Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar
Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar is the second movie from Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumulo, the duo behind Bridesmaids—so naturally, it’s hilarious. An ode to friendship and Florida, Barb and Star also features daring turns toward the surreal. And if that doesn’t sell you, then maybe the fact that Jamie Dornan sings on a beach will.
In her Fort Worth, TX community, Turquoise Jones (Nicole Beharie) is known as Miss Juneteenth, even if her major pageant win was years ago. Now, she’s trying to encourage her unenthused 15-year-old daughter, Kai (Alexis Chikaeze), to compete in the same pageant for the scholarship money. This Sundance darling directed by Channing Godfrey Peoples drips with summer heat and with the natural affection between mother and daughter characters.
A love story. A Greek island. A ton of fun. Mamma Mia is the ultimate summer movie. Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is getting married, and wants her father to walk her down the aisle. The problem? Her mother, Donna (Meryl Streep), has kept her father’s identity from her. Sophie invites all three potential fathers to their hotel in Greece, and so begins a story of love and secrets—all set to the music of ABBA.
This Amy Poehler-directed Netflix movie is sure to inspire your next girls getaway. In Wine Country, a group of longtime besties take a trip to California’s vineyards. As the wine flows, the friends open up about the various crossroads they find themselves in.
Sandi Tan wanted to be a director her entire life. One summer, she enlisted her friends into creating an elaborate Singapore-set movie called Shirkers—but the film was eventually lost, becoming a lifelong disappointment for her. In this documentary, award-winning director Tan solves the mystery of the missing footage and in doing so, reconstructs a life-changing summer.
Dazed and Confused
Richard Linklater’s 1976-set movie about Texas high schoolers on the cusp of summer and the rest of their lives is bound to make you nostalgic. Not for high school, so much as the rhythm and banter characteristic of high school. Many of the cast members in this cult classic, like Matthew McConaughey and Ben Affleck, went on to have prominent careers.
Jaws depicts a summer vacation’s worst case scenario. Swimming in the ocean, you find out you’re not the only creature in the water—and the other creature has a lot of teeth. After a Great White Shark terrorizes beachgoers in a New England tourist town, a trio of men go up against one of nature’s most formidable foes.
Real Women Have Curves
America Ferrera’s break-out role came in this gem of an indie film. Ana Garcia (Ferrera) clashes with her mom, Carmen (Lupe Ontiveros), over her dreams of leaving Los Angeles and going to college. The summer after graduation, Ana blossoms into the person she wants to be—but will her mom accept it?
Are you brave enough to viscerally remember what it felt like to be in eighth grade? If so, then watch this poignant film about Kayla (Elsie Fisher), a girl making her through her final week of eighth grade in a haze of self-conscious second-guessing, and awkward earnestness. Her single dad (Josh Hamilton) does his best to help, but is painfully distant from her experiences. Eventually, we hope, Kayla will learn to love herself as much as audiences love her.
Southside With You
Southside With You recalls the true events of the fateful summer afternoon in 1989 that former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama went on their first date. This is a “walk and talk” movie, where the joy is found simply in two people finding themselves more and more in awe of one another.
Before Sunrise begins when Jesse (Ethan Hawke), an American, and Céline (Julie Delpy), a French student, meet on a train. Over the course of the next eight hours, they stroll around Vienna, and realize their connection is special and undeniable. But will these two wanderers ever meet again? If the movie feels real, it’s because the actors lived in their characters so deeply that they rewrote many of the original scenes. The first movie in Richard Linklater’s “Before” trilogy was filmed in the summer of 1994.
Do the Right Thing
Do the Right Thing is a movie infused with heat. Set over the course of a single blistering summer day, Mookie (Spike Lee) and his friends clash with the Italian owners of a pizzeria. Spike Lee’s acclaimed movie is an essential film about race—and of a summer when everyone is outside, and ready to be tipped over the edge.
Find Palm Springs at the intersection of wedding-set rom-com and utterly zany, irreverent time travel fare. Starring Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti, Palm Springs got rave reviews out of Sundance in 2020. The Lonely Island comedy team is behind Saturday Night Live digital short classics like “I’m On a Boat,” and the movies Hot Rod and Pop Star: Never Stop Never Stopping.
Weekend at Bernie’s
This slapstick classic is constructed around a single joke. Larry Wilson (Andrew McCarthy) and Richard Parker (Jonathan Silverman) are employees at an insurance company who discover their boss, Bernie Lomax (Terry Kiser), is dead—and was also involved in a massive embezzlement scheme. It sounds like the stuff of a drama, but this film—set over a weekend in the Hampton’s—is actually dark comedy gold.
During India’s monsoon season, which comes during the summer months, a family prepares for an elaborate, expensive wedding. Monsoon Wedding turns an ordinary rite of passage into an epic story, as Aditi (Vasundhara Das) must end one romance so that she can begin her new life.
Call Me By Your Name
The Way Way Back
14-year-old Duncan’s (Liam James) summer vacation hardly seems like a vacation at all, considering his mom brought her new (and terrible) boyfriend, played by Steve Carrell, along. In this moving coming-of-age story, Duncan finds a crew and a purpose through his job at the water park. Known for playing villains, Sam Rockwell takes a refreshing turn as Owen’s supportive manager at the water park.
The Parent Trap
In this 1961 identity-swap film, Maggie McKendrick (Maureen O’Hara) gives birth to twin daughters, Susan Evers and Sharon McKenderick (Hayley Mills). After Maggie divorces her husband, Mitch Evers (Brian Keith), they each agree to keep one child, and the children are raised apart from each other. When Susan and Sharon randomly meet at summer camp, they come up with a plan to get their parents back together.
My Summer of Love
“Apparently I’m a bad influence on people,” 16-year-old Tamsin (played by Emily Blunt) tells Mona (Natalie Press), her new friend, in this lush thriller. Mona and Tamsin come from different socioeconomic backgrounds. But over the course of one summer, they come together on a plane of mutual rapture and obsession.
Of course, the 1978 musical that birthed the popular song “Summer Nights” made our list of favorites. Set in 1958, Grease follows the summer fling and beachside romance between teenagers Danny Zuko (John Travolta) and his Australian love interest, Sandy Olsson (Olivia Newton-John). It’s a classic rock ‘n’ roll film with catchy tunes and an addictive storyline about high-schoolers struggling with relationships and identity.
(500) Days of Summer
Even though this romantic comedy was released in 2009, fans still get teary-eyed about the breakup between Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and the aptly-named Summer (Zooey Deschanel). Although the movie perfectly depicts what it’s like to date in today’s world, you might want to avoid this one if you’re looking for straight romance: As mentioned in the opening voice-over monologue, (500) Days of Summer is not a love story.
If watching a trio of badass Hawaiian females surf the waves for two hours doesn’t make you want to book a beachside vacation for Memorial Day weekend, then nothing will. Anne Marie (Kate Bosworth), Eden (Michelle Rodriguez), and Lena (Sanoe Lake) are best friends who are attached at the hip—and to their surfboards. The 2002 adventure film is based on Susan Orlean’s article titled “Life’s Swell,” which was published in Outside in 1998.
Stand by Me
Director Rob Reiner’s 1986 coming-of-age film is adapted from Stephen King’s novella, The Body. On a Labor Day weekend in 1959, four young neighborhood boys go on a quest to find the body of a boy who was hit and killed by a train. Sure, the concept of mortality is a bit dark and morbid, but after watching this one, you’ll find yourself longing for the simpler times of childhood.
Now and Then
The 1995 film traces the story of four 12-year-old girls and the eventful summer they spend together in their small town in 1970. It’s hard not to fall in love with both the teenage and adult versions of Roberta (Rosie O’Donnell/Christina Ricci), Teeny (Melanie Griffith/Thora Birch), Chrissy (Rita Wilson/Ashleigh Aston Moore), and Samantha (Demi Moore/Gaby Hoffmann).
If you’ve ever been less than happy at a summer job, Adventureland captures what it’s like working a crummy job—plus the stress associated with theme parks. James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg) is a college graduate who plans to go backpacking in Europe. Unfortunately, he has to work as an unlucky ride operator at the local park to pay for the trip. But his summer starts to brighten up when he meets another worker there name Em Lewin (Kristen Stewart).
Save the heartbreaking ending, we could never tire of watching Thomas J. (Macaulay Culkin) and 11-year-old Vada (Anna Chlumsky) conquer that fate-filled summer of 1972. The 1991 coming-of-age story is about two close friends—and, at times, childhood crushes—who enjoy riding bicycles and making lasting memories together.
It Takes Two
Like The Parent Trap, It Takes Two repurposes the same identity-swap formula, only this time, real-life twins Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen are the ones who switch. In the 1995 feel-good movie, Amanda Lemmon bumps into her identical twin, the wealthy Alyssa Callaway, at summer camp. The two trade places, opening themselves up to new experiences and unconditional love from where they least expect it.
Wet Hot American Summer
The 2001 movie is definitely a polarizing comedy. Cult fans will say it’s one of the most clever and funniest films ever. Naysayers—unlike the movie’s Camp Firewood counselors—won’t be able to wait for the dreaded summer to come to an end. Either way, a film starring Janeane Garofalo, Molly Shannon, Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, Bradley Cooper, and Elizabeth Banks is worth watching at least once.
Something’s Gotta Give
Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson make us want to race to the Hamptons, which is the location of their beach house and love nest in the 2003 rom-com. Two mature singles Erica Barry (Keaton) and Harry Sanborn (Nicholson) end up living together after Harry, who is dating Erica’s daughter, has a heart attack. The beautiful scenery alone is worth sitting through the complicated plot.
The Seven Year Itch
You may remember that iconic photo of the late legendary actress and singer Marilyn Monroe stood atop a subway grate in New York City with a breeze blowing her dress up, and it’s actually from the 1955 romantic comedy The Seven Year Itch. Tom Ewell portrays Richard Sherman, a middle-aged man left alone for the summer while his wife and son take a trip to Maine. He finds himself flirting with the irresistible upstairs neighbor (Monroe), and you’ll find yourself laughing at his wild imaginings of their unconventional friendship.
We’ll always have the time of our lives watching Baby (Jennifer Grey) and her bad boy dance instructor Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze) fall head over heels in love during a summer at the Catskills resort. And who could forget the iconic moment where the couple nails that lift at the end?
The Flossy Posse reunites for a wild time in New Orleans in this 2017 comedy. Ryan (Regina Hall), Sasha (Queen Latifah), Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith), and Dina (Tiffany Haddish) take a trip to the annual Essence Festival to relive their college days. But during their getaway, the four ladies find out there’s more to life and sisterhood than drunken nights, grapefruit sex, and dance parties.
You might want to check your tear ducts if you’re not bawling by the end of The Notebook. Adapted from Nicholas Sparks’s best-selling novel, every time we watch Noah Calhoun and Allie fight for their love or see them risk it all by lying in the middle of the street together, we’re reminded just how amazing summers in the South can really be.
Long before she married Will Smith and invited guests to pull up for a seat on her Facebook Watch series Red Table Talk, Jada Pinkett Smith played the love interest of Larenz Tate in the ’94 flick. Set in 1970 at Martha’s Vineyard, Drew (Tate) is a troubled, introverted teen who experiences love and heartbreak all in one summer. Lauren Kelly (Smith), for all her faults, helps him to come out of his shell.
The 1988 film saw Julia Roberts in her first major role. It’s one of the earlier, empowering examples of what real sisterhood and friendship looks like among three women falling in and out of love while working in a pizza parlor after graduating from high school.
A group of young boys spend the summer of 1962 playing baseball at the sandlot in this celebrated 1993 film. An autographed baseball signed by Babe Ruth spurs a chain of fun and adventurous events for the group of friends as they try to escape the neighborhood dog, Beast.
How Stella Got Her Groove Back
We could only wish to have the kind of steamy trip to Jamaica Angela Bassett does when she heads to the Caribbean island. As divorced mom, Stella, she books a spur-of-the-moment vacation with her best friend Delilah (Whoopi Goldberg), and while soaking up the sun, she finds love in the much younger island native, Winston Shakespeare (Taye Diggs).
Spike Lee’s 1994 semi-autobiographical film centers around the Carmichael family and the daily nuisances of their life in Brooklyn. Besides relatable Black characters and its urban setting, Crooklyn’s charm really kicks into overdrive when Troy (Zelda Harris) is sent to visit her wealthy relatives in Virginia for the summer, where she truly comes into her own while confronting colorism and religion.
This 2002 film was written by Shonda Rhimes and stars Britney Spears, Zoe Saldana, Taryn Manning, Dan Aykroyd, and Kim Cattrall. Lucy (Spears), Kit (Saldana), and Mimi (Manning) are three friends living in Georgia who come up with the idea of a wish box. After putting their secret wishes in the box, they bury it. The summer after their high school graduation, they dig it up in order to pursue the things they once wanted as children.
Do the Right Thing
One of Spike Lee’s most influential films, Do the Right Thing has everything you’d expect to see in a summer movie set in the Brooklyn borough, where Lee grew up. There are fire hydrants used as sprinklers and a sexy Rosie Perez dance sequence. If that’s not enough, the chemistry between Ruby and Ossie Davis is so infectious that former president Barack Obama and Michelle Obama watched the movie on their first date.
I Know What You Did Last Summer
This one’s a no-brainer, even if it’s not as spirited and fun as the other movies on this list. For those intent on reminiscing on the ’90s this summer, this horror film is just the dose of nostalgia you need, from bangs and spiky, gelled hair to featuring the “It” actresses of the time, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Sarah Michelle Gellar, who find themselves trying to escape from a serial killer.
National Lampoon’s Vacation
Everything goes wrong during the Griswolds’ summer trip to Walley World. The family hits the open road in their station wagon rental to visit the fictional California amusement park, but along the way, they experience a few detours, like the death of their beloved pet. Trust us: you’ll want to come along for the hilarious ride with the dysfunctional family of four.
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
When four teenage girls have to spend their first summer apart since becoming best friends, they use a pair of secondhand jeans to keep their bond intact. Though each girl has a different size and shape, the jeans somehow magically fit when they share the “traveling pants” with each other. Starring Blake Lively, America Ferrera, Alexis Bledel, and Amber Tamblyn, this 2005 heartwarming film is based on the book series by Ann Brashares.