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The 10 Best Summer Family Blockbusters on Netflix Instant

July 9, 2013  |  10:00am

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Summer is the time for big, fun blockbusters, but you don’t need to leave your home. Sit down in your coziest chair, turn the lights down low, grab some M&M’S® and check out one of these 10 great movies in the comfort of your own home. All 10 of the following blockbusters are available on Netflix Instant, streaming throughout the summer months.

tintin.jpg10. The Adventures of Tintin
Original Release: 2009
Domestic Box Office $77 million
Director: Steven Spielberg
Rating: PG
Created by Belgian artist Georges Remi (under the pen name Hergé), the intrepid carrot-topped reporter/sleuth stands as a titan of European comics. But director Steven Spielberg held the film rights for nearly 30 years, waiting for the right moment to give Tintin his cinematic due. The Adventures of Tintin does just that, impressively capturing the spirit of the source material. It’s clever in the best sense of the word—from the Tintin mini-adventure embedded in the opening titles to the meticulous attention to details throughout (a quality for which Hergé himself was so admired). As one would expect from a Spielberg-directed adventure, the pacing is “Raiders brisk”—so much so that there was even a little hesitant expectation at film’s end as half the audience seemed unsure whether the latest climax was the last.—Michael Burgin

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9. Captain America: The First Avenger
Original Release: 2011
Domestic Box Office $176 million
Director: Joe Johnston
Rating: PG-13
Captain America took the idea of a superhero and made it a period piece by having Cap fight Nazis in this origin story that set the stage for the Avengers movie. While it’s not up to par with Iron Man among a more sophisticated audience, there’s plenty here for the kids to enjoy.—Ross Bonaime

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8. Rango
Original Release: 2011
Domestic Box Office $123 million
Director: Gore Verbinski
Rating: PG
The most surprising thing about Rango is how much Johnny Depp disappears into the character of a nameless pet chameleon who creates his identity when his terrarium falls out of the back of a car into the desert frontier. Unlike a certain cartoon panda, who was basically an animated version of every Jack Black character ever, Rango is no Keith Richards with an eye-patch or crazy barber/milliner/chocolatier. He’s a cipher who becomes a fraud who becomes a hero. It’s truly gritty, and that seemed to be what my own kids loved about it. Kids don’t always need primary colors and fluffy bunnies and 3-D effects. Sometimes a scrawny, ugly chameleon in the dirty Old West will do.

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7. Thor
Original Release: 2011
Domestic Box Office $181 million
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Rating: PG-13
Though it’s rated PG-13, Thor may be the most kid-friendly of the Avengers films, and with a May release date, it played theaters well into the summer. It’s a very well-executed movie, offering corny one-liners and plenty of muscle-bound heroism to whet fan appetites. Featuring characters taken from the Marvel comic universe, the film stars Oscar winners Anthony Hopkins and Natalie Portman and is directed by Kenneth Branagh (a guy more normally associated with the Great Bard than with Stan Lee). The story has warrior Thor (Chris Hemsworth) exiled by his father Odin (Hopkins) to Earth from his fantastical home of Asgard. It should be lauded for maintaining a tongue-in-cheek tone. It’s surprisingly literate and even sharp in places, while not ever getting too dark or disturbing. It’s that balance between edgier complexity and lighthearted appeal that makes Thor suitable for just about everyone.—Jonathan Hickman

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6. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Original Release: 1982
Domestic Box Office $78 million
Director: Nicholas Meyer
Rating: PG
Evoking the most memorable anguished cry in cinema, Khan is Nietzschean nightmare. Ricardo Montalbán’s Khan is a science-grown Übermensch bent on causing interstellar calamity, and arguably captain Kirk’s most memorable adversary (Gorn included). What’s more scary than a villain designed to be better than you…at everything? Eleven movies in, including an admirable remake from J.J. Abrams, and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is still the greatest of them all.—Darren Orf

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5. Super 8
Original Release: 2011
Domestic Box Office $127 million
Director: J.J. Abrams
Rating: PG-13
Proving that star power isn’t limited to those in front of the camera, Steven Spielberg and J.J. Abrams delivered a little bit of old-school, mainstream, popcorn, sci-fi summer fun. The film is as much a celebration of filmmaking and a coming-of-age story as it is an action alien-invasion flick. It feels like those sci-fi movies of the ‘80s (the decade of its setting). You know, the ones made by folks like Spielberg.

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4. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Original Release: 1986
Domestic Box Office $70 million
Director: John Hughes
Rating: PG-13
John Hughes’ zeitgeist-y, fourth wall-busting ode to rich, entitled suburban youth vs. killjoy authority announced Matthew Broderick as a bona fide star, and gave us a chillingly prescient glimpse at Charlie Sheen’s future in an admittedly funny bit role. Breakfast Club aside, out of all Hughes’ decade of teen-centric movies set in the Chicago area, Bueller has almost certainly endured the best, and without all that tortured pretentiousness.—Scott Wold

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3. The Hunger Games
Original Release: 2012
Domestic Box Office $408 million
Director: Gary Ross
Rating: PG-13
Suzanne Collins’ futuristic dystopian society comes to life in the long-awaited debut of The Hunger Games. But it’s Jennifer Lawrence’s performance as Katniss Everdeen, the 16-year-old protagonist who unapologetically puts her life on the line to save her sister and challenge the twisted logic of the government, that has singlehandedly launched the inescapable book-turned-movie franchise. Fans of the books won’t be disappointed. With few exceptions, director Gary Ross doesn’t veer too far from Collins’ novel. It’s rare that a film based on a Young Adult novel is able to juggle so many powerful issues so profoundly, but Ross finds a way to translate Collins’ imaginative plots into a visually triumphant, emotional roller coaster of economic struggle, class warfare, politics, sacrifice, independent thinking and rebellion without compromising too much of the original manuscript.—Maggie Coughlan

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2. Top Gun
Original Release: 1986
Domestic Box Office $176 million
Director: Tony Scott
Rating: PG
Aviator shades, fast airplanes and a touch of beach volleyball make up one of the best action films of the ’80s. This film has it all: Tom Cruise in a star-making role; an exhilarating soundtrack courtesy of Kenny Logins; character names like Iceman and Maverick; and finally, perhaps one of the greatest subversive plots in movie history. At the end of the day it is simply impossible to deny the need for speed that lies in all of us.—Brian Tremml

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1. The Avengers
Original Release: 2012
Domestic Box Office $623 million
Director: Joss Whedon
Rating: PG-13
While Joss Whedon smartly recognizes how key Robert Downey Jr.’s Stark is to the story, he also allows most all of his cast, heroes and villain, ample opportunities to shine, both in dialogue and action. (Hawkeye and Nick Fury, not so much.) It can’t be overstated how crucial such balance is to a team film. As Loki, Hiddleston may be the best-cast arch-villain since Ian McKellen’s Magneto. (This bodes well for the “shared universe” Marvel Studios is building. Just as in its comic books, Marvel needs its villains to emit suitable levels of dastardliness. Let’s just hope there are enough British stage and screen actors to supply its needs.) The rest of the principals—particularly Hemsworth, Evans and Ruffalo—inhabit their characters so seamlessly, the viewer can just move straight to the wonder and fun of it all.—Michael Burgin

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