Total Recall: Best Summer Vacation Movies

We run down some of cinema's finest seasonal getaways.

Summer Vacation

Attention, people who are not fans of pencils, books, teachers, and/or dirty looks: This is your time of year. The mercury is rising, schools are closing their doors, wardrobes are shrinking, and folks all across this great nation are getting ready to go on -- you guessed it -- summer vacation! In honor of our collective yearning to clock out of work, buckle the family into the minivan, and head off for sunny adventures, we've decided to dedicate this week's Total Recall to movies that revolve in some way around summer vacation. We picked a few classics, but we tried to include a few surprises, too -- all in the name of giving you a well-rounded list with room for comedy, drama, dancing, and even a little sci-fi. Are you ready for the summer?

Dirty Dancing

72%

Dirty Dancing director Emile Ardolino didn't use actual mountains of cheese to stand in for the Catskills, but he may as well have; this tale of a brooding dance instructor at a swanky resort (Patrick Swayze) who falls for a wealthy teenage guest (Jennifer Grey) during the summer of 1963 is filled to the brim with pungent dialogue and plot devices. But underneath the schmaltz beats an endearingly earnest heart -- and some pretty good dance moves, as noted by Steve Rhodes, who wrote that "the film's saving grace is that fully a third of the film has the actors dancing rather than talking."

The Endless Summer

100%

For a lot of us, summer loses its promise of fun and freedom as we get older and assume responsibilities that can't be set aside for three months at a time. What if you could not only recapture that youthful summer feeling, but keep it going all year long? That's the question posed by Bruce Brown's classic documentary, which follows a pair of surfers (Mike Hynson and Robert August) as they pursue the summer surfing season across the globe, from California to Africa, Australia, and beyond. The Endless Summer boasts a killer soundtrack and Brown's style was groundbreaking for the genre at the time, but -- and probably most importantly -- it's just a really entertaining film. As Christopher Null wrote for Filmcritic, "you can't help but laugh and feel good while watching their lighthearted antics."

Last Summer

86%

For teenagers, the summer is often seen as a time of reinvention -- an opportunity to try new experiences and adopt different behaviors away from the judgment of classmates who know who they "really" are. This kind of experimentation can produce unintended results, as demonstrated in Frank Perry's Last Summer, which follows four deceptively worldly teens (played by Barbara Hershey, Bruce Davison, Richard Thomas, and Catherine Burns, who earned an Oscar nomination) through a Fire Island vacation that tests their darkest and most selfish impulses. The film's explicit content originally cost it an X rating, but it was that brutal honesty that appealed to critics like Roger Ebert, who wrote, "There are good movies about other people's lives, but rarely a movie that recalls, if only for a scene or two, the sense and flavor of life the way you remember it."

Meatballs

75%

The summer camp comedy is pure formula, but it can be a winning one with the right ingredients. Case in point: Bill Murray and director Ivan Reitman, who kicked off their American film careers with this harmlessly raunchy look at a week in the life of Camp North Star, where lackadaisical counselor Tripper (Murray) helps a misfit camper (Chris Makepeace) come out of his shell just in time to give the rich kids over at Camp Mohawk a taste of their own medicine. "You don't mind the lack of structure," noted Filmcritic's Pete Croatto, "especially since it's delivered by a good-natured and good-humored young cast."

Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation

80%

Decades before Chevy Chase blundered his way across the country in National Lampoon's Vacation, Jimmy Stewart suffered through his own surprisingly stressful family getaway. Surrounded by a mismatched brood that includes four children (two of whom are married with kids of their own) and a wife whose well-meaning vacation rental turns out to be a dilapidated house of horrors, Stewart's Mr. Hobbs is forced to "relax" by warding off bats, fixing a water pump, and bribing a teenage boy (played by Fabian) to pay attention to his brace-faced daughter. Not exactly cutting-edge comedy, even in 1962, but as Reel's James Plath pointed out, "Stewart's performance alone makes this an entertaining film."

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