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The best summer-themed movies

Updated on June 8, 2012

As the temperature heats up and Americans start grabbing some melons and putting weiners between soft buttered buns, it got me to thinking about some of the best summer-themed movies. A lot of movies came to mind, including The Sandlot, Almost Famous, The Endless Summer and Dazed and Confused. But, I’ve narrowed my top flicks to four of my personal favorites.

So, squeeze into that undersized, age Inappropriate swimsuit and cake sunscreen over your pasty white skin because we’re going to hit the road, hit the beach and head to camp.

Travel down a Holiday Road

Follow the Griswolds on other vacations

What can be more iconic of summer than memories of packing into the old family truckster and going on a family trip. Kids screaming in the backseat, dad getting annoyed because mom keeps telling him that he's going the wrong way, and mom snapping at the youngsters to QUIET DOWN OR WE'RE GOING HOME!!

Perhaps no other film recaptures those good times more than National Lampoon's Vacation, which remains one of the funniest comedies of all time. But don't take my word for it, The American Film Institute ranks Vacation as one of the Funniest American movies of all time.

The film was written by John Hughes, who is also known for 80s classics such as Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Home Alone, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science and Sixteen Candles.

In the film, Clark Griswold takes his oddball clan cross country on a "pilgrimage to see a moose. Praise Marty Moose!" But, the road to Wally World travels over some bumpy paths, including having to strap a dead aunt on the roof of the car, crashing in the desert, visiting their sloppy relatives and having your wife catch you skinny dipping with supermodel Christie Brinkley. Tip to all you husbands out there, if you're going to skinny dip with a supermodel don't EVER, EVER let your wife catch you.

Former original Saturday Night Live cast member Chevy Chase is at his bumbling comedic best and Beverly D'Angelo's provides the straight man role as Clark's wife. The film also stars Anthony Michael Hall, who many will remember as the nerd who asks Molly Ringwall for her panties in Sixteen Candles. John Candy also has an outstanding small role as a security guard at Wally World, which is a satire of the king of all theme parks: Disney World/Disney Land.

The Griswolds trip to Wally World was not their last vacation film. There are three big screen sequels: European Vacation, Christmas Vacation and Vegas Vacation.

Plot: The Griswold family's cross-country drive to the Walley World theme park proves to be much more arduous than they ever anticipated.

Cast: Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, Randy Quaid and John Candy as a bumbling amusement park security guard.

Favorite quotes:

  • Rusty Griswold: That was a crummy Wyatt Earp dad. He was wearing jogging shoes. Clark: They used to Rusty.
  • Ellen Griswold: We can't leave Aunt Edna on the patio! Clark: Would you prefer I slip her in the night deposit box at the funeral home?
  • Ellen Griswold: Clark, let's just skip the house of mud. I think Dodge City was enough fun for one day. Besides, Catherine and Eddie are expecting us. Clark: It's living history Ellen. But if you'd rather see your cousins. Personally I'd rather see a pile of mud than Eddie.
  • Clark: Oh Ellen, the old west was dirty. Everything isn't like home. If everything were like home, there would be no reason for leaving home. Right, Rusty?
  • Cousin Vicki: I'm going steady, and I French kiss. Audrey Griswold: So? Everybody does that. Cousin Vicki: Yeah, but Daddy says I'm the best at it.
  • Clark: Why aren't we flying? Because getting there is half the fun. You know that.

Head to camp

Ah, summer camp. If only we had a counselor like Bill Murray at the lakeside camp where I spent many hot, muggy, buggy, sweaty, stinkin', eating bad food, drinking bug juice and choking on campfire smoke during the summers of my youth. Sure, we enjoyed some good old-fashion hijinks like raiding the girls cabins to steal their underpants and putting frogs in their cots and throwing bunkmates clothes up into the trees. But, it sure would have been a trip to have somebody like Tripper.

The film launched Bill Murray, who like Chevy Chase is a former original cast member of Saturday Night Live, as a leading actor and Ivan Reitman as a director. It tells the story of a lonely kid who is sent to summer camp and Murray's character, Tripper, takes the teen under his wing. But the red meat of this film is the camp's rivalry with the wealthy Camp Mohawk across the lake and a basketball grudge match where win or lose, "It just doesn't matter!"

In between the heart-warming tale of an awkward kid gaining confidence from Tripper's guidance and the showdown on the basketball court, is the predictable situations that arises when horny teenagers are forced to spend too much time in the sun.

Meatballs, just like National Lampoon's Vacation, is also listed as one of the Funniest American movies by the American Film Institute.

Plot: Wacky hijinks of counselors and campers at a less-than-average summer camp.

Cast: Bill Murray *say no more*

Favorite quotes:

  • Tripper: You must be the short depressed kid we ordered.
  • Tripper: And even if we win, if we win, HAH! Even if we win! Even if we play so far above our heads that our noses bleed for a week to ten days; even if God in Heaven above comes down and points his hand at our side of the field; even if every man woman and child held hands together and prayed for us to win, it just wouldn't matter because all the really good looking girls would still go out with the guys from Mohawk because they've got all the money! It just doesn't matter if we win or we lose. IT JUST DOESN'T MATTER!
  • Tripper: [on loudspeaker] Attention all campers, it's 9:30... and that's lights-out time here at Camp Northstar, 9:30 as you know. Tomorrow is parents day, and you must look rested or Morty will be sent to the state penitentiary.
  • Rudy: I saw you dancing with Roxanne. Tripper: Oh yeah? Well, she sort'a cornered me and there was nothing I could do without embarrassing her. Rudy: Do you like her? Tripper: Well I feel sorry for her, you know. She's got a glass eye. And, uh, I'm one of the few people who knows exactly which eye to look at when they're talking to her, so she's sort of fixated on me. Rudy: Well, I like her. Tripper: Well you're not exactly known for your taste. I'll probably just use her for the rest of the summer and then throw her on the scrap heap with all the rest of the women that I've destroyed.
  • Tripper: What's the matter? You're pacing like an expectant father with the clap.
  • Tripper: Important announcement - Some hunters have been seen in the woods near Piney Ridge trail and the fish and game commission has raised the legal kill limit on campers to three. So, if you're hiking today, please wear something bright and keep low.
  • Spaz: What's cookin' good lookin'? Girl Camper: Your fly's undone. Tripper: Hey Spaz, I was watchin' you out there. Looked like you had a chance there for a second.

Summer at the beach

I've lived most of my life in South Florida and have seen the annual hordes of tourists descend upon our golden beaches year after year. So, this film has a lot of scenes that ring true to those of us who have had to tolerate the snow birds crowding our beaches and restaurants.

John Candy stars as a stressed out air traffic controller who takes his family on a summer vacation to fictitious Citrus Cove Florida. Upon their arrival begins a series of problems, including moving into the wrong house, injuring his leg and getting into a dispute with pompous local a sailing champion played by Richard Crenna.

To avoid being evicted from the house where his family is staying, Candy's character, Jack Chester, must win a sailing regatta. The movie's plot and ending is as transparent as invisible ink, but Candy's charisma and comedic genius keeps this movie from ending up in Davy Jones Locker.

Plot: Jack Chester, an overworked air traffic controller, takes his family on vacation to the beach. Things immediately start to go wrong for the Chesters, and steadily get worse. Jack ends up in a feud with a local yachtsman, and has to race him to regain his pride and family's respect.

Cast: John Candy, Richard Crenna and Rip Torn

Favorite quotes:

  • Scully: Hey mate! Good to see you. What can I get ya? Jack Chester: How about... drunk.
  • Jack: Get the hell out of here now! Fat Man: You get out of here fella. I'm trying to watch the Smurfs. Jack: You're trying to watch the Smurfs? Fat Man: Yeah. Jack: Did you see the one where Papa Smurf took a crutch and smashed the shit out of a guy with a red hat? Did you see that one? You want to see that one? (Fat Man runs away.)
  • Vicki: Can I have your honest opinion about something? [lifts bikini top] Vicki: What do you think of these? Well, how do they look? Jack Chester: Uh, similar?

A drop dead good time

Screwball comedies have been around since the invention of the movie camera and there's nothing more screwy than two schlubs spending a weekend at a beach house trying to make everybody believe that their dead boss is still alive.

What I really dig about this film is that it's just fun. Yes, the plot and storyline are COMPLETELY ridiculous. And, watching it I couldn't stop thinking, "wouldn't a dead body start smelling pretty bad after a day or two being dragged around for a few days?"

Nonetheless, this film will leave you dying from laughter.

Plot: A pair of losers try to pretend that their murdered employer is really alive, but the murderer is out to "finish him off."

Cast: Andrew McCarthy, Jonathan Silverman and Catherine Mary Stewart

Favorite quotes:

  • Larry Wilson: What kind of a host invites you to his house for the weekend and dies on you?
  • Larry Wilson: How do you like that? The guy gets laid more times dead than I do alive.
  • Larry Wilson: God, that guy; beautiful apartment, house at the beach, babes, boat, car. Do you know how much it costs to park a car in Manhattan every month? More than my rent. Richard Parker: Well, I mean it's only fair. His car is a bit bigger than your apartment.
  • Richard Parker: Well, you're a half hour late. Larry Wilson: Only half hour? I'm usually forty-five minutes late. I'm early today.


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    • UnknownWon profile image

      Joe Smith 

      6 years ago from Parts Unknown

      This was an outstanding list you put! Especially kudos for leading off with National Lampoon's Vacation! Man these movies brought back so many memories!

    • smithed profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Thanks for liking my post.


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