33 Sweltering Summer Movies That Will Make Your Shirt Stick To Your Back

By Joanna Robinson | Seriously Random Lists | July 10, 2013 | Comments ()


There’s a difference, of course, between a “summer blockbuster” and a movie that just *feels* like summer. Sure watching a beloved National institution get blown to Smithsonian smithereens evokes summer memories. As do certain Will Smith songs and action figure-y merchandise. But then there are the films that make you sweat a little just by looking at them. You’ll feel fireflies in your stomach and little beads of condensation will well up on the lemonade glass in your soul. Or something. Here are my picks, including two that are currently in limited release. They aren’t really ranked except for the final two. Which are the best. Feel free to add yours below.

The Wackness: Great soundtrack and even greater performance from Ben Kingsley and, oh yes, even one of the Olsen twins.

Stealing Beauty: Nothing dials those summer feelings up to eleven like a Tuscan setting. Liv Tyler is absolutely sumptuous in this quiet story of sexual awakening. Rachel Weisz ain’t so bad herself.

To Kill A Mockingbird: Though this film doesn’t take place only in the summer (there’s a Halloween pageant after all), there’s something about Southern porches, visiting friends, sweltering courtrooms and boiling tensions that makes me associate it with the hotter months.

The Way Way Back: As Dan mentioned in his review, this film doesn’t really come into focus until Sam Rockwell shows up. But there have been shakier, less charismatic tentpoles to hang a movie on.

The Seven Year Itch: If you were stuck in New York during a heat wave, you’d stand over a subway grate too.
Screen Shot 2013-07-09 at 8.56.49 PM.png

Little Children: Much of Todd Field’s uncomfortable, anxious film takes place poolside and the summery setting only heightens the childlike behavior of Winslet and Wilson’s characters. A fantastic, dark film that both resonates with and bumps up against the hot, sticky setting.

Summer School: An all-time favorite guilty pleasure, this 80s underdog story is the only reason I understand my grandma’s fascination with “NCIS.”

Dog Day Afternoon: Oh god, I want to turn a cold hose on everyone in this film.

Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead: Quitting your sh*tty summer job and having unsupervised reign of the house? Yes please. Right on top of THAT.

My Girl: Despite the heart-slicing ending, My Girl perfectly captures what it means to have a best friend, a bike and nothing but wide open days. So lovely.

Raising Victor Vargas: A slow, amateurish film, this 2002 Sundance darling embodies what a lot of people despise about independent cinema. But the performance from the lead actor, Victor Rasuk, is electric and the movie crystalizes what it’s like to live in the city during the dead heat of summer.

Wet Hot American Summer: Obviously.

Dirty Dancing: There’s a reason the word “Catskills” is synonymous with summer for me. You add watermelons, manly tank tops and anachronistic jean shorts and you’ve got summer gold.
Screen Shot 2013-07-09 at 8.28.24 PM.png

Dazed & Confused: Any movie that starts with Alice Cooper and ends with Foghat has got to be a summer classic. Set on the last day of school, Linklater’s film exactly captures what it feels like to be on the threshold of something new. Exciting and scary. Dazed and confused.

American Graffiti: Despite being set in a very different time period, this, in my mind, is a matched set with Dazed & Confused.

Rear Window: Do you think that if photographer Jeff Jefferies had broken his leg during winter any of this would have happened? I feel like he would have been content to cozy up to both Grace Kelly and a stack of books. But the heat makes all of us a little stir crazy and, thus, a thriller was born.

In America: Much like To Kill A Mockingbird this absolutely perfect, poignant film takes place over several seasons. But when it’s hot, it’s very hot. And, thus, the search for an air conditioner becomes a hero’s quest and the cool, cool shower an unimaginable delight.

Y Tu Mama Tambien: Nothing says summer like a road trip, sexually alluring older women and potentially being gay for your best friend. No, wait, it’s not gay if it’s a three-way, right?

The Kings Of Summer: Though this indie features a lot of Pajiba favorites (Nick Offerman, Alison Brie), it has massive, unshakable tonal and pacing problems. That being said, the young leads Nick Robinson and Gabriel Basso are real finds and the dreamy montage treatment of their escapist, Walden fantasy will shoot straight at your heart.

Field Of Dreams: You can almost see the fireflies, no? Summer and sports and daddy issues and Americana. It doesn’t get dreamier.

Weekend At Bernie’s: If it hadn’t been hot as balls in the city, these dead man hijinks never would have ensued.

Do The Right Thing: It’s possible that no one has ever used the “heatwave powder keg” concept as effectively as Spike Lee does here.

12 Angry Men: Except for maybe this classic flick which takes that powder keg and bottles it up into one cramped, sweaty room. Kaboom.
Annex - Fonda, Henry (12 Angry Men)_01.jpg

One Crazy Summer: Better Off Dead get the lion’s share of love when it comes to the Cusack/Holland collaborations but I’ve always had a soft spot for this flick. Likely because of my love for Bobcat.

A Walk On The Moon: While there are a few films that dance around the edges of Woodstock and the moon landing, none do it quite so effectively and with quite as much shirtless Viggo.

My Summer Of Love: One of the most gorgeous films about what it means to be a young woman. A must-watch for any and all Emily Blunt fans.

Mud: Honestly, if you’re going to see one independent film this year about two boys building something in the woods, it should be these boys and that boat over The Kings Of Summer. Throw in some dangerous criminals and the pied piper himself, Matthew McConaughey and you have one of the best films of the year. Plus an excuse to never wear a shirt. Alright, alright.

Point Break: Speaking of beach bum criminals, no one does bushy bushy blonde hairdos like Swayze’s Bodhi.

The Long, Hot Summer: Though A Streetcar Named Desire usually tops the list of melodramatic 1950s Southern films, this barn burner of a flick which features the incendiary sexual chemistry between real-life lovers Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward is my sentimental favorite. It’s packed to the rafters with southern cliches. But it’s worth it.

Body Heat: I’d strongly recommend watching this scorcher from the comfort of an ice bath. You’re going to need it.

Jaws: Half the joy of Spielberg’s classic is the way in which it rips apart something we have only positive feelings for. Sun and fun indeed. It’s like he torched the entire Beach Boys back catalogue right before our eyes.

Stand By Me: A sentimental favorite for many on this site, the rambling adventures and campfire bonding between these boys are hard to beat. Nonetheless…

The Sandlot: This is it. The king of summer films. It’s really a shame that two of the most solid summer flicks are all about the nature of boyhood. For young women it’s usually the ol’ “sexual awakening” plot. Come on, Hollywood, give the girls some time in the sun.

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Comments Are Welcome, Douches Are Not

  • Guest

    To my recollection, Dazed and Confused begins with Aerosmith.

  • Polly

    Bad News Bears (the origninal)

  • Mrs. Julien

    63 comments and no one has said, "Attica! Attica!" Philistines. You think you know a website. ..

    Dog Day Afternoon come for the Pacino, stay for the John Cazale.

  • Amberlark

    This makes me perspire. Ah, Paul Newman.

    You look mighty young there, Miss Clara...

    all curled up in your bed...

    like you just washed your hands and brushed your teeth...

    and said your prayers like a little girl.

    I'll bet you was a mighty appealin' little girl.

    I'll bet your hair hung in a tangle down your back.

    I'll bet you knew where to look for robins' eggs and blackberries.

    I'll bet you had a doll with no head on it.

  • BWeaves

    I want every single outfit Grace Kelly wore in Rear Window, except for maybe her jeans at the end.

    I saw Rear Window in a BIG screen theater, not one of the strip mall things, right after they had restored it and re-released it. Gotopus, it was glorious on the big screen.

  • That kid's totally naked in the Jaws picture.

  • pupmkin

    I'm a huge fan of Better off Dead, but One Crazy Summer just plain sucked.

    Give me the glorious cheese fest, Satisfaction, over One Crazy Summer any day.

  • ,


    Ah, hell, I guess it just doesn't matter.

  • pumpkin

    Thanks for this.

  • elenaran

    Totally agree on #1 - I was thinking Sandlot after I read the article title, before I even saw it on the list.

  • Jenn TheYellowDart

    I'd like to add Indian Summer and Now and Then. Now and Then is a fantastic summer movie for girls, and just piles on my extreme girl-crush on Christina Ricci.

  • I just can't with The Wackness. If I wanted serviceable, summer-themed performance from an Olsen twin, I'd rather watch It Takes Two. It may be a bootleg version of The Parent Trap, but least the Gutte is in there.

  • I wasn't going to approve of this list unless you had Body Heat.

    But that pic of Newman owned everything. Damn, dude.

  • MissAmynae

    fan-freakin-tastic list!

    we named our cat Wooderson. Because he's just l-i-v-i-n in Austin!

  • Michelle

    See, my cat is named after Mike Wazowski in Monsters, Inc. Typically I am pleased with his name, because who else's cat has a different last name from them? Srsly. But now your cat's name puts mine to shame.

  • MissAmynae

    ah, but My Michelle, you get to say Boo's "Mike Wasowski!" every time your kitty comes around. That's gold right there.

    Hail to our original kittehs!

  • Captain D

    Does this confuse them when you go to the vet?

  • Michelle

    It really does. Especially since my other two cats have my last name.

  • Jim

    When Newman walked on set, every pair of underwear in the room fell to the floor simultaneously. Just sayin'

  • Runner1425

    Great list. Reminded me of what a fantastic film In America is.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    Dog Days (Original: Hundstage). Austrians scare me a little now.

  • MGMcD

    Summer School! Hell yes. I still cant watch NCIS, but I trace my Mark Harmon crush back to that movie.

  • Wigamer

    A Walk on the Moon is so, so good. And LIEV is very nearly shirtless and also a little heartbreaking. Anna Paquin is even more annoying than she is as Sookie.

  • DominaNefret

    Moonrise Kingdom.

  • What a glorious list.
    Alice Cooper/Foghat bookends = awesome, indeed. Pajiba, we are soulmates.

  • John W

    Better be careful with those Paul Newman pics, you could put someone's eye out.

    It's funny that once upon a time Rachel Weisz plays second fiddle to Liv Tyler.

  • JoannaRobinson

    Here's the thing, guys. Now And Then is FINE. But doesn't come close to touching The Sandlot and Stand By Me. It just doesn't.

  • apsutter

    I liked it just as much as The Sandlot and watched it all the freaking time. That movie helped foster my love for late 60's/early 70's music.

  • Bedewcrock

    See: the Demi Moore voice over and Christina Ricci's weird crying

  • Julie Chase

    Oh god, the scene in the attic? So bad.

  • B-Unit

    No Meatballs? This list sucks more than dropping the single scoop out of your ice cream cone.

  • apsutter

    I watched Wet Hot American Summer for the first time last summer and I couldn't believe I had never seen it before. So fucking funny and Paul Rudd dramatically cleaning up his mess might be my favorite Rudd moment.

    There is a wonderful coming of age movie for girls...a little movie called Now and Then. And you guys are missing The Addams Family sequel, perfect summer/camp movie.

  • pumpkin

    I went to Jewish sleepaway camp in the 1980s and I can tell you, it was EXACTLY like that.

  • badhorse666

    Stand by me is one of my favorites. Wil Wheton posted a nice excerpt about it on his blog. It's always a little sad watching it knowing what happened to River Phoenix.

  • Julie Chase

    Awesome list, mostly because of The Sandlot and One Crazy Summer. I'm heading to Ocean City NJ in a week and a half and now my goal is to find a mechanical dolphin so I can terrify all the bathing beauties.

  • Theodora K Mullins

    Parent Trap (the Haley Mills one of course) and Shag (I so wanted to be Pheobe Cates) !!

  • Bodhi

    SHAG!! Too bad Myrtle Beach is nothing like that now

  • Theodora K Mullins

    This has been on my vacation destination list forever all because of this movie, so this gives me the sads:(

  • Bodhi

    Some parts are still family friendly, but its called the Redneck Riviera for a reason...

  • ,

    I'll let you be Phoebe for me in my home version of "Fast Times at Ridgemont High."

    Hey, just trying to be helpful.

    *whistles "Moving in Stereo"*

  • melissa82

    Oh I love Shag -- I recently lived in North Carolina for a few years and once went to a Shag dance-off because of that. It was pretty hilarious. Unintentionally that is....and I couldn't find a single Chip!

  • Julie Chase

    I love Shag! I haven't seen that since college, I need to get my hands on a copy.

  • Natalie

    Paul Newman...... Sigh.

  • RJ

    The Long Hot Summer should come with a warning label for the amount of smoldering. Damn that Newman was HOT.

  • Anna von Beav

    Tension breaker. Had to be done.

  • Mentalcase

    Whoa, Anna VB! Right there in your avatar. Poltergeist! Why hasn't anyone mentioned Poltergeist? I don't know if it takes place in the summer but it's always had a distinct summer feeling to me. The nice weather, the pool, the mosquitoes... Then again, they're watching an NFL game in the beginning of the movie. I'm starting to question everything I thought I knew.

  • dilwazr

    Man, such a good list! Kudos for including The Long Hot Summer on there--Newman is so fine in that movie it's INSANE. Also, it's where he and Joanne Woodward met!

  • mmr7997

    The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. I just watched this again yesterday. Great summer movie!

  • Jax

    I'd have to argue Now and Then as a female counterpoint to The Sandlot.

  • apsutter

    Just found this sad and relevant article

  • Julie Chase


  • toblerone

    No Kids?

    *Huge plus 1 for the Wackness.

    Olivia Thirlby why aren't you in everything?

  • tmoney

    This just reminded me of my love for Stealing Beauty. Jeremy Irons is incredible in the film.

  • God Of Bal-Sagoth

    It's unfortunate that the apex of Liv Tyler's career came so early.

  • AngelenoEwok

    The levels of nostalgia I felt while reading this list cannot be healthy.

  • Yossarian

    Seriously. I want to go home and watch at least a dozen of these immediately.

  • AgLexington

    So much love for you for including Rear Window and To Kill A Mockingbird. Good God were Gregory Peck and Jimmy Stewart incredible actors....

  • Michelle

    Agreed. Too many people I know these days haven't seen or read To Kill a Mockingbird and it KILLS me.

  • apsutter

    Rear Window is freaking amazing. I could watch it once a week and not get sick of it. It really does evoke the summer because even if I watch it in the winter I still feel that sticky grossness of mid-summer humidity.

  • PerpetualIntern

    I can't even express how many times a week I use "You're killin me, Smalls!"

  • DeltaJuliet

    My husband texts me that line all.the.time.

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    I will never pass up the chance to entone, "For. Ev. Ver." repeatedly.

  • Julie Chase

    "You play ball like a GIRL!!!!"

    And boy, did I have a crush on Benny when I was 12 years old.

  • apsutter

    Benny was so HOOOOOOOOOOOT!

  • AudioSuede

    I get seasonal depression in the summertime, which may have something to do with the fact that I've never had a summer as happy as The Sandlot.

  • Benderman

    I get it too, but it's because I don't look like Paul Newman when I take my shirt off at the beach.

  • Artemis

    I'm so glad The Sandlot is number one, but where oh where is A League of Their Own?

  • Bodhi

    I LOVE A League of Their Own

  • apsutter

    League of their Own!! Gina Davis was so freaking gorgeous in it. Great cast and I love how Tom Hanks was a drunk.

  • Michelle

    Geena (spell it correctly or it doesn't count?) was luminous in that film. She was so great. So was Hanks; it was one of the few times in the last 20 years that I thought that maybe he was an actor, rather than than just being a dude who was nice.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Also: Bull Durham. just caught 15 minutes of that last night.

  • Fredo

    I kept scrolling and going "The Sandlot better be in. The Sandlot better be in."

    Also, while technically not a summer movie, Cool Hand Luke always makes me reach for a cool drink.

  • Natalie

    The opening photo should have told you that the sandlot was on the list. She's the sexy lifeguard that they all had a crush on and then


    Marries one of the kids and has 6 children or something like that.

  • bucadonebuvi

    мy coυѕιɴ ιѕ мαĸιɴɢ $51/нoυr oɴlιɴe. υɴeмployed ғor α coυple oғ yeαrѕ αɴd prevιoυѕ yeαr ѕнe ɢoт α $1З619cнecĸ wιтн oɴlιɴe joв ғor α coυple oғ dαyѕ. ѕee мore αт...­ ­ViewMore----------------------...

    I'd like to add Indian Summer and
    Now and Then. Now and Then is a fantastic summer movie for girls, and
    just piles on my extreme girl-crush on Christina Ricci.

  • apsutter

    I loved watching it as a pre-teen and wanted nothing more than to grow up and be Wendy Peffercorn. I pretty much attribute my love for bombshell vintage looks to her and The Wonder Years.

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