Even though lockdown is gradually lifting, many of us are still stuck at home. Now summer plans and holidays have all been cancelled, I have compiled a list of 10 summer movies to pass the time. Some offer escapism, some are a bit too close to reality, but why are so many set in the 80s?
- Do the Right Thing (1989)
A film that alarmed conservative critics at the time, Spike Lee’s classic that takes place during the hottest day of summer still hits home over 30 years later. The film captures the insufferable heat of the Brooklyn district of Bedford-Stuyvesant and earned Lee his first Oscar nomination for best original screenplay. Following the residents over a 24-hour period, as the temperature rises so do the do the racial tensions on the block. Funny, heart breaking and thought provoking, this movie is still incredibly relevant today, as Black Lives Matter protests advance and the summer heat begins to set in.
- Dirty Dancing (1987)
If you’re looking for sexy routines, summer camps and watermelons, this movie is for you. A quintessential summer hit, both a love story and a coming of age drama, my sister would stream this endlessly during the summer holidays as we were stuck at home without any love interests to speak of. For all of those looking for escapism in the form of Patrick Swayze, while we’re still technically locked up, now is the time to practice the lift, albeit with your cat.
- Call Me By Your Name (2017)
Another coming of age romance, this film has made Timothée Chalamet the “it” boy ever since it came out. Set in the summer of 1983, seventeen-year-old Elio is spending time with his father in Italy over the summer when he meets Oliver, a 24-year-old doctoral student interning for his dad. The two men end up developing an intense and emotional connection that can be felt through the screen. With forbidden love, a picturesque Italian backdrop and a soundtrack that fulfils all your indie teenage dreams, this movie has already become a firm summer favourite.
- Jaws (1975)
Perhaps one to watch after you go to the beach.
Steven Spielberg’s hit movie finds a seaside resort terrorised by a great white shark as the 4 July holiday draws near. Should they close the beaches and ruin the tourism-based economy or should they let everyone be massacred for the sake of ice cream sales? Could this be used as a metaphor for the government’s response to corona? Maybe. However, even four decades later, it’s still impossible to go for a summer swim without hearing John Williams’s threatening theme.
- Midsommar (2019)
Midsommar is the story of a grieving woman (Florence Pugh) in a broken relationship, who travels to Sweden to visit a pagan cult who are assembling for festivities held only every 90 years. A vibrant departure from director Ari Aster’s previous occult shocker Hereditary, this movie is no less horrific. Set during the long daylight hours of northern Sweden in summer, often through the lens of hallucinogenic drugs, this movie is exquisitely shot. By the time the film concludes, you will be tired (it’s 147 mins), you will be emotional, and due to Aster throwing as much imagery as he could into the film, you might be wondering what it all meant.
- Grease (1978)
Despite spanning a whole school year, Grease effortlessly captures the summer spirit. A staple at any outdoor summer film screening, this light-hearted musical needs no introduction. With songs like “Greased Lightnin”, “We Go Together” and obviously “Summer Nights”, this movie is an obvious choice to watch on a summer eve.
- Streetcar Named Desire (1958)
Summery movie? Debatable. Sweaty movie? Incredibly so. For many of us living in cramped cities with muggy climates, Streetcar reflects more of our experience of summer than a breezy romance. One of the best adaptations of a play ever made, with outstanding performances by Vivien Leigh and Marlon Brando, the suffocating heat from New Orleans is both seen on screen and felt through the intensity between Stanley and Blanche. This Tennessee Williams classic (adapted by Oscar Saul) shows the power struggle between genteel civility and crude lower-class vitality creating a harrowing yet thrilling drama.
- Boy (2010)
Another great summer coming of age film minus the romance this time. The second feature film by now Hollywood director Taika Waititi is largely based around his own experiences of summertime in New Zealand. Set in 1984, Boy is a bright, optimistic 11-year-old who worships his absent father who suddenly returns for the summer. Waititi built on his Oscar nominated short Two Cars, One Night to create this funny yet heart-breaking feature. Exploring father and son relationships, this movie is charming without being too contrite and deserves to be seen by any fans of the director.
- Adventureland (2009)
For anyone who’s had a terrible summer job, this one is for you. Set in the summer of 1987 (the last movie of the list set in this decade), uptight recent graduate James (Jesse Eisenberg) is shocked to hear that instead of having a cultural trip of a lifetime to Europe, he’ll have to get a degrading minimum wage job at the local amusement park. Based on writer/director Greg Mottola’s own summer job from hell, this part fish-out-of-water comedy, part coming of age tale (another one!) is one to revisit this summer.
- High School Musical 2 (2007)
Last but certainly not least, this movie was the first that came to mind when I thought of summer. It really has all the trademarks of a classic summer movie; a coming of age tale, a summer romance, and a musical. With a surprisingly high Rotten Tomatoes rating of 82%, I am proud to say that “Work This Out” has been on my Spotify “On Repeat” playlist since the start of June. Is the acting Oscar worthy? No. Does Zac Efron have too much fake tan on? Yes. But that doesn’t stop me singing “Bet On It” in the park after I’ve had one too many.