The Best Summer Movies of All Time
Summertime knows how to make us feel like we should be cruising with our windows down, sipping on an ice-cold Coke, and making lifelong memories with our family and friends; and it’s no surprise that the nostalgia is mirrored in our favorite classic movies about summer. From sleep-away camps where we just might find our long-lost twin to cross-country family road trips that might end in utter disaster, these classic summer movies feel like a walk down memory lane. Whether or not they’re set in the sweltering middle of July, these films just feel like summer. Southerners know that summertime is always better with some shag dancing, car racing, golf playing, and maybe even some shark hunting. (Dun dun…) All wrapped up with a hefty dose of summer lovin’, of course. These are the classic movies that get us ready for summer.
Every minute of this classic movie screams summer. The old-school vacation spot—filmed at the Mountain Lake Lodge in Pembroke, Virginia—paired with summer romance and spectacular dancing (complete with the iconic lift)? It makes us ready to tease our hair and put on white Keds. Not to mention, we definitely had the time of our lives swooning over Patrick Swayze in that leather jacket.
Favorite Quote: “Nobody puts Baby in the corner.”
National Lampoon’s Vacation
This masterpiece is all about a doomed family roadtrip to Walley World. The Griswolds embark on a cross-country vacation and run into some disastrous detours along the way, from babysitting the terrifying family dog Dinky to getting stuck in a tragic old station wagon rental. Every Southerner feels a kinship to this lovingly dysfunctional family—perhaps because it reminds us of some of our own family summer vacations?
Favorite Quote: “I don't know why they call this stuff Hamburger Helper. It does just fine by itself, huh? I like it better than Tuna Helper myself, don't you, Clark?”
Year after year, Southerners flock to the shores once summer hits; and nothing will get you in the summertime spirit quite like this thriller about a beach town that’s dealing with a bit of a giant man-eating great white shark problem. Its slow-building theme song became famous in its own right, and the season just isn’t the same without watching this iconic film on a rainy beach day.
Favorite Quote: “You're gonna need a bigger boat.”
Sure, maybe this musical is technically set at the end of summer; but good girl Sandy and greaser Danny surely had a summer romance for the history books. (Summer lovin’ and all?) We could watch the Pink Ladies and the T-Birds hanging out at the drive-in and sipping on milkshakes at the diner any season, but it’s just a little better in the summertime. Truth be told, we watch it just as much for the 1950s circle skirts and black leather jackets as the angst-ridden tunes.
Favorite Quote: “Tell me about it, stud.”
Dazed and Confused
Where it all started: Matthew McConaughey’s famous line: “Alright, alright, alrighhht,” that is. This coming-of-age film follows a group of high schoolers in Austin, Texas on their last day of school in 1976. The nostalgic movie features rowdy freshman hazing, melodramatic football coaches, and cruising in low-riding Chevrolets. You’ll be blasting the Pink Floyd and Aerosmith after re-watching this classic.
Favorite Quote: “It’d be a lot cooler if you did.”
The Little Rascals
From the drama-filled Soap Box Derby go-kart race to the comical "He-Man Woman Haters Club," this movie about a group of neighborhood boys is filled with delightful moments of friendship, puppy love, and humor. Alfalfa is trying to win back his forbidden love, Darla; while his ragtag friends make sure to embarrass him every step of the way. Oh, and Reba McEntire makes an appearance too.
Favorite Quote: “When he sings, he makes me melt like a popsicle on the Fourth of July.”
Set at the fictional Bushwood Country Club, this 1980 movie shows the comedic summer happenings at a haughty golf club, following an eager caddy trying to make money for college and a quirky groundskeeper trying to handle a gopher infestation. This classic gives glorious moments from Chevy Chase and Bill Murray, making it a hilarious no-brainer for the summer. (Not to mention, Southerners know a thing or two about spending the summer on the golf course.)
Favorite Quote: “The Zen philosopher, Basho, once wrote, ‘A flute with no holes, is not a flute. A donut with no hole, is a Danish.’ He was a funny guy.”
Now and Then
There’s nothing like an innocent, slightly angsty film about four best friends who are just becoming teenagers, but still love a treehouse hangout. Told as a series of flashbacks, watch how one summer affected the lives and friendships of four girls, and how it changed them later as adults. From having séances at the local cemetery to pulling pranks on the neighborhood boys (Ew, boys!), this classic movie makes us more than a little nostalgic.
Favorite Quote: “I think you'll make a great mom, Chrissy. A little overbearing and rigid, but by the grace of God, the kid will come out relativity unharmed, if not there's always therapy.”
It’s the summer of 1962, and a group of young boys spend the season playing with their local sandlot baseball team, plagued by a ferocious neighborhood dog known as the Beast. After a baseball signed by Babe Ruth lands in the Beast’s backyard, Scotty Smalls slaps on his PF Flyers and has to make a run for it. This ragtag sandlot team is exactly what summer should be about: friends and fun.
Favorite Quote: “You call that pitching? This is baseball, not tennis!”
Four girlfriends from South Carolina head for a weekend at Myrtle Beach as a last gasp of teenage fun before adulthood sets in. Throw in shag dancing to beach music (The Shag was born on the shores of Myrtle Beach, after all) and summer romance, and you’re set with this laidback film about friendship, summer flings, and growing up. Odds are, we’ve all had a memorable beach trip like this one.
Favorite Quote: "Well, don't play hard to get honey. You might miss something."
The Parent Trap
Whichever version of this classic you prefer, the charming camp setting and feel-good family storyline will get you in the summer spirit. A clever mix-up with long-lost twins paired with the star-crossed romance between their parents makes this classic even more fun to watch. From the late-night poker games hosted by camp girls to the sneaky cabin pranks, we can’t help but wish they made summer camp for adults.
Favorite Quote: “Let me see, I know how to fence and you don't? Or, I have class and you don't? Take your pick.”
A love story that makes us cry every time—and it all started at a small town carnival during the summer in South Carolina. Think: jumping in the rolling waves of the South Carolina coast, clad in vintage swimsuits, and lying in the middle of the street, watching the traffic lights change. It’s the best of summer in the South. (We won’t ruin the rest of the movie, but trust us, it’s a tearjerker.)
Favorite Quote: "If you're a bird, I'm a bird."