The summer months have long been a staple of blockbusters and indie hits alike, be it films about summer or films released during the peak of it. Regardless of whether you’ve seen all or none of the movies on this list, these are some of the bona fide classics that instantly scream ‘summer.’
Dazed and Confused (1993)
The 1990s were a great decade for teen comedy, but Dazed and Confused actually follows a group of teenagers not in the 90s but the mid-70s on the last day of high school, detailing their wild and ridiculous antics in celebration of summer. This cult classic was the definition of a sleeper hit, initially doing poorly at the box office but gradually becoming one of the most beloved comedy films of all time.
Friday the 13th (1980)
Okay, so beaches and sunshine might not be the first thing that come to mind when you think of slasher films, but the fact remains that Friday the 13th not only takes place in the summer, but has its entire central conceit based around it being summer. Case closed. Camp Crystal Lake may not be the most ideal aspirational warm-weather setting, but Halloween isn’t the only time of the year we get to have spooky things, and there are few classic horror films as pioneering as this one (corny fun as it may be.)
The Parent Trap (1998)
Two estranged identical twins accidentally meet for the first time, and the rest is history. While it’s grown to become many things, namely the debut role of one Lindsay Lohan (who would incidentally star in other famous coming-of-age comedies; see: Mean Girls) the Parent Trap still stands on its own as one of Disney’s most iconic live-action films to date, as well as the movie that made entirely too many kids try to pierce their ears at summer camp.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
Determined to get a head start on summer just before graduation, high school student Ferris Bueller decides to do what he does best and hatch a plan to skip class; while evading his school’s dean, of course, who just happens to be on his trail. How foolproof his methods actually are remain to be seen– although plenty of 80’s kids probably gave it a shot– but it makes for a witty and light-hearted classic directed by the legendary John Hughes.
Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
Little Miss Sunshine may be more biting and satirical than your typical summer road trip film, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t full of heart. If multiple Academy Awards aren’t an indication of quality, perhaps the stellar cast will do it for you, particularly if you’re a fan of Steve Carell’s work. An 800-mile drive in a half-busted Volkswagen with your entire family– in the desert– is a scenario which goes about as smoothly as you’d imagine in this indie film turned smash hit.
Mamma Mia! (2008)
If you’re not a big fan of musicals, Mamma Mia! may not be for you; but then again, many would consider it an exception to the rule, particularly when you take into account that it’s a jukebox musical featuring ABBA songs (I mean, c’mon. It’s hard to say no to ABBA.) Before it made it to the silver screen, it was a Broadway sensation that ended up as one of the longest-running shows in history; which makes it no surprise that the film adaptation spared no expense with talents like Meryl Streep and Colin Firth. It’s goofy, it’s heartwarming, and a little bit of cheesiness can totally be a good thing.