Summer! It’s a time for lying on the beach, roller skating, heading off to summer camp and making bets with your friends to see who can lose his or her virginity first. Netflix’s new TV series Wet Hot American Summer will undoubtedly fill our hearts with joy by featuring many of these activities. As you probably know, it’s based on the movie that charmed our short shorts off by painstakingly replicating and satirizing the clichés of past summer sex comedies (I know somebody who went to see it in the theater and thought that she was watching a revival of a movie from 1982). Today, we bring you movies that gave birth to the conventions that Wet Hot American Summer spoofs. We’ve also thrown in a couple of movies that, like Wet Hot…, cleverly revise those conventions. These flicks will remind you of your wild youth getting into sexy misadventures with your friends. Or, at the very least, they will remind you of your youth spent watching late night HBO and wishing that you were getting into sexy misadventures with your friends.
Warning! Some of these trailers are Not Safe for Work! But would you want them to be?
Little Darlings (1980)
Possibly the greatest summer camp comedy of them all, and definitely a huge influence on Wet Hot American Summer. Tatum O’Neal and Kristy McNichol play campers from different sides of the tracks in a fight-to-the-death competition to see who can lose her virginity first. This movie has it all, including: Matt Dillon and Armand Assante as hunky love interests, a constant soundtrack of ‘80s hits by the likes of Supertramp, Blondie, Rickie Lee Jones, and Bellamy Brothers, and baby Cynthia Nixon as a long-haired hippy teen named Sunshine. Weirdly, there is so much summer camp sexiness in this movie that you keep expecting a killer to show up.
My Tutor (1983)
Behold! My Tutor is one of the best, and most underrated, teen sex comedies of all time. Dreamy Beverly Hills brat Bobby Chrystal is bummed when he fails French and has to spend the summer working with a tutor. That is until the tutor turns out to be equally foxy aerobics afficionado Terry Green. They fall in love and have an oddly adult, truly intimate relationship. The efforts of Bobby’s rowdy friends (including a young Crispin Glover!) to drag him on their misadventures as they aim to lose their virginity can’t hold a candle to his educational endeavors. Come for the nubile flesh, fashions and early ‘80s LA atmosphere. Stay for one of the only teen sex comedy character studies of the ‘80s.
The Beach Girls (1982)
If you’re emotionally and intellectually drained by My Tutor’s unexpected intelligence, pop in this more-typical entry in the Crown International Pictures oeuvre. Two party girls go to their timid, virginal friend Sarah’s uncle’s beach house for summer shenanigans. When a drug dealer’s massive bails of marijuana wash up on shore, they throw an appropriately sized party. Their guests prove to be almost as eclectic as those in the Girls Just Wanna Have Fun music video. When Sarah’s swinging bachelor uncle shows up, things get weird.
Hot Moves (1984)
American Pie owes a lot to Hot Moves (which owes a lot to 1982’s The Last American Virgin). This video store/late night cable staple tells the tale as old as time: four high school dudes aim to lose their virginity over the summer, and encounter mishaps. In Hot Moves, such mishaps include annoyed ex-girlfriends, overpriced prostitutes, a gorgeous, sexual-orientation-challenging man in women’s clothes, and a bunch of nude women racing on the beach to suspiciously Chariots of Fire-esque music. The boys also encounter breakdancing and roller skating. In other words, if you are not fortunate enough to be able to spend this summer on Venice Beach in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, a double feature of Hot Moves and Roller Boogie (1979) is the next best thing.
A trio of rich, older businessmen rent a pimped out condo on the beach hoping to score with some young chicks. They have bad luck until they make an arrangement with Scotty, a hip, young, homeless beach stud who has no trouble attracting the ladies. They give him shelter and some cash in exchange for seduction skills and updated pick up lines. If all of this sounds kind of gross and sad…Well, it is. However, once you start watching it, you may end up seduced into its deceptive spirit of summer fun. Check out its unusually honest trailer!
Meatballs III: Summer Job (1986)
For years I thought that I misremembered that Patrick Dempsey starred in this tacky USA Up All Night staple. I did not. Obviously, the first two Meatballs movies are essential summer comedies. Meatballs III makes this list because it is the sexiest, and weirdest, entry in the franchise. Oscar nominee Sally Kellerman plays the ghost of a porn star. She can only get into heaven if she returns to earth to help Rudy, a nerdy camp counselor (Dempsey), lose his virginity. It’s like Ghost meets It’s a Wonderful Life, with much less class and breasts instead of tears. The mystifyingly underutilized Shannon Tweed plays the wife of the camp’s owner and the object of Rudy’s affections.
State Park aka Heavy Metal Summer (1987)
It wouldn’t be summer in movie land if some nasty dude wasn’t trying to buy your favorite teen hangout and turn it into a shopping mall, parking lot or toxic waste dump.
Best gal pals Marsha, Eve and Linnie find themselves in the middle of such a situation when they decide to spend their summer vacation at Weewankah State Park. The evil Mr. Rancewell wants to develop the adolescent utopia into a pesticide factory and dump all of the factory’s excess pollutants in a nearby creek. The gals hook up with Weewankah Willy, a mysterious nature preservationist in a bear suit, and get into all sorts of summer movie antics. State Park has as many subplots as Magnolia. Marsha falls in love with a hot guy at the beach but is horrified when he meets up with her later wearing heavy metal threads! Linnie can’t decide whether to marry her high school sweetheart and is addicted to haircuts. Eve needs to win the Camp Wilderness challenge to make enough money to go to college since her parents recently lost their fortune. With all of this intrigue, how can you not spend the entire film on the edge of your seat?
Edge of Seventeen (1998)
In 1998 (was it really that long ago?), writer Todd Stephens and director David Moreton finally gave the gays a teen summer sex comedy to call their very own. In 1984, high schooler Eric spends his summer days listening to Bronski Beat and Eurythmics, struggling with his sexuality, and working at an amusement park in Ohio. When he falls in love with studly college guy Rod, he has to ride some major emotional waves. Orange is the New Black’s Lea DeLaria makes a cameo as the boss of every queer person’s dreams.
The To Do List (2013)
In 2013 the days of smart, woman-centric sex comedies like Little Darlings seemed far away. The To Do List, sadly the only film on this list written and directed by a woman, felt like a profound, fun, feminist gift. The film takes place in 1993 when teen girls cared about Beaches and Kirk Cameron was known for his studliness rather than his religious views (we didn’t know what we had until it was gone). Good girl Brandy Clark decides that she wants to gain more sexual experience before heading to Georgetown University in the Fall. Like any good girl, she makes a checklist of goals that she needs to achieve (which includes tasks like “hand jobs” and “dry humping”). Writer-director Maggie Carey has an unusually mature, evolved perspective on sexual exploration, which ends up bringing Brandy increased maturity and a greater sense of herself. That said, she still has funny, raunchy adventures along the way.
Ben Raphael Sher is VP of Development at XG Productions LA, Inc. He holds a PhD in Film, Television, and Digital Media from UCLA, where he teaches. He also writes for Chiller TV (http://www.chillertv.com/friday13), SyFy (www.syfy.com), and his blog, Eyes of Ben Sher (http://eyesofbensher.blogspot.com). He is a regular co-host of the Retro Movie Love podcast (http://retromovielove.com).