Northern Illinois, summer 1984. A blue Chevy Cavalier sits with its trunk agape, the family inside enjoying a double feature at the drive-in. Up on the screen, the future governor of California is clad in only a loincloth, battling alongside Grace Jones for control of the world, or perhaps dibs on the squat rack. (He is really, really oiled up.) The rusted metal speaker box the family has slung over the window glass is doing its best to overcome the peals of children outside, who flit between cars collecting grass stains and new friends in equal measure. Arnold swings his sword. The speaker squawks and buzzes. The boy inside the car cheers. He escapes. And yet there is no place in the world the boy would rather be than right there, in the back of that aging station wagon.
You’ve had moments like this, I hope, memories that might never have happened without something to gather around: a screen of any size, the song of summer, a sporting event. This season is strung together from these moments, and for nearly 25 years, ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY has offered a guide to mining this kind of meaning out of the months to come. Welcome to the Must List, writ large.
Summer’s hot — get it? — and so our inaugural issue, in 1991, featured Bart and Lisa Simpson identifying Hot Spots around the country. Soon came the ice age, though: In 1993 David Letterman fronted the What Is Cool issue, lips puckered around a stogie that would make even Arnold jealous. Val Kilmer, Julia Roberts, and John Travolta kept things on ice, until we wisely abandoned temperature as a trope altogether in 1997. Enter the It List, which endured for nearly a decade and made no claim whatsoever on your summer calendar, instead anointing a new crop of Hollywood elite. Interesting, yes. Hot? Not always. See: Hugh Jackman’s Prince Valiant hair in 2003.
Finally came the Must List, which Christian Bale — the new Batman! — brought to life in 2004. Since then, the franchise has exploded in popularity, both in these pages and beyond. Today our weekly Must List is consistently one of the most popular features we publish, our daily Must List videos hosted by Darren Franich and Nina Terrero are a hit on the website, and we have grand plans for expanding the brand even further. But this issue is the flagship. Stewarded by editors Sean Smith, Thom Geier, and Bill Keith, it’s an ideal guide to help you chart your own personal Must List. What’s more, we’re pleased to welcome back 2006 Must List alum Jessica Alba, the star of Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. (Her 2006 cover also touted Snakes on a Plane. Hot!)
We’ve organized the issue not by medium this time — Movies, Books, and so on — but by category. Want to go big? Check out the Summer of Destruction package. Feeling risqué? Let Masters of Sex walk you through the filming of one of the show’s many sex scenes. You get the idea. Now get out there and have some fun.