Movies that lied about summer camp, ranked by my sense of betrayal

Summer camp is a place of legend, a place you dream about all year and can’t wait to get back to, a place of long-term crushes and forever friendships. Those of us who went to a camp every year know how much crazy loyalty and amazing memories one can produce. There’s a long list of movies about summer camp, and most of them get certain aspects of camp life right: the homesickness, the counselors who range from adorably uncool to achingly cool, the kinda-lame-kinda-great talent shows, the inter-cabin competition, the Sloppy Joes. At camp, crushes feel larger than life, and the yearly dance is both terrible and wonderful. However, there are also certain Hollywood liberties taken in movies about summer camp. I watched most of these movies before I ever went away to sleepaway camp, and was very surprised and sometimes saddened to learn that they were false idols of empty promises. Here are the movies that lied about camp.

Friday the 13th

Okay, I’m glad this one is a lie. I did not want to be killed at summer camp. Friday the 13th is one of the most classic horror films and the progenitor of the “scary camp” trope. Thank you for being fictional, this movie!


Heavyweights is about a bunch of lovable misfits sent to fat camp. The biggest lie in this movie is that people bring hoards of candy with them to camp. If kids were doing that at fat camp, where it wasn’t allowed, surely there would just be swimming pools of candy at regular camp, I reasoned. Wrong. Nobody is allowed to bring candy. And The Blob, the coolest swimming accessory in the world? Not at real camp. Just at movie camp.

Wet Hot American Summer

Your friends are not as funny as the friends in this movie. It’s pretty hard to beat a camp that features Bradley Cooper, Amy Poehler, Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, and Molly Shannon as camp counselors, and they aren’t even all of the most famous people to come out of this movie.

Camp Rock

Good food, cool moms, yoga/dance classes, a beautiful lake with secluded spots for singing, counselor/camper make-outs? Maybe this is what music camps are like, but I kinda doubt it. NO JO BROS, THAT’S FO SHO. (Translation: There are no Jonas Brothers at camp, for sure.)

It Takes Two

This movie is really only a slightly modified version of The Parent Trap, but it’s an awesome one. Kinda like a chocolate chocolate chip cookie versus the original chocolate chip. Sadly, It Takes Two also lied egregiously about summer camp. Pottery class? No. Kirstie Alley? No. Food fights? NO. (But weird rhythms you pound on the table before every meal? Yes.)

(Also, it must be noted, It Takes Two has the best description ever for the kind of love we all want and deserve.)

Dirty Dancing

Camp. Dances. Do. Not. Include. Patrick. Swayze.

The Parent Trap

This is definitely my favorite fictional camp. Lindsey Lohan, as identical twins separated at birth, got to learn fencing, play poker, and pull crazy prank wars? Amazing. I would even want to stay in the punishment cabin. That place looked spacious. I did, however, learn the Parent Trap handshake and do it all the time at camp.

Camp Cucamonga

This made-for-tv movie is an exquisitely awkward showcase for young talents who were household names at the time, like Jaleel White (AKA Steve Urkel) and Candace Cameron, as well as a very young Jennifer Aniston. This rap video is all you need to see to understand how I could never be totally satisfied with my real-life camp experience.

Related reads:

Fictional summer camps we’d really, really like to attend IRL

Major career lessons I learned from being a camp counselor

Every Girl’s Guide to Making Friends at Camp

(Images via , here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.)

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