Written & published by Justin Burden: https://justinburden.com
Who doesn’t love a good Summer Vacation?
Summertime is here and with summer comes the great summer tradition of SUMMER VACATIONS! They can either be lifelong memories of absolute happiness or they can be lifelong memories of complete and utter despair. Regardless, we all remember some of our summer vacations. Sometimes we need to take a break from the summer heat, cook outs, and pool parties to relax and watch a good film that really captures those summer feels. So, I am counting down my list of the 10 BEST SUMMER VACATION MOVIES.
The criteria are simple: The film must take place during a summer vacation where the vacation is a central point to the plot of the movie, has to give up those summer vibes, and most importantly…. needs to be a good film! (Note: This is my personal list of what I feel is the best summer vacation movies and its narrowed down to 10. I will probably leave out a favorite of yours so feel free to comment ones I left out and let me know what some of your favorite summer vacation films are!)
HERE WE GO!
10. CAMP NOWHERE (1994)
When I was a kid I thought this movie was so cool. Kids come up with their own camp and make their own rules in this cheesy 90’s kids flick. What made this movie so cool is that it really captured how kids wanted to spend their summer. When you’re a kid the idea of getting together with a bunch of friends and just creating your own summer camp with no supervision is what dreams are mad of. The movie doesn’t really hold up that well but for a movie that really shows a bunch of kids working together to create a memorable and enjoyable summer, you could do worse.
9. MEATBALLS (1979)
Lets be real clear about something here, if this film didn’t have Bill Murray I’m not even sure if this film would have been made. Not saying it is a bad film, but Murray is so effortlessly good in this film that you can see why he would go on to be one of the greatest comedic actors of all time. This is pretty basic Summer Camp stuff but it is elevated by some really memorable scenes (Bill Murray’s IT JUST DOESN’T MATTER speech would have made this list alone). If you want to see a film that captures the innocence and drama of summer camp with some funny bits mixed in, then check this out!
8. NATIONAL LAMPOON’S VACATION (1983)
A lot of people consider this the essential summer vacation film (I mean it even has Vacation in the title) but again this is my personal list and this is where it falls. This is where it all started for the Griswold’s. Clark (Chevy Chase) wants to give his family a dream summer vacation to Wally World. A cross-country trip with the whole family, what could go wrong? Well, if you have seen the movie then you pretty much know the answer to that already. A hilarious road trip film that captures that feeling that most of us all know… the mandatory family vacation road trip.
7. WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER (2001)
Look, I get it. I put this film ahead of Vacation…but I’m sorry I love this film. A cult classic that follows the last day of summer camp (a ton of summer camp movies I know). The cast is phenomenal, the jokes are absolutely insane, and it truly captures this original and zany feel for summer that nothing else on the list has. This is a movie that from the first few minutes you realize you are in a completely different world of comedy. This is a film that is impossible to discuss with someone who hasn’t seen it. Some people hate it, some people love it, I personally love it and debated putting this film higher…and higher.
6. DIRTY DANCING (1987)
When Dirty Dancing is #6 on your list you realize how many good summer vacation movies there are! This film has been able to stand the test of time and still holds up today. From the amazing soundtrack, great performances from Swayze and Grey, and a timeless story, you really want to just get out and go to a summer retreat and dance after this one. This film bolsters one of pop culture’s most iconic moments with the lift sequence set to “I’ve had the time of my life”. You know you have entered historical pop culture status when you immediately think of a scene/movie when a song comes on.
5. JAWS (1975)
The film that started the summer blockbuster! The reason this isn’t higher? Well because it makes you never want to go out and experience summer at the beach after watching! This is a fantastic film that really puts you at the beach over 4th of July Weekend. I love movies like that. Ones that make you feel what the characters are feeling. Before you even get to the mayhem that the shark creates, you see a ton of beach scenes and moments that really make you long for summer time… until you remember that there is a gigantic shark in the water just waiting for you to stray a bit from land. The pacing, direction, and performances in this film are top-notch and shows that it’s what you don’t see that is truly the scariest.
4. THE GREAT OUTDOORS (1988)
This movie is just so much fun. I’ve watched this film countless times and I still enjoy it. Another vacation film where things don’t go exactly as planned but at the core it’s a story about fathers, growing up, and facing your fears. Of course, there is some hijinks along the way. John Candy is great but it’s Dan Aykroyd who really gets a chance to shine here. The scene of Aykroyd trying to console his young twin girls after Chet (Candy) tells a bear story by telling them a story about some mentally deranged psycho’s is pure comedic gold. Unlike the sunny vibes and beaches that other summer vacation films show this features cabins, woods, and wildlife.
3. WHAT ABOUT BOB? (1991)
The second Bill Murray movie on this list (seriously, this guy is a legend) and arguably Murray’s funniest performance. This is a great comedy, I almost want to call it a dark comedy for what Bob (Murray) puts Dr. Leo Marvin (Richard Dreyfuss *second time on this list too*) through. As amazing as Murray is, Dreyfuss is just as good and his character has such a hilarious spiral that you can’t help but feel sorry for him throughout! Monster laughs, fantastic leads, and a beautiful lake house overseeing the lake for maximum summer vacation enjoyment!
2. HEAVYWEIGHTS (1995)
I watched this movie countless times as a kid and numerous times as an adult. I can truly say it is still as hilarious now as it was then. Ben Stiller gives an absolute brilliant comedic performance as Tony Perkis, the obsessed fitness guru who will stop at nothing until he turns every single overweight kid at camp into a lean/fit machine. It also features a great cast all around and is just flat-out fun. Seriously, in my opinion, as much as I love WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER this is the essential summer camp film!
1. THE SANDLOT (1993)
Here it is! My number 1 Summer Vacation movie! A movie that covers the entirety of a group of kids’ summer vacation from school! This film truly has everything. It has a great heartfelt story. Endlessly quotable. An amazing cast (the group of kids in this film are so good, and their comedic timing is exceptional). Real drama and a ton of heart. It’s a film that features some of the best summer memory scenes (the fireworks at night, the fair ride, the pool trip, the smore’s!) and it really puts you in this time and place. The movie just exemplifies what people love (especially kids) about summer and out of all the movies on this list, has the most summer feel to me. At its core, it’s a story of friendship and facing your fears. There is that old saying of “they don’t make ’em like this anymore.” and in this case I think they are right.
Well there it is. My list of best SUMMER VACATION MOVIES. Like I said in the opening I am sure I left out a few favorites and there is bound to be a bunch of disagreements with the rankings so I encourage you to leave a comment and let me know what some of YOUR favorites are plus ones you feel I left out! Hope you enjoy the list! “YOU’RE KILLING ME, SMALLS!”