5) Psycho Beach Party
This movie is as ridiculous as it sounds – and then some. Starring two of the most underrated stars of the two of the best TV shows ever (Lauren Ambrose, Six Feet Under, and Nicholas Brendan, Buffy) and one of the most ridiculous actors ever (Greg from Dharma & Greg), Psycho Beach Party sets out to take the piss out of Gidget and all those other G-rated, ’60s surfer gals and does so, flamingly (Yes, I said flamingly – there are just so many drag queens in this movie). With the help of a gender-confused detective, an exchange student named Lars, a super-young Amy Adams and a ridiculous murder mystery, this flick turns the beach-side genre on it’s dismembered head. And I mean that in the best way.
When I was first putting together this list, I immediately wrote down Richard Linklater’s end-of-school 70s nostalgia opus, Dazed and Confused. But then I thought about it more, and I realized that while that movie rocks and rolls all night (and parties every day), it’s not really a summer movie. I mean, it only takes place on the first day of summer. And when you’re at the end of your summer, watching kids celebrate the beginning of their vacation is just kind of depressing. Not so upsetting – and equally awesome – is it’s late ’80s equivalent, last year’s underrated comedy Adventureland, which follows the underpaid college kids who work at a second-rate theme park. Said employees include SNL alums Bill Hader and Kristin Wiig (as a couple!), Martin Starr (a.k.a. Bill Haverchuck from Freaks and Geeks), Ryan Reynolds, Kristen Stewart and the boy I like to call the Michael Cera of the Jews, Jesse Eisenberg (Zombieland, The Social Network). And the soundtrack is guilty pleasure gold (Think “Rock Me Amadeus”and “Don’t Dream (It’s Over)”). Oh, and there are bananas wearing eye patches.
3) Man in the Moon / My Girl
Way before she was Elle Woods and June Carter Cash, Reese Witherspoon made a mini-splash with her performance as 14-year-old Dani in The Man in the Moon. Not to be confused with that movie with Jim Carrey about Andy Kaufman, Man in the Moon is a sweet little flick about two sisters (Witherspoon and Emily Whitfield) who fall for the same boy over the course of one ’50s summer. It’s simple, but moving, like watching a sunset on a wrap-around porch in the middle of August with a glass of sweet tea. Looking for a more comedic summer drama? Rent one of my personal faves, My Girl, which takes place a decade later and tells the story of a sassy tween tomboy who is experiencing her first brushes with life, love and death in the ‘burbs. Just make sure to keep your Kleenex handy for both.
2) Stand By Me
You’ve seen Jerry O’Connell get his dick ripped off in Piranha 3D, now watch him try to run from a moving train in his fat-boy pants (sadly, not in 3D). Aside from a pre-gym O’Connell, Stand By Me, features some of the most talented young actors of the 1980s – River Phoenix, Corey Feldman and Sheldon Cooper’s nemesis, Wil Wheaton. But it’s not the star power that makes it special. Stand By Me sounds creepy on paper (four boys go looking for a dead body in the woods), especially after you hear that it’s based on a Stephen King novel, but it’s really not at all. It’s really just about a few kids looking for adventure and finding themselves. If that doesn’t scream summer to your inner 13-year-old boy, I don’t know what will.
1) Wet Hot American Summer
“If I had to pick movie to take on the role of director of the summer camp movie section of my heart, it would most definitely be the hot mess that is Wet Hot American Summer...To put it in sleepaway camp terms, Wet Hot American Summer is the dry comedy equivalent of a hot s’more on a Wednesday night. It doesn’t seem quite right, but it so is…The movie takes us back to 1981, where campers, counselors and activities captains are celebrating/mourning the last day of their summer at Camp Firewood. Over the course of the day, they do what every camp does before saying goodbye for the year: play capture the flag, have a talent show, almost play in a camp-to-camp softball tourney, go hiking, have an afternoon swim, make-out in the forest, go on a midday cocaine run, hold a gay wedding in the lake and fend off a renegade piece of the SKYLAB space station heading for the camp rec room using a Dungeons and Dragons die.”