10 movies to keep the summer vibes going

Posted September 5, 2016

The days are getting shorter, the nights are getting cooler and kids are disappearing from the streets as they head back to school. In other words, all signs point to one thing: Summer is officially coming to an end. But trading in your board shorts and sandals for pants and those uncomfortable things with laces that go on your feet (“shoes”?) can be hard to do. So for anyone still desperately hanging on to the laid-back summertime vibes, here’s a list of 10 movies to help keep them going just a little bit longer.

1. “The Sandlot” — Filmed in and around Salt Lake (according to IMDb), this perennial favorite is a must-watch for that old-school summer feel (before iPhones and Pokemon took over). On paper, “The Sandlot” is about a group of kids spending their vacation obsessing over baseball (and the lifeguard at the swimming pool), but like a lot of the movies on this list, it captures something much more universally identifiable about what summer is like as a kid. It also happens to be one of the most quotable movies around. (“For-ev-er!”)

MPAA rating: PG for some language and kids chewing tobacco.

2. “The Endless Summer” — Filmmaker Bruce Brown’s classic surfing documentary about a pair of surfers chasing the summer sun across the hemisphere as they search for "the perfect wave" (spoiler: it’s in Africa) just celebrated its 50th anniversary this July. It’s dated, sure, but every frame of this doc oozes cool retro beach-bum style, including the surf rock soundtrack by The Sandals. Also worth checking out is the 1993 sequel, co-written by Brown and his son Dana, an accomplished surf documentary filmmaker in his own right.

MPAA rating: PG for brief nudity and some mild language.

3. “My Girl” — Set during the summer of 1972 (and filmed in 1991), this coming-of-age movie featured Macaulay Culkin at peak popularity just a year after “Home Alone” playing a kid who’s allergic to everything. But the star is Anna Chlumsky as Vada Sultenfuss, a precocious young girl navigating the emotional mine field of being a tween. Dan Aykroyd plays Vada’s widower mortician father.

MPAA rating: PG (detailed explanation for rating not provided by MPAA)

4. “Super 8” — Jumping forward to the summer of 1979, J.J. Abrams directed this throwback to ’80s Amblin movies such as “E.T. the Extra-Terrrestrial” and “The Goonies” (but with approximately 5,000 percent more lens flare) about a bunch of friends who get caught up in a government conspiracy involving a train crash, mysterious disappearances and an escaped alien.

MPAA rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language and some drug use.

5. “The Way, Way Back” — There’s definitely a connection between summer movies and coming-of-age stories. This 2013 Sundance Film Festival favorite stars Liam James as a 14-year-old contending with his mom’s new boyfriend (Steve Carell playing way against type) while on summer vacation and Sam Rockwell as the manager of the local water park who takes him under his wing. It’s a new spin on an old formula, but it works.

MPAA rating: PG-13 for thematic elements, language, some sexual content and brief drug material.

6. “Moonrise Kingdom” — Set on the fictitious island of New Penzance circa 1965, Wes Anderson’s whimsical story of young love at the end of summer is pretty much cinematic perfection. The plot centers on two 12-year-olds who run off together, sparking a panicked search effort by parents, law enforcement and the boy’s entire Scout troop, but that really doesn’t begin to capture the offbeat genius of this movie. In typical Anderson fashion, the ensemble cast is bursting with talent. Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Frances McDormand and Jason Schwartzman are just a few of the bigger names, but newcomers Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman still manage to steal the show.

MPAA rating: PG-13 for sexual content and smoking.

7. “The Secret World of Arrietty” — There’s something about Studio Ghibli's animated movies that just goes with summer — maybe it’s the quiet simplicity or the way the stories tend to focus on nature. Whatever it is, nowhere is that more apparent than in this Hayao Miyazaki-scripted adaptation of “The Borrowers” with its light, breezy feel and attention to all the tiny details of the world around us that we sometimes take for granted.

MPAA rating: G

8. “Cast Away” — For Tom Hanks’ character Chuck Noland, a hapless FedEx employee stranded on an island in the South Pacific after a plane crash, the 360-degree ocean panoramas and pristine beaches might be as threatening as they are spectacular. But for everyone just enjoying from the comfort of their homes, it all looks like paradise. A powerhouse performance from Hanks (sporting a truly epic beard towards the end) is just one more reason to watch this again and again and again.

MPAA rating: PG-13 for intense action sequences and some disturbing images.

9. “American Graffiti” — To be fair, this 1973 comedy is actually about summer ending, which might sound like a terrible recommendation if that’s exactly the thing you’re trying to avoid in the first place. But somehow, George Lucas, in what could very well be his best movie (yes, including “Star Wars” and “Howard the Duck”), manages to cram into a scant 112-minute runtime all the teenage anxiety, hope and energy of one last summer night with friends. No movie before or since has done it better. It’s also worth checking out just for some of the actors that appear in it, including a pre-Han Solo Harrison Ford and Ron Howard before he was more famous as an Oscar-winning director.

MPAA rating: PG (detailed explanation for rating not provided by MPAA)

10. “Jaws” — Is there a better summer movie? Well, maybe if you’re planning to go in the water. Over his long career, Steven Spielberg has cranked out more than his share of fantastic summer blockbusters (“Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Jurassic Park,” for instance). “Jaws” is the original, and it also happens to be the best at capturing the feeling of summer all thanks to its setting in a small beach community. No matter how many times you watch it, every part of it just works (well, except the mechanical shark, but he’s charming in his own way). Along with “The Endless Summer” and “American Graffiti,” “Jaws” is also one of only a few hundred movies selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

MPAA rating: PG (although closer to a PG-13 by today’s standards)

Jeff Peterson is a native of Utah Valley and studied humanities and history at Brigham Young University. Along with the Deseret News, he also contributes to the film discussion website


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