21 Classic Summer Movies

Movies Lists
Share Tweet Submit Pin

Forget all the sweltering heat you may have felt before today. Now it’s officially summer and you can look forward to months of sun and surf, pools and popsicles, camp and cookouts. And classic summer movies! Slather on your sunscreen, freshen up your lemonade, and check out our list of 21 wonderful movies about summer, from the ‘50s through the ‘00s.

21. Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation
James Stewart plays Mr. Hobbs, an overworked businessman who tries to take his family on a relaxing seaside vacation. What he gets instead is a rundown beach house, nosy neighbors and bored children who want nothing to do with him. This is a classic family comedy, perfect for rainy days at a beach resort.

20. Summer School
Mark Harmon stars as gym teacher Mr. Shoop, who gets roped into teaching remedial English for summer school slackers. High-school stereotypes and ‘80s cliches are rampant, but that’s part of what makes this comedy so much fun.

19. On Golden Pond
Adapted from Ernest Thompson’s 1979 play, On Golden Pond received 10 Oscar nominations, winning three categories including Best Actor and Best Actress for its leads Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn. While the film lacks the light-hearted, cheesy fun that is typical of summer movies, its brilliance and warmth competes with the summer sun.

18. The Seven Year Itch
A comedy about Manhattan businessman Richard who sends his wife and son to Maine to escape the summer heat, The Seven Year Itch is perhaps most famous for the iconic scene with Marilyn Monroe in her white dress. Hilarity ensues as Richard tries to resist the temptation of the voluptuous Hollywood beauty.

17. Heavy Weights
Before there was White Goodman in Dodgeball, there was Tony Perkis in Heavy Weights. Ben Stiller’s original ruthless, obsessive, mildly psychotic fitness guru wreaks havoc on the lives of the “fat kids” at Camp Hope, and the kids rebel. A classic summer camp movie in which you root for the underdog.

16. Adventureland
For anyone who has ever held a summer job, this film hits home. Jesse Eisenberg is a recent college graduate whose plans for a trip to Europe fall through due to financial problems. Instead, he gets a job at the titular amusement park. Adventureland is full of poignancy in capturing that time of uncertainty, but also of post-college growth. Plus it has a kick-ass soundtrack.

15. Wet Hot American Summer
A critical and commercial flop upon release, this summer-camp parody has since received a cult following. The comedic genius of Janeane Garofalo, Molly Shannon, Michael Ian Black, Paul Rudd and others make this a summer gem.

14. The Parent Trap
Knock Lindsay Lohan and her fake British accent all you want—we loved the remake almost as much as the original. Eleven-year-old LiLo had all the charm and maturity of Hayley Mills. Who knew that was as far as she was every going to mature? Don’t pretend that you didn’t try to learn their super-cool handshake.

13. I Know What You Did Last Summer
Though it didn’t create quite the franchise of Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer certainly provides the same quality terror perfect for those summer sleepovers.

12. The Endless Summer
A classic documentary about surfers in search for the perfect wave, The Endless Summer transports viewers around the world to some of the most beautiful oceans and sunny, sandy beaches.

11. Dirty Dancing
The summer romance between Baby and Johnny Castle is a favorite among many. We could save you from the multitude of cliched quotes Dirty Dancing delivers, but where’s the fun in that? Instead we’ll end with this—when you watch this movie, you’ll have the time of your life.

10. Do the Right Thing
Spike Lee’s masterpiece, taking place in scorching Brooklyn in the summer, has been considered one of the best movies of all time, and certainly one of the most controversial, with poignant depictions of race relations. Do yourself a favor, and rent Do the Right Thing for the next heat wave.

9. American Graffiti
Hollywood loves nostalgic movies, and George Lucas’ film takes place in the 1950s on the last day of summer, following a group of teenagers in their adventures before they leave for college. With heavyweights such as Ron Howard, Richard Dreyfuss, Mackenzie Phillips and Harrison Ford, this is a must-see for any teenager heading off to college.

8. Now and Then
The Stand By Me for girls, Now and Then brings together four women who were childhood friends. Demi Moore narrates the film, as they reminisce about the summer of 1970—a summer of discovery that changed their lives.

7. Meatballs
Before Stripes, Ghostbusters and Caddyshack, Bill Murray was Head Counselor Tripper Harrison at Camp North Star. As the mentor to young Rudy and other campers, Tripper is an inspiration to the camp, encouraging them to take on their rivals at Camp Mohawk in the annual Olympiad.

6. Stand By Me
Based on Stephen King’s story The Body, this classic coming-of-age film follows four boys as they search for the body of a teenager who was hit by a train. Stand By Me captures perfectly the adventures summer brings to adolescents, and brings to viewers a nostalgia that can only be associated with childhood friends.

5. Days of Summer
Sure, it’s not a film about summer in the classic sense, but Summer plays a pretty huge role in Marc Webb’s beautiful story about Boy Meets Girl. The heartbreakingly realisitic portrayal of true love found and lost is one of the best romantic films (albeit atypical) of the decade.

4. Dazed and Confused
This film depicts oh-so-accurately the last day of high school, and though it’s set in the 1970s, its events and characters are universal. Seniors hazing freshmen. Nerds trying to be cool at the kegger. Virgins trying to shed their innocence. Matthew McConaughey. Dazed and Confused has it all.

3. Jaws
Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Peter Benchley’s novel is considered the father of the summer blockbuster. But perhaps the real mastermind of Jaws is composer John Williams, who, with only two notes, managed to instill fear in every audience member.

2. National Lampoon’s Vacation
Our favorite family man, Clark Griswold, and his family road-trip to an amusement park in California for the great American Vacation. It’s Chevy Chase. It’s funny. Watch it.

1. The Sandlot
The epitome of summer as a kid—complete with swimming pools, cute lifeguards, s’mores, treehouses, and, of course, baseball—The Sandlot touches on childhood memories of both boys and girls alike.

Recently in Movies