yippee-ki-yay, movie lovers: Why ‘Die Hard’ won this week

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Times film critic Justin Chang and entertainment columnist Glenn Whipp look back on the legacy of the classic action movie, which produced four sequels, countless clones and an indelible catchphrase that ranks among the greatest one-liners in film history.

Read more on this week’s winner: ‘Die Hard’ >>

‘Die Hard’ or ‘Inception,’ and the list for week 11 >>

Week 10

Has ‘Back to the Future’ aged well? Our critics take a closer look at a summer fave

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Justin Chang: “With its extended flashback to the ’50s from the vantage of the ’80s, “Back to the Future” taps into the very ethos of the Reagan presidency, or part of it anyway: a spirit of pioneering technological advancement married to a wellspring of nostalgia for ostensibly simpler times.”

Read more on this week’s winner: ‘Back to the Future’ >>

‘Back to the Future,’ ‘Airplane!,’ ‘Terminator 2' and the list for week 10 >>

Week 9

Thirty-one years later, the power of Spike Lee’s ‘Do the Right Thing’ endures

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Times film critic Justin Chang sat down with sports and culture columnist LZ Granderson to discuss the greatness of Spike Lee’s film and how it has always spoken to a nation in turmoil.

Read more on this week’s winner: ‘Do the Right Thing’ >>

‘Spider-Man 2,’ ‘Wall-E,’ ‘Magic Mike’ and the list for week 9 >>

Weeks 7 & 8

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‘Raiders of the Lost Ark,’ ‘The Lion King,’ ‘Jaws,’ ‘Blade Runner’ and the lists for weeks 7 and 8 >>

Week 6

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‘E.T,’ ‘The Goonies,’ ‘Speed,’ ‘The Purge’ and the list for week 6 >>

Week 5

Dory from ‘Finding Nemo’ was almost a male fish — then Ellen DeGeneres arrived

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The prequel to “Finding Nemo” and “Finding Dory” should be called “Finding Ellen DeGeneres.”

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In conversation Thursday with film critic Justin Chang, “Finding Nemo” mastermind Andrew Stanton revealed that the franchise’s beloved blue tang with short-term memory loss was almost a male fish — until he discovered DeGeneres.

Read more on this week’s winner: ‘Finding Nemo’ >>

‘Wonder Woman,’ ‘Poltergeist,’ ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’ and the list for week 5 >>

Week 4

Did ‘Alien’ deserve to beat ‘Star Wars’? Our critics discuss Ridley Scott’s classic

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I’m a bit surprised that Stanley Kubrick’s inexhaustibly rich “The Shining” didn’t fare better. But a win for “Alien” was precisely the outcome I was hoping for, even as final voting got under way and “Star Wars” took an early but not insurmountable lead.

Justin Chang

Read more on this week’s winner: ‘Alien’ >>

‘Star Wars,’ ‘The Shining,’ ‘Braveheart’ and the list for week 4 >>

Week 3

Is ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ the ultimate summer movie? Let’s discuss

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This week’s summer movie is “Mad Max: Fury Road.” Join film critic Justin Chang and special guest George Miller for Week Three of the #UltimateSummerMovie Showdown series.

Justin Chang: “I haven’t seen many movies over the past five years that felt like classics on first viewing, but “Mad Max: Fury Road” is undoubtedly one of them. I still recall the excitement — no, not strong enough — the pure, unleaded exhilaration surging through the audience when I saw it in a Burbank screening room in May 2015.”

Read more on this week’s winner: ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ >>

‘The Empire Strikes Back,’ ‘Top Gun,’ ‘John Wick 3' and the list for week 3 >>

Week 2

Looking back at how ‘Bridesmaids’ broke comedy rules, on its own terms

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Voters have chosen “Bridesmaids” (2011) as their winner for Week 2, dedicated to movies first released in theaters from May 8-14 (between 1975 and 2019). Times film critic Justin Chang sat down with entertainment columnist Glenn Whipp to discuss the enduring appeal of the Kristen Wiig-starring comedy, the obtuseness of the “Are women funny?” debate and the pros and cons of that scene.

Read more on this week’s winner: ‘Bridesmaids’ >>

‘Friday the 13th,’ ‘The Fifth Element,’ ‘Star Trek’ and the list for week 2 >>

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Week 1

Our critics take another look at ‘The Avengers’

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The #UltimateSummerMovie Showdown is underway, and voters have chosen “The Avengers” (2012) as their winner for Week 1, dedicated to movies first released in theaters from May 1-7 (between 1975 and 2019). Times film critic Justin Chang sat down with entertainment columnist Glenn Whipp to discuss the dominant performance of the 2012 Disney/Marvel blockbuster and where it fits amid the overall glut of superhero movies.

Read more on this week’s winner: ‘The Avengers’ >>


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