Don’t get me wrong, English summertime is beautiful; meadows, beaches, picnics, beer gardens, music festivals, but oh the weather can be a little unpredictable. The past few weeks have been glorious here in the deeply pleasant countryside, but just when you have plans for the weekend, the weather forecast of high temperatures and cloudless skies turns into a big fat lie when you find yourself running from a downpour in highly inappropriate clothes. This happened last weekend when a plan to visit some cute animals at a farm were scuppered by lousy weather, and we were instead forced to go and see Jurassic World at possibly the tiniest cinema I have ever visited.
So, if your plans are ruined by unfavourable weather, fear not. Have an indoor picnic, select some summer films and let the silver screen sunshine provide some much-needed escapism. And because I’m helpful, here are my suggestions for 21 great summer movies!
This is probably an obvious one and crops up in most ‘best summer film’ lists, but with good reason. Released in June 1975, Jaws was one of the first ‘summer blockbusters’ and also the reason why I can’t have a relaxing swim in the sea. Watch as the beachgoers on Amity Island are hunted by a very hungry Great White. And if you want more, watch Jaws 2 and Jaws 3-D as well. But not Jaws 4 AKA Jaws: The Revenge, because it’s just terrible.
Another classic, Grease was one of my favourites as a child. Danny and Sandy meet over the summer, and then because this was in the days before social media and texting, he gets quite the surprise when Sandy starts at his high school. Funny, catchy songs and a flying car, what more could you want? Oh and I’m aiming to recreate Frenchy’s amazing bubblegum pink hair this weekend. Grease 2 is also still my guilty pleasure. Is that wrong?
3. Stealing Beauty
Where do I start with this film? It takes me back to being a teenager, when I first fell in love hard with this movie, and I completely related to Lucy’s poetic, innocent and romantic way of seeing the world (and her rocking out to Hole in her bedroom). The Tuscan scenery is sublime, Liv Tyler is gorgeous and the soundtrack is eclectic and wonderful. I probably watch this every summer, while drinking a glass of Montepulciano and dreaming of firefly sparkling Tuscan nights.
4. Vicky Cristina Barcelona
This is the second, and by no means the last of sumptuous, erotic European summer films. Javier Bardem might not be an obvious choice for the romantic lead, given some of his later villainous roles, but here he smoulders, as the object of affection for Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall and Penelope Cruz. This is all sultry heat and Spanish guitars.
5. I Know What You Did Last Summer
Another one from my teenage years, when I was obsessing over Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Party of Five. This came out after Scream, and alongside that, is one of the better of the slew of teenage slasher films that were released in the late nineties/early noughties. It also led me to read Jan Harold Brunvard’s book Too Good to be True: The Colossal Book of Urban Legends, which, if you like scary stories, is great for reading with a torch held under your chin.
6. My Summer of Love
Intense and beautiful, this film is set in Yorkshire and follows tomboy Mona as she befriends privileged Tamsin and sparks fly between them. But love never runs smoothly, and everything stands in their way.
7. Roman Holiday
Charming and bittersweet, this film was Audrey Hepburn’s first leading role and it won her an Oscar. I find her a delight to watch as the escaped princess, and Gregory Peck is quite a dish as the journalist who finds her, and falls for her.
8. Swimming Pool
Now a visit to France, where Crime author Sarah (Charlotte Rampling) is staying in her publisher’s villa. Her cold, frigid personality clashes with Julie’s, the carefree daughter of said publisher, who arrives unannounced. Things get stranger and stranger and you’ll be left wondering what really happened.
9. Dirty Dancing
Yep, another one from my childhood, although I had to sneakily watch this at a friend’s house when I was seven as my mum wouldn’t let me watch 15 certificate films (sorry mum!). At that age, I really had no idea what had happened to Penny, or why Robbie was such a dick, but I did and still do love the dancing and the music in this film.
10. Before Sunrise
A very 90s film, but that’s probably why I love it so much. American tourist Ethan Hawke persuades Julie Delpy to leave the train and explore Vienna together. Their chemistry is wonderful, but the best thing about this film is the witty intelligent conversations and frankness they share. My favourite of the trilogy.
11. Y tu mamá también
Sexy Mexican ménage à trois road movie not to watch with your parents!
12…. And God Created Woman
Oh I don’t see the point of dubbed films. You can’t hear the original language so I apologise that this trailer dubs Brigitte Bardot’s wonderful French voice. This was the film that made her a star, and as Juliete, she is at her pouting best as the sensual bad girl caught between two brothers.
13. The Virgin Suicides
Maybe not a typical summer movie, but this film has that dreamy, seductive quality which I associate with summer. Based on the novel by Jeffrey Eugenides, this was Sofia Coppola’s directorial debut about the five Lisbon sisters, their overbearing parents and the neighbourhood boys fascinated with them.
14. Point Break
“One hundred percent pure adrenalin”. Keanu Reeves. Patrick Swayze. Surfing. Stick to the original – the remake is coming out soon.
When I was a teen, I spent a lot of time hanging out at my local theme park, riding the coasters, drinking slushies and checking out the guys. I thought it would be pretty sweet to work there, but after seeing this film, maybe not (unless Ryan Reynolds worked there too, but that’s highly unlikely).
16. (500) Days of Summer
Funny, quirky, clever and anti-romance? Love Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel. Love the soundtrack. Love, love, love.
17. Stand By Me
I had to include a film based on a Stephen King story. There is just something about the summer which makes me think of reading Stephen King.
A French romantic comedy basically about high-class escorts. C’est bon!
19. Now and Then
This seriously brings back memories. Four women reminisce about the summer of 1970 when they were all twelve years old and on the cusp of womanhood. I haven’t seen this film in years and seriously need to see it again. I remember I had this book of interviews with young actresses and Christina Ricci saying she was mad that she had to grow up. I can relate; being a kid was awesome.
20. How to Make an American Quilt
Ok, I admit it, after watching the trailer for Now and Then, I was reminded of How to Make an American Quilt. Apart from the fact that I practically worshipped Winona Ryder in my younger years, I also really loved those sweeping 90s films with complicated love plots and awkward protagonists. I’d like to sneak Inventing the Abbotts and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape into that category too. So good. Plus this film makes me glad that I’m writing my thesis on a computer which I can back up, unlike poor Winona, whose months of work gets ruined by a gust of wind.
21. The Lost Boys
I think I could find a way of getting this film in every one of my favourites film lists. It is just 80s perfection. Mulleted vampire biker dudes, Jason Patric looking all Jim Morrison, all of Star’s awesome boho outfits and that soundtrack (excluding the creepy fairground song, which conjures up disturbing images of clowns in my mind). Even the gyrating, greasy saxophone dude is a legend.
What’s your favourite summer movie?