No matter what the weather’s like outside, it’s always a good time to watch one of the best summer movies of all time. For the most part, these sizzling films feature everything we love about the summer months, from the beaches and bonfires to the family vacations and summer flings. So whether you’re currently enjoying blissfully hot weather, are deep within the depths of winter, or are headed into spring and want some beachy inspiration, you’ll probably benefit from popping on a cheery summer movie. To help you figure out which one to watch, we’ve rounded up the 20 best summer movies of all time.
Be prepared to swear off swimming in natural bodies of water after rewatching Jaws (we can only assume you’ve already seen this American classic directed by Steven Spielberg). In the toothy tale from 1975, Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, and Richard Dreyfuss star as three men tasked with tracking down a great white shark after it attacks beachgoers in the fictional New England summer resort town of Amity Island. Despite the fact that you’re more likely to be struck down by lightning or killed by fireworks than gobbled up by a shark, you may have flashbacks to this film every time you put your toes in the water.
Dirty Dancing (1986)
Featuring the late Patrick Swayze in one of his most iconic roles, Dirty Dancing is the kind of movie that will make you wish that all of your summers ended with an over-the-top, super romantic dance performance. In the film that’s still a must-watch for anyone wanting to indulge in the ultimate seasonal story, Jennifer Grey co-stars as “Baby” Houseman, a young woman who falls for a dreamy dance instructor while spending the summer of 1963 at a Catskills resort with her family (although in real life, she and Swayze are one of the on-screen couples who actually hated each other). And when that final unforgettable dance scene kicks off, you’ll definitely know why “nobody puts Baby in a corner.”
Wet Hot American Summer (2001)
Forget about canoe trips and singing “Kumbaya” by the fire when you head back to 1981 with Wet Hot American Summer, which features a star-packed cast—including Janeane Garofalo, David Hyde Pierce, Paul Rudd, Christopher Meloni, Elizabeth Banks, Bradley Cooper, Amy Poehler, and more—as a group of counselors who may be even wackier, weirder, and wilder than the ones you had at camp. And if you get a laugh or two (or just a few grins, guffaws, and giggles) from this film, then be sure to follow it up with the story’s eight-episode Netflix prequel series Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp (2015) and sequel series Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later (2017).
National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)
Watch Chevy Chase in all his glory in 1983’s National Lampoon’s Vacation as Clark W. Griswold, a man set on taking his family on a cross-country road trip from the Chicago suburbs to Calfornia’s Walley World, “America’s Favorite Family Fun Park.” If you’ve ever ventured on a similar expedition with your crew, you’ll get a kick out of everything this family faces while trying to convince themselves that getting there is half of the fun. And this story is just where the Griswold’s get started. Follow the first film with European Vacation (1985), Christmas Vacation (1989), Vegas Vacation (1997), and the newest installment in the franchise, simply deemed Vacation (2015).
Point Break (1991)
How can a movie that stars Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze not be great? In 1991’s Point Break, Reeves plays Johnny Utah, a former football player-turned-federal agent who’s on the trail of a group of bank robbers. When the criminals turn out to be surfers led by ultimate endless summer-seeking beach-bum Bodhi (Swayze), Utah goes undercover to infiltrate the gang and finds himself caught up in adrenaline-fueled adventures, an unexpected romance (thanks to a character played by Lori Petty), and some mind-blowingly big waves.
Weekend at Bernie’s (1989)
Some people will do anything to make their vacation last as long as possible, but that rarely includes hauling a dead body around like the pair of holiday-seekers in Weekend at Bernie’s, a quirky comedy that sounds much more morbid than it actually is. When two low-level employees, played by Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman, are invited to their boss’ beachside mansion for the weekend, they think it will be all sunshine and surfboards (or rather, champagne and parties). But when they arrive to find the bigwig Bernie murdered, they have to pretend like he’s still among the living in order to avoid ending up corpses themselves.