10 Movies That Still Capture the Essence of Summer
Compiling a list of classic summer movies is simple; in fact, a significant portion of them have "summer" in the title. What's harder is remembering the movies that get summer right and manage to nail the nostalgia, malaise, and wonderment of our favorite season. Here's a list of ten movies that pinpoint summer's hazy identity. Some are perennial summer camp favorites, while others are more surprising (even shocking) inclusions.
Alfred Hitchcock's 1954 voyeuristic masterpiece features his best characters, funniest dialogue, greatest performances (James Stewart, Grace Kelly, and Thelma Ritter all mesmerize), and a sweltering languor that defines summer in New York. You don't need Hitch's repeated shots of a boiling thermometer -- which helpfully reflect the tension between Stewart and Kelly's characters -- to realize this is a film sluggish with sinister heat. At least that poor, snooping doggy across the courtyard died tipping off Grace and her detective skills.
It takes is one shot of Elizabeth Taylor (as Maggie "the Cat") slinking in a doorway to realize it's a scorching summer night in Tennessee Williams's overripe melodrama. While Suddenly, Last Summer is a more direct evocation of the season, it's simply too insane to compete with the slow-burn, heat-aided tension that erupts between Paul Newman and Liz. I hope we all sleep with someone named "Skippah" someday.
You can never hear enough about the thrills of Jaws. Whether you're on board for the unbeatable summer horror or the standout performances (Robert Shaw's USS Indianapolis monologue remains unreal), Jaws is one of classic you should feel secure in revisiting time and again. Just ask Emily Blunt!
Walter Matthau and Tatum O'Neal may have won Oscars for other movies, but make no mistake; Matthau is at the peak of his craft as the cantankerous Little League coach Morris Buttermaker, and O'Neal shines his tomboy star player, Amanda Whurltizer. While baseball is a prime summer movie draw, I most cherish here the "Who gives a shit, it's hot out" rancor of shortstop Tanner Boyle (Chris Barnes). I also love Joyce Van Patten's small part as a Little League manager who tells Buttermaker that "all the good [uniform] colors will be taken soon," including "maroon and white" and "white and maroon."
The definitive summer camp classic is not exactly an awesome one; Meatballs is notable for Bill Murray's screen debut as counselor Tripper Harrison, the kind of mess hall antics that delighted you before puberty, and the world of pranks that predates Camp Nowhere and Heavyweights by a generation. Still, it nails the morale and moribundity of camp.
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