The 55 Best Summer Movies of All Time & Where to Watch Them
Though our favorite season of hot, sunny beach days and warm nights may only last a few fleeting months, summer movies are forever (and they can be enjoyed year-round). The options are endless, whether you’re up for scary movies like I Know What You Did Last Summer, classics like Dirty Dancing or family comedies like National Lampoon's Vacation. Here's our (by no means definitive) list of the best summer movies out there and where to watch them, including Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and more. Surfs up.
1. “NATIONAL LAMPOON'S VACATION” (1983)
What’s it about: Chevy Chase is the hapless moral center of this road trip movie that moves from Chicago to the Grand Canyon to a shuttered Los Angeles amusement park. Fun fact: Director John Hughes wrote the script based on his own childhood vacations.
Who’s in it: Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, Anthony Michael Hall, Dana Barron
2. “Girls Trip” (2017)
What’s it about: In this comedy, four friends, aka “The Flossy Posse,” take a trip to the annual Essence Festival to relive their college days.
Who’s in it: Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, Tiffany Haddish
Where to watch: Amazon Prime
3. “E.T.” (1982)
What’s it about: Steven Spielberg’s 1982 sci-fi movie—the highest-grossing film of its decade—was based on an imaginary friend the director created following his parents’ divorce.
Who’s in it: Dee Wallace, Henry Thomas, Peter Coyote, Drew Barrymore
4. “The Karate Kid” (1984)
What’s it about: After a life-changing summer, Daniel can’t seem to shake a group of bullies. So, he enlists a repairman (who just so happens to be a martial arts master) to train him for battle.
Who’s in it: Ralph Macchio, Pat Morita, Elisabeth Shue
5. “THE SANDLOT” (1993)
What’s it about: In the summer of 1962, a new kid in town is taken under the wing of a young baseball prodigy and his rowdy team. And boy do they have fun.
Who’s in it: Tom Guiry, Mike Vitar, Patrick Renna, James Earl Jones
6. “ENDLESS SUMMER” (1966)
What’s it about: Bruce Brown’s seminal 1966 surf film was a trailblazer because it introduced the newly popular California sport to a wider American audience.
Who’s in it: Robert August, Michael Hynson
7. “VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA” (2008)
What’s it about: A summertime fling with Javier Bardem causes all kinds of havoc when two American women vie with Penélope Cruz for his affections (hey, we get it).
Who’s in it: Rebecca Hall, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Messina, Patricia Clarkson, Javier Bardem, Penélope Cruz
8. “Dr. Dolittle” (1998)
What’s it about: The whole family can take a break from the summer heat to watch this movie about a doctor who’s able to communicate with animals.
Who’s in it: Eddie Murphy, Oliver Platt, Ossie Davis
9. “THE GRADUATE” (1967)
What’s it about: Simon and Garfunkel! Sixties counterculture! Mrs. Robinson! Plastics! This 1967 comedy-drama about a disillusioned college graduate has it all.
Who’s in it: Anne Bancroft, Dustin Hoffman, Katharine Ross, William Daniels
10. “I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER” (1997)
What’s it about: This teen slasher film kept the summer thrills going when it opened in October 1997, thanks to writer Kevin Williamson's (Scream, Dawson’s Creek) mastery of teen angst and well-paced scares.
Who’s in it: Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Anne Heche, Freddie Prinze Jr., Ryan Phillippe
11. “DIRTY DANCING” (1987)
What’s it about: While this classic 1987 film about a Catskills summer resort is remembered for fun dance scenes and nostalgic set pieces, it’s also a surprisingly gritty tale of class anxiety, sexual freedom and, um, abortion.
Who’s in it: Jennifer Grey, Patrick Swayze, Jerry Orbach, Cynthia Rhodes
12. “Crazy Rich Asians” (2018)
What’s it about: Rachel has been dating Nick for several years, but she’s never met his family. That all changes when she’s invited to a wedding in Singapore, where she’s introduced to Nick’s wealthy upbringing. Cue the hard-to-please mother-in-law.
Who’s in it: Constance Wu, Gemma Chan, Lisa Lu, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh
13. “BULL DURHAM” (1988)
What’s it about: You don’t have to like baseball, Kevin Costner or even romantic comedies to be won over by this story of a veteran catcher whose silly, soulful romance with a baseball groupie is second only to his love of the game itself.
Who’s in it: Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins
14. “TIN CUP” (1996)
What’s it about: Bull Durham, but with golf.
Who’s in it: Kevin Costner, Rene Russo, Don Johnson, Cheech Marin
15. “GHOSTBUSTERS” (1984)
What’s it about: So much to love about this supernatural comedy: New York in summertime, Bill Murray as a charmingly oily ghost exterminator and, of course, the evil Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.
Who’s in it: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver
16. “STAND BY ME” (1986)
What’s it about: A poignant film about growing up, made even more so by the real life tragic death of one of its lead young actors, River Phoenix.
Who’s in it: Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Jerry O'Connell, Kiefer Sutherland
17. “GREASE” (1978)
What’s it about: The high school musical to end all high school musicals, this story of a greaser in love with a good girl is as sweet and iconic as they come. (Minus the teenaged pregnancy subplot.)
Who’s in it: John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, Stockard Channing, Jeff Conaway
18. “Daddy Day Care” (2003)
What’s it about: A recently unemployed father turns his home into a daycare center. The relatable scenes will make every parent with kids on summer break say, “same.”
Who’s in it: Eddie Murphy, Jeff Garlin, Steve Zahn
19. “DAZED AND CONFUSED” (1993)
What’s it about: Texas teens ramble on in this shaggy dog of a stoner story about the last day of high school in 1976.
Who’s in it: Ben Affleck, Parker Posey, Milla Jovovich, Matthew McConaughey, Jason London, Wiley Wiggins
20. “THE GREAT OUTDOORS” (1998)
What’s it about: The year was 1988. John Hughes had started making movies for grown-ups. In this, the second in the glorious “Candy trilogy” (along with Planes, Trains and Automobiles and Uncle Buck), two in-laws tangle with a bear in a lake cabin.
Who’s in it: Stephanie Faracy, Annette Bening, John Candy, Dan Aykroyd
21. “RISKY BUSINESS” (1983)
What’s it about: It’s like F. Scott Fitzgerald, but with a 1983 bent: The story of a prostitute and a privileged high school boy manages to be heartwarming despite its crassness. And, umm, hello, Tom Cruise in tighty whities.
Who’s in it: Tom Cruise, Rebecca De Mornay, Joe Pantoliano
22. “LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE” (2006)
What’s it about: A meta-meditation on the triumph of the underdog, this 2006 comedy-drama road trip flick saw Steve Carell ace his first dramatic role. Made for $8 million, it grossed $100 million worldwide.
Who’s in it: Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Greg Kinnear, Alan Arkin, Abigail Breslin
23. “THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH” (1955)
What’s it about: When his family goes away for the summer, a faithful husband with an overactive imagination is tempted by a beautiful neighbor—Marilyn Monroe.
Who’s in it: Marilyn Monroe, Tom Ewell, Evelyn Keyes
24. “LITTLE DARLINGS” (1980)
What’s it about: This 1980 hit film has largely been forgotten, but the tale of two 15-year-olds who make a virginity-losing bet is a surprisingly nuanced look at young love.
Who’s in it: Tatum O'Neal, Kristy McNichol, Armand Assante
25. “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” (2017)
What’s it about: It’s the same old Jumanji we love to hate. And like last time, the game is fighting back against the players.
Who’s in it: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Kevin Hart, Madison Iseman
26. “FLAMINGO KID” (1984)
What’s it about: Will dreamy, 19-year-old Matt Dillon be corrupted during his summer as a private beach club cabana boy? This 1984 rom-com is as clean-cut as old Matty was back then.
Who’s in it: Matt Dillon, Héctor Elizondo, Molly McCarthy, Martha Gehman
27. “MOONRISE KINGDOM” (2012)
What’s it about: This completely fresh and sweet film about two campers who run away together is so retro-dreamy, it had to come from the brain of Wes Anderson.
Who’s in it: Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, Jared Gilman
28. “JAWS” (1975)
What’s it about: Beach towns, lifeguards and a rogue shark who is terrorizing the town.
Who’s in it: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gary
29. ‘“Call me by your name” (2017)
What’s it about: In 1980s Italy, romance blossoms between a 17-year-old student and the older man hired as his father's research assistant.
Who’s in it: Armie Hammer, Timothée Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg
30. “Wine Country”
What’s it about: Amy Poehler directs and stars in this comedy about a vacation to Napa Valley, where a group of long time friends reunites and revisits their past life choices.
Who’s in it: Amy Poehler, Rachel Dratch, Ana Gasteyer
31. “Adventureland” (2009)
What’s it about: A college graduate takes a boring job at his local amusement park, which turns out to be a way more exciting than it seems.
Who’s in it: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Ryan Reynolds, Kristen Wiig
32. “HEAVYWEIGHTS” (1995)
What’s it about: This 1995 cult comedy cowritten by Judd Apatow and Steven Brill stars Ben Stiller as a manic fitness instructor who terrorizes a children’s fat camp—until the kids triumph.
Who’s in it: Tom McGowan, Aaron Schwartz, Ben Stiller
33. “The Notebook” (2004)
What’s it about: In 1940s South Carolina, mill worker Noah and rich girl Allie fall in love, but must separate because of their social differences.
Who’s in it: Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, Kevin Connolly
34. “500 Days of Summer” (2009)
What’s it about: An offbeat romantic comedy about a woman who doesn't believe true love exists, and the young man who falls for her. Just a warning—this one’s a tearjerker.
Who’s in it: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel, Geoffrey Arend, Chloë Grace Moretz
35. “Now and Then” (1995)
What’s it about: The story of four 12-year-old girls and the eventful summer they spend together in their small town in 1970.
Who’s in it: Melanie Griffith, Thora Birch, Rosie O'Donnell, Christina Ricci, Rita Wilson, Ashleigh Aston Moore, Demi Moore, Gaby Hoffmann
36. ‘‘THELMA AND LOUISE” (1991)
What’s it about: If you’re looking for a summer road trip flick with two badass all-star female leads, then Thelma and Louise is the film for you. The classic comedy tells the story of two best friends, Thelma and Louise, who run into a wee bit of trouble together and subsequently decide to flee to Mexico in a 1966 Ford Thunderbird.
Who’s in it: Susan Sarandon, Geena Davis
37. “THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS” (2005)
What’s it about: Before Blake Lively had a website, before America Ferrera was Ugly Betty, before Alexis Bledel married Pete from Mad Men and Amber Tamblyn got hitched to funny guy David Cross, they starred in this beloved film about four friends who share a pair of Levi’s.
Who’s in it: Blake Lively, America Ferrera, Alexis Bledel, Amber Tamblyn
38. “Something's Gotta Give” (2003)
What’s it about: Two mature singles Erica Barry and Harry Sanborn end up living together in the Hamptons after Harry (who is dating Erica's daughter) has a heart attack. As you can probably guess, the duo fall in love.
Who’s in it: Diane Keaton, Jack Nicholson
39. “WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER” (2001)
What’s it about: This 2001 summer camp spoof movie follows a group of counselors try to complete their unfinished business before the last day of camp ends.
Who’s in it: Amy Poehler, Elizabeth Banks, Bradley Cooper, Paul Rudd
40. “It takes Two” (1995)
What’s it about: This 1995 flick takes place mostly at summer camp and has a similar plot to The Parent Trap. The film follows twins who were separated at birth and meet up at summer camp and hijinx ensues.
Who’s in it: Mary-Kate Olsen, Ashley Olsen, Kirstie Alley, Steve Guttenberg
41. “INDIAN SUMMER” (1993)
What’s it about: Big Chill on the water as a bunch of former campers have a reunion before the old camp closes.
Who’s in it: Alan Arkin, Matt Craven, Diane Lane, Bill Paxton
42. “BLUE CRUSH” (2002)
What’s it about: As a hard-core surfer girl prepares for a big competition, she finds herself falling for a football player. But we love it for the Hawaiian scenery, the girl-bonding-training-montage and the fairy-tale ending.
Who’s in it: Kate Bosworth, Michelle Rodriguez, Matthew Davis
43. “A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN” (1992)
What’s it about: Two sisters join the first female professional baseball league and struggle to help it succeed amidst their own growing rivalry. They also learn that there’s “no crying in baseball,” from their washed-up, alcoholic coach.
Who’s in it: Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Lori Petty, Madonna, Rosie O'Donnell
44. “BREAKING AWAY” (1979)
What’s it about: On the surface, this is a story about worthy underdog cyclists competing against entitled university kids. But really, this classic sports movie addresses something more universal—what the heck is there to life after high school?
Who’s in it: Dennis Christopher, Dennis Quaid, Daniel Stern
45. “The Way Way Back” (2013)
What’s it about: Teenage Duncan goes on summer vacation with his mother, her overbearing boyfriend and her boyfriend's daughter. Having a rough time fitting in, he finds an unexpected friend in Owen, the manager of the Water Wizz water park.
Who’s in it: Liam James, Maya Rudolph, Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, AnnaSophia Robb, Allison Janney, Toni Collette
46. ‘Sylvie’s Love’ (2020)
What’s it about: Up for a feel-good summer romance that’ll have you grinning from start to finish? Sylvie’s Love is sure to do the trick. Set in New York during the 1960s, we follow Sylvie Parker, an aspiring filmmaker who falls in love with an up-and-coming musician, Robert Halloway. However, their careers seem to keep pulling them apart. Can they make this relationship work?
Who’s in it: Tessa Thompson, Nnamdi Asomugha, Ryan Michelle Bathe, Aja Naomi King, Eva Longoria
47. ‘Do the Right Thing’ (1989)
What’s it about: On a hot summer day in Bedford–Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, racial tensions rise to the point of violence after Mookie and his peers learn that the local pizzeria's Wall of Fame features no Black actors.
Who’s in it: Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Richard Edson, Giancarlo Esposito, Rosie Perez, Martin Lawrence, Spike Lee, John Turturro
48. ‘How Stella Got Her Groove Back’ (1998)
What’s it about: Stella Payne is a hard-working 40-year-old stockbroker who sets off to Montego Bay, Jamaica, for a well-deserved break. While there, she strikes up a romance with a gorgeous young man named Winston…who happens to be 20 years her junior.
49. ‘Bend It Like Beckham’ (2002)
What’s it about: Jesminder Bhamra, better known as Jess, is passionate about football (aka soccer to us Americans), but unfortunately, her strict conservative family refuses to let her play because of her gender. Still, she sneaks behind their backs and joins the local women's football team.
Who’s in it: Parminder Nagra, Keira Knightley, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Anupam Kher, Archie Panjabi
50. ‘Real Women Have Curves’ (2002)
What’s it about: America Ferrera made her feature film debut in this comedy drama, which is based on Josefina López's play of the same name. Ferrera stars as a Mexican-American teenager Ana García, who's torn between following her dream of going to college and following cultural traditions.
Who’s in it: America Ferrera, Lupe Ontiveros, George Lopez, Ingrid Oliu, Brian Sites
51. ‘Crooklyn’ (1994)
What’s it about: We follow 9-year-old Troy Carmichael, who lives with her parents and four brothers in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn during the summer of 1973. After Troy goes to visit her aunt in the south, she returns home and is greeted with some unexpected news.
Who’s in it: Alfre Woodard, Delroy Lindo, Spike Lee, Zelda Harris
52. ‘The Inkwell’ (1994)
What’s it about: While vacationing with his family on Martha's Vineyard, 16-year-old Drew Tate stumbles upon an upper-class Black community of party-lovers known as The Inkwell. While there, he finds himself caught in a love triangle between Heather Lee and Lauren Kelly.
53. ‘Dope’ (2015)
What’s it about: Meet Malcolm, a brilliant teen who happens to live in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in California. After he encounters a drug dealer named Dom, he winds up at a nightclub party, and when it turns violent, he escapes. Unbeknownst to him, Dom secretly stashed drugs in Malcolm’s backpack.
Who’s in it: Shameik Moore, Tony Revolori, Kiersey Clemons, Kimberly Elise, Chanel Iman, Lakeith Stanfield, Blake Anderson, Zoë Kravitz
54. ‘The Photograph’ (2020)
What’s it about: After famous photographer Christina Eames passes away, her estranged daughter, Mae, stumbles upon a few of her photographs, which prompts her to investigate her late mother’s early life. When Michael Block, a reporter, also takes an interest in Christina's work, he meets and falls in love with Mae.
Who’s in it: Issa Rae, Lakeith Stanfield, Chelsea Peretti, Kelvin Harrison Jr.,Chanté Adams
55. ‘The Parent Trap’ (1998)
What’s it about: We could never get tired of seeing Annie and Hallie (both played by Lindsay Lohan) perform the classic switcheroo and fool their parents. In this romcom classic, the young twins, who were separated at birth, meet each other for the first time when their parents send them to the same summer camp. But instead of returning to their actual homes, they switch places in an effort to bond with the other parent.
Who’s in it: Lindsay Lohan, Dennis Quaid, Natasha Richardson, Elaine Hendrix, Lisa Ann Walter