TOP TEN – MOVIES THAT DEFINE SUMMER
STAND BY ME (1986)
The very best summer movies explore what kind of hijinks kids used to get into when they had an entire season of freedom stretched out ahead of them. You think a group of 12-year-olds could go have an amazing adolescent journey of self-discovery and bonding, free from the watchful gaze of parents today? Hell no, in 2014 at least one of those boys would’ve been micro chipped and geotagged. They never would have made it to that dead body without parents or police keeping them safe from the adventure of a lifetime.
Best Line of the Summer: “I never had any friends later on, like the ones I had when I was 12. Jesus, does anyone?”
CAMP NOWHERE (1994)
Oh man between the generous mixing of plaids and stripes, the JTT knockoff playing the lead, and Christopher Lloyd just being himself, the 90’s are alive and well in this one. The freedom afforded from summer isn’t enough for these little rebels. They stage a fake camp, use their parent’s “tuition moneyâ€ to buy a bunch of awesome toys and junk and live like the lost boys for the summer. WITH FIREWORKS!!! It’s the ultimate kid fantasy, like running away with a blank check. Though I’m still juvenile enough today that I’d definitely run away for the summer with Andrew Keegan and that bitching leather jacket.
Best Line of the Summer: “Who would think something like this would happen from harmless flares and roman candles?â€
DAZED AND CONFUSED (1993)
The nostalgia here is so poignant and relatable, it will make you relive the best night of your teenage life, even if you never actually kissed the girl or got one over on the bully. The first night of High School summer break is a timelessly magical night filled with endless possibilities, and for some students in small towns that apparently includes homo-erotic paddlings and discovering you just want to dance. Not necessarily in that order.
Best Line of the Summer: “I’d like to quit thinking of the present, like right now, as some minor, insignificant preamble to somethin’ else.â€
WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER (2001)
Unlike most terrible parodies (Date Movie, Twilight), this sun and bug-juice soaked film uses its self-awareness sparingly. Normally just for excellently timed punchlines so usually it just feels the kind of rad, no-rules camp Janeane Garofalo would run. Wet Hot American Summer is from the crew at The State so you know it’s full of hilarious people, but for every Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler there are some major casting surprises, hello Bradley Cooper’s flaming drama teacher and Christopher Meloni’s shell-shocked Vet turned camp cook. It’s the best camp movie ever because it is literally EVERY camp movie ever, chock full of all the tropes you can handle from the kid who won’t shower to the rag tag sports team beating the generically evil really good team. OK they didn’t actually beat them they just talked about it, which is almost the same thing right?
Best Line of the Summer: “You smell like a burger. I don’t like you anymore.â€
THE SANDLOT (1993)
This movie has literally everything that was part of your best childhood summer: good friends, secret clubhouse, defying your parents, complicated plan or project to keep you out of trouble, confronting and befriending a terrifying local villain, sneaking illicit substances, intense competitions, carnival rides, first kiss (with or without coercion) and victory over a fierce rival. It’s like an entire summer in a bottle and it’s going to be entertaining FOR-EV-ER.
Best Line of the Summer: “You’re killing me Smalls!â€
THE WACKNESS (2009)
Not all summers are filled with crazy adventures, sometimes they’re just dull and quiet like life is the rest of the year. Luke is a recent High School grad selling weed around New York for the summer to pay for college. He also trades it to Ben Kingsley for therapy, it’s a pretty sweet deal for both parties. It’s always surreal to see a Disney channel star do drugs and curse and have sex and all the normal things teenagers do in movies that you only notice if they happen to have been a child actor, but Josh Bell is pitch perfect as a disillusioned city kid dealing with his dysfunctional family and generally shitty summer. Of course he does get to lose his virginity in Fire Island, so it’s not all bad. Plus it’s statistically impossible to have an entirely bad time while The Fresh Prince and DJ jazzy Jeff are playing.
Best Line of the Summer: “In June I graduate. And then I go to my safety school. And then I get a little older. And then I die.â€
DO THE RIGHT THING (1989)
When you think summer it’s usually associated with bodies of water and shady woods, but lots of people can’t escape the asphalt jungle. This Spike Lee joint is unflinching in its discussion of the tough topics, namely racial tension and gross sweat production. Crime rates are known to rise with the temperature, well it’s the hottest day of the year in Brooklyn and you can tell by everyone’s constantly damp pits and dappled foreheads alone that the general discomfort is steadily growing.
Best Line of the Summer: “No. I’m just a struggling Black man trying to keep my dick hard in a cruel and harsh world.â€
It has to be included simply because Jaws changed summer forever. No longer was the ocean a safe and relaxing setting for a great summer outing, in fact ALL bodies of water became suspect. The beach scenes are eerie in their familiarity, it could be any one of us paddling out in the water, kicking our feet unsuspectingly as a monster lurks beneath ready to kill at any moment. That music starts to drift into your head and it’s not long before you’re screaming bloody murder about something touching your foot….even though it’s always just seaweed.
Best Line of the Summer: “You’re gonna need a bigger boatâ€
THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH (1955)
Most tales of summertime center on childhood adventures or teenagers coming of age, but Marilyn Monroe’s iconic upskirt film is all about what gets the adults sweaty. Seven Year Itch is about the season of the summer bachelor, men whose families go on vacation while they slave away in the hot city and try to get into the extramarital panties of single girls all around them. Tom Ewell plays a man determined to stay loyal to his wife but Marilyn Monroe wants to use him for his A/C…gee wiz what’s a guy to do? It’s ridiculous and campy and really, really funny mainly due to Ewell’s neurotic ramblings and mastery of slapstick. Monroe does her best cooing and perching here too, she’s perfect as the girl who innocently says suggestive things and gets into all sorts of trouble…even though that’s totally not a type of girl who exists in real life.
Best Line of the Summer: “What happened at the office? Well, I shot Mr. Brady in the head, made violent love to Miss Morris and set fire to three hundred thousand copies of Little Women. That’s what happened at the office.’ What can happen at the office?â€
THE ENDLESS SUMMER (1966)
I mean duh, the poster alone has become the straight up icon of the season. It’s by far the most pleasurable documentary to watch; gorgeous scenes of waves crashing and beautiful people cavorting on the most exotic beaches around the world are set against super groovy jams and it’s all just very chill. This movie is also the reason all of your summer memories come back to you as if they’re appearing through a hazy 60’s filter. Science.
Best Line of the Summer: “The only way to avoid a wipeout is to take this wide, stink-bug stance. Spread your legs and hang on till your trunks rip, right up the back.â€