A summer movie does not have to be a comedy. My list of personal favorite summer flicks are a mixture of comedies, dramedies and only one that could be considered a horror movie (kind of).
If you’re looking for horror movies such as Friday the 13th or action movies consisting mainly of a series of explosions or science fiction, you might be disappointed.
My list of personal favorites summer movies may tell my age a bit as most are from the 80s and 90s with a couple from the 70s mixed in.
Here are my favorite summer movies of all time in chronological order with the oldest first:
This Mel Brooks directed, Richard Pryor co-written summer release ruffled more than a few feathers back in the day. The “N” word is used early and often and the language is scatological, but remember this film was co-written by Richard Pryor.
The film, rather than celebrating racism and racists makes fun of them ruthlessly. Note that almost all the whites in the town of Rock Ridge are named Johnson…Cleavon Little, Harvey Korman, Slim Pickens, Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks himself make up the cast along with Madelein Kahn and many others.
The campfire scene and the hectic ending are most memorable and if you can put aside your PC inhibitions for a couple of hours, you can’t help but laugh at the hapless bigots as Sheriff Black Bart (Little) outsmarts them time and again.
Just remember, this movie is satire, people.
Something is causing the death of swimmers and fishermen in the small beachfront town of Amity, N.Y. The mayor and the big mucketty-mucks want to pass off the deaths as “boating accidents”, but the Sheriff, played by the late Roy Scheider is not convinced.
Tourism, you see, is the main industry in the town and only a definite shark sighting will convince the town’s movers and shakers that a Great White is the culprit in the mysterious deaths. Then, a young boy is killed by the shark in front of hundreds of witnnesses.The town then hires Captain Quint (Robert Shaw), a local shark hunter to capture the predator.
Richard Dreyfuss plays Matt Hooper, a young oceanographer who is enlisted by the Sheriff to assist in the shark hunt. Quint provides most of the best lines in Steven Spielberg’s maiden voyage in a big budget film as a Director. “Here’s ta swimmin’ with bow-legged wimmen” Quint yells at one point.
No movie has ever had swimmers looking over their shoulders like this great summer movie.
This Ivan Reitman directed spoof of summer camp is almost entirely a vehicle for comedian Bill Murray, then just recently removed from the cast of Saturday Night Live. Murray is at his side splitting best as the misfit camp counselor who constantly torments his boss Morty.
Awkward teens like Spaz, the quintessential nerd with the adhesive-taped horn rimmed glasses, mostly fill out the cast in between Murray’s practical jokes on Morty, most of the kids and bascially everyone in this coming of age summer camp flick.
Critics scoffed at this story of a young college-bound boy struggling to earn extra money caddying at Bushwood Country Club. Meanwhile audiences loved Caddyshack and over 30 years later, Caddyshack endures and where are most of the snooty critics?
Ted Knight plays Judge Smails, the owner of Bushwood, and it seems the private golf course has a problem with a gopher. The “Honorable” Judge reads the riot act to the Head greenskeeper to get rid of the “furry little rodent”. The greenskeeper, a Scotsman, exclaims “I’ll put me best man on it” as assistant greenskeeper Carl Spackler (Bill Murray) emerges with a garden hose hanging between his legs…
It was a mechanical “gopher” wreaking havoc on the Bushwood fairways as most of you must know by now. Much hilarity ensues as Spackler pulls out all the stops to rid Bushwood of his tormentor.
Meanwhile, young caddy Danny Noonan (Michael O’Keefe) is trying to make college money as he heads to an obscure college in Nebraska. Noonan encounters the top golfer at Bushwood, Ty Webb (Chevy Chase) along with Al Czervik played by the hilarious Rodney Dangerfield and assorted other eccentrics along the way.
Dangerfield as Czervik is the highlight of Caddyshack with his constant putdowns of Judge Smails and the stuffy snobs of Bushwood.
Raiders Of The Lost Ark/1981
Steven Spielberg directs the first installment of the Indiana Jones series of action adventure summer movies which spawned Romancing The Stone, The Mummy movies and many other imitators.
Harrison Ford as Indy with his trademark hat and bullwhip has long since become an icon of the American movie scene. So what if the producers possibly made one too many of these? That in no way diminishes the Indiana Jones series and Raiders Of The Lost Ark set the tone for action adventure summer movies for years to come. These movies were the originators in a world of imitators.
National Lampoon”s Summer Vacation/1982
Who can forget the Murphy’s Law epitomized Griswold family vacation as the family treks from their home in Chicago in a monstrosity of a station wagon (remember those?) with six headlights? Clark W. Griswold (Chevy Chase) along with his wife, played by Beverly D’Angelo, and their nuclear family of two kids, one boy and one girl, encounter seemingly every possible roadblock, speedbump and pothole on the trip to Wally World in California.
The highlights of the trip are in Kansas where the Griswolds pay a visit to Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid) and family. Eddie has been denied disability because “they said the plate in my head wasn’t big enough” and gets by with Hamburger Helper… without the hamburger.
Before the Griswolds take off, Eddie has his hand out for money and oh by the way, could they give Aunt Edna a ride to Phoenix? Of course, Aunt Edna (Imogene Coca) dies before they arrive and Christie Brinkley torments Clark all the way in her red convertible.
All manner of ghosts, ghouls and goblins are hassling tourists and library patrons, etc all over New York City in this hilarious summer movie. Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray and Harold Ramis star as three out of work parapsychologists, recently fired over some experiment gone bad.
The three all have encounters with ghosts and decide to form a company to harness the spirits for pay, naming the company Ghostbusters. Ernie Hudson later joins the firm as Winston with Annie Potts playing a secretary. When Potts’ character inquires as to whether Ramis’ Egon Spengler has any hobbies, Spengler intones: “I collect moles, spores and fungus”.
Bill Murray’s Peter Venkman gets most of the laughs such as when a practically frothing-at-the-mouth EPA inspector rips the men as fakes in the Mayor of New York’s office. Venkman implores the Mayor to let the men capture the ghosts threatening to control the city telling him “Lenny, if we’re right, think of all the millions of registered voters whose lives you will have saved”. “Get this man out of my office!” the Mayor exclaims, referring to the EPA guy before giving the Ghostbusters his blessing.
When it comes to summer comedy: who you gonna call: Ghostbusters!
Back to the Future/1985
Most of us have wondered what it would be like to travel back in time, usually only on the condition that we can travel “back to the future”. Here, in another Steven Spielberg film, we find out a little of what it would entail.
Young Marty McFly, (Michael J. Fox) with the help of his eccentric friend “Doc” Brown, played by Christopher Lloyd, travels back to 1955, meeting his parents before they even knew one another. Despite being warned not to tamper, Marty has to give his nerdy future Dad George (Crispin Glover) a push for him to have the courage to approach his Mother.
There are lots of references to the 80s as Marty meets up with the 50s version of Doc. When Marty replies “Heavy!” a few times, Doc asks: “is there a problem with the Earth’s gravitational pull?”
Travel back in time to catch one of my favorite summer movies.
This is the story of several adults going back to their old summer camp after twenty years. Alan Arkin’s character has run the camp for years and is ready to retire. Unless he can find new owners, the camp will close. Comedian Kevin Pollak, Bill Paxton and Diane Lane make up the best part of the cast as the group recalls the days of their youth at the camp.
Catch this summer movie, or really a movie for all seasons, as the dim-witted Forrest Gump of Greenbow, AL grows from a frail boy in leg braces to serving in the Army in Viet Nam, meeting Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon along with a young Elvis Presley.
Along the way, the fictional Forrest inspires Elvis’ dancing style, the smiley face t-shirt, bumper stickers, becomes a football star for Bear Bryant at Alabama, a Ping Pong champion, a computer mogul “sellin’ apples or sumpthin” and loving his Mama played by Sally Field all the way.
This movie has special meaning to me in part because of the resemblance of Sally Field’s Mama Gump to my own Mother and my own struggle as a young boy in the rural south wearing leg braces and being bullied by older and bigger boys. Hopefully, that’s where the similarities end. As Forrest said: “that’s all I got to say about that”.
Just remember, “stupid is as stupid does” as one of many Gumpisms in this favorite summer movie goes. Mama always said “life IS lack a bocksa choc’lits” goes another. Enjoy.