Top 5 Summer Vacation Movies

Posted by Wade Sheeler July 22, 2014 0 Comment 7003 views

Nothing’s worse than watching Christmas movies in July, or warm weather ones when it’s snowing outside. So now that the sun is out and the heat is on, why not pull out some of these favorites that remind us why summer’s were meant to be endless and there’s nothing’s better than the smell of suntan lotion and the sight of that perfect someone in their very hottest of bathing suits.

Stand By Me


Summer themes are most often about childhood and coming of age. It’s that period of growing up fast and learning about yourself when you’re not in school that informs the best of these nostalgic wrapped goodies. There’s a freedom, and even for kids who go to summer school or have to work over school break, a feeling of laziness and aimlessness that accompanies everyone’s memories of growing up. Stand By Me, one of the best Stephen King film adaptations (based on his novella The Body) tells the tale of four boys on an odyssey to find the body of a classmate hit by a train. Along the way, they tell tale tales, face new demons, exorcise old ones, and relate to each other in ways that go beyond words. It’s even more powerful today when we see a young and vital River Phoenix, just on the threshold of stardom.

(TIE) Adventureland/The Way, Way Back


Both these films nostalgically mine the terrain of summer jobs and summer flings; coming of age stories that, if you ever worked in the “service industry,” will relate. While Adventureland tells the story of a college grad with the smarts to get into an Ivy League school but no money, and The Way, Way Back follows a high schooler forced to stay in a small seaside Cape Cod beach house  with his mom and her new boyfriend, both follow the same tried and true growing up tropes seen in dozens of summer movies, but never with quite the same aplomb. Ryan Reynolds in Adventureland, and Sam Rockwell in The Way, Way Back  provide the big brother/mentor/father figure each protagonist longs for, although Rockwell is by far the more fun, hearkening back even further to Bill Murray’s camp counselor in Meatballs. Both films even include SNL alumni which help provide good opportunities for strong supporting roles ; Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader in Adventureland, and Maya Rudolph in The Way, Way Back. Both are worth watching while keeping an eye on your barbecue.

National Lampoon’s Vacation


For those who suffered in the back seat of a station wagon on a family road trip, you can relate to the pain, agony, and sporadically ludicrous moments from those bygone days. Interestingly, Harold Ramis’ comedy took its point of view not from the kids, but instead, the downtrodden and restless dad, Clark Griswold, immortally rendered by Chevy Chase. With a smart and satirical script from John Hughes and appearances from SNL and SCTV vets (Eugene Levy, John Candy, Randy Quaid, Brian Doyle-Murray) this rude and raunchy ode to the summer vacation trip is the best of the series and a perennial favorite, easily found on heavy rotation on Comedy Central and VH1 during the hottest days of summer.



The film that started it all…as they say. No other movie has scared audiences away from going into the water since. With its pitch perfect rendering of a Martha’s Vineyard style summer vacation, and an opening July 4th holiday that rings the dinner bell for a 25 foot Great White Shark, Jaws is much more than a horror film, it’s an adventure story, and in the most simple terms, about a summer that changed people’s lives forever.

Purple Noon


This first incarnation of Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley, was not as faithful a rendering as the 1999 remake by Anthony Minghella, but its mood and atmosphere captured the paranoia, the psychosis and the homo-erotic undertones considered shocking in 1960, with more panache. It made a movie idol out of Alan Delon, and showed Italy off like an exhibitionist walking proudly with a much too beautiful woman down the boulevard. But the most striking element is the accurate depiction of vacations in Europe. The long, languid days, the sun-drenched streets and boats lazily bobbing to their moorings are as seductive as the life of Phillippe Greenleaf, which Thomas Ripley takes and casually dons like a made-to-order suit. Director Rene Clement makes this endless summer so attractive, we can “ever-so-slightly” understand how someone could kill for a way of life.

About Wade Sheeler

TV Producer & Director, Writer, Frustrated lover of film and obscure music. I still make mixed tapes if I like you enough.

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