A blockbuster is a work of entertainment—typically used to describe a feature film produced by a major film studio, but also other media—that is highly popular and financially successful. The term has also come to refer to any large-budget production intended for "blockbuster" status, aimed at mass markets with associated merchandising, sometimes on a scale that meant the financial fortunes of a film studio or a distributor could depend on it.
The term began to appear in the American press in the early 1940s,  referring to the blockbuster bombs, aerial munitions capable of destroying a whole block of buildings.  Its first known use in reference to films was in May 1943, when advertisements in Variety and Motion Picture Herald described the RKO film, Bombardier , as "The block-buster of all action-thrill-service shows!" Another trade advertisement in 1944 boasted that the war documentary, With the Marines at Tarawa , "hits the heart like a two ton blockbuster."
Several theories have been put forward for the origin of the term in a film context. One explanation pertains to the practice of "block booking" whereby a studio would sell a package of films to theaters, rather than permitting them to select which films they wanted to exhibit. However, this practice was outlawed in 1948 before the term became common parlance; while pre-1948 high-grossing big-budget spectacles may be retroactively labelled "blockbusters," this is not how they were known at the time. Another explanation is that trade publications would often advertise the popularity of a film by including illustrations showing long queues often extending around the block, but in reality the term was never used in this way. The term was actually first coined by publicists who drew on readers' familiarity with the blockbuster bombs, drawing an analogy with the bomb's huge impact. The trade press subsequently appropriated the term as short-hand for a film's commercial potential. Throughout 1943 and 1944 the term was applied to films such as Bataan , No Time for Love and Brazil . 
The term fell out of usage in the aftermath of World War II but was revived in 1948 by Variety in an article about big budget films. By the early 1950s the term had become standardised within the film industry and the trade press to denote a film that was large in spectacle, scale and cost, that would go on to achieve a high gross. In December 1950 the Daily Mirror predicted that Samson and Delilah would be "a box office block buster", and in November 1951 Variety described Quo Vadis as "a b.o. blockbuster [...] right up there with Birth of a Nation and Gone With the Wind for boxoffice performance [...] a super-spectacle in all its meaning". 
According to Stephen Prince, Akira Kurosawa's 1954 film Seven Samurai had a "racing, powerful narrative engine, breathtaking pacing, and sense-assaulting visual style" (what he calls a "kinesthetic cinema" approach to "action filmmaking and exciting visual design") that was "the clearest precursor" and became "the model for" the "visceral" Hollywood blockbuster "brand of moviemaking" that emerged in the 1970s. According to Prince, Kurosawa became "a mentor figure" to a generation of emerging American filmmakers who went on to develop the Hollywood blockbuster format in the 1970s, such as Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola. 
In 1975, the usage of "blockbuster" for films coalesced around Steven Spielberg's Jaws . It was perceived as a new cultural phenomenon: fast-paced, exciting entertainment, inspiring interest and conversation beyond the theatre (which would later be called "buzz"), and repeated viewings.  The film is regarded as the first film of the "blockbuster era", and founded the blockbuster film genre.  Two years later, Star Wars expanded on the success of Jaws, setting box office records and enjoying a theatrical run that lasted more than a year.  After the success of Jaws and Star Wars, many Hollywood producers attempted to create similar "event" films with wide commercial appeal, and film companies began green-lighting increasingly large-budget films, and relying extensively on massive advertising blitzes leading up to their theatrical release. These two films were the prototypes for the "summer blockbuster" trend,  in which major film studios and distributors planned their annual marketing strategy around a big release by July 4. 
The next fifteen years saw a number of high-quality blockbusters released including the likes of Alien (1979) and its sequel, Aliens (1986), the first three Indiana Jones films (1981, 1984 and 1989), E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Ghostbusters (1984), Beverly Hills Cop (1984), the Back to the Future trilogy (1985, 1989 and 1990), Top Gun (1986), Die Hard (1988), Batman (1989) and its sequel Batman Returns (1992), and The Hunt for Red October (1990). 
Some examples of summer blockbusters from the 2000s include Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003), The Da Vinci Code (2006), and Transformers (2007)—all of which founded successful franchises—and The Day After Tomorrow (2004) and Pixar's Up (2009). The superhero genre saw renewed interest with X-Men (2000), Spider-Man (2002), Batman Begins (2005) and its sequel The Dark Knight (2008) all proving to be very popular. 
Blockbusters in the 2010s include Inception (2010), Ted (2012), Despicable Me (2010), The Conjuring (2013), Edge of Tomorrow (2014) and Wonder Woman (2017). Snowpiercer (2014) proved to be the rare example of a blockbuster that did not perform well in the North American market. Several established franchises continued to spawn successful entries with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 (2011), X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014), Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018) and Pixar's Toy Story 3 (2010) and Incredibles 2 (2018) among the highlights. Several older franchises were successfully resurrected by Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), Jurassic World (2015), Man of Steel (2013), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) and its sequel War for the Planet of the Apes (2017). The most successful franchise of the decade was arguably Disney's Marvel Cinematic Universe, particularly The Avengers series. 
Eventually, the focus on creating blockbusters grew so intense that a backlash occurred, with some critics and film-makers decrying the prevalence of a "blockbuster mentality",  lamenting the death of the author-driven, "more artistic" small-scale films of the New Hollywood era (despite criticism of the praise the latter set of films received).   This view is taken, for example, by film journalist Peter Biskind, who wrote that all studios wanted was another Jaws, and as production costs rose, they were less willing to take risks, and therefore based blockbusters on the "lowest common denominators" of the mass market.  In his 2006 book The Long Tail, Chris Anderson talks about blockbuster films, stating that a society that is hit-driven, and makes way and room for only those films that are expected to be a hit, is in fact a limited society.  In 1998, writer David Foster Wallace posited that films are subject to an inverse cost and quality law. 
Akira Kurosawa was a Japanese filmmaker and painter who directed thirty films in a career spanning over five decades. He is widely regarded as one of the most important and influential filmmakers in the history of cinema. Kurosawa displayed a bold, dynamic style, strongly influenced by Western cinema yet distinct from it; he was involved with all aspects of film production.
Steven Allan Spielberg is an American film director, writer and producer. A major figure of the New Hollywood era and pioneer of the modern blockbuster, he is the most commercially successful director of all time. He is the recipient of various accolades, including three Academy Awards, two BAFTA Awards, and four Directors Guild of America Awards, as well as the AFI Life Achievement Award in 1995, the Kennedy Center Honor in 2006, the Cecil B. DeMille Award in 2009 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015. Seven of his films have been inducted into the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant".
Seven Samurai is a 1954 Japanese epic samurai drama film co-written, edited, and directed by Akira Kurosawa. The story takes place in 1586 during the Sengoku period of Japanese history. It follows the story of a village of desperate farmers who seek to hire rōnin to combat bandits who will return after the harvest to steal their crops.
Action film is a film genre in which the protagonist is thrust into a series of events that typically involve violence and physical feats. The genre tends to feature a mostly resourceful hero struggling against incredible odds, which include life-threatening situations, a dangerous villain, or a pursuit which usually concludes in victory for the hero.
Jurassic Park is a 1993 American science fiction action film directed by Steven Spielberg, produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Gerald R. Molen, and starring Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, and Richard Attenborough. It is the first installment in the Jurassic Park franchise, and the first film in the Jurassic Park original trilogy, and is based on the 1990 novel of the same name by Michael Crichton and a screenplay by Crichton and David Koepp. The film is set on the fictional island of Isla Nublar, located off Central America's Pacific Coast near Costa Rica, where wealthy businessman John Hammond (Attenborough) and a team of genetic scientists have created a wildlife park of de-extinct dinosaurs. When industrial sabotage leads to a catastrophic shutdown of the park's power facilities and security precautions, a small group of visitors and Hammond's grandchildren struggle to survive and escape the perilous island.
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is a 1982 American science fiction film produced and directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Melissa Mathison. It tells the story of Elliott, a boy who befriends an extraterrestrial, dubbed E.T., who is left behind on Earth. Along with his friends and family, Elliott must find a way to help E.T. find his way home. The film stars Dee Wallace, Henry Thomas, Peter Coyote, Robert MacNaughton and Drew Barrymore.
Jaws is a 1975 American thriller film directed by Steven Spielberg, based on the 1974 novel by Peter Benchley. It stars Roy Scheider as police chief Martin Brody, who, with the help of a marine biologist and a professional shark hunter, hunts a man-eating great white shark that attacks beachgoers at a summer resort town. Murray Hamilton plays the mayor, and Lorraine Gary portrays Brody's wife. The screenplay is credited to Benchley, who wrote the first drafts, and actor-writer Carl Gottlieb, who rewrote the script during principal photography.
The decade of the 1980s in Western cinema saw the return of studio-driven pictures, coming from the filmmaker-driven New Hollywood era of the 1970s. The period was when "high concept" films gained popularity, where films were expected to be easily marketable and understandable. Therefore, they had short cinematic plots that could be summarized in one or two sentences. The modern Hollywood blockbuster is the most popular film format from the 1980s. Producer Don Simpson is usually credited with the creation of the high-concept picture of the modern Hollywood blockbuster.
Christopher Edward Nolan is a British-American filmmaker. Known for his Hollywood blockbusters with complex storytelling, Nolan is considered a leading filmmaker of the 21st century. His films have grossed $5 billion worldwide. The recipient of many accolades, he has been nominated for five Academy Awards, five BAFTA Awards and six Golden Globe Awards. In 2015, he was listed as one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time, and in 2019, he was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire for his contributions to film.
The decade of the 1970s in film involved many significant films.
Jaws 2 is a 1978 American thriller film directed by Jeannot Szwarc and co-written by Carl Gottlieb. It is the sequel to Steven Spielberg's Jaws (1975), and the second installment in the Jaws franchise. The film stars Roy Scheider as Police Chief Martin Brody, with Lorraine Gary and Murray Hamilton reprising their respective roles as Martin's wife Ellen Brody and mayor Larry Vaughn. It also stars Joseph Mascolo, Jeffrey Kramer, Collin Wilcox, Ann Dusenberry, Mark Gruner, Susan French, Barry Coe, Donna Wilkes, Gary Springer, and Keith Gordon in his first feature film role. The plot concerns Chief Brody suspecting another great white shark is terrorizing the fictional seaside resort of Amity Island, following a series of incidents and disappearances, and his suspicions are eventually proven true.
A superhero film is a film that focuses on the actions of superheroes. Superheroes are individuals who possess superhuman abilities and are dedicated to protecting the public. These films typically feature action, adventure, fantasy, or science fiction elements. The first film of a particular character often focuses on the hero's origin story. The first film also frequently introduces the hero's nemesis.
Hollywood accounting is the opaque or creative accounting methods used by the film, video, television and music industry to budget and record profits for creative projects. Expenditures can be inflated to reduce or eliminate the reported profit of the project, thereby reducing the amount which the corporation must pay in taxes and royalties or other profit-sharing agreements, as these are based on net profit.
A monster movie, monster film, creature feature or giant monster film is a film that focuses on one or more characters struggling to survive attacks by one or more antagonistic monsters, often abnormally large ones. The film may also fall under the horror, comedy, fantasy, or science fiction genres. Monster movies originated with adaptations of horror folklore and literature. Typically, movie monsters differ from more traditional antagonists in that many exist due to circumstances beyond their control; their actions are not entirely based on choice, potentially making them objects of sympathy to film viewers.
Jaws is an American natural horror film series that started with a 1975 film that expanded into three sequels, a theme park ride, and other tie-in merchandise, based on a 1974 novel. The main subject of the saga is a great white shark and its attacks on people in specific areas of the United States and The Bahamas. The Brody family is featured in all of the films as the primary antithesis to the shark. The original film was based on a novel written by Peter Benchley, which itself was inspired by the Jersey Shore shark attacks of 1916. Benchley adapted his novel, along with help from Carl Gottlieb and Howard Sackler, into the 1975 film Jaws, which was directed by Steven Spielberg. Although Gottlieb went on to pen two of the three sequels, neither Benchley nor Spielberg returned to the film series in any capacity.
An event film or event movie is a blockbuster film whose release itself is considered a major event.
The Lego Batman Movie is a 2017 computer-animated superhero comedy film produced by Warner Animation Group, DC Entertainment, RatPac Entertainment, Lego System A/S, Lin Pictures, Lord Miller Productions, and Vertigo Entertainment, and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. It was directed by Chris McKay from a screenplay by Seth Grahame-Smith, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Jared Stern, and John Whittington. Based on the characters from the DC Universe created by DC Comics and the Lego DC Super Heroes' Batman toy line, the film is a collaboration between production houses from the United States, Australia, and Denmark, the first spin-off in The Lego Movie franchise and the second installment overall. The film features Will Arnett reprising his role as Batman from The Lego Movie alongside Zach Galifianakis, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, and Ralph Fiennes. The story follows the title character (Arnett) as he attempts to overcome his greatest fear to stop the Joker's (Galifianakis) latest plan.
Fifty Shades Darker is a 2017 American erotic romantic drama film directed by James Foley and written by Niall Leonard, based on E. L. James's 2012 novel of the same name. The second installment in the Fifty Shades film series and the sequel to the 2015 film Fifty Shades of Grey, it stars Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey, respectively, with Eric Johnson, Eloise Mumford, Bella Heathcote, Rita Ora, Luke Grimes, Victor Rasuk, Kim Basinger, and Marcia Gay Harden in supporting roles.