Whether you’re looking to get into the spirit of summer or just stay out of the sun, these 10 movies are essential for any summer watch list.
As the summer season gets underway and temperatures begin to rise, you may find yourself retreating into the safety and comfort of air conditioning. While you may be tempted to mindlessly binge another forgettable show on Netflix, we encourage you to resist that temptation! Why not treat yourself to a great movie that’s been on your watchlist for…you know, ever?
If you’re looking for movies that can bring the heat of summer without forcing you to actually leave the house, look no further than this list. Take a look at our recommendations for the 10 best summer movies. Enjoy!
‘A Bigger Splash’
Before Call Me by Your Name perfectly captured sun-soaked summer love last year, Luca Guadagnino brought us A Bigger Splash. Set on a Sicilian island, this movie follows the reunion of two former lovers – Tilda Swinton and Ralph Fiennes – and their respective companions Matthias Schoenaerts and Dakota Johnson in a tale of deceit and desire, jealousy and passion. This movie will no doubt have you checking for flights to Italy as soon as possible.
‘Do the Right Thing’
When you think of summer movies, it’s impossible not to think of Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing. Lee’s unique vision of the world and stylistic blend of comedy and drama come together to make something really special. Set in the midst of a heat wave in Brooklyn, tempers rise and chaos breaks out. The movie posits a sharp critique of the racial tensions in America all the while making its mark as one of the quintessential summer movies.
‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’
Paul Newman and Liz Taylor starring in a film adaptation of a Tennessee Williams’ play should be enough to sell you on this rare feat of movie making. What makes it so good as a summer movie is how well it establishes a hot and humid atmosphere that enhances the film’s narrative. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof turns this summer night on a Mississippi plantation into a pressure cooker that doesn’t let up until everything has boiled over.
Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window is a masterclass in creating and sustaining tension – tension so thrilling that it will make you sweat along with its stars Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly. Stuck in his apartment while recovering from an injury, Jeff watches his neighbors through his apartment’s rear window and believes he witnessed a murder. Rear Window will make you look at all your neighbors a little differently and remind you to make sure you close your blinds!
You may know the name Lawrence Kasdan from his involvement in the Star Wars franchise. Most recently he penned the screenplay for Solo: A Star Wars Story – a movie that lacks the dangerous allure and sexual heat of his 1981 film Body Heat. Inspired by classic Hollywood movies like Double Indemnity and Out of the Past, Body Heat is an exciting erotic thriller that might make you think twice about a summer fling.
‘Dazed and Confused’
Dazed and Confused opens on the final minutes of the last day of school. After the bell rings, a flood of students turns into a remarkably orchestrated, interwoven tale of youth – following everyone from upcoming freshman to graduated seniors as they celebrate the arrival of summer. If you’ve already seen (and loved) Dazed and Confused, check out Everybody Wants Some!! which acts as a sort of spiritual sequel, using a similar style and atmosphere that reminds you just how awesome summer can be.
‘Dog Day Afternoon’
What begins as a bank robbery, quickly devolves into chaos, generating a massive media frenzy and law enforcement spectacle. Starring Al Pacino, Dog Day Afternoon is a heist movie gone wrong set on a hot and steamy “dog day” afternoon. The film is based on the story of John Wojtowicz, who claims the movie is “only 30% true.”
Steve Spielberg’s Jaws is commonly referred to as the movie that invented, or at the very least ushered in the era of the summer blockbuster. Complete with packed beaches, big waves, and killer sharks, Jaws is the perfect summer thriller. Roy Scheider leads the film as a sheriff trying to protect the town while going to battle with a killer shark over the Fourth of July holiday. Whether you love the beach or would rather stay landlocked, Jaws is an unmissable summer movie.
“Nobody puts Baby in a corner.” You’ll be hard pressed to find someone that doesn’t know that iconic line from the 1987 romance Dirty Dancing. Capturing the relationship between a resort dance instructor and a young resort guest, the movie is full of the kind of summer romance and sweaty dancing that made this a classic. Full of iconography that’s permanently lodged in the cultural conscious – most notably the moment Patrick Swayze lifts Jennifer Grey over his head – if you haven’t seen Dirty Dancing already, now’s the time.
Mike Nichol’s film about a listless college graduate home for the summer avoiding what to do with his life is commonly regarded as one of the best American movies of all time. Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft play unlikely lovers, bonding over their mutual boredom with the direction of their lives. The movie depicts the very languid and idle rhythm of summer that may either comfort your own ennui or make you appreciate that you’re not Ben Braddock. Either way, with a soundtrack by Simon & Garfunkel, you can do much worse than stepping into this daydream for a couple hours.
’12 Angry Men’
Similar to other movies on this list like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Do the Right Thing, 12 Angry Men turns up the heat over the course of its tight 96 minute runtime – making you and its characters sweat it out til the finish. The film is about 12 jury members deliberating over whether to sentence a boy to death. Directed by Sidney Lumet and starring Henry Fonda, 12 Angry Men is an American classic that will make you thankful for air conditioning (and that you haven’t been called for jury duty).