Family Fun: 10 Summer Themed Movies To Watch

By: John Allen

Ah Summertime, who doesn’t love warm nights, cold beverages, and BBQ. Summer is also the time for Blockbuster Movies, and for me, nostalgic days of piling into the family car and heading to the Drive-In. Gosh I miss those carefree days of sitting in your car with a bunch of friends or maybe a special girl, eating popcorn, hamburgers, french fries, sodas, and if the movie was boring, dare I say, making out. I have seen a lot of movies in my time at the Mustang Drive-In, the only one in my area still alive and kicking. There are so many to choose from to make a list of 10 Summer flicks to enjoy this season that its hard to narrow it down. So here are a few suggestions, in no particular order. 

10: Summer School: Starring Mark Harmon and Kirstie Alley.  All, gym teacher, Freddy Shoop wants to do is enjoy his Summer vacation with his hot girlfriend, in Hawaii, but at the last minute he is forced to either teach Summer School or lose his tenure. Reluctantly Mr. Shoop, agrees and is stuck with a class full of burnouts, slackers, dim-wits, and jocks who want to be there even less than he does, and hilarity ensues. Its been a while since I have seen this comedic gem but for anyone who has ever attended Summer School you can absolutely empathize with the gang in this film.

9. Grease: This movie musical was made for Drive-In’s. Based on the broadway musical of the same name, Grease was a star vehicle for John Travolta (popular break-out as Vinny Barbarino on Welcome Back Kotter), Olivia Newton John, and Stockard Channing. Sure Grease may not take place in Summer exactly, but can we really deny its the perfect time of year to join Sandy, Danny, Rizzo and the rest of the T’Birds and Pink Ladies at Rydell High singing that most excellent of seasonal diddy’s, Summer Nights?  Wella wella huh! I think not.

8. The Sandlot: Boasting one of movies most famous lines, “You’re killing me Smalls” The Sandlot is a seminal coming of age flick about the new kid on the block and one crazy adventure packed Summer fighting the Beast, and playing baseball on The Sandlot. Like the Goonies before it, this movie speaks to a generation with nostalgia. Its funny, its irreverent, but mostly we can relate to it, especially if you were once a boy in fifth grade hanging out with your pals spending hours cracking the bat. 

7. Caddy Shack: This all star vehicle includes the comedy stylings of Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, Ted Knight, Bill Murray, and one wacky gopher puppet in an rude, sometimes crude, but always hilarious adult romp on the golf course at the country club. Caddy Shack is a classic comedy, especially Bill Murray and that damn gopher. If you have never seen it before, get a couple of cold ones, a couple of buddies, and prepare to laugh your head off. 

6. The Great Outdoors: OMG have they ever made a funnier movie than The Great Outdoors with John Candy and Dan Aykroyd? If they have, I have not seen it. Written and Produced by John Hughes, the story is so simple, Chet Young (Candy) is set to have a quiet, family vacation with the wife and kids, until his sister-in-law (Annette Benning in her film debute) and obnoxious brother-in-law Roman (Aykroyd) show up with their twin daughters in tow. Throw in a man eating Grizzly, a teen romance, local legends, and to saucy raccoons and I suggest you don’t drink too much otherwise you might pee yourself laughing. It has all kinds of comedy in it, from wit to slapstick. Guaranteed to tickle your funny bone.

5. Vacation: not quite a reboot, not quite a sequel, but all kinds of raunchy funny. Vacation is a movie that makes fun of itself. Ed Helms plays Rusty of the National Lampoons Vacation films fame. He has decided to recreate the original vacation he took with his parents The Griswalds (Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo) to Wally World. Quips Rusty’s kids “I never even heard of the original vacation” Rusty “It doesn’t matter, the new vacation will stand up on its own” While panned by some critics, my friend Tim and I, found it hilarious and true to the spirit of the first movie, especially funny is the always engaging and wonderfully hysterically charming, Chris Hemsworth as Rusty’s brother-in-law. Sure its not quite as good as the original or Christmas Vacation, but its a great follow up and fans will love it.

4. Independence Day: This Sci-Fi Classic is a perfect Summer alien invasion action adventure starring Will Smith. The tongue in cheek title refers to the 4th of July or Independence Day, that great American Summer soiree full of hot dogs, fireworks, and the old red, white, and blue,….until aliens come to ruin it…friggin aliens. Its a great epic movie full of glorious special effects, hero’s, cosmic scumbags, people banding together to save the world, and Randy Quaid! Perfect for some Summer time fun.

3. Stand By Me: From Stephen Kings short story “The Body” comes another coming of age film about four buddies Wil Wheaton, Corey Feldman, Jerry O’ Connell, and the late River Pheonix on a Labour Day weekend, journey to find a rumored dead body, while trying to avoid the psychotic bullying of Kiefer Sutherland and his squad. Stand By Me is directed by Rob Reiner and also featured Richard Dreyfuss as a grown up Gordie narrating the tale. It is hailed as a masterpiece by critics and fans alike, receiving a whopping 91% on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s true, you never have quite the same kinship with your friends as you did when you were young enough to be kids but old enough to scout around on your own, and maybe get into some amazing mischief. 
Before we get into our top two movies here are some honorable mentions. Summer Rental starring John Candy.Meatballs, Starring Bill Murray an irreverent, screwball comedy taking place in Summer camp. Both are so worth seeing because of their Canadian connections and fun Summer Themes. 

2. Jaws: Da dum, Da dum. This Steven Spielberg directed classic starring Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, and Robert Shaw, based on the best seller by Peter Benchley, Jaws became the very first Summer Blockbuster racking in over $100 million in its 59th day of release. By today’s standards, that may not seem like a lot when movies can gross that in a weekend, but considering it was 1975 and there weren’t a whole lot of the more common multiplexes of today, and when you consider inflation, Jaws took a big bite out of the box office. Bruce the shark as he has been lovingly dubbed by the movie makers and fans alike, swam into iconic status as one of the Top movie villains of all time. Making people afraid to go into the water. The story is an amazing adventure. The Town of Amity, on Amity Island makes its living off of the Summer tourism industry, but when a rogue Great White starts ringing the dinner bell and chows down on anyone treading the waters, Chief Brody is forced to close the beaches much to the Mayors (Murray Hamilton) dismay. A bounty is offered to anyone who can kill the shark and save the tourist season. The fact that Bruce the prop Shark sank and gave them trouble in his operation actually makes the film better, because special effects back then aren’t exactly the kind of thing that brings dinosaurs to life in Jurassic Park and more recently Godzilla: King of the Monsters (go see it, seriously good) They improvised by not showing the shark using instead fins, barrels, a dock being destroyed, etc, making the reveal of the shark so much the better. Classic movie moment and line. “You’re going to need a bigger boat!”

1. National Lampoons Vacation: The movie that started the whole franchise and the Grand-Daddy of all road trip movies. Following the exploits of Clark Griswald and tribe on a family vacation to Wally World! There isn’t a middle aged family man alive who can’t relate to the plight of poor Clark Griswald packing his wife and kids into the family station wagon for the fun filled trip of a life time, only to have things go horribly south real fast. The screenplay was written by John Hughes, based on his short story “Vacation ’58” which appeared in National Lampoon magazine. It was so wildly popular, it spawned four sequels including the aforementioned Vacation, and the seasonal favorite Christmas Vacation, which in my opinion is the best of the best of them. National Lampoons Vacation was voted the 46th greatest comedy of all time, in 2000 by readers of Total film. The theme song, Holiday Road, hit the charts of the Hollywood top 100. From Rotten Tomatoes ” the film holds a 93% rating based on 43 reviews. The site’s consensus reads, “Blessed by a brilliantly befuddled star turn from Chevy Chase, National Lampoon’s Vacation is one of the more consistent – and thoroughly quotable – screwball comedies of the 1980s. 

Sure most of these movies come from the decades well past, but their timeless themes, and classic tales have yet to be matched by anything lately. We have entered a new era of Gods, Monsters, and Superheros, making the majority of our Summer movie viewing on the big screen. Let me implore you to this, when it gets sweltering hot outside, go to an air conditioned movie theatre, or find a Drive-in and see a movie the way they were meant to be seen, on an unbelievably big screen with epic surround sound. I hope you will check out these ten classics. Maybe for added fun watch Jaws while floating in an inner tube in the pool or a pond. Whatever you do, have a fun and safe Summer and happy watching!

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