Summer days usually mean lots of sunny outdoor time, but for anyone who’s ever spent the day at a beach, or stuck in a hot car en route to the beach, or trapped in a thong-clad oily crowd on a beach knows that sometimes the best thing about summer is the air-conditioned indoor scene. In my family, one of our favourite ways to spend time together is by not talking and staring ahead at movies shown on electronic screens, while envying the much better lives portrayed within. Yay, summer!
Here’s a list of 15 Must-Watch Summer Movies to get you started. (This should at least help you through July.)
Come for the music, stay for the endearing storyline of how to nab a quasi-jerk boyfriend by becoming something other than your genuine self! Yes, ladies! It’s Chapter One in our “You’re Doing it Wrong: Be Someone Else So He’ll Do Ya” summer series. Watch as Sandy and Danny hit the reset button on their personalities and become the super couple everyone at school is talking about. Rydell High seems like an okay school, except one wonders why nobody graduates until they’re 35 years old. This classic also makes an appearance on our Top 10 Back To School Movies.
Note: The Grease soundtrack double album was the first album I owned. Santa brought it to me in 1979 when I was six years-old. The album boasts lyrics like “You know that ain’t no shit/We’ll be gettin’ lots of tit.”
1979 was the year I became aware there was no Santa.
Grown Ups 2010
My kids love this movie because: 1.) Adam Sandler; 2.) Kevin James; 3.) Fart noises.
That’s pretty much the trifecta in movie awards at our house, so I don’t know what else I can say to entice you to watch this movie about a group of elementary school friends who come together as adults with their families to celebrate the life of their recently deceased basketball coach. Haha! Let the good times roll! (Dead people feature large in summer movies; wait and see.)
If you didn’t want to rent a cottage and hang out with some old friends before, I suggest you start scouring the internet for last-minute availability now. Also, fart.
Note: Please make sure you do not accidentally rent or purchase Grown Ups 2. It is a sad reprisal of an otherwise acceptable franchise. I saw it at the Drive-In and after 15 minutes I caused a bit of a scene which I’d love to go into but cannot, due to the terms and conditions of a pending law suit.
Just look at this cute little guy! All he wants is a friend, but he’s finding it difficult to forge relationships, what with his undeserved reputation of an ornery people-eater. But it’s high time someone stood up for the woefully misunderstood shark, and I will remain silent no longer and that’s why Jaws is one of my favorite summer movies.
Are you someone who thinks these “demons of the sea” don’t need or want friends? That they’re cold and cruel, and maybe they deserve to roam the ocean, alone and friendless? Or that, oh, I dunno, perhaps they have little need for companionship because they’re too busy wreaking havoc? ALL LIES. It’s just not true, and now is the time to check your bias and get real about sharkism. Have you stopped to consider the very real possibility that shark attacks are simply cuddling attempts gone horribly wrong? Thanks to “Shark Week” and the inevitable summertime reporting of dramatic shark “attacks,” the general populace has come to fear and hate this well-meaning (albeit slightly misguided) creature. These are not loathsome animals, yet they continue to have a firmly entrenched reputation as vicious killing machines with a penchant for human flesh. But sharks don’t need your pity; they need your friendship. I ask you – If you cut a shark, will he not bleed? SHARKS ARE PEOPLE TOO, YOU GUYS.
Dirty Dancing 1987
Strict dad + burgeoning sexuality / 1950s moral conduct code x Patrick Swayze in tight pants = HOT TO EXPONENT ONE MILLION
This movie will have you dancing and crying and then maybe singing and perhaps raising your fists to punctuate the women’s reproductive rights subtext and you might spill your Merlot on the couch and your partner will be all, “Jeni! For God’s sake! I JUST cleaned the living room!” And then you’ll be all, “Shut it, Chris! Can’t you see she just wants to be loved for who she is?! WHY ARE YOU SO OBTUSE DO WE HAVE MORE WINE?” Then he’ll puts his arm around you and shhh, shhh, everything will be fine.
Wait; what were we talking about? Oh, Dirty Dancing. It’s a pretty good movie. You should watch it.
Friday the 13th 1980
I hear it’s scary.
I’ve watched it through closed fingers over my eyes at a grade eight slumber party, but I almost peed the bed that night from fear.* This classic horror movie combines the scariest of all horror movies elements, including a long-dead child, a summer camp, and teenagers. I have teenager, so I know what I am talking about. They are scary, you guys. Camp Crystal Lake brochures may look awesome, but you’re taking your chances if you attend is what I’m saying.
*I totally peed the bed that night from fear.
The Great Outdoors 1988
Take any John Candy movie. Now, roll it in crap. Then dust it with belly-button lint and leave it in the sun to bake for three days while birds peck at it with wormy beaks. What do you get? A still-awesome movie. There is nothing John Candy did in his too-short cinematic career that cannot be held up against any other comedy of its time and not compete. The Great Outdoors is a wonderful film about family vacations under less than optimal circumstances, and it’s totally suitable for kids. (Except for the part where two raccoons discuss the “lips and assholes” content of hotdogs. You may want to cover the kids’ ears for that bit, but still.)
What About Bob? 1991
What About Bob is the story of Bob Wiley, an anxious and neurotic man with crippling germophobia and an impressive list of issues. He’s basically every character from Seinfeld in one-man Bill Murray show. He is, in a word, awesome and troubled. When Wiley seeks treatment from the well-regarded psychiatrist Dr. Leo Marvin (Richard Dreyfuss), he discovers Marvin has taken the summer off to vacation with family. Wiley then hunts the doctor, locating him in a seaside town where he then infiltrates Marvin’s family and life. Although this sounds like a plot synopsis of a disturbing psychological thriller with possible multiple murder scenes, I assure you it is indeed a comedy.
I Know What You Did Last Summer 1997
(Warning: YouTube commenters went nutso-wack-a-doo-coco-puffs crazy about movie spoilers in the trailer, so watch under advisement.)
Plot: Kids do bad stuff and lie; someone knows and is gonna tell. The word “summer” appears in the title so it qualifies. NEXT.
American Graffiti 1973
This one is for the nostalgia buff and/or car and music over. Like many summer films, American Graffiti outline events occurring in one evening when high school friends – fresh from graduation and without adult responsibilities yet to haunt them – take to the streets in a show of muscle cars and rock n’ roll. This is how I imagined my parent’s teenage years were spent, until my father reminded me he shoveled rocks full-time at a limestone gravel quarry to pay help pay bills since he was sixteen years old. AND IT WAS UPHILL BOTH WAYS.
Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants 2005
Full disclosure: I have not seen this movie, because I believe it concerns a communal pair of pants. Pants have a crotch area and there is no way sharing can be sanitary. However, my teenage daughter has read the series of novels and seen the movie and here is her synopsis: “It’s good.”
(I ask her to be more specific. ) “Oh, okay. It’s like, really good.” Can’t beat that synopsis. (I have also warned her to not share pants.)
Stand By Me 1986
More dead bodies!
Dead bodies are usually reserved for horror flicks and rom-coms, but this time around we get a beautiful coming of age story involving a group of young boys searching for a dead body. Do they find it? I dunno; is cherry Pez the best food ever? I got that heavy-sad feeling in my chest reading the online synopsis to refresh my memory and now I need to go to bed for a few days because this movie is a reminder that while life can be funny and there is joy to be had even in the smallest moments, it can still punch you in the face when you least expect it.
Dazed and Confused 1993
Alright alright alright.
Dazed and Confused takes place on the evening of the last day of school in Austin, Texas in 1976. I must live in a time warp or some sort of a physical worm-hole, because this movie played out in real-life here at my high school in Ontario for the years 1986-90. Takeaway: People don’t change; pant widths do.
The kids of Lee High School are so happy to be finished with their educmacating for the year that they throw a huge party and essentially sit around and bitch and moan about the cruelty and uncertainty of life. What makes the movie is the amazing soundtrack (seriously – go download it) and the game you’ll play where you get out your own high school yearbook and assign each movie character a real-life counterpart.
P.S. Everyone knew a David Wooderson (Matthew McConaughey).
I don’t normally make excuses for out-dated attitudes regarding any of the -ism’s, and this 1979 flick is rife with cringe-worthy escapades and exchanges right out of the dark ages that were the 70s as they pertained to race and gender and body acceptance, etc. But I overlooked all that and watched more as an anthropological exploration into the hair and costumery of the late 1970’s, and I’m glad I did.
Bill Murray helps run (debatable) Camp North Star, which was – Canadian shout-out alert! – filmed at the real-life Camp White Pine in Haliburton, Ontario. Across the lake, rival Camp Mohawk is populated by jerks of the highest order who will stop at nothing to win the Annual Camp Olympiad. You know, because Camp Olympiad trophies are going for like $250 a pop at Pawn Shops across North America and they look great on University resumes.
National Lampoon’s Vacation 1983
Clark Griswold wants nothing more than to give his family the summer vacation they deserve. By all accounts the Griswold’s must be pretty horrible people who maybe make hats from baby panda fur because what they get is an uncomfortable road trip delivering dead bodies and in-bred hick relatives who enjoy tongue-kissing one another. Stay tuned until the end when Clark goes postal on an innocent Wally World Amusement Park employee because tell me you didn’t feel the same way after last year’s family trip to Six Flags.
Summer Rental 1985
I love movies from the 1980s because they feel like they took place before we all turned into complete assholes sometime in 1992. Also, it stars John Candy, who makes an impressive second appearance on our list, yet again as a family man on holiday. But this time Candy plays stressed-out air traffic controller Jack Chester. Chester has a teenage daughter and two small children who he takes along with his wife on a summertime getaway to a beach house to escape the pressures of his job.
His family is ecstatic at the thought of the beach, but Chester is less enthusiastic. After hurting himself in an accident, he decides to enact revenge on his summer nemesis (and apparent cause of all problems) by repairing a decrepit sailboat and attempting to beat him at a regatta. I would have just burned his garage down, but ya gotta do what ya gotta do.
Which movies invoke the spirit of summer for you? Who would you have added (or have removed) from our list?