Pencils, textbooks, teachers and dirty stares aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. This is the time of year when you should be celebrating. Summer vacation is upon us! We’ve decided to dedicate this week’s Total Recall to movies about summer vacation in honor of our common desire to clock out of work, load the family into the minivan, and head off to sunny adventures. Obviously, there are some classics on our list, but we also wanted to make sure you got a good mix of comedies, dramas, dances, and even a bit sci-fi. The summer is almost around the corner.
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1. Dirty Dancing (1987) 69%
Despite the fact that Emile Ardolino didn’t use actual mountains of cheese to represent the Catskills in the making of Dirty Dancing, the film’s story of a brooding dance instructor (Patrick Swayze) who falls in love with a rich teenage guest (Jennifer Grey) in the summer of 1963 is rife with obscene dialog and implausible plot devices. As stated by Steve Rhodes in his review of the film, “the film’s redeeming grace is that fully a third of the picture involves the performers dancing rather than talking,” there lies an endearingly honest heart beneath the schmaltz.
2. The Endless Summer (1966) 100%
Growing older and taking on obligations that can’t be put on hold for three months means that summer no longer has the same promise of fun and freedom for many of us. What if you could not only relive that carefree summer mood, but maintain it throughout the year? What does Bruce Brown’s iconic documentary, which follows a pair of surfers (Mike Hynson and Robert August) as they pursue the summer surfing season across the globe, ask? . The Endless Summer has a great soundtrack and Brown’s direction was pioneering for the genre at the time, but it’s also a lot of fun. “You can’t help but laugh and feel wonderful while witnessing their lighter antics,” observed Filmcritic’s Christopher Null.
3. Last Summer (1969) 78%
As a teenager, summer is generally considered as a period of reinvention — an opportunity to try new experiences and adopt new behaviors away from the criticism of their classmates. In Frank Perry’s Last Summer, four naive teenagers (played by Barbara Hershey, Bruce Davison, Richard Thomas, and Catherine Burns, who received an Oscar nomination) are put through their paces on a Fire Island vacation that tests their deepest and most selfish desires. Critics like Roger Ebert, who said, “There are wonderful movies about other people’s lives, but rarely a movie that recalls, if only for a scene or two, the sensation and flavor of life the way you remember,” were drawn to the film’s brutal honesty, despite its X rating.
4. Meatballs (1979) 72%
The formula for a camp comedy is simple, but with the appropriate components, it may be a hit. This harmlessly bawdy look at a week in the life of Camp North Star, where Tripper (Murray) helps a misfit camper (Chris Makepeace) come out of his shell just in time to give the affluent kids over at Camp Mohawk a taste of their own medicine, is a perfect example of this. It doesn’t matter if there isn’t much structure here, says Filmcritic’s Pete Croatto, because the actors is so pleasant and upbeat.
5. Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation (1962) 80%
Jimmy Stewart went through his own rather unpleasant family vacation decades before Chevy Chase blundered his way across the country in National Lampoon’s Vacation. Stewart’s Mr. Hobbs is forced to “relax” by warding off bats, fixing a water pump, and bribing a teenage guy (played by Fabian) to pay attention to his brace-faced daughter while surrounded by a mismatched brood that includes four children (two of which are married with children of their own). “Stewart’s performance alone makes this an engaging film,” Reel’s James Plath said in his review of the film.
6. National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983) 93%
National Lampoon’s Vacation is a reassuring (and hysterical) reminder that you are not the only one who has experienced the agony of a family vacation gone awry. Many of Chevy Chase’s funniest and most memorable scenes (as well as some of his most memorable phrases) were found in the original Vacation. Dave Kehr of the Chicago Reader couldn’t help but laugh at the film’s “despite plenty of gross-out gags and silly slapstick moments, the keen observer can occasionally discover some caustic and innovative satire in this 1983 film.”
7. One Crazy Summer (1986) 45%
Savage Better Off Dead director Steve Holland and John Cusack collaborated again on this equally crazy but uneven tale of an aspiring cartoonist who spends the summer after high school in Nantucket, where he gets caught up in the singer (Demi Moore) and her quest to save her grandfather’s home from a wealthy local family. Despite this, the film is still a good time. In spite of its lovely cast (including Curtis Armstrong as the unforgettable Ack Ack Raymond) and positive reviews from critics like Gregory Weinkauf of the New Times, who inquired, “Remember fun?,” One Crazy Summer failed to generate much excitement at the box office. That’s what this film does.
8. On Golden Pond (1981) 93%
Using Ernest Thompson’s novel about a lakeside family vacation to create an onscreen parallel to her own father-daughter connection — and the film’s eventual star — Jane Fonda pulled off an amazing feat of art imitating life. Despite the fact that some critics found the film’s scenes of beautifully photographed wilderness and long overdue family bonding to be overly sentimental, most scribes couldn’t deny the power of its expertly assembled cast. On Golden Pond went on to gross over $100 million and earn 10 Academy Award nominations, including Henry Fonda (in his final role) and Katharine Hepburn winning Best Actor and Best Actress. In times when it seems as though the entire society has spiritually decamped to Hollywood, the film offers the promise that individuals can return home — if only for a visit,” said Richard Schickel of Time.
9. SpaceCamp (1986) 42%
Rather than make a movie about kids spending their summer at a NASA space camp dull, this 1986 action film (based on a novel by Patrick Bailey and Larry B. Williams) added a sentient robot who, upon hearing one of the campers (Joaquin Phoenix) fantasize about going to space, decides to grant his wish. The result is a fun family movie. Despite receiving mixed reviews and being released just four months after the Challenger disaster, SpaceCamp managed to please critics like Nina Darnton of the New York Times, who was searching for a “cheerful, optimistic space-age film” and “a wholesome and fun-filled summers distraction.”
10. Summer of ’42 (1971) 79%
As a period piece about sexually preoccupied youths in the 1940s, Summer of ’42 isn’t quite like Porky’s; instead it’s an affectionate look back at the formative years of screenwriter Herman Raucher on Nantucket Island, where he acquired some enduring lessons about love and friendship. One of the most successful films of the 1970s, Summer made $20 million on a $1 million budget, and Raucher’s novelization of his screenplay was a smash success in the bookshop, sparking interest in the film even before it hit the screens. For the New York Times’ Vincent Canby, Summer of ’42 is “a memory movie,” in which the characters are all played with such extraordinary good humor that the film’s beautiful soft-focus is not going to deter the viewer until they start studying it afterwards.