Summer is traditionally a time to be outdoors and enjoy time with friends and family. It can also be a time to huddle on the couch later at night to enjoy some humorous, adventurous and patriotic movies. When I think about summer, I am filled with wonderful memories. Often these memories are intertwined with movies that mirror my experiences and inspire and make me laugh today.
For the first three years of my career I marketed and sold movies to Parks and Recreation departments around the nation to show to their community. It was always fun to create summer movie schedules that would help bring people together at their local parks. Over those years there have been many movies that have stood out among the rest. This list is compiled of movies that personally have meant a lot to me and I hope you will enjoy them this summer too. I have chosen not to include animated films in this list and have arranged these by topic as well as individual movies.
1. The Great Outdoors (1988)
Nothing says summer vacation like an upper midwest lake house trip with John Candy and Dan Aykroyd.
2. National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)
Only the most dedicated dad like Clark Griswold wouldn’t let a dead Aunt Edna ruin their pilgrimage to Walley World. This is by far one of the funniest prayers you will ever hear.
3. Stand by Me (1986)
Some of the finest moments in life can be found around a campfire and debating what kind of animal or person Goofy is. Good story, Vern. It is also hard to imagine how Stephen Kind could have written such a poignant coming of age story from the 1950s.
4. The Goonies (1985)
If you grew up in the 80s there was no way to miss The Goonies. There are only a few who are able to direct such great comedies with kids. Richard Donner and Steven Spielberg created a 1980s masterpiece. “Goonies never say die.”
5. Baseball movies: Sandlot (1993), The Natural (1994), Pride of the Yankees (1942) and Field of Dreams (1994)
From Sandlot, there is no better insult from back in the day than “You play ball like a girl.”
One of the finest endings to a baseball movie ever and the memorable soundtrack creates Roy Hobbs to become a legend. “Go pick me out a winner, Bobby”
You don’t have to be a Yankee fan to appreciate Lou Gehrig’s speech. “Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”
In the conclusion to Field of Dreams, there is no man who will not cry after watching this scene.
6. Golf: Tin Cup (1986) and Caddyshack (1980)
Roy McAvoy played by Kevin Costner is full with outlandish challenges on the golf course. “Did you ever shoot par with a 7-iron?”
If you have ever played golf, there is little chance that you didn’t hear someone mimicking Bill Murray saying ,”Cinderella story, outta nowhere about to become the Masters Champion.”
7. Beach: One Crazy Summer (1986), Weekend at Bernie’s (1989), and Jaws (1975)
If you ever want revenge on rich islanders, send in Godzilla.
I’ve always loved Weekend at Bernie’s because for years we have vacationed in Bald Head Island, where this was filmed.
Roy Scheider’s line, “You’re going to need a bigger boat.” is one of the most quoted lines in movie history. Jaws defined what a summer beach blockbuster looks like.
8. Camping: Meatballs (1979), White Water Summer (1987)
Along with John Belushi’s epic motivational speech in Animal House, Bill Murray matches it here in Meatballs.
“Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” serves as an extreme outdoor guide who brings a group of four city boys to survive the wilderness.
9. Military: Glory (1989) and Born on the Fourth of July (1989), John Adams HBO Miniseries (2008), and The Patriot (2000)
This campfire scene prior to the battle to take Fort Wagner is one of the most beautiful and emotional scenes showing the spirit of the colored 54th Massachusetts Regiment.
Although a controversial movie, it is perhaps Tom Cruise’s finest performance. “People say that if you don’t love America, then get the hell out. Well, I love America.”
In the epic HBO miniseries based on David McCullough’s Pulitzer Prize winning book, John Adams, Paul Giamatti plays our founding father and in this scene, he shares his perspective on the declaration of independence.
Essentially this movie is “Braveheart-American style” but still an enjoyable depiction of The Revolutionary War in the South.
10. Armageddon (1998) and Independence Day (1996)
To round-out the summer films the 1990s brought a slew of space-apocalyptic films. There is nothing better than this astronaut evaluation scene in Armageddon.
Despite this being a science fiction film, this is by far one of the finest American President speeches. Even historian Bill Bennett refers to this in his book The American Patriot’s Almanac.
Honorable mention: Dirty Dancing, Forrest Gump, What about Bob?, Beach Blanket Bingo, Endless Summer, Splash, Step Into Liquid, Summer Rental, and Roman Holiday.
What are your favorite summer movies?