7 Sublime Summer Movie Classics Worth A Rewatch


Summer is meant to be experienced outdoors, but there’s a catch.

Rainy days make that all but impossible. Plus, affordable HD projectors let us watch classic movies on our porches on cool summer nights.

And some movies capture the season so well it’s darn near criminal to watch them in the fall or winter.

So, in no particular order, consider revisiting the following seven films to soak in those summertime vibes.

“Jaws” (1975)

"Jaws" a 1975 American Thriller film starring Roy Scheider. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty images)

Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty images

The film unofficially kicked off the summer blockbuster film season in 1975. It also perfectly captures the sounds, the sights, and the grit of beach sand between your toes.

Director Steven Spielberg’s second feature nailed every detail about the season, from kids frolicking on the beach to parents wondering what they’ll do when Friday’s five-o-clock whistle whines.

Oh, and there’s a killer shark stalking the beaches of Amity Island.

Sun. Surf. Sand. Scares. There’s no better way to catch it all on screen than with “Jaws,” even if Bruce the robotic shark couldn’t stop malfunctioning on the film’s set.

“The Way Way Back” (2013)

Fox Searchlight Pictures. A Sycamore Pictures. Walsh Company.

Fox Searchlight Pictures. A Sycamore Pictures. Walsh Company.

It’s the best summer movie you missed during its theatrical bow. The 2013 dramedy follows a sad-sack teen named Duncan (Liam James) forced to spend his summer with his Mum (Toni Collette) and her unctuous beau (Steve Carell, playing way against type).

Things look grim until a local waterpark worker (Sam Rockwell, sublime) provides Duncan with the life lessons, and father figure presence, he craves.

It’s witty and wise, brimming with sunblocked bodies and bittersweet memories of summers gone by.

“Sweet Liberty” (1986)

Universal Pictures.

Universal Pictures.

Alan Alda’s directorial career didn’t last long. His debut, 1981’s “The Four Seasons,” wowed fans but by the time he helmed 1990’s “Betsy’s Wedding” Hollywood lost interest in his wry directorial chops.

So did audiences.

In between, he gave us 1986’s “Sweet Liberty,” a winning comedy with a killer cast, including Alda, Bob Hoskins, Michael Caine, and Michelle Pfeiffer.

Alda plays a professor whose book on the American Revolution is getting the Hollywood treatment. He’s invited to watch the film’s production but realizes the crew has little interest in telling the story he committed to the page.

That’s being kind.

The comedy, shot on sunny Long Island, is as breezy as an early June day. The chemistry between the key performers, plus a scene-stealing Lillian Gish as Alda’s elderly mum, make this summer sleeper worth a look. (Except you’ll have to pick up the 2021 Blu-ray edition since it hasn’t been available for streaming for some time).

”Vacation” (2015)

Warner Bros. New Line Cinema. BenderSpink. David Dobkin Productions.

Warner Bros. New Line Cinema. BenderSpink. David Dobkin Productions.

Chevy Chase’s 1983 comedy epitomizes what can go wrong on a family vacation. Spoiler alert – everything. Chase and co. hit the road in that grotesque station wagon, finding trouble at every stop in their trek to Walley World.

The laughs are constant, and so are the reminders of summer vacations of yore. Kids bickering in the back seat. Oppressive heat. Relatives you only see once a year, if that. And summer beauties who you spot on the highway and you can’t get out of your head.

The 2015 sequel/update/reboot didn’t snag the pop culture attention of its predecessor, but it deserves a fresh evaluation.

Why? Ed Helms may be the most underrated comic actor around. He’s a comic chameleon who channels Chase’s EveryDad frustrations to near perfection. The bad news? The film’s hard-R-rated antics and sexually charged sight gags clash with the original film’s more all-American tone.

“Do the Right Thing” (1989)

Universal. 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks. A Spike Lee Joint. IMDB.

Universal. 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks. A Spike Lee Joint. IMDB.

Spike Lee knows there’s a dark side to summer. That relentless heat brings out the worst in us, especially when a city’s temperature refuses to leave the 90s.

The director’s best film seizes on that truth, whether it’s Lee’s Mookie gliding an ice cube over his lover or the rage served up hot in Sal’s pizza joint.

The film’s controversial ending is the culmination of all that heat, but it’s (still) impossible to look away as violence swarms the pizza shop.

“Stand By Me” (1986)

Columbia Pictures. Act III Production.

Columbia Pictures. Act III Production.

Four pre-teens explore the world and learn some harsh life lessons in this poignant tale from horror maestro Stephen King. The lads boast potty mouths and bravado to burn, but it doesn’t take long to see the emotional bruises underneath the surface.

Director Rob Reiner’s gentle touch makes this nostalgic story spring to life. He’s gifted a talented quartet of stars who nail what it means to be young and burdened by too much summer time on their hands.

There’s danger afoot, but it’s the unspooling conversations on those dry summer afternoons that land best.

“Grease” (1978)

Paramount Pictures.

Paramount Pictures.

“Summer lovin’ … had me a blast,” sings John Travolta in the ‘70s musical “Grease.”

The film catapulted Travolta and Olivia Newton-John to superstardom, and it all starts with a summer fling. Can true love survive peer pressure, cooler temperatures and the mischievous Rizzo? The film’s cheery canvas, brightly-lit music numbers and beachside walks make it perfect viewing for this time of the year.

Summer technically ends when the characters head back to school for the finale, but even that sequence is soaked in sunshine and, well, flying cars.

* * *

Christian Toto is an award-winning journalist, movie critic and editor of HollywoodInToto.com. He previously served as associate editor with Breitbart News’ Big Hollywood. Follow him at @HollywoodInToto.

The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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