With Memorial Day behind us, we’re inching closer and closer to Summer! Colleges and high schools have graduated their seniors. Prom season brought fun nights and the Summer Blockbuster Season is in full swing. For whatever reason Hollywood has been putting out its blockbusters earlier and earlier the past few years, but the upcoming list isn’t about those Summer movies. It’s about movies that actually involve Summer! The following is a list of the best movies about Summer, from camping and family vacations to being stuck in school (in no real particular order).
To start off a list of the best movies about Summer, you should start your list with a movie about the last day of school. There is no better movie about the last day of school than Dazed and Confused. It didn’t do much at the box office, but it has taken on a cult status because of a cast that includes Oscar winners Ben Affleck and Matthew McConaughey plus Milla Jovovich, Joey Lauren Adams, Jason London, Rory Cochrane, Adam Goldberg and more. You have no idea how many times I watched this movie in college and still quote it. “I love those redheads.” Plus it has one of the best movie soundtracks of all time.
A staple of Summertime is the family vacation so you might as well go with the movie with the word vacation in its title, National Lampoon’s Vacation. In his prime there weren’t too many better than Chevy Chase. Written by John Hughes and directed by Harold Ramis, 30 plus years later the film still holds up and brings laughs. Beverly D’Angelo, Anthony Michael Hall, Randy Quaid and the late, great John Candy co-star in the comedy about a man who just wants to take his family to Walley World. The movie developed into a franchise, but this is the one that started it all.
Now maybe you skipped too many classes or didn’t do all your homework so instead of Summer vacations you are stuck in Summer School. That’s right, the Mark Harmon comedy makes the list. Long before your mom loved him on NCIS, Harmon did this great comedy with a very young Courtney Thorne-Smith. Harmon plays a gym teacher who gets roped into teaching English to a bunch of misfits and I’m SHOCKED Hollywood hasn’t remade this one yet.
But if you got good grades and aren’t stuck behind a desk during the Summer, it’s time to go camping! That brings us to a few different camping films. Friday the 13th is one of the All-Time Greatest Horror Films and really helped explode the genre in the early 80s. Sure the franchise made a mockery of itself over time, but the original was pure camping hell. Everyone thinks of Jason when you say Friday the 13th, but the first film involved his mother terrorizing Camp Crystal Lake. I remember my mom pulling my sister’s hair at the end when Jason makes his first appearance.
If horror frightened you from going camping, the next two films should ease the pain. Wet Hot American Summer was another film that didn’t do much at the box office, but took on a cult status. With an absolute All-Star cast including Paul Rudd, David Hyde Pierce, Janeane Garofalo, Molly Shannon, Christopher Meloni, Michael Ian Black, Ken Marino, Amy Poehler, Bradley Cooper, Joe Lo Truglio, Elizabeth Banks, Judah Friedlander, and Michael Showalter who also co-wrote it with David Wain (who directed the film), the film tackles camp life of the 1980s better than most camp movies made in the 1980s. It was so cult-ish that Netflix brought back the cast to do a TV show over a decade later.
And if you are going to camp, you have to have the mother of all camping comedies, Meatballs. The Bill Murray movie is a classic from director Ivan Reitman and co-written by Harold Ramis. The tagline speaks for itself: Every summer the cream of America’s youth goes to summer camp – and the rest go to Camp Northstar. Murray shines and put himself on the map beyond SNL with this. It spawned some terrible sequels, but the original is a classic.
If camping isn’t your thing, maybe you like to swim or boat. One movie scared people into never stepping foot into the ocean. That film is Steven Spielberg’s Jaws. We may laugh at the way the shark looks 40 plus years later, but Jaws traumatized people back in the 1970s. It was suspenseful and terrorizing and shaped how movies got made. It won 3 Oscars and you can watch it today and still be in suspense. Sure it also spawned some terrible sequels, but if Jaws isn’t in your list of best movies of all time, your list is flawed.
The biggest holiday during the Summer is of course the Fourth of July. I didn’t love it when I first saw it, but over time I’ve actually grown a fondness for Will Smith’s Independence Day. A huge Summer blockbuster, Smith was at the top of his game when this was released. I actually like the supporting cast more including Jeff Goldblum, Randy Quaid, Bill Pullman and Adam Baldwin. Maybe it’s the cool aliens. Maybe it’s Harry Connick Jr. Maybe it’s Smith’s line “Welcome to Earf.” Whatever it is, I get stuck watching the movie whenever it’s on TV. It received a sequel 20 years later, but no one (including myself) paid any attention to it.
Maybe you were smart enough to avoid Summer school, but not lucky enough to go camping and got stuck with a Summer job. The ultimate Summer job would be writing about a band on tour. Loosely based on Cameron Crowe’s life, Almost Famous shows he had the greatest Summer job of all time. The film made a star out of Kate Hudson (and won her a Golden Globe) and brought Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” to a brand new audience.
If you couldn’t travel the US writing about music then working at a water park would be a solid Summer job. Martin Lieberman reminded me how much I loved The Way Way Back and a movie about water slides and falling in love during Summer break has to make the list. Sam Rockwell is charming as heck and Jim Rash & Nat Faxon made a fantastic, timeless slice of Americana.
Another film that has gone on to cult status is one that truly showcases Summer to me. What is more American than playing baseball with friends with beat up equipment just for fun? The Sandlot truly captured an innocent time with innocent kids just playing ball. Come on it has James Earl Jones talking about baseball! A great young (and believable) cast makes this one of the best baseball films of all time as well. You’re killing me Smalls!
Labor Day is the unofficial end to Summer, but the movie that shares that name (and stars Kate Winslet) just isn’t that good. The end of Summer also means it’s time to go Back to School and although that Rodney Dangerfield film is funny, I think there’s a more recent film that nails the first week of school, especially college, better than any other. This list started with Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused and it’s going to end with another of his films, Everybody Wants Some!! The film is an homage to a simpler time, not only a specific time in history, but to a time in life. Your vacation is over, you step foot on campus for the first time. It’s almost time to get serious, but you can crack open a few more beers before you have to crack open a book.
So what do you think? Did your favorites make the list? What movies about Summer did I miss?