Escape the Heat at Home With the 50 Best Summer Movies of All Time!

Best Summer Movies

During summer, most of us take advantage of getting outside, eating ice cream and enjoying the beach. But what is summer without a few blockbusters and romantic flings on the big screen?

Thankfully, a great tradition of American filmmaking is to romanticize the season and write countless storylines set in the months between May and September. Summer is a supporting character in horror films, romantic comedies, buddy comedies, Old Hollywood films, coming-of-age stories, romances—you name it. Which means there are plenty of summer movies from years past worth watching right now.

Here’s something else about movies that were summertime hits: Many of them have sequels. So, for example, if you decide to get in on some Mamma Mia action one night, why not make it a double-feature? You can do the same with both Parent Trap movies. There is also the entire Jaws franchise, in case you miss the days when a shark attack was your biggest summertime worry.

Get into the spirit with our list of the 50 best summer movies of all time. To whittle down the list, we looked at movies about summer and movies that came out in summer and hit it big, becoming iconic of the summer in which they were released.

Best Summer Movies of All Time

50. Adventureland (2009)

In the summer of 1987, James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg) has just graduated college. He’s planned an epic trip to Europe before he begins graduate school, but he’s forced to take a summer job at an amusement park called Adventureland instead. There, he meets his coworker, Emily Lewin (Kristen Stewart), with whom he ends up finding a summer adventure of his own. This movie comes from the same crude place as Superbad and Knocked Up, so if you’ve had too much dumb-dude humor, you can skip this one.

49. Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)

Peter Bretter is a struggling musician who’s really only known as the boyfriend of TV star Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell). When she dumps him, he takes a trip to Hawaii and realizes that his ex is at the same resort. This is one of those movies with a plot that you could have easily predicted, but what’s a fun summer movie without an element of predictability?

Related: The Best Movies of 2023, So Far

48. Little Darlings (1980)

Angel (Kristy McNichol) and Ferris (Tatum O’Neal) come from opposite backgrounds, but they end up at the same summer camp. They end up in a contest to see who can lose her virginity first. This (perhaps ill-advised) game leads to self-exploration that neither girl is expecting.

47. The Seven Year Itch (1955)

In the middle of a summer heat weave, Richard Sherman (Tom Ewell) sends his wife, Evelyn (Helen Keyes) and their son to Maine. Richard stays back at their family apartment, where he meets an unnamed model (let’s analyze that sexism) played by Marilyn Monroe and becomes infatuated. This is the film featuring the iconic scene with the white dress over the subway grate (the original scene, not the recreation in The House Bunny).

Related: The Best Songs about Summer

46. Friday the 13th (1980)

Crystal Lake has a track record for murder, but for some reason someone thought it was a good idea to set up a summer camp there. Jack (Kevin Bacon), Alice (Adrienne King), Bill (Harry Crosby), Marcie (Jeannine Taylor) and Ned (Mark Nelson) ignore the warnings of locals and find themselves running from a brutal killer.

45. Summer Catch (2001)

Ah, back to the days when Freddie Prinze Jr. was in a coming-of-age romantic comedy. This story features Prinze Jr. as a minor league baseball pitcher named Ryan Dunne who meets Tenley Parrish (Jessica Biel), the daughter of a wealthy family vacationing for the summer on Cape Cod. Their families aren’t thrilled, but the two fall in love. Meanwhile, Ryan, who comes from a poor background and has far fewer options for his future than Tenley, hopes for one more chance to get noticed by professional scouts.

44. Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)

Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) go to Spain for a vacation at their friend Judy (Patricia Clarkson)’s home. While there, they meet a painter Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem), who invites them to join him for a weekend. Both friends, who couldn’t be more different, become enamored with Juan. When his ex-wife, Maria Elena (Penélope Cruz) bursts onto the scene, things become far more complicated.

Related: Fun Summer Date Ideas

43. The Baby-Sitter's Club (1995)

Kristy Thomas (Schuyler Fisk) and her six best friends decide to embark on a summer entrepreneurial project via the Baby-sitter’s Club, a summer day camp. A group of adults tries to shut down the business, but like any determined business-owner, these teens aren’t going to back down. You can also catch the The Baby-Sitter’s Club series on Netflix.

42. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (2005)

Ann Brashares’s book was adapted into a screenplay by Delia Ephron and stars Amber Tamblyn, Alexis Bledel, America Ferrera and Blake Lively as four friends in suburban Maryland who discover that one pair of pants fits all of their very different bodies. They spend their summer apart, but the magical jeans, which they send to each other, keep them connected.

41. 500 Days of Summer (2009)

Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a greeting-card writer whose head is filled with romantic ideas. When he meets Summer (Zooey Deschanel) she fulfills his greatest dreams of a partner. But when Summer dumps him, he is absolutely brokenhearted. As any sad, nostalgic person might, Tom goes through the 500 days of their relationship to try to find where it went bad.

40. Mamma Mia (2008)

In 2008, the popular Broadway play was adapted into a film starring Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried, Christine Baranski, Julie Walters, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgård and more. We see Streep as Donna, a single mom who owns an inn on an island in Greece. Her 20-year-old daughter, Sophie (Seyfried) is getting married and secretly invites all three men who could be her dad.

39. Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again (2018)

Ten years later, we got the sequel to this film, which flashes back to Donna (Lily James) after she graduates college and searches for adventure. The real adventure in her life, it turns out, is her daughter.

38. Summertime (1955)

Jane Hudson (Katharine Hepburn) has never found the person she wants to be with, and she decides that she’ll be alone forever. She decides to use her savings to take a trip to Venice, where she ends up meeting Renato De Rossi, with whom she falls in love. She finds out, though, that Renato isn’t exactly a single man, and she has to decide whether to invest in her own happiness or severely hurt someone else. This movie seems like the blueprint for both Under the Tuscan Sun (2003) and The Bridges of Madison County (1995): Italy, a single woman secure in her independence but finds love instead, infidelity, deciding between love and eternal loneliness, etc.

Related: Funny Summer Puns

37. Stand By Me (1986)

Gordon "Gordie" Lachance (Wil Wheaton) reads in the newspaper that his friend Chris Chambers (River Phoenix) has died. This takes us to a flashback to the summer of 1959, when Gordie, Chris, and their friends were 12 years old and went looking for the body of a missing boy in Castle Rock, Oregon. Along their journey, they meet more challenges—including but not limited to leeches—than they could have anticipated and all do a lot of growing up.

36. I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)

On the Fourth of July in 1997, Julie James (Jennifer Love Hewitt) and her friends Ray Bronson (Freddie Prinze Jr.), Helen Shivers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and Barry Cox (Ryan Phillippe) are on their way to the beach when they hit a pedestrian with their car. The group decides to dump the body in the water and never talk about the incident again. The following summer, Julie receives a letter, with no return address, that reads, “I know what you did last summer!” As Julie and her friends try to get to the bottom of who sent the letter, they suddenly become the ones who are in grave danger.

35. Call My By Your Name (2017)

In the summer of 1983, 17-year-old Elio Perlman (Timothée Chalamet) is staying with his family at their chalet in Lombardy, Italy. His father’s assistant, a doctoral student named Oliver (Armie Hammer), comes to stay with the family and soon Oliver and Elio fall in love. As the summer comes to a close, it becomes apparent that their love is the kind that neither will forget. Also featuring an iconic broody fireplace scene and a peach that should have gotten a nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

Related: New Netflix Original Movies for Summer 2022

34. Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

When Olive Hoover (Abigail Breslin) learns she has qualified for the Little Miss Sunshine pageant in Redondo Beach, California, the whole family makes a road trip from their home in New Mexico. The dysfunctional group includes Sheryl Hoover (Toni Collette), Olive’s mother; Olive’s uncle, Frank (Steve Carell), who’s living with the family because he has recently attempted suicide; Olive’s father, Richard (Greg Kinnear), an aspiring motivational speaker; her half-brother, Dwayne (Paul Dano); and her grandfather, Edwin (Alan Arkin), who was kicked out of his nursing home for snorting heroine. Together, they go on a road trip to help Olive accomplish her dream, but, along the way, they all end up coming together as a family in ways that anyone who meets them might deem impossible.

33. Crazy Rich Asians (2018)

Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) is a successful professor of game theory and economics at NYU and has a healthy relationship with her boyfriend, Nick Young (Henry Golding). Nick invites Rachel to come along with him to attend his best friend’s wedding in Singapore and meet his family. She’s excited to go, especially because she can reconnect with her eccentric college best friend, Peik Lin (Awkwafina). But what Rachel doesn’t know is that Nick’s family is an incredibly wealthy powerhouse. She learns that she is not the woman that Nick’s mother (Michelle Yeoh) had in mind for her son, and that all eyes at this wedding—and in Singapore—are on her.

32. The Notebook (2004)

In 1940s South Carolina, Noah Calhoun (Ryan Gosling), a working-class boy and Allie Hamilton (Rachel McAdams), a girl from a wealthy family, meet and fall in love. Allie’s family disapproves of Noah and fears that this romance will throw her off her path of college and marriage to a suitable man. After their split, Noah is drafted to fight in World War II, and Allie meets and gets engaged to Lon Hammond (James Marsden). When Noah returns from war and reconnects with Allie just before her wedding, they realize their love for each other is still very much alive.

31. How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1998)

Stella (Angela Bassett) and her best friend Delilah (Whoopi Goldberg) head to Jamaica for a vacation, where Stella, a hard-working career woman, meets Winston (Taye Diggs), who’s significantly younger than her. As the vacation comes to a close, Stella has to come to terms with whether she should keep up this relationship—considering distance and the age disparity—or let it go and return back to her normal life.

30. Mystic Pizza (1988)

Julia Roberts made her breakthrough in this coming-of-age film set in a little town called Mystic, Connecticut. Daisy (Roberts), her sister Kat (Annabeth Gish), and her friend Jojo (Lili Taylor), all work at a pizza restaurant called Mystic Pizza in the summer after they’ve graduated high school. They all face romances, choices and formative experiences that prove that adult life for them has already begun.

29. Crooklyn (1994)

This Spike Lee-directed movie follows the story of 9-year-old Troy Carmichael (Zelda Harris) who lives in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn with her parents and four brothers. After some conflict in her home and neighborhood, Troy’s parents send her to spend the summer with her affluent aunt and uncle in the South. When she returns, she learns that a loved one is gravely ill, and she has no other choice but to grow up quickly.

Related: Party in the USA! 50 Songs About America to Add to Your Independence Day Playlist

28. The Bridges of Madison County (1995)

This adaptation of James Waller’s 1992 book features Meryl Streep as Francesca Johnson, an Iowa housewife who left her native Italy after meeting her husband during World War II. In the early 1960s, when her husband and kids go to the Iowa State Fair for four days, she meets a traveling National Geographic photographer named Robert Kincaid (Clint Eastwood). They realize their stories were meant to diverge, and Francesca has to decide if she should leave her family to start life with her true love or stay and remain committed to life on the farm. The whole movie is framed in a flashback from the 1990s, when her grown children learn about their mother’s secret affair after her death.

27. Something's Gotta Give (2003)

Harry Sanborn is a womanizing music mogul who habitually dates women under the age of 30. When he and his 29-year-old girlfriend Marin (Amanda Peet) head to her mother’s beach house in the Hamptons for a romantic weekend, they discover that Marin’s mother, playwright Erica Barry (Diane Keaton), and her sister, Zoe (Frances McDormand), are also there. The four try to coexist, but Harry has a heart attack that lands him in the hospital, and subsequently, on bedrest at Erica’s home. Erica and Harry, now alone at the house, get past their surface-level differences and move into an unexpected romance, which throws them both for a significant loop.

26. Clueless (1995)

Cher (Alicia Silverstone) has everything a high school girl in a ’90s movie could want: She’s popular, rich and has access to all the cutest clothes. When a new girl named Tai (Brittany Murphy) moves to town and starts school with Cher in Beverly Hills, Cher decides to make Tai her social project. Soon, this plan backfires when Tai becomes more popular than Cher and falls in love with Cher’s college-age ex-stepbrother, Josh (Paul Rudd), just when Cher realizes she also has a major crush on him.

25. The Parent Trap (1961) and The Parent Trap (1998)

In the 1961 version of this film, Hayley Mills stars as Sharon McKendrick and Susan Evers, twins who, as babies, were split apart when their parents separated. They meet and get to know each other at summer camp when they are both disciplined in an isolated cabin and realize that they, in fact, are twins. They plot a way to swap places (Susan goes to Boston and Sharon to California) and get their parents back together. The 1998 Nancy Meyers remake of this film is basically the same, except the twins are both played by Lindsay Lohan, their names are Annie and Hallie, and London subs in for Boston, because the girls’ mom (Natasha Richardson) is British.

24. American Graffiti (1973)

This film, cowritten and directed by George Lucas, is based on Lucas’s own teenage years growing up in Modesto, California. Curt (Richard Dreyfuss), Steve (Ronny Howard), Terry (Charles Martin Smith) and John (Paul Le Mat) try to make adventure happen on their last night of freedom after high school together before their real lives begin. It also stars Mackenzie Phillips (Carol), Candy Clark (Debbie) and Cindy Williams (Laurie).

23. Real Women Have Curves (2002)

Eighteen-year-old Ana García (America Ferrera), is a high school student in Beverly Hills who dreams of going to college, but her family struggles financially and can’t support her. They think she should stay home and work instead of pursuing an education. Ana and her mother make a compromise: She can spend the summer working with her mom in a sewing factory while she figures out what to do next and learns some eye-opening life lessons in the meantime.

22. The River Wild (1994)

Meryl Streep stars as Gail Hartman, an experienced whitewater rafter who takes her son, Roarke (Joseph Mazzello) on a rafting trip down the Salmon River in Idaho. What is supposed to be a tame trip turns into a harrowing escape attempt from a group of killers headed by a man named Wade (Kevin Bacon). The twist? They’ve gone off course to a dangerous part of the river, and Gail is the only one who can lead everyone—including these dangerous murderers—to safety.

21. Midsommar (2019)

A couple travels to Sweden to experience the seemingly quaint midsummer festival, but throw in a pagan cult, and things get much darker than these naive tourists realized. It stars Florence Pugh.

20. Independence Day (1996)

During Fourth of July weekend in 1996, alien forces attack the earth. Computer expert David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) and Marine Corps Capt. Steven Hiller (Will Smith) are on a mission to overcome these evil forces and save the entire world.

19. Girl's Trip (2017)

Four best friends who call themselves the Flossy Posse have grown apart, but when Ryan (Regina Hall) is asked to be the keynote speaker at the Essence Festival in New Orleans, Sasha (Queen Latifah), Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Dina (Tiffany Haddish) decide to join her for a weekend of fun and bonding. They also rediscover how to have fun (drinking, dancing, possibly pushing the envelope on public urination laws, etc.).

18. Weekend at Bernie's (1989)

Richard (Jonathan Silverman) and Larry (Andrew McCarthy) are invited by their boss, Bernie (Terry Kisner) to spend the weekend at his home. What Bernie fails to tell them is that he has committed fraud and has worked out a deal with a mob partner, Vito (Louis Giambalvo) to have Richard and Larry killed. Bernie’s whole plan backfires when Vito decides he’s going to kill Bernie instead. Richard and Larry show up at Bernie’s house and find him dead, but they realize they don’t have time to call the cops before guests arrive for Bernie’s weekly party. To protect themselves and keep the party going, Richard and Larry decide to keep up the charade that Bernie is still alive and hope that no one notices he’s not.

17. Caddyshack (1980)

Danny Noonan (Michael O’Keefe) works at the exclusive Bushwood Country Club to raise money for college. As part of his plan to earn a scholarship for caddies, Danny volunteers to caddy for a wealthy and prominent club member, Judge Elihu Smails (Ted Knight). As he prepares for the Caddy Day tournament, Danny picks up life lessons from the forgetful and somewhat zany Ty Webb (Chevy Chase).

16. Endless Summer (1966)

Documentarian and surfer Bruce Brown follows surfers Michael Hynson and Robert August as they hang ten around the world and search for the sometimes elusive, always desired “perfect wave.”

15. Do the Right Thing (1989)

Salvatore “Sal” Fragione (Danny Aiello) is an Italian pizza shop owner in a predominately Black neighborhood of Brooklyn who is confronted by Buggin Out (Giancarlo Esposito) when he sees that the shop only features photos of Italian movie stars instead of Black actors. Soon, this wall becomes a symbol of systematic racism and hate. Things get heated and racial tensions rise among the characters on the hottest day of the summer in this Spike Lee film.

Related: From Toy Story to Finding Dory, We Ranked Every Pixar Movie Ever Released

14. National Lampoon's Vacation (1983)

Clark and Ellen Griswold (Chevy Chase) and their children (Dana Barron and Anthony Michael Hall) drive from Illinois to a California amusement park. Along the way, they run up against car problems, the death of a family member, and more, but the often unrealistic Clark is determined to give his family the perfect summer vacation.

13. The Goonies (1985)

A group of misfits kids living in Astoria, Oregon decide to get together for one last weekend of adventure before their homes are foreclosed to make room for an expanding country club. When they are in the attic of Mikey Walsh (Sean Astin)’s home, they find an old-fashioned treasure map, which leads the group on a journey in which they come up against a crime family and several other scary obstacles. It also stars Josh Brolin, Corey Feldman, Jeff Cohen and Martha Plimpton.

12. Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)

When this movie came out in the summer of 1986, it was an instant hit. Matthew Broderick stars as a high school senior who puts together an elaborate plan to convince his parents and most of his peers that he is deathly ill so that he can skip school. His principal Edward Rooney (Jeffrey Jones) suspects that Ferris is faking his illness and sets out trying to catch him in the act. Meanwhile, Ferris brings his neurotic best friend Cameron Frye (Alan Ruck) and his girlfriend Sloane Peterson (Mia Sara) along for the ride as they have the time of their lives in Chicago.

11. Grease (1978)

Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) and Danny (John Travolta) have a summer romance on the beach but part ways when Sandy has to go back home to Australia. In a twist of fate, Sandy’s family ends up staying in California and Sandy starts school with Danny at Rydell High, where they are both seniors. But the Danny that Sandy knew over the summer is not the same Danny that owns the halls of Rydell with his cool-guy buddies, “the Greasers.” Can Sandy, a goody-goody, and Danny, a “bad” boy, make it work now that summer’s over? Although most of this movie doesn’t take place during the summer, it premiered in June 1978 and was the highest-grossing movie-musical of all time until it was bested by Mamma Mia (2008) 30 years later.

10. Beaches (1988)

Hillary (Barbara Hershey) and CC (Bette Midler) meet when they are kids vacationing on the boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey. They remain friends as adults, and though they are far apart in distance (Hillary is a successful lawyer in California and CC is a singer in New York City), they are always there for each other through the ups and downs that life presents. Cue “Wind Beneath My Wings,” which Midler recorded for this movie.

9. Ghostbusters (2016)

This remake of the 1984 original movie features an all-female cast of ghostbusters, scientists and other experts who work to eliminate the ghosts that haunt New York City. Kate McKinnon, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones and Melissa McCarthy all star.

8. Booksmart (2019)

Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) are best friends who have always been academic overachievers so they could get into the schools of their dreams. Just before graduation, though, they learn that all the kids who slacked off in high school also got into top-notch schools. In an effort to get all of their wild energy out in one night, they plan to attend the biggest party of the year but end up getting into even more antics along the way.

7. Wet Hot American Summer (2001)

In 1981, Camp Firewood, a summer camp located in Waterville, Maine, is about to have its last day of camp. The counselors have one day to get out a summer’s worth of pent-up sexual frustrations, anxiety over upcoming separations, and the perfect talent-show performances. It starred Michael Showalter, Amy Poehler, Elizabeth Banks, Janeane Garofalo, Paul Rudd and more.

6. The Graduate (1967)

Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) is a recent college graduate who has no idea what he is doing with this life (though at least one person suggests “plastics, plastics, plastics”). He goes home to his parents’ house for the summer when he is seduced by Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), a friend of his parents. But things get complicated when Benjamin develops feelings for Mrs. Robinson’s daughter, Elaine (Katharine Ross).

5. Now and Then (1995)

Roberta Martin (Rosie O'Donnell), Samantha Albertson (Demi Moore) and Tina "Teeny" Tercell (Melanie Griffith) come home to be with their friend Chrissy DeWitt Williams (Rita Wilson) before she gives birth to her first child. During their reunion, they reminisce about their childhood and the summer of 1970, when they all began to grow up. Christina Ricci, Gaby Hoffmann, Thora Birch and Ashleigh Aston Moore, respectively, play the women as pre-teens in the flashback.

4. The Sandlot (1993)

Scotty Smalls (Thomas Guiry) moves to a new town and meets a group of boys who play baseball his neighborhood. He can’t catch or throw a baseball, but the groups’ leader, Benny Rodridguez, invites him to join the Sandlot anyway. When Smalls borrows a Babe Ruth-autographed baseball from his stepdad that he accidentally hits over the fence into the yard that is guarded by an English Mastiff called the “the Beast,” the boys’ true bravery is tested.

3. Ghostbusters (1984)

After a team of scientists lose their positions at NYU, they decide to start their own business and call themselves the “ghostbusters.” Their mission is to do battle and extinguish the supernatural (“Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters!”). It starred Ernie Hudson, Harold Ramis, Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray).

2. Dirty Dancing (1987)

In Dirty Dancing, Baby (Jennifer Grey) is spending the summer with her parents in the Catskills, which isn’t exactly her idea of a fun summer. When she meets Johnny (Patrick Swayze), the resort’s dance instructor, he enlists her to be his dance partner for the last big dance of the summer, and they fall in love. Baby’s father (Jerry Orbach) forbids her to see Johnny, but, as everyone knows, “nobody puts Baby in a corner.”

1. Jaws (1975)

A young woman is killed by a shark while she is skinny-dipping in a New England tourist town. Police chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) wants to close the beaches, but the mayor, Larry Vaughn (Murray Hamilton), overrules him because he’s afraid of losing tourism money. Ichthyologist Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and Captain Quint (Robert Shaw) offer to help Chief Brody capture the giant shark and save the whole community.

In the mood to watch a Disney movie now? 15 of the best animated films are available on Disney+!