Our favorite movies to inspire your summer, featuring ocean swells, romances in city parks, and Hawaiian getaways. Oh, and 1987 Patrick Swayze.
These films are full of steamy romances, white-crested waves, and plenty of sand: the key ingredients in any (wet, hot) American summer. Whether you want to be transported to a faraway land (Rome, Rajasthan, and Greece are all on the table) or get a dose of a quintessential American summer (day camps and theme parks should do the trick) Hollywood has a way of bringing summer vacation straight to your living room.
Location: North Shore, Hawaii
Anne-Marie (played by Kate Bosworth) and her surfboard star in this tropical, adrenaline-packed film. Romance, badass women in bikinis, and tropical Hawaiian beaches make this flick a fun ride to the Pacific.
Kings of Summer
Location: Chagrin Falls, Ohio
The forests of Ohio served as a verdant, woodsy backdrop for this nostalgic coming-of-age tale. In a summer between freshman and sophomore year of high school, friends Joe and Patrick, along with the odd tagalong Biaggio, build a house in the woods and live like free men.
Location: Valencia, California
The iconic family vacation movies of the late 80’s get a modern reboot, when a grown-up Rusty Griswold returns to take his wife and sons to Walley World. In typical Griswold-family fashion, over-the-top antics ensue.
500 Days of Summer
Location: Los Angeles, California
Hopeless romantic, Tom Hansen—played by the swoon-worthy Joseph Gordon-Levitt—falls in love with Summer. Summer Finn, that is. Quirky, wry humor colors this breezy love story.
Location: West Mifflin, Pennsylvania
James’ (Jesse Eisenberg) plans for a summer spent gallivanting around Europe crumble, leaving him at a dead-end job in a local amusement park. Fortunately, there’s a very attractive co-worker, played by Twilight star Kristin Stewart, to keep things thrilling.
Location: San Fernando Valley, California
Nothing says America in the summertime quite like kids playing baseball and lifeguards lounging by the local pool. “Every summer was great,” says Scotty Smalls. “But none of them ever came close to that first one.” This classic nineties flick is a home run.
Wet Hot American Summer
Location: Waterville, Maine
It’s the last day at Camp Firewood, and the counselors have a summer of sexual tension to address. There’s the obligatory talent show, of course, and the entire movie takes place in a single day. Fans are ecstatic about the prequel series, which just debuted this summer, and takes us all back to the first day of camp.
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
Location: Baja California, Mexico; South Carolina; Greece; Bethesda, Maryland
Four best friends stay connected during their first summer apart thanks to a pair of jeans that miraculously fits each one of the girls, despite drastically different body types. While Bridget and Lena offer viewers stunning views of Mexico and Greece, respectively, while Carmen and Tibby experience a classic summer in the American South.
Location: Bethel, New York
Travel back to the summer of ’69 and discover the true story of Elliot Tiber, whose parents owned El Monaco Resort in upstate New York. To save the motel from financial woes, Tiber holds a modest dirty dancing music festival, which becomes nothing short of a historic event in American history.
Location: Catskills, New York
A sleepy summer at an upscale mountain resort quickly turns into a season of sultry salsa sessions with the on-site dance instructor, Johnny—played by Patrick Swayze. When Baby (Jennifer Grey) enlists as his partner, the infatuation and intrigue begins. You can take our lead any day, Johnny.
Location: Coastal New England
Wes Anderson charms viewers once again with this offbeat tale of two prepubescent young lovers. Sam, a Khaki Scout at Camp Ivanhoe, falls in love with his pen pal, Suzy Bishop, who lives in a house nostalgically known as Summer’s End.
Location: Amity Island
A beach town is stricken with fear when a great white shark begins attacking vacationers. Despite by the gore, Jaws has become a cult classic, beloved by teenagers eager to up the ante on summertime skinny-dipping. If an adventurous getaway is your summer vacation dream, at least this film will give you a dose of adrenaline.
Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Location: Rajasthan, India
Retirement is not unlike a permanent summer vacation, and the British seniors who star in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel know how to live it up better than most. The group expects luxury, but still finds exoticism and leisure at the dingy hotel-palace in India. March saw the release of the sequel, aptly-named The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
Location: Rome, Italy
Nothing says summer like a crown princess touring Europe’s most stunning capitals. Forbidden love, ancient monuments, and Audrey Hepburn are all the reasons you need to take a cinematic trip to Rome on your sofa.