Summer will soon be upon us. Schools will let out. Vacations will be taken. Fun will be had. Summer is a magical time, not only because the days are longer, but also because there’s just so much more to do when it’s warm out. Plus, let’s be honest, doesn’t it kind of feel as though anything is possible in the summertime? You could find your true love, hit that home run, or have an amazing adventure.
Of course, summer also means movies. People all across the country will be crowding multiplexes to see stories of superheroes, alien invasions, secret agents, and more. But instead of talking about the big summer movies coming to theaters, we’re going to recommend some movies that will properly get you in the summer spirit. As you wait patiently for summer to begin, these films will help you mentally prepare for the months ahead.
In no particular order, here are 15 Movies To Get You Ready For Summer.
15. Dazed and Confused
Richard Linklater’s 1993 comedy follows a group of teenagers on the last day of school. It’s a perfect movie to watch right about now because it totally captures the exciting feeling of knowing that the entire summer, with all its promise, is still ahead of you. Newly sprung from school, the movie’s characters hang out, pull pranks, get drunk or high, and hit on each other. Linklater recreates what it’s like to be a teenager tossing responsibility out the window after leaving the classroom for the last time.
Aside from its thematic relevance, Dazed and Confused is a modern classic that offers the chance to see a plethora of major stars before they were famous. Among them: Ben Affleck, Renee Zellweger, Parker Posey, Milla Jovovich, and Matthew McConaughey. You even get to hear the genesis of McConaughey’s personal catchphrase, “Alright, alright, alright.” Together, these actors help create an identifiable look at the energy that comes from knowing you’re just on the cusp of summer. Our advice: pop Dazed and Confused into your DVD player and imagine all the awesome things you want to do over the next few months.
14. Summer Rental
Is there a more time-honored summer tradition than a trip to the beach? The late, great John Candy takes his family for some sun and surf in 1985’s Summer Rental, directed by Carl Reiner. He plays a harried air traffic controller who just wants to relax on the beach with his lovely wife and charming children. Unfortunately, relaxation is the last thing he gets. He can’t get into the resort town’s best seafood restaurant. His daughter’s swimsuit is way too revealing for his comfort. He injures his leg. And those things are just for starters.
Summer Rental is slight, but also pretty funny, thanks to Candy’s impeccable comic timing. Even when the plot developments are a little contrived, he holds your interest. The film is a nice reminder that, even if your trip to the beach is imperfect, you’re still at the beach, and that’s infinitely better than being at work or school. Give it a spin, pull your bathing suit out of the drawer, and reserve a room at a hotel on the boardwalk.
13. The Sandlot
Sports fans are well aware that baseball and summer are intertwined. It’s a time to head down to the ballpark, grab a hot dog, and settle in for America’s favorite pastime. Meanwhile, in local ball fields and vacant lots everywhere, kids will be participating in Little League games or, even better, their own start-up games. No film has ever captured the youthful joy of playing baseball with your friends like 1993’s The Sandlot.
This is the story of a neighborhood baseball team and its eclectic members. The kids play with great seriousness of purpose, the only hitch being when one of their balls is hit over the fence and into the local junkyard, which is protected by a ferocious dog. Legend says the dog ate the only kid who ever dared to scale the fence in search of those lost balls. The film follows the youngsters as they decide what to do when their newest player loses his stepfather’s prized Babe Ruth-autographed ball to the junkyard. That plot may or may not be to every viewer’s taste, but it’s hard to deny that The Sandlot will bring to mind the way the crack of a bat or the smell of a glove is so powerful to a baseball-loving child. It may even inspire you to pick up a bat and organize your own neighborhood game.
12. Weekend at Bernie’s
In what may be the blackest black comedy premise in the history of movies, two low-level insurance company workers (Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman) discover that their boss, Bernie (Terry Kiser), has died during a Labor Day getaway to his house in the Hamptons. When a ton of people show up for his annual party, the guys cover up his death by hauling the body around and acting as though he is still alive. That Bernie died with a stupid grin on his face makes the ruse easier to pull off.
Nothing about Weekend at Bernie’s is even remotely realistic — or subtle, for that matter. That said, it certainly understands that summer can be a time of mischief and mirth. Don’t we all have at least one really good story about a summer vacation situation that got insanely out of control? And while those situations may have been unnerving at the time, don’t they make great anecdotes to amuse people with now? This movie is a wildly exaggerated version of that phenomenon. It will make you fondly recall your own wild and crazy summer adventures and possibly look forward to making some new ones.
11. Summer School
What could be worse than getting out of school for the summer and having to go right back? That’s the premise of 1987’s Summer School. The film has a killer twist: the teacher, Freddy Shoop (played by Mark Harmon) wants to be there even less than the students. Shoop is a phys-ed teacher totally unprepared to educate on more academic subjects, much less when he could be out having fun. So what does he do? He takes his class to the beach and an amusement park, and also lets them film their own horror movie in the school.
Watching Summer School will help you deal with some of the more unpleasant realities of summer, namely that responsibilities still exist. You still have to be inside working on a beautiful day when you’d rather be lounging in a beach chair. Even more importantly, it has a great lesson about making the best out of a bad situation. Not everything may go your way over the summer, but you can certainly do some things to mitigate the damage.
If beaches and resort towns aren’t your thing, then maybe you might do what a lot of people do: travel abroad for the summer. If that sounds like fun, make sure you check out Eurotrip. This raunchy comedy is the story of an American teenager who treks across Europe in the hope of finding his beautiful female pen pal. Along the way, he encounters a bunch of drunken British soccer hooligans, drinks Absinthe in Bratislava, and sneaks his way inside the Vatican. As one does…
Eurotrip is very focused on earning crazy laughs, but it also has its finger on the pulse of a bigger idea. Traveling through Europe appeals to people because it is foreign and mysterious, with unfamiliar customs greeting you at every turn. The folks you meet are intriguingly different from the people you already know. Traveling abroad is a great way to “find” yourself and broaden your horizons. If you’re planning to spend your summer on an overseas trek, make sure you watch Eurotrip on the plane ride.
9. The Great Outdoors
Another popular summer destination is the woods. Lots of people head to their cabins for a summer of “roughing it.” Gathering wood, canoeing, swimming in the lake, and incessantly swatting insects off yourself are just a few of the activities that a summer in the forest brings. It’s additionally a chance to leave the modern world behind. No cable TV or Internet there!
The 1988 comedy The Great Outdoors stars John Candy (again) as a man who takes his wife and two kids to a Wisconsin lake resort. Everything is hunky-dory until his obnoxious brother-in-law (Dan Aykroyd) and his family arrive uninvited. The two men repeatedly clash, but a series of comic catastrophes eventually causes them to bond. The biggest of these is an encounter with a massive bear that ends up sitting on Candy.
Written by John Hughes, The Great Outdoors will have you virtually smelling the log cabins and bug spray as you watch it. Even if the lead character’s vacation doesn’t go as planned, the film captures the fun of romping in the wilderness during those long, lovely summer days.
8. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Let’s get the obvious out of the way here: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off doesn’t take place in the summer. It’s about a high school student who plays hookie, while the vindictive principal futilely attempts to catch him. So why are we including it on a list of movies to get you ready for summer? Because it has the right spirit, that’s why. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off may be the best picture ever made about youthful freedom. Remember those days when you were young and carefree? Remember what it was like when all you really cared about was what kind of fun you and your friends were going to have today? This movie is all about that feeling, and it’s the exact feeling you want to recreate over the summer.
As if you need any other reason to watch this teen classic, 2016 marks the 30th anniversary of its original release. Besides, the movie is never not hilarious. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was marketed with the tag line “Leisure Rules,” and we can think of no other sentiment so perfectly suited for the summer. Watch the flick to get your Ferris Bueller mindset on. Also, make plans to play hookie from work at least one day in the near future. You deserve it.
7. One Crazy Summer
As a follow-up to his popular teen comedy Better Off Dead, writer/director “Savage” Steve Holland dropped 1986’s One Crazy Summer. It did slightly better than its predecessor ($13 million to $10 million), but hasn’t achieved the same enduring cult appeal. And that’s a shame, because this movie makes you feel like it’s summertime no matter what season it is outside. John Cusack plays a high school graduate spending the summer on Nantucket. He falls for aspiring rock singer Demi Moore, helps save her grandfather’s house, and takes on a bunch of snobs in a boat race.
The glory of One Crazy Summer is that it brings together a lot of great summer elements. Summer romance? Check. Hijinks with crazy weirdo friends? Check. A little adventure? Check. The movie is also really funny, thanks in part to a supporting performance from Bobcat Goldthwait, who, in one of the best scenes, dons a Godzilla costume and wreaks havoc upon an upper-crust soiree. You should watch — or re-watch — this movie immediately, because it depicts exactly the kind of (one crazy) summer you want to have.
Meatballs was certainly not the first summer camp movie, but it’s definitely the one against which all subsequent summer camp movies have been judged. In Ivan Reitman’s 1979 comedy, Bill Murray plays Tripper Harrison, the anarchic head counselor at Camp North Star. His days are spent annoying the camp’s uptight director and hitting on the head female counselor. But Tripper isn’t all fun and games. During the annual Olympiad pitting them against the tonier camp across the lake, he gives a rousing speech to his young charges. (His advice on winning: “It just doesn’t matter!”) He also takes a lonely camper (played by Chris Makepeace) under his wing.
In its portrayal of summer camp craziness, Meatballs is spot on. Anyone who’s ever been to camp will identify with the pranks, activities, and camaraderie. Murray is mesmerizing in the kind of unhinged comic performance he rarely, if ever, delivers anymore. Added bonus: the film’s signature theme song, “Are You Ready For the Summer?,” which should absolutely be on your iPod from now until September.
5. The Way Way Back
The influence of Meatballs can be found in our next selection, The Way Way Back. It’s the story of Duncan (Liam James), a 14-year-old who goes on vacation with his mom (Toni Collette) and her patronizing jerk boyfriend (Steve Carell, nicely playing against type). Aimless at first, Duncan eventually gets a job at a local water park, where the Bill Murray-esque manager (Sam Rockwell) becomes both a mentor and a friend.
There haven’t been a lot of movies set at water parks, which makes The Way Way Back rather unique in summer cinema. You’ll learn all kinds of things, not least of which is how male employees prolong the amount of time they can ogle the female patrons. There are lots of laughs here, but there’s also some real heart as young Duncan gradually develops much-needed self-confidence. The movie says that summer can be fun, games, and water slides, but that doesn’t mean it can’t bring some personal growth, too.
4. Wedding Crashers
Summer is wedding season. If you’re like most people, you’ll be attending about four dozen weddings in the next three months. (Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but not much of one.) So many people get married between late May and early September that it can occasionally feel as though you’re going to a wedding every single week. They all start to bleed together. That’s why you need Wedding Crashers.
Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson play two guys who crash strangers’ weddings, looking to hook up with bridesmaids and other comely female guests. One of the best sequences in the film is a montage of them attending a variety of weddings, for people of different religions and different traditions. The whole movie is hilarious, of course, but let this particular bit remind you that weddings are an opportunity for fun. Find a way to distinguish each one of the many you are bound to attend this summer.
3. Wet Hot American Summer
If Meatballs is the best summer camp comedy ever made, David Wain’s Wet Hot American Summer
is a very close second. Set at the fictional Camp Firewood, it follows a bunch of counselors on the last day of camp. The cast features a Who’s Who of people who were not yet famous when the movie was released in 2001, including Amy Poehler, Bradley Cooper, Elizabeth Banks, Paul Rudd, and Ken Marino. The movie’s broad, often surreal humor captures the anything-can-happen vibe of a camp experience. When kids are away from their parents and left under the care of slightly older kids, you can expect the unexpected.
Wet Hot American Summer also has fun with all the conventions of teen movies and other camp comedies, which makes it essential viewing as we prepare to embark upon summer. In fact, there’s so much crazy stuff going on here that we can safely say camp never looked like so much fun. One of the picture’s most sly jokes is that the actors are all obviously too old to be the teenagers they’re playing. For that reason, it makes the thought of going back to camp as a grown-up seem enticing. Why isn’t there camp for adults, anyway?
And oh yeah, most of the now-famous cast returned for an 8-episode prequel series last summer. And yeah, they were way too old.
2. National Lampoon’s Vacation
You knew this one would be on the list, didn’t you? How could it not? The 1982 Chevy Chase film is perhaps the quintessential summer movie, as well as the quintessential road trip comedy. Chase plays Clark Griswold, a suburban dad who just wants to take his family to the Walley World amusement park so they can have the kind of memorable vacation that he had as a kid. Nothing goes as planned, which, if you’ve ever taken a summer car trip with your parents, is pretty much how it usually goes.
Vacation is one of those movies that strikes a universal chord. Even if the things that happen to the Griswolds are unique, every one of us has been on a family outing that hit a few snags. The film’s central joke — Clark is so focused on making everything “perfect” that he ends up creating many of his own problems — is sharply delivered. Vacation astutely suggests that family trips should be relaxing, not over-scheduled or required to conform to unrealistic expectations. That’s a lesson worth remembering if you’re planning a vacation with your own clan.
And that remake/reboot from last year with Ed Helms? Not worth it.
1. Indian Summer
Mike Binder’s 1993 comedy/drama Indian Summer wasn’t a box office hit, and it’s largely been forgotten. That’s unfortunate because, some basic predictability issues aside, it’s a sweet and charming little picture. Alan Arkin plays the owner of Camp Tamakwa. He’s about to retire and shut the place down. Before he does, he invites eight former campers to come back for one last hurrah. Diane Lane, Bill Paxton, and Kevin Pollack play some of those individuals.
We’re wrapping up our list with this movie because it’s about nostalgia. The characters return to Camp Tamakwa and get one final chance to relive a vital part of their youth. You can predict most of what’s going to happen before it occurs, but that’s okay. The story has enough heart to carry it. As the summer days grow shorter and fall begins to loom, it’s natural to feel a little nostalgic not only for the months just past, but also for the summers of childhood, which seemed magical and endless. Indian Summer has characters who are in the grip of that nostalgia. It will put you there, too. The season may end, but the memories we create during it live on forever.
We hope these movies will help get you in the proper frame of mind to enjoy the upcoming summer. Did any of your favorites fail to make the list? Hit us up in the comments to let us know which ones.