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Best Camp Movies

Updated on March 5, 2008
My wonderful summer camp.
My wonderful summer camp.

And, the Award Goes to…

If you have ever been to a summer camp, you know that there is no other experience like it. I worked at a sleepaway summer camp for five years, and that experience has influenced a lot of the life decisions I make. You grow bonds with people faster than you ever thought possible. My camp friends are some of my best friends, and I am sure they will remain lifelong friends.

There are a lot of movies that have camp settings—some are funny, some scary, and some downright scary. If you ever went to, or worked at, a summer camp, I’m sure you can enjoy these movies. For those of you who haven’t had this experience, you can live vicariously through these flicks.

The Cutest Camp Kid Comedy Award: The Parent Trap

The original version of this movie, with Hayley Mills, is just way too cute. The story is about two identical twin girls who didn’t know each other existed until they meet for the first time at a summer camp. Starting out as enemies, they become friends…and switch places when it is time to go home. This is a great family film that will keep everyone laughing at the all the hijinks.

Although the entire film doesn’t take place at a summer camp, a good amount of it does. And you will get some classic camp scenes with socials and trick playing. The cabins are priceless.

The Teen Angst Camp Drama/Comedy Award: Little Darlings

This movie might be called Little Darlings, but the girls in this teen flick are anything but. It starts out with the typical teenage girl movie cattiness, resulting in the two main characters in a bet to see who will lose their virginity first. Honestly, it isn’t the best movie ever, but it does examine how girls view puberty and their “first time.”

You would be hard pressed these days to find a camp that lets campers and counselors get away with the kind of stuff that happens in this movie—too many liabilities, but it still captures the essence of the summer camp experience.

The Tear Jerker Camp Movie Award: Indian Summer

I first watched this movie when it first came out in 1993, but didn’t appreciate it as much as I do now that I’ve spent time at a summer camp. The movie is about group of adults invited back to their childhood summer camp for a reunion during an Indian Summer. The camp director treats all of them like campers, and forces them to participate in the same activities they did as children. The movie is great because it captures the unique relationships only those who have gone to camp together can experience. During their trip, old memories resurface and they are all faced with difficult decisions. What will they do? You’ll have to watch to find out.

The Pee-Your-Pants Camp Weird Comedy Award: Wet Hot American Summer

This is one funny movie for those of you who appreciate weird humor. If you are easily offended, don’t watch it—remember it is Rated R (gasp) for a whole lot of sex, obscene language, and drug use. It holds a special place in my heart because it was filmed about half an hour away from my summer camp.

It is definitely an exaggeration of the things that happen at camp, but so funny. If you have a kooky sense of humor, you will get a kick out this camp movie.

The Raunchiest, Best Line Camp Comedy Award: American Pie

This movie is not at all about a summer camp (unless you count one of the many spinoffs), but it does have the line that everyone remembers: “This one time, at band camp…” Now nobody can tell camp stories without someone flashing this line at them. Yes, that’s right. I’m recommending this movie just for that line.

If you don’t mind watching a bunch of oversexed (or wannabe oversexed) teenagers acting like morons, this movie is for you. It has some pretty crude humor, but if you have to choose—go with Wet Hot American Summer for some real laughs.

The Silliest Slasher Camp Horror Award: Sleepaway Camp (1, 2, & 3)

I first saw these movies during my “I love scary movies” phase as a teenager. But these are not scary movies—these are funny slasher flicks. If you have a sense of humor, you will laugh your way through the Sleepaway flicks. If you don’t have a sense of humor, you will think these are the dumbest movies ever. Beware—the killer in this movie has no mercy for anyone “fornicating” at camp. Funny lines:

“Is that a gun?”

“No, it’s a drill!”

The Make You Scared of Camp Horror Award: Friday the 13th

I have only seen bits and pieces of the Jason movies, but I do not plan on ever seeing them. These aren’t the silly scary movies that make me laugh. If you watch these movies, you will probably have a hard time walking across a summer camp alone at night (and that is a fear I cannot afford to have). Apparently, Jason Voorhees drowned at Camp Crystal Lake because the counselors were too busy hooking up to pay attention to him. Well, Jason comes back to chop to pieces any teenager dumb enough to come back to the camp. You want to be too scared to go to camp? Watch the Jason movies.

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    • profile image

      teenscamps 

      6 years ago

      There are lots of movies based on the camps. Many of the movies are comical while many of them are serious but one thing is that these movies can encourage teens and parents to join these summer camps.

      http://www.campssummer.net/

    • profile image

      Luxury Camping 

      7 years ago

      Hi Stacie,

      How about Dirty Dancing - that was on a summer camp right?

      That was a great movie!

    • profile image

      Mr. Real 

      8 years ago

      Really Guys ? ? ?

    • profile image

      iPhone Movies 

      8 years ago

      Earnest Goes to Camp

    • profile image

      ipodmovies 

      8 years ago

      American Pie Band Camp was a funny movie!

    • profile image

      Adam B 

      9 years ago

      I loved Wet Hot American Summer! What about Meatballs? Another one that was very good was "Heavy Weigts" with Ben Stil as a fat camp counseler. Funny Stuff.

    • AshleyVictoria profile image

      AshleyVictoria 

      9 years ago from Los Angeles

      Rent "Camp Nowhere." HILARIOUS little comedy with Jonathan Jackson and Andrew Keegan when they were about 13 years old. They don't like the camps their parents send them to so they make their own camp!

    • Peppermint Thrift profile image

      Peppermint Thrift 

      9 years ago

      Great Hub! Before watching Sleepaway Camp - a friend told me, "You don't even know about Sleepaway Camp." So true, so true. The sequels got a little out-there and "Return to Sleepaway Camp" is terrible. But the first one - what a shocker!

    • kbdunn profile image

      kbdunn 

      9 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Ya, what about Meatballs? Hilarious movie :) Good hub too!

    • desert blondie profile image

      desert blondie 

      10 years ago from Palm trees, swimming pools, lots of sand, lots of sunscreen

      Another summer practically gone...it's 9/1 !!! And I just found this hub! Indian summer looks intriguing....have seen Parent Trap, both versions, countless times...my daughters adored these movies...fun hub!

    • Hillaryj profile image

      Hillaryj 

      10 years ago from Brooklyn, NY

      I second the vote for MEATBALLS. my favorite! i try to watch it once every summer....it's like the "Christmas Story" of camp movies....

    • profile image

      julie  

      10 years ago

      me, my sister and my aunt all want to go camping this summer. we want to watch a scary movie about camping someone help me out what's good?

    • DJ Funktual profile image

      DJ Funktual 

      10 years ago from One Nation Under a Groove

      My favorite movie in this genre did not make your list.

      MEATBALLS with Bill Murray.

      Great call with Friday the 13th, that will scared the camp out of you.

      What's funny is..when I saw your title I thought you were talking about Campy movies like the ones John Waters makes. Funny that your topic is so rare and yet it also describes a genre of films that have nothing to do with your subject.

      If it was intentional..it was genius. CROSSTOWN TRAFFIC..if you will.

    • flread45 profile image

      Frank 

      10 years ago from Montana

      These are funny movies that remind me of going camping with a lot of girls around.

    • Stacie Naczelnik profile imageAUTHOR

      Stacie Naczelnik 

      10 years ago from Seattle

      Anne! I remember the first time I got lost in the woods on purpose too! Oh...all those firsts...I miss camp.

    • annemaeve profile image

      annemaeve 

      10 years ago from Philly Burbs

      Stacie, thanks so much for sharing - years at summer camps have definitely shaped my life, and now I have new movie night ideas. I value so much from those summers; my first night under the stars, my first time getting lost in the woods on purpose, my first job, my first (ahem) inter-office romance, and first time I realized I was meant to be a teacher. Here's to warm campfires and cold lakes forever!

    • Stacie Naczelnik profile imageAUTHOR

      Stacie Naczelnik 

      10 years ago from Seattle

      Fini, there are so many awesome lines from those movies. Oh man...I see a movie marathon coming on.

    • Fini214 profile image

      Fini214 

      10 years ago from Chicago, IL

      My favorite quote from Sleepaway Camp: "She's a real carpenter's dream, flat as a board and needs a screw" --Judy on the crossing dressing Angela--

    • Stacie Naczelnik profile imageAUTHOR

      Stacie Naczelnik 

      10 years ago from Seattle

      Seamus - most camps are for the rich! I paused on Dirty Dancing while making this, but it is actually a resort with a camp-like schedule.

      Monitor - I think when people spend a concentrated amount of time together, they bond like that. It is an amazing experience. In fact, it is how i met my husband.

      Whitney - I have not see it. Does it take place at a camp? Or just camping?

    • seamus profile image

      seamus 

      10 years ago

      What a unique subject for a hub. Thanks for bringing back the memory of that movie line "one time at band camp." LOL

      This one is not really about camp -- more like a camp for the rich -- but I can't help think of Dirty Dancing as a camp movie.

    • monitor profile image

      monitor 

      10 years ago from The world.

      The fast bonding your mentione is also very relevant withing groups of people working in foreign lands. Kind of amazing just how fast people get together as friends. I have seen the first movie, the parent trap, in fact watched it again last week. The rest I am goig to have to go our and buy. Thanks.

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 

      10 years ago from Georgia

      Would you include 'Without a Paddle' as a camp movie? The kinda camp during the movie and do camping things. Ha. It's my dad's favorite movie. He rarely buys movies, but that was one he bought. Nice compilation.

    • Stacie Naczelnik profile imageAUTHOR

      Stacie Naczelnik 

      10 years ago from Seattle

      Be prepared for it Steph--it goes overboard, but is ridiculously funny. Not kid friendly.

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 

      10 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Great Hub I really enjoy the compilation of these movies, and will have to (one day) see the Wet Hot American Summer!

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