16 great summertime movies

The arrival of summer makes me want to do certain things. Such as wear crisp black and white, or my raggedy denim cutoffs. Listen to Niki & The Dove and Bananarama. Eat BLTs, watermelon, cheeseburgers and things with pesto. Drink red sangria. And watch the movies I consider summertime classics.

In making this list, I noticed some common themes. They often include the presence of Richard Dreyfuss, a Kenny Loggins song, Sam Neill or Laura Dern or both, people looking appropriately flushed or damp, an anxiety-ridden scene around a middle-class kitchen table, and a great soundtrack.

Here are my favorites:


You can usually find Jaws playing on some random cable channel. I like the first half of the movie best: all the beach scenes with Roy running around blowing his whistle and pissing off the mayor, and the kitchen table scenes with him looking all swarthy and worried. You just know they don’t have air conditioning.


I’ve really warmed up to this one over the years. Now, it doesn’t feel like a proper summer unless I watch it at least once.


Baby’s jean cutoffs and Keds. The soundtrack. The dancing. I carried a watermelon. The parents who just don’t understand. Come ON!


It just FEELS like summer in this movie, even though the kids are obviously in school. Running away will never make it right. But anything worth my love is worth a fight. I’m free!


Creepy hijinks on a sun-dappled sea. Foreboding music. Nicole Kidman running around with flushed cheeks. Billy Zane playing a salty dog lunatic. Sam Neill barely saying a word. I’ve never stopped loving you, Dead Calm.


Again, we have Richard Dreyfuss playing a dry-humored, know-better hero. I prefer the first half of this movie, when it’s all beige and humid and 70s-ish. And Teri Garr!


The family goes to movies. They go for ice cream. They go boating. Reminds me of my childhood (except for the scary Robert DeNiro parts).


My favorite scenes are of the caddies just hanging out as part of their summer job. “Then you don’t get no Coke.”


I remember seeing this in the theater and being so blown away. Haven’t seen in years (it’s rarely on TV). Seems to perpetually take place in summer — either idyllic balmy small-town summer or a hazy wartime oven.


Compared to most others on this list, Ruby in Paradise is small and quiet and I’ve only seen it once or twice. A Sundance Film Festival winner and one of Ashley Judd’s first films. Her breakout role maybe. She’s a self-possessed but lost soul who gets random jobs in beach junk stores and tries to figure out her life.


I consider this a late summer movie, when you’re starting to crave fall and spookiness. A cross-over pick, meaning it’s also on my list of favorite Halloween movies. If it’s on, I’m watching it.


Another small movie that for whatever reason resonated with me. Diane Lane is a repressed housewife in the 1960s who falls for cool alternative hippie Viggo in — you guessed — the summertime. Great soundtrack!




I won’t insult you.


I rediscovered the fun of Jurassic Park last summer when my kids got into it in preparation for the Chris Pratt dino-buster (which we also dug).


Cornfields. Baseball. Aliens. A foreboding family dinner around a sad looking kitchen table where everyone is on edge while eating fried chicken and mashed potatoes. Signs has all the elements! I have a soft spot for M. Night.

*I would also include Point Break, T2: Judgement Day, Field of Dreams and Top Gun on this list except that I pretty much watch those year-round.

And you know which summer-esque movie I’m craving? Sleeping with the Enemy. Bring it on, DirectTV! Maybe it will make next year’s list.






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