Summertime often means vacations, barbecues, waterslides, popsicles and other fun stuff. However, some of the downsides of the season — think sunburn, mosquito bites, holiday traffic and heat-induced irritability — might make you want to stay in the air conditioning and sample the sights and sounds of summer that Hollywood has to offer. From sun-dappled beaches to steamy urban settings, placing a movie or TV show in the hottest months is a quick way to evoke nostalgic feelings among viewers or drum up visual tension on the screen.
Here are some movies and shows that help capture that elusive summer spirit.
‘The O.C.’ (
The hit Fox series from the early aughts takes place in Orange County, a region in Southern California that if you blink you may mistake for perpetual summer. Amid the sunny skyscape and picturesque beaches, the series follows the dramatic lives of three intertwined families. The modern-day soap opera deals with loss, love and strappy sandals.
The summer of 1987 proves to be a summer of ups and downs for recent college grad James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg), whose parents shut down his dream Euro trip. With few options Brennan takes a job at his local amusement park named “Adventureland,” where he meets a surprising character named Em (Kristen Stewart), who captivates his heart. Nothing says redemption more than a good summer love.
‘The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants’ (Amazon)
The 2005 film based on the novel of the same name by Ann Brashares takes sisterhood full circle over the course of one summer. Four lifelong friends find a preternatural pair of jeans that appear to fit them all in spite of their varying body types. When the girls find out they will be spending their first summer apart they use the pants as a way to stay connected and keep their sisterhood alive. If you can’t get enough of this feel-good comedy/drama, then watch the sequel “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2.” Also, there is talk that the third installment has been pitched, so keep your fingers crossed for the sisterhood full hat trick.
‘Dirty Dancing’ (Amazon Prime)
Nobody puts Baby (or this film) in the corner. This 1987 drama/romance has become a fan favorite year round. The movie centers around Baby’s last summer before heading into the Peace Corps where she spends the summer with her family at a somnolent resort. When Baby (Jennifer Grey) meets Johnny (Patrick Swayze), the resort’s dance instructor, a sultry romance unfolds center stage.
‘Wet Hot American Summer’ (Netflix)
Summer camp nostalgia gets filtered through the inventive and endlessly warped humor of "The State" alumni and hilarious pals
‘The Endless Summer’ (Amazon Prime)
In 1966, surfer-turned-filmmaker Bruce Brown help bring surfing to the masses by focusing his waterproof lens on a pair of wave-riders who leave California to chase the perfect wave. Their travels take them to multiple continents and are scored by gentle sounds of the early surf rock band the Sandals.
‘Do the Right Thing’ (Amazon)
From the fiery color palette of the cinematography to the cast’s perpetually sweat-covered brows, summertime is practically a supporting character in Spike Lee's searing 1989 tragedy, in which simmering racial tensions boil over on the hottest day of the year in Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood.
‘Field of Dreams’ (Amazon)
You can practically feel the humidity of summer nights in rural Iowa as Kevin Costner spends the season with the ghosts of baseball past, including his deceased father. It culminates in one of summer’s perennially favorite activities: a game of catch.
‘Independence Day’ (Amazon)
There have been plenty of summer blockbusters through the decades, but few of them rely on the actual time of year as much as this 1996 hit in which Earth is brought to the brink of destruction by a malevolent alien force. Are we going to let these E.T.s ruin our backyard barbecues and pool parties? Not if Will Smith has anything to say about it.
‘Red Oaks’ (Amazon Prime)
One of the less-thrilling aspects of summer? Having to get a summer job. Thankfully, this minimum wage gig gets an instant injection of fun from comedians like Paul Reiser and Richard Kind and an entire body-swamping episode (no, really). This coming-of-age comedy series from producer Steven Soderbergh follows a 20-year-old college student during the summer of 1985 when he begins working at a New Jersey country club.