17 of the best summer movies ever made
There are few things as magical as a summer movie. Full of astoundingly long days, coming-of-age adventures, and seemingly endless vacations on Cape Cod, summer is *always* more glamorous in movies than it could ever be in real life. Like a beautiful Instagram photo with all the chip crumbs just out of frame.
Great summer movies come in all shapes and sizes. They can be coming-of-age tales featuring a group of kids on a mission, as so many of them are. They can also be incisive social commentary on growing up. Or summer love stories that frustrate teen viewers over their own less-exciting reality. And then, of course, there’s *always* the odd summer horror movie. In short: There’s a summer movie for your every possible mood.
Since we’re already more than halfway through this illustrious season, we’ve round-up a *very* eclectic collection of great summer movies to watch before the weather cools down:
What better season to watch the legendary Steven Spielberg movie about a shark wreaking havoc on a quaint New England beach? It’s the ultimate summer movie. Just *maybe* don’t watch it before hitting beach.
2The Sandlot, 1993
The iconic coming-of-age baseball movie of our youth! A perfect encapsulation of our “go outside and play” childhood summers—with the addition of a 12-year-old baseball legend, a “beast”-like English Mastiff, and James Earl Jones—this endlessly quotable movie should be on everyone’s summer to-do list.
The (sadly) underrated movie that brought Hollywood’s most awkward duo, Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart, together. Adventureland shows the pair at their awkward best working as employees at a local amusement park who may just fall in love. It’s the quirky workplace summer romance we all wish we had in real life.
4Do The Right Thing, 1989
A summer movie night can never go wrong with Spike Lee—especially one of his most famous films. This acclaimed, thought-provoking comedy-drama follows the racial tensions in a Brooklyn neighborhood that come to a head over the course of a single hot summer day.
5I Know What You Did Last Summer, 1997
Because slasher flicks shouldn’t be limited to Halloween, this ’90s teen movie follows a group of college students whose involvement in a hit-and-run death the previous summer catches up with them in a *pretty* sinister way over the July 4th weekend. As if you need another reason to watch, the movie stars ’90s favorites Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Freddie Prinze Jr., and Ryan Phillippe.
6The Goonies, 1985
It’s the movie that caused an entire generation to search their attics for a secret treasure map and instantly turned “hey, you guys” into an iconic phrase. The classic tale follows a group of kids on a quest to find lost pirate One-Eyed Willie’s treasure in the hopes of saving their homes from foreclosure.
7The Notebook, 2004
Even tear-jerkers can make for great summer movies, as is definitely the case for The Notebook. For better or worse, Noah and Allie are the perfect embodiment of a true summer romance—well, until, ahem, society’s expectations get in the way.
8Wet Hot American Summer, 1999
Growing up, our summer camp counselors aways seemed like wise adults, when in reality they were just a group of messy teens, barely older than the campers. Wet Hot American Summer highlights this reality, making it even more wild by casting a group of actors and comedians—many of whom are now very famous—a decade older than their characters. It’s weird, but somehow it works.
9Dirty Dancing, 1987
Most summer vacations don’t end with an iconic dance number with Patrick Swayze, but we can dream, right?
10Stand by Me, 1986
One of the most iconic coming-of-age summer movies of the last three-plus decades and based on the Stephen King novella, this movie follows four 12-year-olds on a Labor Day weekend as they set out to find a body.
11The Parent Trap, 1961 and 1998
What’s better than going to summer camp, only to discover the twin sister you never knew exist and hatching a wild plan to get your parents back together? Seeing it happen twice. I’m not even going to make you choose between the Hayley Mills original and the Lindsay Lohan remake. Just watch them both.
12Dazed and Confused, 1993
Another cult classic taking place over the course of one hot summer, this film follows the shenanigans of a massive group of high school students at an end-of-the-year party in the mid-’70s.
13The Way Way Back, 2013
A wholly underrated coming-of-age movie about a teenager who is taken under the wing of a water park employee during a summer vacation to Cape Cod with his mom, her *terrible* boyfriend, and his daughter, it’s the summer movie we’ve all somehow missed and one we all need to watch.
14Mamma Mia!, 2008
If a whimsical ABBA musical set on a Greek island isn’t the perfect summer movie, we don’t know what is. While Mamma Mia! can be happily viewed in every season, we’re less envious of Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried’s perfect tan and beach waves when we’re *also* beach-bound.
15Summer Catch, 2001
We don’t spend enough time talking about this early-’00s rom-com. It has Freddie Prinze Jr. and Jessica Biel falling in love in Cape Cod, a *gem* of an appearance by Matthew Lillard, and baseball drama. All our favorite late-’90s/early-’00s faves.
16American Graffiti, 1973
George Lucas’s most famous pre-Star Wars film follows a group of friends—and Harrison Ford!—during the last night of summer. It features exactly zero lightsaber battles, but it does include a car race and a young Ron Howard.
17Moonrise Kingdom, 2012
It’s a quirky coming-of-age tale involving a pair of 12-year-old runaways and the eclectic manhunt that ensues on a picturesque island off the coast of New England. Most people saw it because Wes Anderson made it, but it’s also just a weirdly wonderful summer movie.