School is out, the weather is warm, and the first official week of summer is finally here. What better time to crack out the movies that make you nostalgic for those three glorious months of freedom that every kid looks forward to? With your help, we compiled a list of 10 Essential Summer Movies. So open the windows, grab a popsicle, sit back and relax for these tributes to the dog days. Tell us what you think in the comments!
10. National Lampoon’s Vacation
Next stop: Wally World! Nothing goes right for the Griswold family when they go on vacation. From cousin Eddie’s antics to the death of Aunt Edna (“A dead person breathed on me!”), everything in this movie builds up to the first of what would be many classic R-rated Clark Griswold meltdowns. It also makes for one of the greatest summer movies ever made, making you want to whistle “Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah” out of your — well, you know.
9. Wet Hot American Summer
Sporting an impressive cast that included Bradley Cooper, Elizabeth Banks, Amy Poehler, and Paul Rudd among many others, Wet Hot American Summer is a laugh-a-minute summer camp/summer love spoof that revels in its absurdity and inappropriateness. It’s hard to explain why a talking can of vegetables is so funny, but that’s part of the charm of the movie. Also, you taste like a burger. I don’t like you anymore.
8. Stand By Me
When school’s out, summer is a time for the bonds of friendship to be strengthened. Stand By Me epitomizes that feeling with humor, heart and a little bit of angst as four buddies go on a trek to find a dead body. Based on a story by Stephen King and directed by Rob Reiner, the movie stars young Wil Wheaton, Jerry O’Connell, Corey Feldman and River Phoenix — pretty much a guaranteed formula for a classic ’80s movie.
7. The Sandlot
Some movies are so indelible, their influence seems to last FORRR-EVVVV-VERRRR. Such is the case with The Sandlot, a period piece about a timeless summer sport that seems to strike a chord with everyone who watched it as a kid. Even if you’re not a fan of the Sultan of Swat, there’s just something irresistibly summery about watching kids play pick-up baseball, then chew tobacco and puke at a 4th of July fair. You’re killing me, Smalls!
The dreaded summer job — it’s a rite of passage for every teenager. But if everyone’s summer job had them surrounded by the likes of Bill Murray, Rodney Dangerfield and Chevy Chase, we might not be so reluctant to apply.Caddyshack made golf hilarious, made everyone look at Baby Ruth candy bars in a new light, and created an unwritten law that required every ’80s movie to have a Kenny Loggins song prominently featured in the soundtrack.
Meatballs is the second Bill Murray movie in a row on this Top 10 List. It was also Murray’s first-ever starring role on the big screen, portraying the head counselor of a dysfunctional summer camp. His comedic presence helps ease the campers’ pain of guessing mystery cafeteria meat and having their pants run up the flagpole.
4. Summer School
Nothing strikes fear into the hearts of children everywhere quite like the words “summer school.” Unless, of course, you’re referring to the movie in which slacker Mark Harmon is forced to teach a remedial summer English class. Maybe there’s nothing that could make you actually want to go to summer school, but this movie at least makes thinking about it a lot more amusing. Plus, it introduced the world to the mega-extended bathroom break.
3. Friday The 13th / Sleepaway Camp
Many people have unhappy memories of going to summer camp as a kid. Perhaps it’s fitting, then, that some of the most popular summer movies depict a camp experience far worse than any you could possibly have gone through. Didn’t make any friends and the food was gross? Well at least you didn’t get murdered by a knife-wielding maniac! Ah, suddenly summer camp memories don’t seem too bad after all.
2. Dazed and Confused
Few films have encapsulated the feeling of jubilant freedom that accompanies the last day of school quite like Dazed and Confused. Of course, director Richard Linklater’s tale of teenage debauchery also captures the feelings of entrapment, frustration and uncertainty that come along with being a kid in school, and that’s part of what makes Dazed and Confused so brilliant. But most of all, the freewheeling atmosphere of partying teens in a largely consequence-free environment makes you feel like you’re at a summer high school party all over again, and that makes the film so indelible in the hotter months.
Who would have thought the ultimate summer movie would make you want to avoid the beach at all costs? Steven Spielberg’s 1975 masterpiece of great white proportions made an entire generation think twice before even sticking a toe in the ocean, and it also solidified itself as the quintessential summer popcorn flick with some well-placed severed limbs and two ominous, repeating musical notes from composer John Williams. Not to mention, it launched the era of the summer blockbuster, so Jaws has the spirit of the season etched into it. We’re gonna need a bigger Top 10 List.